How To Prune Bougainvillea To The Perfect Shape

Bougainvillea grows in warm environments, constantly producing brightly colored flowers and evergreen leaves. What container they are put in, or none at all, and how they are pruned will affect the final look. They can be trained to be hedges, bushes, trees, climbing vines, bonsai, and trailing vines over the side of a hanging basket. It all depends on the look wanted.

In a Container or in the Ground

Bougainvillea container

Bougainvillea can thrive in containers or grown outdoors. The roots actually like to be cramped, so be prepared to undersize the container and space out any transplanting. If transplanting a bougainvillea to a new location, ease it into the new conditions. While this plant loves heat and sun, if it has been indoors or in low light areas for some time it will go into shock if just moved into the sun. For the best recovery after a transplant, be prepared to baby the vine for a little beforehand. It will reward the treatment with rapid growth afterward.

When to Prune Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea is constantly growing, so they can be pruned any time of year. Different types of pruning are best done at different times. When in bloom, it is easy to spot dead branches for removal. Container bougainvillea should be trimmed back to the boundaries of the container in the fall. Soft pinching of any bougainvillea in the spring will result in more bushy growth.

Soft Pinching

Soft pinching consists of gently pinching off new growth tip. Most bougainvillea, when left alone, will grow long, trailing vines with no offshoots. Pinching the tips causes the direct growth to stop and the growth to branch into two or three leaf buds. The growth will be bushier and head more directions with this technique.

Hard Pinching

Hard pinching is removing entire branches. This results in extensive trimming and shaping, removing long vines or dead section of the plant.

Tips for Pruning a Container Bougainvillea

  • Hard pinch a container bougainvillea in the fall, cutting it back to the edges of the container. This will keep it small enough to fit in the container when it expands with spring growth.
  • A new bougainvillea should be soft pinched every few weeks to give it body. This will give the plant a good, bushy base to grow from. Without pinching, the plant will simply grow long vines and end up looking very scraggly and patchy.
  • For bougainvillea in hanging containers, let the exterior branches grow long over the sides of the container. Soft pinch inner branches to keep them short and balance the spread of foliage.

Training a Climbing Bougainvillea

Climbing Bougainvillea

Soft pinch early growth to keep the plant branching out. This will result in more branches to work with. Let later growth grow long vines and weave them into the trellis. Once the trellis is covered, use hard pinching to cut any branches that break free of the form. This may need to be done more than once a year as bougainvillea will grow quite rapidly. Soft pinch tips to encourage more growth planes that will produce flowers. Most varieties of bougainvillea only grow flowers at new growth. It should be easy to cover the entire trellis with flowers. The trick is keeping it from taking over the entire wall.

Growing a Bougainvillea Hedge

Soft pinch early for a bushy base for growth. Stick mostly with soft pinching to direct the growth until the hedge is the size desired. Soft pinching will help it fill out. Once the hedge is full size and filled out, hard pinch to keep it the desired size. Expect it to be necessary to prune more than once a year.