How to Transplant a Bougainvillea From the Ground to a Container


Although frequently seen growing down walls as it cascades from balconies and hanging baskets, bearing prolific blooms in vivid colors, bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp.) is no fragile wallflower. However, growing it in a container is often advisable to protect it from frost. Bougainvillea is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11 and grows well in colder areas, providing it overwinters indoors. A resilient plant, bougainvillea should survive transplanting from the ground to a container if you take care to disturb its roots as little as possible to avoid transplant shock.

Things You'll Need

  • 5- to 10-gallon clay container with drainage holes
  • Stones or broken potshards
  • Soilless potting compost
  • Well-rotted pine bark
  • Garden fork
  • Pruning shears
  • 24-8-16 plant fertilizer
  • Transplant your bougainvillea in winter when it has stopped growing.

  • Place stones or broken potshards over the drainage holes of a 5- to 10-gallon clay plant container to provide drainage and prevent compost leaking out of the pot.

  • Mix 5 parts soilless potting compost with 4 parts well-rotted pine bark.

  • Dig carefully around the base of your bougainvillea, about 6 inches from the plant stem, with a garden fork. Work the fork gently underneath the plant and lever it from the ground, retaining as much soil around the root ball and breaking as few roots as possible.

  • Trim any bougainvillea roots that won't fit comfortably in the container with pruning shears. Spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of potting compost and pine bark mixture in the base of the container. Place the plant in the container so that the surface of the soil around its root ball is 1 inch below the top of the container. Spread more potting compost and pine bark mixture on the base of the container if necessary. Fill in gaps around the bougainvillea root ball with potting compost and pine bark mixture, gently pushing the mixture down so that no air spaces between the root ball and the container wall remain.

  • Place the bougainvillea in a shady spot and water it thoroughly. Continue to water it regularly so that the compost stays just moist. Allow water to drain freely.

  • Move the bougainvillea to a full-sun site when it starts to sprout new leaves. Leave it there during the morning for the first two weeks, then permanently. Feed your plant with a 24-8-16 fertilizer, diluted at a rate of 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water, every two weeks or according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Tips & Warnings

  • Trim any leaves and shoots that die with pruning shears.
  • Reduce watering so that the potting compost is slightly dry to encourage more flowers.
  • Bougainvilleas suffer from few pests or diseases.
  • Don't overwater bougainvillea -- its roots rot in waterlogged soil.

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