How to Train Bougainvillea

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Bougainvillea is a tropical vine that blooms profusely throughout the summer months. It won't survive outdoors over winter in most parts of the world so it's best to grow bougainvillea in pots and bring it indoors when cold weather arrives. You can train bougainvillea into a variety of shapes and growth habits, as long as you have support for it. One method for training a bougainvillea creates a "standard" with a braided trunk. When the vine reaches the top of the stake, it is allowed to branch out, forming the top of the standard.

Things You'll Need

  • Large pot (20 inches or larger) Potting soil Wooden stake, 4 to 6 feet high
  • Choose three small bougainvillea plants that are only a few inches long and don't have many side branches.

  • Fill the pot with good quality potting soil. Put the stake in the center and tamp the surrounding soil to hold the stake in place.

  • Space the bougainvillea plant evenly around the stake, as close to the stake as possible. Water well.

  • Braid the stems of the plants around the stake at the center. Cut off any side branches, leaving the two closest to the end of each vine.

  • As the bougainvillea vines grow, cut off the side branches so that only the two at the end of the vine remain at any one time. Continue to braid the stems around the stake. When the vines reach the height you want (no higher than the top of the stake) pinch the growth tip of each vine, leaving at least three sets of leaves at the end the vines. This will cause them to branch out and create the "canopy" of your standard.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a variety of bougainvillea that naturally forms a smaller, less vigorous vine for this project. Don't cut the growing tips of your vines until they reach the height you want the "canopy" or "head" of your bougainvillea standard to be. A "standard" is a plant trained to look like a standard tree; its trunk is trained up a stake to the desired height and then it allowed to branch out ant form the top, or "canopy" of the standard.

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