How to Troubleshoot a Bougainvillea


Bougainvillea plants are very popular in homes and gardens. The long, hardy vines sprout bright green leaves and brilliant, bracts or flowers of orange, pink, red or purple. Bougainvillea plants are numerous in warm environments, where they can be seen blanketing trees, trellises, walls and buildings and roofs. Although bougainvilleas are vigorous and take very little maintenance once they're established, they can provide some challenges and do take a certain amount of care. Troubleshoot them to grow healthy, beautiful plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Fertilizer
  • Supplements
  • Pruning shears
  • Water
  • Check your bougainvillea's growing conditions. Good growing conditions mean a healthy bougainvillea and should keep many problems at bay. Make sure your bougainvillea is getting five hours of sunlight every day and gets plenty of water with good drainage. If these conditions are not being met, fix the problem immediately to get a healthier bougainvillea.

  • Prune a bougainvillea if the plant is getting out of control or the outer vines and leaves are dying. Prune off most of the side branches and vines to restrict growth back to the main stem. Maintain good pruning moving forward to keep the bougainvillea reined in.

  • Fertilize bougainvillea plants that look unhealthy. Vines, leaves and flowers should all be glossy. If they grow dull or begin to lose their color, it's a sign of missing nutrition. Use a soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer, mixed into the plant's water, every other week. Bougainvillea can also have deficiencies in specific nutrients. Check your plant for the following symptoms, and corresponding deficiencies: nitrogen deficiency (pale green leaves), phosphorous deficiency (red or purple leaves), potassium deficiency (purple leave edges, with brown leaf tips), magnesium deficiency (spotted yellow or tan leaves), zinc deficiency (twisted leaves), iron deficiency (young leaves are small and stay extremely pale), calcium deficiency (young growth dies quickly). For any specific deficiency, buy a supplement. Always follow manufacturer directions when mixing and using supplements and fertilizer.

Tips & Warnings

  • Grow bougainvillea from seed or bougainvillea cuttings.
  • Prune bougainvillea vines before moving them indoors for the winter.
  • Bougainvillea vines will not adapt to change.
  • Frost can damage bougainvillea, and temperatures below 50 degrees can kill it.
  • Never put your potted bougainvillea on the ground, as the roots will spread into the ground and be damaged when you try to pick the pot up again.

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