Vibrant Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea is synonymous with wonderful summer blooms having vibrant orange, yellow, crimson, or purple flowers.¬† But the ‘flowers’ are paper-like bracts that surround the actual trumpet-shaped tiny blooms of white and yellow color.

They can be grown as shrubs or ground cover, in pots, made to climb on trellises, or cascade down a slope. The vines can grow up to 40 feet tall with support.

Soil:

Well-drained soil is needed for its proper growth, such that even during the monsoon season there is no water logging.

Soil composition for the pot can be:

  • 50% soil
  • 50% matured compost/ kitchen compost/leaf mold
  • 10% clayey soil
  • A handful of bone meal per pot
  • 5-6 pieces of small pieces of brick per pot

While potting, proper drainage of the water can be assured by covering the bottom hole with 1-2 inches of a layer of broken earthen pot or brick pieces.

Sunlight:

Bougainvillea plants prefer full-day bright sunlight. A longer span of sunlight means more blooms.

Watering:

They should be watered only when the soil is completely dry and leaves show signs of wilting. On watering sparingly, blooms increase and the color becomes vibrant.

During monsoon, the pot should not be placed directly on the ground, as it can restrict the drainage. The pot can be placed on a stand or it should be elevated so that the drainage hole is clear and does not result in waterlogging. Another alternative is that the pot can be put in a tilted position to drain out excess water.

During extreme winters watering is curtailed drastically.

Pruning and Repotting:

Pruning constitutes an important exercise to achieve dense bloom. Just before the onset of monsoon season, hard pruning is done to give shape to the plant and remove extra foliage. It is recommended to prune it to the skeletal stage even if the plant is flowering. The plant is watered sparingly till new foliage sprouts.

After the onset of the monsoon season, the pot is emptied and one-third of the bottom soil is removed, along with the roots. Similarly, some roots are trimmed from the sides. The plant is then repotted with the soil mixture as mentioned above. Thereafter, the plant is watered and kept in full sunlight.

The shape of the plant is maintained as desired by pruning till September end, till the blooming starts. After the flowers have dried up, a small part of the apex which bore the flowers needs to be pruned so that new blooms can appear.

Soft pruning is done again in mid-January to maintain the rounded, dense shape of the plant.

Feeding:

Towards the end of the monsoon season in September, when the plant is ready to bloom, it is fed with equal amounts of bonemeal, neem khali, and mustard cake (about 100 gm mixture for a 12 inches pot). A month later, the same feed is to be repeated but with just half the amount. Yet another smaller feed can be given in December to maintain continuous blooms.

Towards the end of the winter season, when days become warmer, 2-3 inches of topsoil can be removed to introduce compost, neem khali, and bone meal into the soil. This ensures the fresh bloom of flowers.

Intermittent doses of liquid fertilizer, prepared by soaking cow dung or marigold flowers assist in bringing out vibrant colors.

Propagation:

It is done by air-layering or cutting during the rainy season.

 Pests:

Bougainvillea usually remains pest-free but sometimes termite attacks can be noticed. As a preventive measure, sterilized soil should be used. Anti-termite spray can help get rid of the termites.