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Bougainvillea
by Diana Roberts
Category: Flowers
My name is Debbie and I come from Quebec. I bought a bougainvillea plant this summer which bloomed all summer long. I brought it in this Sept. I placed it down stairs in a basement window. There is light but no sun. I do not water it every week. Am I supposed to? There are three branches in the pot. One has no leaves on it and the other has dead leaves on it, and the 3rd has new growth. What do I do? When do I prune it? Could you give me information on this plant?
Thank you
Indoors
 
When it comes to bougainvillea, we would normally think about it as an outdoor plant suitable for a warmer location than we are, but it does make a great houseplant as well. The bougainvillea is a native of South America and is a member of the Nyctaginaceae family. It is an evergreen plant which grows horizontally then hanging downward or climbing upward. It can grow pretty well any way you would like it to, even as a tree.
Gnarled
 
It normally has a gnarled trunk which makes it great as a bonsai tree. From the ends of the new growth come yellow, white, pink, orange or red bracts. The best time for flowering is in the winter or early spring, though it is not unusual to see new color all year long. They come in either single or double blooms, though the doubles will only come on the ends of the stems rather than over the whole plant. Similar to a poinsettia, the bougainvillea has white trumpet shaped flowers within colorful bracts.
Light
 
The bougainvillea loves the full sun, so should be placed in a sunny window of your home. For good blooms, your plant requires a minimum of 5 hours of sunlight per day. Without sunlight your plant will not bloom. The bougainvillea is a warm weather plant, though it can take some die-back from cold weather. Once the bougainvillea is actively growing again, it will take a bit longer to bloom if it has taken a frost. It is also important to realize that this plant really doesnít bloom well indoors, so give it afternoon sun. Just before it blooms, you should give your bougainvillea high humidity, which can be lessened a bit once it is in bloom.
Growth cycles
 
There are two growth cycles of a bougainvillea, first when new leaves and stems grow and ,with enough sunlight, buds will form. Next comes the blooming period when very little vegetative growth will take place. The more sun and heat they get the better. The bougainvillea requires only light watering, but the soil must have good drainage. If you have a saucer under your pot, you must be very careful that there is no water standing there or you will damage your plant's roots. Right after repotting, your plant will not require watering more than once a week, but once new roots develop it may need watering daily especially during hot weather. Watch your plant carefully for signs that it needs watering. If you find it is about to wilt, you know you have waited too long.
Soil
 
The soil you use should be fertile and drained well but keep the plant from drying out between waterings. It is best to have a soilless media (if you can find one) to grow your bougainvillea, as there will be no diseases, insects or weeds. If you canít find a soilless mixture, donít use a mix that is mainly peat. Mix your own with 1 part rich loam, 1 part washed sand or perlite, 1 quart bone meal (for 8 gallons of mixture), 1 part peat moss and 1 pint dolomite lime. Mix this well and it will be great for repotting your plant. Bougainvillea love for their roots to completely fill the pot, so donít repot too soon. When repotting, be very careful with the bougainvillea roots as they are fragile and easily damaged. Try to disturb the roots as little as possible as it could go into shock and will take weeks to recover. If you are bringing your plant in from outdoors, you will need a pot just large enough to handle the root ball but do not prune the roots.
Fertilize
 
When a bougainvillea is healthy, all parts of the plant will be vigorous and glossy and the roots will be white. While this plant does not require a lot of care, it does need a bit. A balanced fertilizer such as a 20-20-20 will work great. Miracle Grow should provide just what your plant needs. Of course, you always fertilize less in the winter because the days are shorter. From Thanksgiving to Easter, fertilize only once every 4-6 weeks. For dormant plants, do not fertilize until they are growing again. Be sure that you do not overdo the fertilizer or you could damage the plant.
Dormancy
 
If your bougainvillea is in a room which receives very little light and is cool, your plant may go dormant. If your plant goes dormant, water it just enough to keep the roots from drying out. When spring comes, move it to a sunny spot, water more often and fertilize. Within a few weeks you should see new growth and blooms appearing. A bougainvillea which does not go dormant but grows all winter long will be in better shape come spring than one which went dormant. Bougainvillea may be pruned at any time of the year. Young plants should be pinched to produce a bushier plant, then just prune for shape. After blooming stops, you may want to prune your plant to contain the growth. When moving your plant indoors you should do a hard prune. Bougainvillea takes well to pruning and because they normally bloom on new growth, you should cut back a bit shorter than you want the plant.
 
 

 
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