Bougainvillea care in winter

Bougainvillea Winter Care: What To Do With A Bougainvillea In Winter

In warm regions, bougainvillea blooms almost year around and thrives outdoors. However, northern gardeners will have a bit more work to keep this plant alive and happy during winter. These plants will freeze to the ground when temperatures drop to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 C.) but provided it doesn’t get colder, they usually spring right back when warmer weather appears. Good bougainvillea winter care can ensure a healthy plant that will produce copious quantities of brightly colored flower bracts.

When Winterizing a Bougainvillea is Necessary

Bougainvillea is hardy to United States Department of Agriculture zones 9 to 11. It can withstand a light freeze but deep freezes will kill the roots. In areas below those zones, a bougainvillea in winter should be kept in containers and moved indoors. This takes some special bougainvillea winter care and preparation for the plant to slumber during the cold season.

Even warm regions like Texas can experience some pretty sustained freezes and, in some cases, snow and ice. Zone 9 achieves low temperatures between 18 and 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-8 to -2 C.), well below freezing. You can opt to dig up the plant at the end

of the season if it is growing in ground or simply keep it in a container.

Digging up the plant will stress out the bougainvillea, so it might be best to containerize. That way you won’t take a chance on disturbing the roots. Plants in lower zones absolutely must come indoors. Even those in zone 9 should come indoors for the bulk of the winter unless they are in a protected location or warmer microclimate of the landscape. Once moved indoors, there are a few tips on successfully overwintering bougainvillea.

Care for Bougainvillea Plants over Winter

Bougainvillea winter care in warm regions consists of ensuring average moisture to the plant. In its dormant state, the plant responds beautifully to pruning and rewards you with more dense growth and colorful bracts. Overwintering bougainvillea indoors takes a bit more planning.

The container should be a couple inches larger in diameter than the root ball. Soil takes center stage here. The plants grow in dry soil in their native region but root restricted container plants benefit from rich soil that will retain some moisture.

It may be necessary to severely cut back the plant if it was growing rampant and vigorously outside, just to facilitate handling and for space issues. As the leaves begin to brown, remove them to help the plant conserve moisture.

Winterizing a bougainvillea also includes watering practices and suspension of fertilizer. NO feeding should take place until late winter or very early spring. Container plants can accumulate salts from fertilizer, so it is wise to flush the container a few days after feeding the plant to prevent root burn. You may also choose to simply top dress the container with well-rotted manure or compost.

Situate the containers in a cool area but one that doesn’t freeze. Often, the garage or basement is ideal, but make sure the plant has exposure to sunlight. Part of the care for bougainvillea plants over winter is to keep them a touch on the dry side.

As spring nears, gradually increase water. As temperatures outside warm, gradually introduce the plant to more light and warmer temperatures to get it ready to go outdoors. Once all danger of frost has passed, bring the plant outdoors.

Winter Care of Bougainvillea – Knowledgebase Question

Bougainvilleas are tropical in nature and will not winter over outdoors in your climate no matter how much protection you try to provide. So, keep your plant in a pot rather than planting it in the ground.
There are two ways to get sun and heat-loving plants through the winter. They can be kept actively growing (which means providing plenty of light, warmth and humidity), or they can be coaxed into dormancy and kept cool and asleep until early spring.
If you have a sunny spot and some extra room, most tender exotics can be kept growing and possibly even blooming right through the winter. Bougainvillea, jasmine, citrus trees and geraniums will bloom in a sunny window or on a glassed-in porch that doesn’t drop below 40 degrees. A grow light that provides 12 hours of light each day will also work well.
It’s important to keep these plants well watered and to fertilize regularly with a water-soluble fertilizer when they’re in active growth. A good choice is Plant Health Care. Avoid crowding (a small fan improves air circulation) and keep the humidity level between 30 and 45 percent by misting or leaving pans of water to evaporate in among the plants. In cold climates keep the humidity just over 30 percent, any higher will cause condensation on your windows.
Keep in mind that the ideal winter environment for most tropical plants would be a cool greenhouse: 50 degrees at night and 65 degrees during the day. Warmer air temperatures lead to weak, leggy growth and bug problems. Whiteflies, spidermites and scale are the most common indoor pests. As long as you keep on top of the situation, they can usually be controlled quite easily with several doses of insecticidal soap. For serious infestations, you can dunk the foliage in a dishpan filled with water and a teaspoon of liquid dish detergent.
Most plants that go through the winter in fairly active growth should be pruned back at least once or twice. This is good for the plant and gives you the opportunity to root some new cuttings. I find it keeps the plants bushy and reduces pest problems.
If you don’t have the sun or the space to keep your tender beauties in active growth, you can put them to sleep. Bring them into a cool, dark place and they’ll get the message. Their leaves will gradually yellow and drop. Woody tropical shrubs such as bougainvillea should not be cut back until early spring (unless you need to do so in order to fit them into the house!). Keep these plants in a cool (40 to 45 degrees F), dark (or very low light) place such as the basement. Water sparingly. Revive them with water, sun and fertilizer in early spring, allowing for about a month of indoor growing time before the weather is warm and settled.
Enjoy your bougainvillea!


1. Q: What should I do with my bougainvillea this winter?

A. Few plants can weather heat and drought better than the bougainvillea, and South Texas winters are usually not sufficiently harsh to kill even established plants. During the winter, bougainvilleas will go dormant and shed their leaves, but they will remain very much alive if placed in a garage or semi- protected area where the temperatures do not fall much below freezing. Light watering about once a month is sufficient, and by mid-March, possibly even earlier, the plants can be moved out into the sun, fertilized and pruned.

2. Q: When should I prune my bougainvillea plants? I move the plants into a protected area when temperatures go below 30 degrees F. but all plants defoliate and look wiry. A good pruning to shape the plants will help but I do not want to force new growth.

A. Bougainvillea plants can be pruned as much as you want, whenever you want without danger of stimulating new growth. These plants are tropical in origin and are only motivated to sprout by warming temperatures in April or May. The inconvenience of storage is bad enough without having to worry with unruly branches.

3. Q: My Bougainvillea is several years old. I keep it in the garage every winter. It is fertilized regularly, & gets plenty of sun. It blooms sparcely. What does it need?

A: This is a most commonly asked question and the answer, 9 times out of 10, is that the plant is not getting enough sunlight. Bougainvilleas need AT LEAST 8-10 hours of direct (sunbatheing sun!) sunlight every day. Also, cut back on the water and fertilize and only water when the plant wilts. Also, if you can find some Hibiscus Food fertilizer use that every 2-3 weeks. Remember, some types of bougainvilleas bloom mostly in the fall in response to short days.

| Parson’s Archive Home | Aggie Horticulture |

Protect Your Bougainvillea From Winter Freeze

Many people love the look of the bougainvillea hanging from their porch, arbor or window box. Bougainvillea plants thrive in pots and while hanging in the sun. They are a warm weather plant and do not fair well when the weather turns cold. Here is how you can protect your bougainvillea from a winter freeze.

Cover With Mulch

If you live in an area that gets down to around 40 to 30 degrees in the winter, then you will need to take measures to protect your bougainvillea. Cover the root ball with a heavy mulch to insulate the warmth. You can also use styrofoam peanuts to act as insulation.

Bring Plant Inside

Because it is a potted plant, moving the bougainvillea is easy. You do not have to replant it to protect it from cold. When you live in an area that has a prolonged season of winter, bring the plant inside and hang near a window that gets plenty of sun.

Cover With Plastic

Bougainvillea does not have a big frost tolerance, and plastic bags are a great protection for them. Cover the plant during cold nights with a plastic bag. Then cover it again with a slightly larger bag. This will trap in warm, moist air between the 2 bags to keep the plant insulated.

Bougainvillea 101: Most-asked questions

  • If you must prune cold-damaged stalks on bougainvillea now, be sure to leave a little dead stump on the ends to guard against new growth on live wood. If you must prune cold-damaged stalks on bougainvillea now, be sure to leave a little dead stump on the ends to guard against new growth on live wood. Photo: BRENDA BEUST SMITH, For The Chronicle

Photo: BRENDA BEUST SMITH, For The Chronicle Image 1 of / 12



Image 1 of 12 If you must prune cold-damaged stalks on bougainvillea now, be sure to leave a little dead stump on the ends to guard against new growth on live wood. If you must prune cold-damaged stalks on bougainvillea now, be sure to leave a little dead stump on the ends to guard against new growth on live wood. Photo: BRENDA BEUST SMITH, For The Chronicle Bougainvillea 101: Most-asked questions 1 / 12 Back to Gallery

Bougainvillea is a perennial vine that can grow to 30 feet, depending on the variety. It needs full sun, is root hardy and will regrow in spring. Its bracts “bloom” May-December on new wood. Heavy pruning, lack of water and fertilizer low in nitrogen encourage blooming.

Here are the most frequently asked questions about bougainvillea with answers from Kathy Huber.

Q: When can I prune my bougainvillea?

A: You can prune hard most any time. I’ve known gardeners to prune bougainvillea to the ground, but you might remove 1/3 to 2/3 of the stems instead. Then snip the branches in the future to keep it in bounds.

If a freeze threatens, protect tender new growth and mulch the roots.

Many grow bougainvilleas in containers and prune hard in winter before bringing the potted plants indoors for protection. Others prune hard in spring and then prune back to the edge of the container/basket after each flowering cycle to shape the plant. Or they pinch the soft tips after a flowering cycle to encourage branching.

Bougainvillea blooms on new wood. The more you prune and pinch to encourage growth, the more color you get.

Q. How do I prune my bougainvillea?

A. Bougainvillea is a vine that drops its leaves in winter and puts on new foliage when warm weather returns in spring. Some grow this plant in containers or baskets; others grow it as a large vine with support.

You can prune the plant when and how much you like. Pinch the soft tips of young plants to promote a bushier form. After flowering, prune branches back hard, to the edge of the container or basket, to shape.

Q: I didn’t cover my bougainvilleas during the freeze. Should I prune them back now or wait until the threat of freezing temperatures is past?

A: I like to wait to prune, since it usually means I start the growing season with a larger plant. Freeze-damaged wood provides some protection for live wood further down the stems. If you don’t care about this, you can prune now; but mulch well to protect the roots during future cold snaps.

Q: When can I transplant a bougainvillea?

A: It is safe to transplant in winter if it can be protected during a freeze. To play it safe, transplant in spring. Be careful with the fragile roots. Mulch.

Q: Why won’t my bougainvillea bloom?

A: Bougainvillea, many say, color best when somewhat pot-bound. Those planted in the garden have plenty of space for roots to stretch, giving you lots of green growth. But eventually it should color.

Most agree that the bracts color best when the plants are subjected to dry periods.

To force bougainvillea into bloom for nursery sales, growers often withhold water for up to three months. The poor plant thinks it’s dying. Then the grower waters heavily, the plant thinks it has one last chance to propagate itself, so it produces a volume of flowers to launch seed for future plants.

To encourage flowering: Water and fertilize, but not heavily, during spring and summer. If a plant wilts because it is too dry, give it some water. Use a high-potash fertilizer, such as a hibiscus fertilizer, rather than a high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Apply about a tablespoon of hibiscus fertilizer every three to four weeks. Or use a specially formulated bougainvillea fertilizer. A tablespoon of Epsom salts when you fertilize can be beneficial, too.

Stop fertilizing during late fall and winter; water only when you see a slight wilt. Large, container-grown plants can be pruned so they can more easily be stored in the garage to protect the roots from below-freezing weather. Or prune plants in early spring. Return potted bougainvillea to a full-sun location in spring and resume monthly fertilizing.

Prune long trailing stems back 20-30 inches to encourage more color — the flowers and bracts form on new wood.

Plants will flower for weeks, then rest before blooming again.

Some bougainvillea varieties benefit, too, from long nights and short days and bloom best in fall. Those gardeners who have exhausted all tricks to encourage color should make sure the reluctant plant is not exposed to light at night. You might just have a variety that is a fall performer.

What you see aren’t actually the flowers. You see the colorful bracts or petal-like leaves. They hold their color for an extremely long time, which is why they are such great sale plants.

Do you have tips on growing bougainvilleas? Please share your tips in the comments section below.

Potted Bougainvillea Plants: Tips For Growing Bougainvillea In Containers

Bougainvillea is a hardy tropical vine that grows in areas where winter temperatures remain above 30 degrees F. (-1 C.). The plant usually produces three rounds of vibrant blooms in spring, summer and autumn. If you don’t have growing space or live in a suitable climate, you can plant bougainvillea in a pot. If you live in a chilly climate, bring potted bougainvillea plants indoors before the first frost.

Bougainvillea for Pots

Several bougainvillea varieties are suitable for growing in containers.

  • “Miss Alice” is a shrubby, easily pruned variety with white blooms.
  • “Bambino Baby Sophia,” which provides orange blooms, tops out at about 5 feet.
  • If you like pink, consider “Rosenka” or “Singapore Pink,” which you can prune to maintain container size.
  • Red varieties suitable for container growing include “La Jolla” or “Crimson Jewel.” “Oo-La-La”, with magenta-red blooms, is a dwarf variety that reaches heights of 18 inches. “Raspberry Ice” is another variety suitable for a container or hanging basket.
  • If purple is your favorite color, “Vera Deep Purple” is a good choice.

Growing Bougainvillea in Containers

Bougainvillea performs well in a relatively small container where its roots are slightly restricted. When the plant is large enough for repotting, move it to a container only one size larger.

Use a regular potting soil without a high level of peat moss; too much peat retains moisture and may result in root rot.

Any container used for growing bougainvillea must have at least one drainage hole. Install a trellis or support at planting time; installing one later may damage the roots.

Bougainvillea Container Care

Water a newly planted bougainvillea frequently to keep the soil moist. Once the plant is established, it blooms best if the soil is a little on the dry side. Water the plant until liquid drips through the drainage hole, then don’t water again until the potting mixture feels slightly dry. However, don’t allow the soil to become completely dry because a water-stressed plant won’t bloom. Water the plant immediately if it looks wilted.

Bougainvillea is a heavy feeder and requires regular fertilization to produce blooms throughout the growing season. You can use a water-soluble fertilizer mixed at half strength every seven to 14 days, or apply a slow-release fertilizer in spring and midsummer.

Bougainvillea blooms on new growth. This means you can prune the plant as needed to maintain the desired size. The ideal time to trim the plant is immediately following a flush of blooms.

Bougainvillea are very beautiful Mediterranean climbing shrubs.

Basic Bougainvillea facts

Name – Bougainvillea
Family – Nyctaginaceae
Type – climbing shrub

Exposure – full sun
Soil – rather light

Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – May to November

Caring and pruning are important to enhance growth and blooming of your bougainvillea.

Planting bougainvillea

Bougainvillea planted in the ground

Bougainvillea can survive outdoors year-round only in mild-wintered areas. They cannot withstand temperatures below freezing.

If you live around the Mediterranean, plant it in spring in light soil.

  • Ideally, prepare one part garden soil, one part soil mix and one part sand.
  • Your bougainvillea must be planted in a warm spot and must be brought inside over winter if it freezes in your area.
  • Choose a place that is sheltered from wind and preferably along a lattice that it can climb along.

Caution – If the climate is right, a Bougainvillea planted in the ground will grow vigorously. Prune it carefully so it doesn’t get out of control.

Potted bougainvillea

Growing bougainvillea in pots is recommended everywhere temperatures drop below 32°F (0°C) during winter. You’ll have to bring them in a well-lit place where it doesn’t freeze over winter.

  • Plant your bougainvillea in flower plant soil mix.
  • Re-pot in the spring in a pot that is slightly larger than the previous.

You’ll get spectacular flowers with special bougainvillea fertilizer

  • Easily propagate your bougainvillea through cuttings or layering in spring.

Pruning bougainvillea

Pruning bougainvillea isn’t truly necessary, and cutting back drastically is even discouraged.

Flowers only appear on branches that grew in the previous year, so removing those would also remove any chance of blooming in the following year.

But it does make sense to balance the shape of the tree, or it might grow shapeless and lose appeal.
In that case, avoid pruning the entire bougainvillea: prune lightly and progressively over the years and the result will be perfect.

  • Prune it at the end of winter, when the last frosts are past.
  • Remove branches that are too long and give it a dense, shrubby shape.
  • Remove one old branch every year to renew the structure.

To boost flower-bearing, remove wilted flowers regularly (deadheading).

Water abundantly in summer, but reduce water intake in winter. Wait until the soil is dry before watering again.

  • Rediscover all climbing vines and new planting ideas here.

Caring for bougainvillea

Bougainvillea from summer to fall

Add liquid flower plant fertilizer regularly, about every two weeks to increase blooming.
Reduce fertilizer intake at the end of summer and stop adding it entirely at the beginning of fall.

You’ll get spectacular flowers with special bougainvillea fertilizer

Bougainvillea in fall and winter

Before frost spells hit, the plant must find cool shelter where it doesn’t freeze.

  • Best is temperatures of about 50°F (10°C).

They like greenhouses or unheated lean-ins that have as much light as possible.

Only water when the soil is dry through and through.

Bougainvillea in spring

This is the season to wake your bougainvillea up from its dormant state with regular watering.

As soon as frost spells are over, you may bring them back out.

Learn more about bougainvillea

This beautiful climbing shrub native to South America adapts very well to Mediterranean-type climates.

A tropical plant (even sub-tropical), bougainvillea only appeared in Europe at the end of the 18th century, when botanist Philibert Commerson, member of the Brazilian exploration mission, discovered this plant, which he named bougainvillea in the honor of his commander Bougainville.

As flowers go, they have thus become symbols of adventure.

Blooming is abundant from spring to the end of fall, and its dark green leaves stay on the plant all year round.

Bougainvillea are among the fragrant climbing vines.

Bougainvillea in winter

If you live in Northern regions and if it freezes in your area, you should grow it in pots so that it may be brought indoors out of the cold during winter.

For that, choose an unheated room where temperatures never drop below 45 to 50°F (8 to 10°C).

Leaves might fall off in winter after a cold spell.
This doesn’t necessarily mean your tree is dead, it actually happens quite often.

Diseases and parasites that frequently attack bougainvillea

Bougainvillea aren’t very vulnerable plants, especially if they can grow outdoors.

However, indoors, their natural growing environment must be reproduced to help it survive.

  • Regularly spraying the leaves with soft water helps recreate the high moisture levels it needs.

If leaves turn brown and curl, most probably aphids are colonizing the plant.

If leaves turn yellow suddenly, it is probably a scale insect invasion.

Smart tip about bougainvillea

To produce spectacular blooms, add special bougainvillea organic fertilizer from spring to summer.

Read also on the topic of shrubs and climbing plants

  • Guidance for planting shrubs
  • Summer-flowering shrubs
  • Fragrant climbing plants

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Fuchsia pink bougainvillea by Jason Goh under license
Pale and elegant bougainvillea by Suanpa under license
Pink and white bougainvillea by a generous photographer under license

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *