Picture of bougainvillea plant

How to Train a Bougainvillea Tree

Bougainvillea image by Kilioa from Fotolia.com

When you picture a bougainvillea, often a dense shrub covered with colorful blossoms comes to mind. While this may be the typical bougainvillea that many gardeners grow, you can also train a bougainvillea into a tree shape with careful and attentive pruning. Start training a bougainvillea into a tree shape while the plant is young and then continue to keep the plant growing in a tree shape by removing new shoots.

Choose the strongest central shoot that will become the trunk of the bougainvillea tree. Allow this shoot to grow freely.

Remove all other main shoots growing up out of the crown by cutting them off just above the soil with the pruning shears.

Pound the wooden stake into the soil approximately 6 inches away from the central shoot you are training as the trunk of the bougainvillea tree. Use the hammer to pound the stake approximately 6 inches into the soil.

Tie the central shoot to the stake with the twine, taking care not to injure the shoot by tying it too tightly. This will help train the central shoot to grow as a straight tree trunk.

Remove new shoots as they grow off the crown and the central trunk by trimming them off with the pruning shears. Stay vigilant to remove these shoots immediately as they appear.

Allow the central shoot to grow as a trunk until the bougainvillea tree is as tall as you desire. When the tree reaches your desired height, use the pruning shears to trim the top 2 to 3 inches of the growing tip from the central shoot. This will encourage lateral growth and the bougainvillea tree will fill out and become bushy.

Watch the lateral shoots that branch off from the top of the bougainvillea tree in response to the trimming you performed in step six. Continue to remove the top 2 inches of growth in these shoots to keep them bushing laterally instead of growing up.

Creating Bougainvillea Bonsai Plants: How To Make A Bougainvillea Bonsai Tree

Bougainvillea might make you think of a wall of green vine with orange, purple or red papery flowers, a vine too enormous and vigorous, perhaps, for your small garden. Meet bonsai bougainvillea plants, bite-sized versions of this mighty vine that you can keep in your living room. Can you make a bonsai out of bougainvillea? You can. Read on for info on how to make a bougainvillea bonsai and tips on bonsai bougainvillea care.

Bonsai Bougainvillea Tips

Bougainvilleas are tropical plants with brilliant bracts that look like petals. Their branches resemble vines, and you can prune them into a bonsai. Can you make a bonsai out of bougainvillea? It is not only possible, but also easy if you follow these bonsai bougainvillea tips.

Bougainvillea bonsai plants are not actually different plants than bougainvillea vines. If you want to know how to make a bougainvillea bonsai, start with selecting an appropriate container with good drainage. It need not be very deep.

Purchase a small bougainvillea plant in springtime. Take the plant from its container and brush soil off the roots. Prune off about one-third of the roots.

Prepare a growing medium with equal parts potting soil, perlite, peat moss and pine bark. Put this medium in the bottom one-third of the container. Position the bougainvillea in the center, then add soil and tamp it down firmly. Soil should stop an inch below the container rim.

Bonsai Bougainvillea Care

Bonsai bougainvillea care is just as important as correct planting. Your bougainvillea bonsai plants require direct sunlight all day long in order to thrive. Always keep the plants in a location where the temperature is above 40 degrees F. (4 C.).

Irrigation is a part of continuing bonsai bougainvillea care. Only water the plant when the top of the soil is dry to the touch.

You’ll want to feed your bonsai bougainvillea regularly. Use a 12-10-10 every two weeks during the growing season and a 2-10-10 fertilizer during winter.

Prune your bougainvillea bonsai plants every month during the growing season. Take off a little bit at a time to shape the plant and promote a center trunk. Never prune the plant while it is dormant.

If you’ve lived in Florida for a while, you’ve probably seen bougainvillea growing in yards near your house. Bougainvillea is a popular plant with many good qualities. Whether you’re looking for an easy to maintain shrub or something to cover a desolate, barren spot in your yard, bougainvillea is an excellent choice. Here’s what you need to know.

Typical Appearance

Bougainvillea is a fast growing shrub that produces tiny, unnoticeable flowers and colorful bracts that are often mistaken for flowers. Bougainvillea grows in an unruly, cascading fashion and may reach up to 20 feet in length (or height, if trained to grow upward).

It cycles in and out of blooming periods, with blooms lasting several weeks at a stretch. Bougainvillea comes in varying colors, including white, pink, purple and orange.

Growing Conditions

Bougainvillea is a native of South America, but it thrives in Florida where it likes heat and sun. Once it acclimates to a location, it needs little water in order to thrive. When planted in low-light conditions, bougainvillea may not bloom. This is a common problem among homeowners who bring their bougainvillea indoors.

Plant Benefits

Lots of people grow bougainvillea for three reasons:

  • Beautiful. Bougainvillea is a large, tropical plant that draws the eye when in bloom.
  • Easy to maintain. Once trained to grow on a wall, bougainvillea needs little help doing what it does best: growing and blooming.
  • Drought-resistant. Bougainvillea only gets more beautiful as growing conditions becomes hotter and dryer, so these plants require virtually no extra watering.

Some homeowners also like that they can easily train bougainvillea to take nearly any shape they want. In fact, in the hands of a skilled landscaper, bougainvillea can be grown into a lovely tree.

Additional Considerations

Many types of bougainvillea have large, merciless thorns, which can make pruning an adventure. To prevent torn clothes and accidents, keep bougainvillea out of high traffic areas. If you have children, keep this plant out of play areas.

Although it is easy to grow and simple to maintain, bougainvillea is not invasive or aggressive, so homeowners who want to keep it contained to a relatively small area can do so as long as they stay on top of pruning.

However, too much pruning of bougainvillea removes the colorful bracts and detracts from the beauty. Homeowners who don’t know how to prune bougainvillea without maintaining the colorful bracts can turn to a landscaper for help.

Ideal Locations

Bougainvillea is a spreading plant that will crawl along the ground if it is not supported or trained to grow upward. Many homeowners plant bougainvillea against walls and trellises, then tie the plant to the wall or trellis until it is able to hang on to the wall on its own. It does not vine, so unlike plants like morning glories, bougainvillea needs help in order to grow upward.

Bougainvillea is best planted in an area where there is much room to grow. Pick a spot either around the perimeter of the home or in a corner where not much else can be found. Since bougainvillea also likes a lot of sun, western and southern exposures are best.

Bougainvillea is an excellent plant to grow on your Florida property, especially if you like large, chaotic plants with a tropical vibe. Work with your landscaper to pick the best spots on your property for a new bougainvillea plant.

For more information about how to grow bougainvillea on your property, or for more information about other plants that grow well in Florida, contact Garden Services. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and provide friendly advice about residential landscaping.

Bougainvillea Flower Stock Photos

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Bougainvillea

The Bougainvillea is an evergreen shrub, little tree or thorny vine with little trumpet-shaped flowers which grow in clusters of three and come with three pretty bright papery bracts, most often magenta or purple colored.

There are also varieties with red, pink, orange, yellow, white or double bracts. The flowers appear in terminal or axillary tufts from summer to autumn if the plant gets enough light and heat. Bougainvillea leaves are oval to lanceolate and are positioned in an alternate pattern. The bark is beige-grey and with age it gets furrowed and gnarly.

The species is native to South America and was named after the French seafarer and author Louis-Antoine de Bougainville (1729 – 1811), whose ship’s doctor and botanist had discovered the plant in Tahiti and dedicated it to his captain in 1767. Bougainvilleas are fast growing, tolerate pruning very well and are well suited for most bonsai styles. As they are subtropical plants, they can’t endure frost and need temperatures around 50° F – 59° F / 10° C – 15° C in winter.

If you need help identifying your tree, try our Bonsai tree identification guide.

Specific Bonsai care guidelines for the Bougainvillea Bonsai Tree

Position: The bougainvillea needs full sun and high temperatures for producing flowers and for that reason it should be placed outside in a sunny place during the growing season. In autumn the tree should be taken into a cool room with sufficient light (or under grow lights) and at temperatures not below 50°F / 10° C and best not over 59° F / 15° C, which is unfortunately not easy to achieve in many houses.

Watering: Water the bougainvillea thoroughly when the soil gets dry, but avoid constant soil wetness which will lead to root rot, fungal problems, insect susceptibility and death. The species prefers a pH value of 6 to 6.5, so avoid using highly calcareous water.

Feeding: Apply solid organic fertilizer once a month or use a liquid fertilizer every week during the growing season and every two weeks in winter.

Pruning and wiring: Cut the shoots after flowering, leaving two leaves on each and prune twigs and branches in autumn or winter. The bougainvillea can bud from old wood after hard pruning. If you want the tree to flower, don’t pinch and trim it too much in summer. Use cut paste on larger cut wounds. Those heal over slowly. Wiring is possible on young shoots and twigs but older branches are very stiff and break easily. Beware of the thorns when you are wiring bougainvilleas.

Repotting: Repot smaller bougainvilleas every two or three years. Larger specimens can be repotted every three to five years. A well-draining standard soil mix is fine for this species. The roots of the bougainvillea are yellow, thin and delicate. Take good care not to tear off the roots when you remove the rootball from the pot! Untangle the roots tenderly and don’t use the root rake with force. Root pruning is tolerated well.

Propagation: The bougainvillea can be propagated from cuttings. Best results are achieved in spring and summer with semi-hardwood cuttings or root cuttings. Air-layering is also possible. For more detailed information on these techniques, try our Bonsai tree care section.

Pests and diseases: The bougainvillea tends to be pest resistant as long as is kept healthy and free from wet soil conditions or lack of light. Weak plants can be attacked by powdery mildew, aphids, scale, mealy bug, white fly or caterpillars. In that case use specific pesticides and try to improve the conditions for your tree. When the flowers wilt, cut them off to prevent rot.

For more detailed information on these techniques, try our Bonsai tree care section.

Any variety of bougainvillea can be used to create bonsai, though in Gatz’s experience those with red blooms, such as Barbara Karst, seem to perform best in the desert. Other showy varieties include California Gold, the variegated-leafed Bengal Orange and the deep reddish-purple Alexandra.

One caveat is that in bonsai form, bougainvillea are frost-sensitive and need to be moved indoors when winter temperatures reach the freezing point, because their shallow pots make them more susceptible to root damage. Of course, they may also live indoors year-round, given sufficient window light. When displayed outdoors, they also require more frequent watering than full-size bougainvillea planted in the ground, as often as every other day during the hot summers.

“It is claimed that the oldest bonsai trees may be more than 500 years old,” Gatz says. “We haven’t been using bougainvillea long enough to know their lifespan in a bonsai pot, but I suspect with good care, feeding, occasional root-pruning and repotting to rejuvenate the soil, they could last for as long as 30 years.” However, it’s still unknown whether they’ll live as long as traditional “legacy trees”—bonsai with such long lifespans that they outlive their owners’ ability to care for them and are handed down to the next generation of caretakers, Gatz says.

Bonsai containers come in a variety of shapes, colors and materials, with ceramic pots either glazed or unglazed, but one thing they all have in common is their shallow depth of just 2 to 3 inches. Important factors to consider when choosing the right pot are the tree’s stylistic gender, its size and the overall design. The style and lines of your tree determine whether it carries traditional feminine or masculine characteristics, such as fine-lined grace and delicacy in form versus thick-stemmed strength and density of trunk. Pot shapes echo corresponding characteristics, such as shallower pots in soft, flowing shapes for feminine trees versus deeper, stocky, squared-off shapes for a more masculine look. A rule of thumb for pot color is to choose one that complements the tree, resulting in a harmonious overall composition.

For beginners, bonsai societies in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tucson provide hands-on workshops, demonstrations and lectures from local experts. These can be especially valuable when creating bonsai from desert-adapted trees such as bougainvillea.

Bougainvillea Care

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General Background:

Bougainvillea, named for a French navigator, is a native of South America and is grown out doors extensively in the warmer climates of the United States. It is a member of the Nyctaginaceae family with close relatives being the four o’clock and the sand verbena. Bougainvillea is an evergreen vine which is just as happy spreading horizontally or hanging downwards as it is climbing upwards and will makes itself at home in almost any situation as long as it is provided good drainage. Bougainvilleas are moderately difficult to care for, but they are also beautiful, fast growing and ideal for bonsai.

Trees Features:

The colorful, papery “blooms” of the Bougainvillea are not flowers; they are bracts. The true flower is white, trumpet shaped and almost unnoticeable within the bracts. They flower most heavily in winter and early spring, but some varieties put forth scattered clusters all year. The colors are found in tones of purple, lavender, carmine, scarlet, red, pink, orange, yellow and white. Single and double flower forms are available. Double forms tend to carry their blooms near the end of the stems rather than distributing them evenly over the plant. Bougainvillea leaves are heart shaped and the bark is rather interesting and gnarly.

Temperature:

Being a tropical plant, Bougainvillea will thrive outdoors in warm weather, but they must be provided with winter protection. Bringing your Bougainvillea indoors during cold snaps and winter weather dipping below 30 degrees will ensure survival.

Lighting:

Bougainvillea love the sun, but be careful not to leave it in the intense heat of late afternoon summer sunlight. In the winter when sunlight is minimal try keeping it in a greenhouse setting, or in a window with southern full sun exposure. Bougainvillea will thrive outdoors in warmer climates and enjoy 6-8 hours of sun a day.

Watering:

Bougainvillea Bonsai do not like to have wet feet. Overwatering will cause rot, fungal problems, insect susceptibility and death, so it is very important to water sparsely and ensure good soil drainage. Elevating the bonsai pot with pebbles will provide humidity and will ensure that you do not water log your Bougainvillea bonsai. Because Bougainvillea are tolerant to dryer conditions, they are suitable for individuals who travel or who are more likely to neglect watering their plants from time to time.

Fertilizing:

Fertilize once in the spring and fall with low nitrogen, high phosphate organic fertilizer. The old established method of forcing flowers is to withhold water to a point of causing severe stress to the plant. Research at the University of Florida has found that plants flower best when given high nitrogen fertilizers and short day lengths (15 hours of darkness within every 24 hour period).

Pruning / Training:

Your Bougainvillea can be pruned nearly year round. If you plan to wire any branches take care in wiring older ones as they tend to get brittle with age, as such, it is recommended to wire branches while they are young and supple. The Bougainvillea takes well to pruning; a useful attribute in styling bonsai because it allows the individual the freedom to shape their bonsai in any form they wish. Because Bougainvillea generally blooms on new growth, each branch, as blooms begin to fade, should be cut back to a point somewhat shorter than the desired length. Seal all cuts to prevent rot. If rot is detected on your Bougainvillea, cut it out completely to prevent spreading.

Insects / Pests:

Bougainvilleas tend to be pest resistant as long as they are kept healthy and free from wet soil conditions. On a routine basis you should inspect the plant for any types of insects that could harm it. If the plant is primarily kept indoors be sure not to let dust or other particles settle on the plant as it could be harmful and result in your plant not thriving like it should. When a bloom fades out you have to cut the plant to the point that it is somewhat shorter to prevent rot. If your Bougainvillea is attacked by caterpillars or green flies use insecticide soap spray which should be applied weekly. This spray is not harmful to humans or animals.

Propagation:

Bougainvilleas are easily grown from air layers, root cuttings and branch cuttings. Young shoots, a few inches in length, should be placed in sandy soil with bottom heat and light moisture. Half-ripened or old wood cuttings taken with clean, sharp scissors in six to twelve inch lengths may be rooted with a rooting hormone from April to June. Ensure that the cutting is not in wet soil or it will rot. Cuttings will be ready to plant in 7-10 weeks.

Repotting:

Repot your Bougainvillea about every 3 to 4 years and do so in the spring. The size and age of your plant should help you to determine how often it needs to be repotted. Be mindful to not prune the roots too severely.

Additional Comments:

For optimum color and health, place outdoors in full, direct sun, keep watering to a minimum (only when needed), and stay on a monthly trimming and fertilizing schedule. As one more point of interest, Bonsai, like people and animals, are sensitive to the effects of second hand smoke and will be healthier in a smoke free environment.

DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Bonsai Outlet. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. Happy bonsai gardening.

Download this care sheet as a PDF

Flowering Bougainvillea Bonsai – 4 Year old

Description

Bougainvillea Bonsai Plant add a colorful flair to your outdoor patio or indoor decor. Bougainvillea Bonsai Tree Online is an evergreen shrub, Bonsai Plant or thorny vine with little trumpet-shaped Bougainvillea flowers which grow in clusters of three and come with three pretty bright papery bracts, most often Bougainvillea flowers are red, pink, orange, yellow, white or double bracts. . The leaves of Bougainvillea Plant are attractive, and shaped like flower petals. Their vine-like branches can be pruned and shaped into a living work of art that reflects your style and lends an air of personality to your home. Bougainvillea Bonsai has a quick grown pattern so this bonsai plant will continue to flourish and add beauty to your home or office.
Position – Bougainvillea Plant needs full sun and high temperatures for producing flowers and for that reason it should be placed outside in a sunny place during the growing season. Best to keep your bougainvillea bonsai plant in an area that receives direct sunlight for at least eight hours per day.
Watering – Bougainvillea plant need very good watering. But avoid constant soil wetness which will lead to root rot, fungal problems, which is fatal to the plant. Make sure your bonsai plant has an excellent drainage soil.
Fertilizer – Fertilizing your bougainvillea bonsai plant once every month during growing season for good growth and more flowers.
Pruning ? Bougainvillea plant can bud from old wood after hard pruning to maximize production of beautiful flowers in your plant, it is strongly recommended to prune often, as flower buds will form at the sign of new growth.
As a summary – For optimum color flowers and health, place your Bougainvillea bonsai plant outdoors where it get full direct sun. Water only when needed as Bougainvillea Bonsai do not like to have wet feet, and follow a monthly trimming and fertilizing schedule.

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