How To Care For Your Bougainvillea In Winter

One dangerous aspect to growing your bonsai outside its natural environment is a Bougainvillea winter. The frost and cold temperatures run the risk of killing your small tree if you’re not careful. In many cases, you need to winterize it before the cold arrives.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to prepare your Bougainvillea in winter and care for it so it feels snug and warm while remaining alive.

Bougainvillea in winter

Why Do You Need to Care for a Bougainvillea in Winter?

The Bougainvillea species grow naturally in South America. It’s used to rainfall, sunshine, and short days. The winters remain warm, and there’s rarely any frost in its normal environment. Therefore, it presents an evergreen nature where it showcases its leaves and flowers all year round.

The hardiness zones in the United States that closely resemble this environment are 9 to 11. If you live anywhere outside these areas, the winters will be too cold for it to handle. Also, it won’t be used to living inside a pot where the roots can’t dig down for nutrients and water.

Due to these ‘abnormal’ conditions, you need to take extra care of your Bougainvillea in winter. Not only do you need to shift how you maintain it, but you’ll need to winterize your bonsai tree. This practice will ensure that it’s ready for the cold temperatures that are soon to arrive.

Does Bougainvillea Lose Its Leaves In Winter?

Whether your Bougainvillea bonsai will lose its leaves in winter depends on where you live. If you have warm temperatures that don’t drop below 40° F, you shouldn’t see any leaves fall. Your tree will remain evergreen, even if you see less growth in the foliage.

However, Bougainvilleas become deciduous when it becomes too cold and there’s frost. The leaves will turn yellow, and you may see them fall. Don’t be worried! It’s normal behavior, and your bonsai will still remain healthy as long as you follow the appropriate steps.

Bougainvillea in winter

How to Prepare for a Bougainvillea Winter

About a month before the winter arrives, you can start preparing your Bougainvillea for winter. The reason is so that the sudden arrival of frost, cold, and lower sunlight levels can quickly kill off your bonsai tree.

To prevent this shock from happening, there are a few things you need to do when you feel the temperatures dropping and fewer daylight hours available. This process is called winterizing your Bougainvillea:

  • Bring it indoors: You need to get your bonsai used to less light during the winter. When you bring it indoors, you should still ensure there are at least four hours of sunlight in the morning by a window.
  • Colder room: It’s best to select a cold location in your home that’s not too cold. It will prepare your Bougainvillea for the drop in temperature in time to come.
  • Watering: While you may be used to bathing your bonsai in water at least once a week, you need to start lowering the levels. When it goes dormant, the excess water will cause root rot to occur.
  • Fertilizing: Dorman Bougainvillea bonsais don’t need food in the winter, so you’ll need to stop feeding it completely. To remove excess salts and nutrients in the soil, you can give it a few good washes before you lower the watering frequency.
  • Pruning: Your Bougainvillea is going to drop some leaves over the winter. You’ll need to cut back as much of the branches as you can before the cold sets in, while you can also remove any dead leaves or stems.

Bougainvillea in winter

Caring for your Bougainvillea Bonsai in Winter

Now that you’re ready and prepared for the winter, the cold has set in, and your Bougainvillea is safe. However, there are some aspects you need to check while it goes through this dormant period. If you nurture it too much or too little, it can be fatal to this delicate bonsai tree.

Should I Cut Back Bougainvillea In The Winter?

When the frost and cold arrives, it can be a risky time to prune your Bougainvillea in winter. You could damage the stems and leaves. Since the bonsai tree will be dormant, it won’t take any action to repair the wounds. It’s for this reason that we recommend cutting back a month before the winter begins.

It’s also the ideal time to work on the design. You can keep any of the main structures for the style you’re shaping while keeping in mind the potential new growth in the coming spring.

How Often Should You Water Bougainvillea In Winter?

In summer, you’ll be used to bathing your Bougainvillea once a week with a topping up when you feel the soil is completely dry. It prevents the bonsai tree’s roots from remaining in moisture for too long, as it’s used to almost drought-like conditions. When winter arrives, the roots will drink less water, and you need to react accordingly.

You can still water the soil heavily once, but you’ll wait longer before you apply any more. The Bougainvillea may only want more water two weeks later, and even then the soil may still feel moist. You should almost be too afraid to give it any liquid when it’s incredibly cold, as the water may freeze.

What Is The Lowest Temperature A Bougainvillea Can Tolerate?

We mentioned that a Bougainvillea will start going into dormancy when the temperature goes below 40° F. It can handle anything up until 32° F. Anything under that, and the bonsai tree will begin to suffer and may even form internal damage. You’ll need to provide some heating in the room to help it cope with the cold.

How Much Sun Does Bougainvillea Need In Winter?

Since your Bougainvillea will drop most of its leaves in winter, you don’t need to worry about too much sunlight. We still recommend at least four hours per day, as darkness and dampness are culprits of mold and other fungi in the soil and on the bonsai tree.

When you live in an area with a wet climate or high humidity, you’ll run the risk of diseases forming on the roots and trunk. Even if you manage some indirect sunlight in the morning for your Bougainvillea in winter, that will suffice.

How Do I Protect My Bougainvillea From Frost?

Even if you bring your Bougainvillea in for the winter, there’s still the chance it will suffer from frost damage. You need a warm room in your home to help maintain a good temperature while ensuring it’s not too warm. Somehow, you need to strike the perfect balance to let it rest without any stress.

One method you can use is placing a plastic bag over the bonsai and pot. It will hold the warmth inside, while also maintaining good humidity levels. In this way, it can also receive sufficient indirect sunlight while it sleeps.

Do I Fertilize My Bougainvillea In Winter?

The quick answer is no, you don’t fertilize a Bougainvillea in winter. It’s asleep and needs its rest for the coming spring. Any food you provided in autumn will be stored as carbohydrates for this colder period. You can cause damage if you decided to feed it while it’s dormant.

However, you should start applying some fertilizer when it’s late winter, just as you feel the temperatures are becoming warmer again. New life will start forming, and your Bougainvillea will need that food for the energy it needs. You can begin with small portions and then ramp up when spring appears.

Bougainvillea in winter

Final Thoughts

An incredibly cold winter could mean the death of your Bougainvillea bonsai, but it doesn’t need to be that way. With the proper care and preparation, your tree won’t need to suffer at all. We hope this guide has helped you for the cold months ahead and you managed to protect it from the frost.

If you still have any questions about Bougainvillea winters, please send us an email or contact us on social media. We’ll be sure to respond.

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Shaun has two passions in life that combine into an extravagant show on Bonsai Alchemist. The one is for writing and the second bonsais. He’s been writing fantasy and horror novels since 2000, while also creating online content since 2015. He’s involved with writing for films and games. Finally, he’s also the owner of a book publishing company.

He received his first bonsai as a gift in 2009 and has been growing several species in his quiet home in South Africa. He prefers propagating new life instead of buying bonsais at the store. His son and daughter share his love for nature, while his wife stares on at her introverted hermit husband.


Shaun M Jooste


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