Guide To Making Bougainvillea Leaves Bushier
Famous for their colorful floral displays and their ability to provide excellent ground-cover, bougainvilleas are native to the tropics and subtropics of South America. Two interesting features about these hardy plants is that:
- What gives them their bright colors are modified leaves called bracts—mistaken by most as being flowers. Their actual flowers are small, tubular in shape, and vary from white and yellowish to ivory in color.
- In warm climates, bougainvilleas are evergreens (retaining their leaves and displaying their colors all year round). They become semi-deciduous or deciduous in colder regions as a sign of stress and, probably, a means of self-preservation.
There are over 300 varieties of bougainvillea, and they come in a broad range of colors, including:
- Various shades of pink
Now that you have a brief outline of these magnificent, woody, and climbing vines (or shrubs if you prefer), the remainder of this article will aim at advising you on how to make them bushier.
Needed For Bougainvillea To Thrive
As already mentioned, the bougainvillea is a pretty hardy occupant of your garden. They are also not picky about the soil they grow in, and they don’t attract many pests. Bougainvilleas like the following to supplement their wellbeing, bushiness, and showiness:
Bougainvilleas love the heat. While a night or two of light frost will not harm them much, anything more than that could.
At least six or seven hours of sunlight per day is preferred to maintain that characteristic leafiness and color.
Because they prefer drier climates, going without rain for several months will do them no harm.
While the soil type in which it grows isn’t an issue, there must be good drainage for your bougainvillea’s roots to survive.
The main aspect of making a bougainvillea bushy is proper pruning. As each shoot reaches out for a couple of nodes, you can cut back to about two or three nodes. It will encourage more branches to grow, which increases the ramifications. In this way, you’ll have denser foliage with more leaves and flowers.
What Bougainvilleas Don't Like
As natives to hot and dry climates, bougainvilleas will drop their leaves as a sign of distress—too much moisture gathers around their roots from over-watering.
Transplanting your bougainvillea can make it lose its foliage until it becomes accustomed to its new position and recovers sufficiently to sprout new growth.
Too Much Nitrogen
Frequently applied fertilizer will stimulate the growth of plenty of lush green foliage and stems. Bougainvilleas can adapt to a wide variety of soils, but you must go easy on nitrogen fertilizer, or you’ll end up with plenty of leaves and few blooms.
Try feeding your bougainvillea once monthly in summer with Epsom salts dissolved in water—about one tablespoon/gallon. We once tried this to encourage a wax plant (Hoya carnosa) to flower, and the positive results were astonishing!
Bougainvilleas are hardy plants, and the most critical soil characteristic for encouraging their growth is that the soil should be well-draining rather than overly fertile.
They prefer full sun and perform much better when their soil is kept a little dry, making this an ideal plant for surviving in a drought-stricken (and tolerant) garden. They also appreciate some protection from frost and icy conditions.
Finally, cutting back growth through pruning at the right time and in the right spots on your bougainvillea will promote a bulky shape that branches out nicely.