When I moved to California from New England back in the early 80’s, it opened up a whole new world to me in so many ways. I went to work 2 days a week at a highly esteemed nursery in Berkeley to learn about plants and gardening practices in that part of the world. And boy did I learn a lot! This is where I first discovered bougainvillea and found out about this 1 important thing to know which came directly from the grower
I have 4 bougainvilleas, which is plenty for me, and don’t actually plant one in either this post or video. You’ll get the most important points and can refer to how to plant a shrub successfully to actually see the steps to take. Of course prep is very important and that you’ll see in the shrub video.
Another reason to plant your bougainvillea properly – the massive show of color you’ll get.
How to plant bougainvillea to grow successfully:
First of all, make sure you’re planting it in a sunny, warm location. Bougainvillea needs sun & heat to thrive & be a blooming machine.
Just like planting a shrub, dig the hole at least 2 times as wide as the rootball. Loosen the soil on the bottom of the hole to make sure the water will drain out. Bougainvillea doesn’t like to be kept sopping wet & is subject to rot.
So, the soil needs to be well drained. A rich, loamy soil is ideal. You can amend as you need to in your area. I always amend in the ratio of 1/3 local organic compost to 2/3 native soil when planting bougainvillea. I always keep a 2-3″ layer of compost on top for good measure.
When planting in containers, use a good organic potting soil. Mix in compost at a ratio of 1/4 as the potting soil should already have compost in it. I always top my container planting with a 1-2″ layer of the compost, again for extra good measure. Just know that you’ll probably have to water your bougainvilleas in containers more than you would if they’re in the ground. Also, the shorter growing varieties are much better suited to growing in containers.
Speaking of watering, bougainvillea prefers infrequent, deep waterings rather than frequent shallow waterings. Too much water = too much green growth & eventually rot. When your bougainvillea is establishing, you’ll have to water it more frequently. How often depends on the size of the plant, the soil its in & your climate zone.
Spring or summer is a great time to plant your bougainvillea because that gives it plenty of time to settle in before winter comes. If you have an unusual cold snap, a newly planted bougainvillea (say in late fall) is much more likely to get hit &/or not recover.
Choose the location carefully because bougainvillea doesn’t like to be transplanted. That’s a crap shoot also. You’ll see why after below.
I used a sharp florist knife to demo the slitting of the grow pot. You can also use your pruners or saw. Either way, just be very careful not to cut too deeply into the root ball.
The most important thing to know:
Bougainvillea can take full sun & heat without skipping a beat. However, it’s a big baby when it comes to the roots & doesn’t like to have them disturbed. For best planting results, be sure to leave your bougainvillea in the grow pot when planting it. Put a few slits in the side & bottom of the pot, being careful not to slash too deeply into the rootball. You’ll see me illustrating this in the video.
This method allows the roots to grow out of the pot but also protects the rootball. You want the level of the soil of the rootball to be even with the level of the soil you’re planting it into. This means the rim of the grow pot might stick up a bit. I always cut it off as needed because I look the look much better. Whether you cut that off or not is up to you. It won’t hurt the plant at all but I never wanted to see a rim of plastic in the garden.