Pruning Bougainvillea

grahamnApril 25, 2004

Hi there,

I've heard that pruning Bougainvillea can lead to them becoming thorny rather than blooming - that being said, eventually we're going to have to prune one that is growing around our carport in Sydney.

Does anyone have any tips for the time of year a prune should occur, and whether it should be a hard prune, tip prune or just take selected branches...

Last thing we want is a huge thorny mass - in that case it would need to come out, which would be a shame.

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they do become a big, thorny mess. They're not particular about when or how you prune...I'd recommend about 6" below the soil (and I guarantee they'll STILL come back!)



    Bookmark   April 26, 2004 at 4:33AM
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I agree with Shax. I'm originally from the tropics and in the end we had to poison our boganvilleas eventhough they flowered spectacularly. They can grow bigger than a house up there and the thorns are ferocious. They will still flower well after hard pruning but before they re-flower, they make lots of long new growth.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2004 at 8:13PM
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Get stuck in - they're tough and weedy. I just cut off any long bits in the wrong place (at any time) - they still seem to flower, in fact the ones I've seen which get cut back hard, seem to flower better.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2004 at 8:31AM
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We had a big pink/purple one growing along a tennis court fence which no-one was very keen to get the balls out of!! We just used a chain saw - short back and sides style and it was always back better than ever. Only way you could get all the tennis balls from under it even the dog wouldn't go in there. We had a cuby in one as kids that you could walk into the middle and stand up in the middle more like a tee pee so thats is how massive they can get even with out regular water only rainfall.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2004 at 9:10AM
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Our neighbour has one along the fence and it shoots up into our trees. It a proper pain. She won't prune it so we do. I feel like poisoning the thing (though I'd never do that). There should be a law against planting things like that on boundary fences.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2004 at 3:33AM
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The trouble is the more you prune it the more it grows, particularly around the pruned area. Bougainvillias have an identity crisis and become vindictive if they are pruned then thorns get even bigger and they go beserk.
I planted 6 B. bambino around a tree about 4 years ago and very naively believed the blurb about them being miniature with little or no thorns.
That is so much BS the growers should be sued for mis-representation.


    Bookmark   May 3, 2004 at 6:40AM
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Agree, agree, agree. I would cut mine down, except that it blocks the neighbour's view into my bathroom window. I prune it hard every couple of months and it flowers profusely. The birds love it - always a nest or two in there, so I haven't the heart to destroy their home.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2004 at 10:01PM
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with a chain saw

    Bookmark   May 24, 2004 at 8:00PM
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Re-reading your post, it seems you came under attack for having bougainvillea when all you wanted is advice.

The story is they can become even more thorny and the more you prune the more the plant responds. Maybe bougainvillea are not so vigorous where you are but in Brisbane I have seen them even climb property pole and start growing along the aerials.

If you have your heart set on bougainvillea it may be a better idea to plant another one, prune the larger one and then remove the large plant when the replacement become established.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2004 at 7:13AM
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I agree with you Doug, some people have their pet hates and try to pass them onto other people. I love my bougs, Have 5 of them, four bambinos and one from a cutting and this one tends to get huge. The only thing I do is remove those branches that have thorns on them. I do not cut them in half but remove the whole branch. I have also noticed that once the branches bend to the ground they do not get thorny, they flower, a bit like climbing roses. So perhaps the secret is to bent them down?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2004 at 3:55AM
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So if I were to suggest that I was thinking of planting them along the front boundary of my Brisbane acreage then I might be counselled????

    Bookmark   October 27, 2004 at 12:23AM
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On a positive approach...can anyone suggest a better alternative? I would like to plant something to span the front boundary of 48M which is fairly hardy in rock hard soil and which will produce green privacy with red flowers and yellow flowers. (Colour preferences is requested by my director of domestic affairs. :))
Would prefer it to be about 1-2M high I guess.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2004 at 12:48AM
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How about Hibiscus, they grow fast, only they lose there leaves in the winter, there is always plumbago, no one can kill that but its blue. Then there is Grevillea lots of shrubs grow that high in red and yellow.
Syzgium (Lily Pilly) so many shrubs S.wilsonii has a lovely red pom pom flower. Cassias they have yellow flower Bauhinia 300 species there.

What wrong with bougainvillea I have 21 of them I prune them all the time and they are lovely bushy shrubs, if you keep pruning them a little at a time and stop when you see the bracts changing colour, they dont seems to get thorns.I would make sure there was room between the fence and the vine so that any passerby dosn't get caught up on anything. The link below may help you if you are after Natives.


Here is a link that might be useful: Natives

    Bookmark   October 27, 2004 at 2:10AM
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danielkemp - I agree with MM - grevillea are terrific - my firesprite is lovely at the moment (red and yellow on one flower!) - there are dozens of other colours to choose from - can't go wrong.
Golden penda is a must have for lovers of yellow. Check soil requirements for these - not sure if they'll like your place.
And don't forget the acacias (they keel over for no reason but you could quickly and cheaply cover your boundary with my favourites, the macradenia (zig zag wattle) and if you plant them now you'll have a fair sized tree and flowers next winter! (they have a weeping habit so take this into account when planting).
Bougainvillea are fine but you'll have LOTS of trimming to do! If you love them, they're great in pots and hanging baskets (and easier to control)!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2004 at 9:31AM
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Thank you MM and Amelie. The property has been tenanted for seven years and has really been let go. We will move in there (Bellbowrie) around Christmas. I think there will need to be a lot of hard work in the garden to get soil right. I really do appreciate your guidance! Daniel

    Bookmark   November 3, 2004 at 5:37PM
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Daniel:-- Bougainvillea and natives on my block
are not fussy about the soil but good luck with
your garden.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 8:15AM
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That's great news MM. I note that you are also in Brisbane. I still like the idea of Bougainvillea also as they are a pretty plant. What do you mean when you say: "keep pruning them a little at a time and stop when you see the bracts changing colour...". In other words, how often are you pruning them and at what point do you 'see the bracts changing colour'? Can you suggest a place in Brisbane for me to see these plants at their best? DTK

    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 2:20PM
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Daniel I will send you a e-mail with some Pics of my Bougainvillea's so you can see how good they look after being pruned often.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 8:28PM
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I don't get it. You mean there is a point where bougs DO NOT have thorns? Really, what is the difference if they are big or small? THe little ones jab just as hard as the big ones...maybe even harder IMO!

Go ahead and trim the heck out of that bougie and then sit back and watch as it explodes with new growth and color! I've got one that is at least 10 years old that's growing up and over the house onto the sun deck on the second floor.

You can almost hear it saying "Oh yeah? I'll show you!" when it's trimmed back off the railing. I've never seen such a prolific flowering plant.

Hibiscus is nice too, I've got some huge ones in the backyard, but they are much more sensitive to bugs and genreally need more care and TLC. Boogs just love the abuse.

Take a chainsaw or large trimmer to that boogie and show it who's boss. It will reward you with more flowers.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2004 at 8:52AM
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Hi there,
I am writing from Bulgaria and hope soemone can help.
A friend of mine gave me a bautiful Bougainvillea last year and I have kept it indoors but if has grown too big now and I must pant it out.However one problem we have here are the Winters.They can be very severe down to -20 with snow.
If I plant it out what can I do with it in the Winter?
ANY thoughts would be gratefully appreciated!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2008 at 11:41AM
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Hi Jerry I honestly don't think it would survive outdoors in your winter even if it is covered..

Prune it if its too big and leave it in the pot indoors in the Winter and put it outside still in its pot when the weather warms up..
I have a few Bougs some grow smaller than others do you know its name..

Cheers Mary-Anne

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 6:56AM
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I noticed the post about the boug growing up to the second floor.

I have a rectangular stucco pillar leading up to a balcony. Will the boug attach itself to the stucco like an ivy vine? Is it realistically possible to keep it trained within the 3 ft. wide pillar? (as I don't wish it to spread into the open area away from the pillar)



    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 11:15PM
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Mine is in a tree shape, just bought a month ago. I keep it in a pot on a sin porch outside. I just lost all the flowers. I do see some new leaf growth. Can I expect it to flower again or will I need to prune all the small stems from the flowers to have it flower again

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 3:46PM
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Help!! I have let the neighbors bougainvillea become overgrown on my side of the fence because of a hummingbird nest with baby birds, etc. Can I purchase a hedge trimmer to cut it way back without causing more problems? I don't have the energy to lop the branches off one at a time!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 5:25PM
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We substantially cut back our monster of a bougainvillea in Jan. To call it pruning would be an understatement, it was about 5 metres wide and at least 3 high. It was already quite thorny and I carried the wounds for some weeks. It is now a more manageable size, but it is not flowering :(
I do not want to cut it out, but I would like to know how I can get it to flower again??? We are in Brisbane

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 10:56PM
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