Bougainvillea 'Barbara Karst'

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Common name: Bougainvillea 'Barbara Karst'
Family: Nyctaginaceae
Genus: Bougainvillea

Plant Link:

Thumbnail by htop
New Iberia, LA(Zone 8b)

I have a pink one like this (well NOT like this!!!) WHAT do you do to get SO many flowers??? My plant is sort of leggy. Do I trim it back to help it get thicker?????
Yours is SO beautiful.....

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

The first bougainvillea I planted, grew up a trellis and up over the house, but never bloomed. I found out that I had given the roots too much room in which to grow and too much water. The following are some tips:

1. Keep it root bound. The more root bound it is, the better it will bloom. A bougainvillea will grow in the same container for years. For inground planting, I cut holes in the bottom of a large plastic container, place the plant in it and plant the container and all in the ground. Cinder blocks placed around the root system under the ground work well too to contain the roots somewhat.

2. Bougainvillea blooms more readily when kept dry. I let the plant dry to the point of just about wilting then I water it thoroughly. Do this over a couple of weeks then water it thoroughly; repeating this process over a couple of weeks until you see bracets forming.

3. I apply a 17-7-19 fertilizer, NutriStar for Bougainvillea, in the spring following the directions on the container (there are 2 sides with directions, 1 for container grown and 1 for inground planted). Before this, I used a palm food fertilizer because it has the minor nutrients like magnesium that the bougainvillea requires. Although the NutriStar fertilizer contains epsom salts, once or twice a growing season, I apply epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) at the rate of 1 to 2 tablespoons per inground plant and 1 to 2 teaspoons per container grown ones being sure to soak it in well. I apply epsom salts to my roses more frequently and to my hibiscus also. It increases the blooms' depth of color. If you don't use the bougainvillea fertilizer I suggested and the leaves are turning a lighter green, apply some liquid seaweed to the leaves. Note: Peters 20-20-20 and Miracle Grow do just fine, but add epsom salts so the plants receive enough magnesium and occassionally mix some bonemeal in the top of the soil.

NOTE: After the first blooming cycle, there are no more bracts and you have let it almost wilt and then watered it once, feed it with the fertilizer (be sure the soil is damp). Each time it quits producing bracts do this. This is the secret to forcing it to bloom.

4. Be sure it receives plenty of direct sunlight, at least 5 hours a day (afternoon is best).

5. Because the bougainvillea blooms on new growth, it may be pruned. You can prune it to where you want the new bracts to be produced. I would suggest it be pruned, if necessary, when you provide fertilizer after the blooming cycles described in the "NOTE" above. I prune mine back by about 1/3 in the spring before new growth begins. My hanging basket plants are pruned by 1/2 when they go dormant in the winter and are in the garage. Pruning will not cause the plant to become substantially more bushy because it is a vine. It will grow only one or two branches from the leafbuds just below the cut after pruning and not up and down the entire branch. By doing a "hard" prune, next spring when the plant regrows it will be somewhat fuller from the base up. Some types of bougainvillea by growth habit have longer branches than others.

6. If in containers, do not place directly on the ground because the roots will grow into the soil and be damaged if you move the conatiner, plus it will not be root bound. I place mine on bricks, being sure not to block the drainage holes. If the container or the hanging basket has a saucer, take it off. Poor drainage can damage the root system. If the container is sitting on a saucer, pour the water out of it so the roots are not sitting in water. I always drill more holes in my containers, even hanging basket, regardless of what I am planting in them.

7. When to repot a container grown bougainvilla? When it appears that the roots have replaced all of the soil and the plant can not be kept watered. Handle bougainvillea with care when repotting because it has a very delicate root system and a fragile root to stem connection. Do NOT root prune. Always pot into a larger container than the old one. If the plant has been growing in a 10-inch pot, then it should be repotted into a 12-inch pot.

I hope this information has been helpful to you. Thanks for your comments.

Piedmont, MO(Zone 6a)

Wow, I just found this thread and copied and pasted it so I could reference it later. Thanks!!!

Irving (Dallas area), TX(Zone 8a)

Nobody can argue with your advise!

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Suasan and Paulwhwest, it took me a few years to get a handle on properly maintaining bougainvillea plants. They are so beautiful, a lot of people buy them and do not know the little "tricks" that keep them prospering and blooming consistently. I had to do a lot of research on them and do a lot of trial and error. I hope the tips above save other people time, effort and frustration. Thanks to both of you for your comments.

How can I start another plant from the plants I have. One of mine, I have in a hanging basket and it is getting rather large. The branches are hanging over the sides about 3 feet and it is blooming like crazy, it is absolutely beautiful and I would like to cut some ofit back and start a new plant.

Moose Jaw, SK(Zone 3b)

WOW!!! :D.........I'll definitely be copying this page! :)

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

UT, I cut my bougainvilleas back each year in the spring. Here is a link to show you how to start new plants from the cuttings.

PS: Even though this site shows the roots being pruned, I would not do this.Various potting soil mixtures can be used including mixtures of perlite, peat and perlite and peat and sand. A good quality potting soil has been successful also. Be sure to water the plants in the morning before taking the cuttings. I rinse my pruning shears with alcohol and the rinse the alcohol off before I prune the plants. After the plants have rooted and have been potted, gradually move them into direct sunlight so that they can become accustomed to it and will not wilt. The keys to rooting the cuttings are warm temperatures, high humidity, adequate light and moisture. After new leaves start to appear, pinch the top 2 new leaves off so that the plant will branch. This can be doe every once in a while to shape the plant until it looks like you want it to look. However, you will be losing blooms for awhile by doing this. But, if you don't. you might end up with just a few long branches at first instead of a full plant. Some hibiscus hybrids are very difficult to root and have to be grafted to rootstock. I have never done this. Just go ahead and try to root the cuttings. Good luck! :o)

This message was edited Jul 6, 2008 2:46 PM

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Lilypon, thanks for your comment. I am glad my tips are useful to you.

Moose Jaw, SK(Zone 3b)

Oh they will be.....up till now I've been an expert at killing the poor plant :(

Corpus Christi, TX(Zone 10a)

htop, that's a great note you posted--very complete. I have one question: I was told by a master gardener that bougainvilleas don't go dormant, and will die in a long winter with no light. She said to put them by a window where they will get plenty of light all winter. This advice was for a person living in Missouri.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Thanks, Bairie.
Shucks, I don't know ... this is a good question. I will have to complete some research in order to answer it. All of mine are in containers and I move mine in and out during the winter because our winters are usually just sporadic "cold spells". They receive little light when they are inside, but usually it is only for a few days at a time. In the winter, mine typically look a little ragged and lose most of their leaves. I water them infrequently in the winter. They leaf back out in the spring. One of my friend's stayed leafed out and bloomed all winter because we had no hard freezes. So it appears that they do not go dormant according to seasonal amount of light changes. I will get back to you.

Stockton, CA

Thanks for the information, HTOP. I am trying to save
my plant that was beautiful when purchased but is slowly
losing ground.
I can see that I a mistake by taking it from the put and
re-planting into a large redwood planter right after purchase.
Will reverse the process by moving it back to a pot so the
root ball can be restrained.

Dixon, KY(Zone 7a)

I have just read this thread for the first time. And I'm glad I did, I have tried to grow Bougainvillea for two years and ended up throwing them away. Thanks for so much advise, I am very hopeful now about growing them.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

jware and bevjane, good luck with your plants and thanks for your comments.

Corpus Christi, TX

2 years ago I planted a bougainvillea directly in the ground and within a couple of weeks moved it further back. Needless to say it didn't like that. Early Spring of this year I bought 2 others and planted them on each side of the older one. I planted them directly in the ground. They are not blooming, and they haven't died. Could I dig them out in November? And put them in plant containers without killing them?

If I leave them there and don't dig them out, will they ever flower? Sure would appreciate your comments.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)


Are they receiving plenty of sun? The ones in the ground in several of my neighbors' yards have not started to bloom yet for some reason. It may be that the weather has been so weird this year with the cool spring and then hot, hot weather all of a sudden. The ones in my containers have been blooming for a month or so which is a bit late for them. Try permitting them to dry out until their leaves just start to wilt if you can. Give them some bougainvillea fertilizer and water them thoroughly. Permit them to wilt a bit before you water them again. I know that you have had more rain than we have had in San Antonio so it may be difficult to let them wilt. We finally received the 1st rain here since October this week. It wasn't very much; however, some is better than none.

I dug 2 up that were planted in the ground and placed them in containers several years ago. 1 died and 1 lived. The one that has been in the ground for 2 years may have a massive root system. Some of the roots may have to be pruned off to be able to fit it into a very large container in November. If so, prune the whole plant down to about 5 to 6 inches. Be forewarned that sometimes the plants do not make it after having to have the roots pruned back severely. The other 2 have a better chance at being placed into containers.

Miami, FL

Dear htop:

I have been researching about bouganvilleas for a few months now. This is by far!! the best advice on how to treat this amazing plants. Thank you so very much. I am following your advice.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Dear Matereta,

Just wondering how your bougainvilleas are doing this year?


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