Characteristics: Bougainvillea is our most spectacular winter bloomer, and adds a tremendous amount of color to the landscape. There may be over 200 varieties in cultivation. The flower itself is a tiny white bloom that is almost insignificant. The vibrant colors you see are actually bracts (the leaves themselves change from green to pink, purple, gold, peach, white, etc.) If Bougies receive too much water, either by a sprinkler system, rainfall, or hand watering, they will not flower. Therefore, the best color comes in the dryer months of the year. Bougies thrive in the sun, and the more the better. If placed in too much shade, plants will stretch to reach a light source. Generally, when this happens, plants are sheared to keep them contained to their space so leaves never have a chance to show color.
Trimming: These large vines need to be constantly trained to keep their form. Remember that if Bougainvillea is sheared monthly, it will never flower, even in the driest conditions. When trimming Bougies, timing is everything. Shear aggressively when blooming stops in the spring and plants start to grow quickly again. The timing of this will depend on temperature and rainfall. Shear heavily again in late summer to keep Bougainvillea from outgrowing its space and to keep it under control. Shear again in the fall and only to remove enough so that the plant will not grow too big for space, as you will not be trimming again until spring. Be careful not to trim too late in the year. Hand prune stragglers throughout the year.
Fertilization: When happy and in a dry location, little fertilizer is needed. A 'bloom special' fertilizer can be used in the fall to accentuate the bloom. Remember that Bougainvillea will not bloom if they are getting too much water, so do not expect color during summer rainy periods.