Bougainvillea Pruning Techniques

Bougainvillea is a tropical vine with beautiful flowers and evergreen leaves. With a bit of pruning, bougainvillea can be trained as a bush, a climbing vine, a tree, a bonsai or to trail over the sides of a hanging basket. Different techniques will provide different results, so know what type of look you want before you start out.

When to Prune

Bougainvillea can be pruned at any time of year. When in bloom, it is clear which branches are dead. In the fall, trim a container grown bougainvillea back to the edges of the container. In the spring, soft pinching will produce bushier growth.

Soft Pinching

Soft pinching consists of pinching off the soft tips of new growth. Left alone, most varieties of bougainvillea will grow long, trailing vines with no offshoots. Pinching the tips will stop growth along that line and cause the vine to branch at 2 or 3 leaf buds. This results in a bushier appearance.

Hard Pinching

Hard pinching is removing long lengths of vine or trimming entire sections of the plant. This is good for extensive shaping or removing damaged or dead sections of the plant.

Pruning a Container Bougainvillea

A bougainvillea grown in a container should be hard pinched in the fall back to the edges of the container. This will keep the plant small enough to fit in the container for another year and give it space for the new spring growth.

A new bougainvillea should be soft pinched every few weeks to ensure a good, bushy base for the plant to grow from. If not pinched back, only a few long vines will develop and the plant will end up looking patchy and stringy.

In the spring, allow the edges of the plant to grow long vines over the side of the container, especially for hanging baskets. Soft pinch central vines to keep a balanced spread of foliage.

Training a Climbing Bougainvillea

Soft pinch early growth to have a variety of vines to work up the trellis. Allow later growth to grow long and weave it through the trellis structure. Soft pinch from time to time to encourage branching and new ends which will bear the flowers. Flowers grow primarily on new growth in most varieties of bougainvillea.

Hard pinch branches that break free of the structure you are trying to create. Once the bougainvillea covers the entire trellis, hard pinching will be necessary yearly to keep the vines from trying to take over the rest of the wall. Bougainvillea are vigorous growers as well as vigorous bloomers.

Growing a Bougainvillea Hedge

After planting the bougainvilleas, soft pinch every few weeks to encourage thick, bushy growth. Primarily use soft pinching to direct growth for until the hedge has reached the size desired. Hard pinching will be necessary to keep the hedge in proper shape once it has filled out. Don't be surprised if you have to prune more than once a year.