Bougainvillea is one of those plants that is unforgettable. You don’t want to miss this one when it’s in full bloom—the gorgeous flowers are out of this world! This flowering machine is most commonly grown outdoors, so you may be wondering what to do in the cooler months. These bougainvillea winter care tips and answers to frequently asked questions will help you out.
Bougainvillea care is a popular topic amongst our readers here at Joy Us Garden. In this post, we’re focused on helping you prepare for bougainvillea care in the winter months and maintain your plant over the cooler weather.
Bougainvillea blooming slows down or discontinues when the weather turns cool because it needs to rest before the show starts again. If you want your bougainvillea to thrive in the warmer seasons, there are a few things to know about bougainvillea winter care.
Even though I’ve been gardening for decades, I still learn new things! It never dipped too much below 35 degrees F when I lived in Santa Barbara but now I’ve moved to Tucson which is a whole new horticultural ball game. Whether it’s a hard or light freeze, it’s best to wait a bit and access what plan of action you’re going to take.
During one December, we had a 29-degree night here in the Sonoran Desert. So, I shared some new tips and tricks on how and when I prune bougainvillea after a freeze.
I live in Tucson Arizona, which is USDA hardiness zone 9b. This past winter was cold (for us anyway!). A few nights dipped into the mid to upper 20’s and most of the bougainvilleas were hit with a hard freeze. Here is my story on how I managed bougainvillea care after a hard freeze.
4. An Update on Bougainvillea Hard Freeze 6 Weeks Later
I wanted to keep everyone updated on the freeze damage done to my bougainvillea. This is part 2. Bougainvillea with hard freeze damage (as long as the roots aren’t affected) is manageable.
Have you ever wondered if and how bougainvillea would come back after a freeze? I found out first hand the answer to this question first this past year. Here’s an update on how my bougainvillea is doing 9 months after a few overnight freezes from the previous winter.
I want to show you what light freeze damage looks like on bougainvilleas and tell you what my plan of action is. If you’re looking for additional help, you can read about what I did to save my bougainvillea after an overnight freeze.
I’ve grown bougainvilleas in 2 different climates – Santa Barbara, CA (USDA zones 10a & 10B) & Tucson, AZ (USDA zones 9a & 9b).
Bougainvillea can survive below freezing temperatures as long as they aren’t consecutive. Last winter here in Tucson we had 4 or 5 nights below 32F but they weren’t in a row. My bougies growing against the house were more protected & didn’t receive as much cold damage as my Barbara Karst growing in an open area next to the driveway.
One of the nights dipped to 26F & my Bougainvillea Barbara Karst received quite a bit of damage. Here’s the key to its survival: The ground didn’t freeze so the roots weren’t damaged. If the roots freeze, then the plant will die. As you can see in a couple of the posts above, I did have to prune out quite a few branches which had gotten hit.
Bougainvilleas can be considered semi-deciduous in winter in the 2 climates where I’ve grown them. Right now it’s mid-January & the foliage is looking a bit “worn” on my bougies. Some has fallen off but a lot remains on the branches.
Come the end of winter or early spring, the new growth will start to emerge & the foliage from the previous season will fall off.
An interesting note: last winter 90% of the foliage on my Barbara Karst froze. It eventually died but still remained on the branches until I did the pruning. I was hoping it would fall off, but oh no!
See the answer to the 1st question. Yes, as long as there aren’t consecutive nights below 30F. My survived a light freeze 2 winters ago & a couple of freezes last winter. Some of the branches had to be cut out but the framework of the plant remained.
Large bougainvilleas are hard to cover. The best thing you can do is protect the roots. Apply at least a 3″ layer of mulch (hay, leaves, compost, etc) around the base of the plant covering the area where the roots grow.
Once the weather warms, just be sure to spread the mulch away from the trunk of the plant.
Smaller bougainvilleas growing in the ground or in containers can easily be covered with sheets or freeze cloth.
If your bougainvillea has overwintered indoors, wait until the evenings have warmed above 40 or 45F.
Even though it looks dead, it may not be. The outer growth may have been hit but the inner growth might be just fine. Do a scratch test on a branch & look for green under the bark.
It depends on your climate. In Santa Barbara (with milder winter evening temps) I pruned my bougainvilleas in late Jan. into Feb. Here in Tucson (with colder evening temps) I wait until mid to end of March to do any extensive pruning.
You don’t want to prune your bougainvillea & then have another freeze hit.
Yes, bougainvillea does best with at least 6 hours of sun a day. If it’s not getting the sun it likes & needs, the blooming will be less if any at all. Also, the plant won’t be as robust. Besides sun, bougainvillea loves heat.
Bougainvillea is a perennial. In climates with cold winters, it could be considered to be an annual if you don’t bring it indoors for the cold months.
Yes, if the environmental conditions are to their liking, they sure are. They’ll be slower growing for a year or 2 after planting, but then they really take off. My bougainvilleas in Santa Barbara grew faster than my ones in Tucson do. It’s much hotter here in the summer & colder at night in the winter. That being said, I still have to prune my bougies 2-3 times a year to keep them from getting too tall.
I hope these bougainvillea winter care tips have helped you out. Last winter my bougainvilleas really got hit. As I’m writing this, it’s January 20th and my bougainvilleas still have some flowers and most of their foliage still on. This winter has been milder than last winter. You just never know what’s going to happen temperature wise but it’s good to be prepared!
P.S. You can find all sorts of bougainvillea care tips here.
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