How to Prune and Trim Bougainvillea for Maximum Bloom

Here’s how I prune and trim my bougainvillea for maximum bloom.

My Bougainvillea glabra is a flowering machine. It puts out a big show of magenta/purplish color off and on for 9 or 10 months out of the year. This bougainvillea grows up and over my garage which sits at the end of a long, narrow driveway. It gets a major “WOW” from anyone who sees it.

The pruning that I do in January is the big one that sets the shape that my bougainvillea will be for the rest of the year.  I usually prune it all in 1 fell swoop, which takes about 5 hours.

But this year I didn’t start the pruning until the end of February, and because I was doing it in dribbles, I just finished it up this past weekend. By the time I finished the pruning, it was already flowering away like crazy!

Here’s how I prune my bougainvillea for maximum bloom:

The video is full of info but here’s a break down of what I do:

How to Prune and Trim Bougainvillea

First of all, I make sure my pruners are clean & sharp.  For this job, I’ll use my Felco #2‘s, Fiskars Floral Snips & my Corona Long Reach Loppers.  Oh, I use a 6′ step ladder too.

Thin out the plant by removing whole branches right back to the main trunk.  When it’s semi-deciduous in January, it may seem like you’re removing a lot, but believe me, it grows back like crazy.  I prune a lot away from the outside of the plant so I can get to the inside.

Remove half of the undergrowth which has gotten shaded & “wimpy”.

Remove the water shoots.  These do nothing for the plant at all.

Shape it to how I want it to look.  It goes up 1 side of the garage & then all the way across.  I took an old metal trellis which was on the back of the house & had it attached to the middle of the garage just above the overhead door.  Bougainvillea does not attach itself (unlike jasmine, trumpet vine, morning glory, etc) so I had to train & attach it.

Most of the branches that remain I take back by a half or tip prune, depending on their length.  This is what brings the denseness of color to my bougie.  You see, bougainvilleas bloom on new growth so the more you tip them, the more color you’ll get.  Tip pruning, in case you don’t know, is the removal of the soft new growth by 1-6″.  You can even do this with your fingernails if it’s easier.

deep magenta pink bougainvillea in full bloom grows up & over a garage
This bougie runs up & over my garage.

I’ll do four additional lighter prunings throughout the warm season, ending in early December. My bougainvillea is a riot of color and yours can be too.  Just remember, tip pruning (you’ll see the technique in the video) is one of the keys to this dense show of flowers. It’s my own floral fiesta!


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  1. Hi Nell,
    I’ve recently invested in a large bougainvillea shaped as an ornamental size tree, The company that planted it said to water deeply until established. How do I know when to slow down the watering? I’m afraid it’s getting over watered. Also I’m in Central Florida and the rainy season has started.
    Your advice is much appreciated.

  2. Just bought my first Bougainvillea and its gorgeous! I’m in the heart of Deep East Texas and I remember my grandmother and great grandmother growing them into monster plants!!! The butterflies, bees and hummingbirds were everywhere.

  3. Hi Jane – More infrequent deep waterings are better than frequent shallow waterings when it comes to bougainvilleas. Depending on the rain/temperature situation, I would back off on the deep waterings after 6-12 months. I gardened for years in California & now in Arizona so the rain situation where you are is different. Let the rains take care of the watering now. It takes 2-4 years for a bougainvillea to establish. Nell

  4. Oh yes Sabrina; the hummingbirds & butterflies sure love the bougainvilleas. Plants bring back memories & that’s a wonderful thing too! Nell

  5. Nell thank you so much for your video and constant input on all things Bougainvilleas.
    I have an absolutely beautiful bougainvillea over my garage. I bought the home from a couple that successfully grew her.
    I am however planning on painting the home a slightly different color. I absolutinly do not want to remove or relocate her, but wanted to get your input on how to paint my home around her. Do I perform a very aggressive “Pruning”; how long will it take for her to grow back?

    Many thanks
    David Irizarry

  6. Hi David – I assume the bougainvillea is about 20?? You can aggressively prune it but will take some time to grow back to how it was. Training will take a while but not knowing how big it is, how old it is or where you are, it’s hard to give an exact figure. Nell

  7. Beautiful form. Love the fact that you care so much about the presentation of your bouganvillia. Enjoy your garden

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