The Big Winter Pruning & Training Of My Bougainvillea

Oh Bougainvillea glabra, I written about and filmed you so many times but this is our swan song as a team.   I’ve sold my house with this vibrantly floriferous and frequently pinned bougainvillea and will be soon be moving.  Your magenta blooms have delighted me, as well as all the neighbors, for years but now it’s time to move on and create a garden in a totally new environment.

I’ll soon be embarking on a new horticultural adventure but I’m saving that story for a future post.  I wanted to do 1 last video about this piece of living art so here it is: the big winter pruning of my beloved bougainvillea.

Boy, we plant people get sappy about our plants, don’t we?!

pruning training bougainvillea

I like to keep this part going across the garage even more thinned out.  Once the weather warms & the sun gets stronger, the bougies grow like crazy.

I prune and pinch this bougainvillea throughout the year which not only triggers those big explosions of colorful blooms but also it also keeps this vigorous grower from taking over the garage and driveway.  Bougainvilleas have a fast growth rate once they get established.  This 1, Bougainvillea glabra, can reach 30′ which would completely cover the driveway, garage and shed.  Therefore, it must be controlled!

This video is long but you can see how I prune this bougainvillea in Jan & Feb:

Here’s a recap of how I give this vigorous flowering machine its winter pruning:

1- We very rarely have a frost but I make sure there’s none on the horizon.  Usually by the end of January it’s okay to have at it with the Felcos.

2- I start by standing back & looking at this bougainvillea to determine what shape I want it to be & what I need to do.

3- I work my way into the plant by thinning out whole branches & taking them all the way back to a main branch or the trunk.  Otherwise, it just becomes too dense (for my taste anyway) & the outer growth will completely cover & shade the inner growth.

pruning training bougainvillea

Those are the main branches I’m talking about in the video.  it’s easier to see them now now I’ve done some pruning.

4- I remove the pesky water shoots as I go along.  You’ll see in the video that some of them get quite big & tall.

5-  I trim the outer edges which for me, entails getting up on the garage.  I like to keep it level with the roof line but not trimmed straight across.  I also trim it away from the neighbor’s garage.

6- Then I trim the inner edges to bring it back from the driveway & away from the garage door.  I pinch those edges for that big bloom, a riot of color so to speak.  Bougainvilleas bloom on new growth so this step is necessary to bring on all those flowers which make me smile.  By the way, the hummingbirds & butterflies love it too!

pruning training bougainvillea

You can see what I mean about the thorns!  This is 1 of those fleshy, sticky water shoots by the way.

Be sure to:

* Remove the water shoots.

* Cut out whole branches (except for the pinching on the ends).

* Watch out for the thorns – bougainvilleas have a lot of them.

* Be mindful of your eyes because a lot of smutch will most likely fall out when you’re pruning.

Oh beautiful Bougainvillea glabra, I’ve trained and pruned you for 10 years now and you’ve been a trooper.  You’ve weathered our drought here in California without so much as loosing a step.  I will miss you and your big show displays of color although not the sweeping up of ALL your fallen blooms . Does anyone else have a super star in their garden that they just love love???

Happy gardening,

Nell's signature
pruning training bougainvillea

This is another bougainvillea here in Santa Barbara that’s had an artistic pruning & is showing a lot of color.


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  1. Hi Nell!
    I love your blog and love your love for plants! I am planning to have a bright trooper for my tiny balcony, here in arid Dubai! Wish me luck!

  2. Hi Debbie – Thank you! Good luck with that bougainvillea in Dubai – you’ll love all the color in provides. Hugs from the Arizona desert, Nell

  3. I live in Michigan and bought a Bougainvillea I took it in and put a plant light on it for the winter so it’s been green. My question is is there a chance it will blossom again? And is there anything I can do to help it bloom?

  4. I live in West Tennessee. I have 2 bougainvilleas in pots. Our weather drops to lower teens in winter. I’m guessing that I will need to bring them inside for the winter. At what point temperature wise do I need to bring them inside and do I need to do anything special for them while inside. Light, watering, or pruning?

  5. Hi Jennifer – The foliage on bougainvilleas freeze around 25F. A few nights of that temp can cause damage to the roots. High light & easy on the watering indoors. Nell

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