1. Q: What should I do with my bougainvillea this winter?

A. Few plants can weather heat and drought better than the bougainvillea, and South Texas winters are usually not sufficiently harsh to kill even established plants. During the winter, bougainvilleas will go dormant and shed their leaves, but they will remain very much alive if placed in a garage or semi- protected area where the temperatures do not fall much below freezing. Light watering about once a month is sufficient, and by mid-March, possibly even earlier, the plants can be moved out into the sun, fertilized and pruned.

2. Q: When should I prune my bougainvillea plants? I move the plants into a protected area when temperatures go below 30 degrees F. but all plants defoliate and look wiry. A good pruning to shape the plants will help but I do not want to force new growth.

A. Bougainvillea plants can be pruned as much as you want, whenever you want without danger of stimulating new growth. These plants are tropical in origin and are only motivated to sprout by warming temperatures in April or May. The inconvenience of storage is bad enough without having to worry with unruly branches.

3. Q: My Bougainvillea is several years old. I keep it in the garage every winter. It is fertilized regularly, & gets plenty of sun. It blooms sparcely. What does it need?

A: This is a most commonly asked question and the answer, 9 times out of 10, is that the plant is not getting enough sunlight. Bougainvilleas need AT LEAST 8-10 hours of direct (sunbatheing sun!) sunlight every day. Also, cut back on the water and fertilize and only water when the plant wilts. Also, if you can find some Hibiscus Food fertilizer use that every 2-3 weeks. Remember, some types of bougainvilleas bloom mostly in the fall in response to short days.

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