Why Won’t My Bougainvillea Bloom?

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Most bougainvillea are in full bloom right now.  Unfortunately, some are not. I received another bougainvillea question this week. Pilar writes that her bougainvillea is “…full of green leaves, but does not bloom, we miracle grow every two weeks, and water everyday”.

My advice is to back off on both the water and the frequent fertilizing!! Bougainvillea prefer to dry out between waterings.

About the Water:

Yellow - mlm cBougainvillea require good drainage; and they prefer to dry out in between waterings. In fact, the method nurseries use to force blooms is to withhold water. Because of their need for good drainage, be sure not to plant them too deeply.

The withholding of water forces the production of colorful bracts which surround the white flowers, as seen in the top photo. Each bract has three tiny white flowers as shown in both photos above.

Regarding the Fertilizer:

IMG_5162You’ve seen the 3 numbers on fertilizers? For lots of flowers and/or fruit, you need a fertilizer with a higher middle number. Those numbers, in order, are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). The website for Miracle Grow that Pilar was using, shows that its chemical analysis is 28-8-16. The huge amount of nitrogen (28%) being applied to her plant is the reason she has such lovely leaves at the expense of flowers. The makers of Miracle Grow do produce a variety of types of fertilizer targeting the needs of different plants. Be sure to read the labels of whatever fertilizer you choose.

I promised Pilar I would write a blog post on this topic with greater detail. Watch for it to come out very soon.

14 responses to “Why Won’t My Bougainvillea Bloom?

  1. Thanks for the info
    This is my favorite flower, I wrote a poem about it posted in my blog , my first ever poem.

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  2. That insghit’s just what I’ve been looking for. Thanks!

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  3. Hello! Could you please tell me, how often is recommend for adding coffe grounds to the soil of my bougainvillea?

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    • Hi Wendy,
      Thanks for your question. Be careful of adding to many coffee grounds to your bougainvillea, unless, of course, your soil is alkaline (sweet). Bougainvillea prefer a soil that is only slightly acidic; that is, a pH of 5.5 – 6.0. A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral. Below 7 is acidic; above 7 is alkaline. The best way to know for sure is to test the pH of the soil on a fairly regular basis.

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  4. Good day Maria,
    From your instructive article on ‘How to care for your Bougainvillea’ amended my soil with copious quantities of acid compost combined with ordinary compost and a dusting of 3.1.5
    Without specific identification of my Bougainvillea and nothing other than that, which I planted almost a year ago I am not able to fully determine what colour /species I am growing. From the tell-tale signs and with technicality on the Web it does point to Spectrabilis with tiny hairs on the stem and underside of the leaves which have a material feeling to the touch. I am seeing the pink ruby plethora of her leaves sans bracts.
    From my location here in sunny South Africa where Bougainvilleas grow prolifically due to our mild climate am yet to see the colourful bracts in their profusion.
    She has gained height +- 2m and spread yet the leaves on the upper branches of the stem are spaced quite far apart.
    I may be looking at a slow performance starter orand ultimately a gentle giant.
    Thanks for your informative and valuable input.
    Regards,
    Margaret Joy Gordon.
    marjoy@telkomsa.net

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  5. I bought a bougavilla about 2 weeks ago. Its in a 1 gallon pot. I want to put in a little bigger wooden planter. Do you recommend this? Any advise you can give will be appreciated. Im in north Florida can get a little bit cold here. Freezing temperatures..

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    • Hi Karen. By any chance, is this the type of bougainvillea that has been trained and pruned into the shape of a small ornamental tree? If so, a large pot may suffice, but be sure it has good drainage holes, as this plant does require well drained soil. Normally, bougainvillea grow rapidly, and need the support of a large trellis or a fence. If it is this type that you bought, keeping it in a pot may not work as well. In northern Florida, you are in either zone 8a or 8b. Either way, you will have some freezing temperatures from time to time. There are pros and cons to keeping large plants such as bougainvillea in pots in this area. The “pro” is that you can move a plant indoors in the event of a freeze. The “con” is that, if you are away during a freeze, the cold temps will surround the pot, and therefore, the root ball of the plant, making it more likely to be killed. If the plant is in the ground and mulched well with pine straw or small pine nuggets, its roots are protected, and you can cover the plant. I hope this helps. Thanks for reading my blog.

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  6. Thank you for your advise. I did plant my bougainvillea in a large pot, the pot that it came in was a 1 gal pot. I rarely got blooms too and I don’t think I overwatered it. When I repotted it I added 15-30-15 fertilizer which was recommended by my nursery. It says the nitrogen is time released, do you think that is a good fertilizer for my plant? I live in San Diego.

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    • Hi Riki, I do think that will be a good fertilizer for your bougainvillea. Time release (also called slow release) is always best. Otherwise, you get a quick flush of nutrients right away, then nothing. This is better for your plants, and for your wallet. The nitrogen will give you lots of lush green leaves. The phosphorous (the middle number) will produce beautiful, healthy flowers. Remember to withhold water to induce blooming. Around here (central Florida) they bloom in the spring and fall. I was in San Francisco several years ago in July, and the bougainvillea were flowering then, so I’m not sure when your bloom time is, but it sounds like you’re on the right track. Let me know how it performs for you.

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