Our good friend, Glen, told me about recently moving his bougainvillea to a different spot in his yard where he thought it would be better suited. Glen says it’s not doing so well now. After questioning him about the process of the move, I think I found the answer to his problem. Glen did several things right, but he also did a couple of things wrong.
What He Did Right:
- He found a sunny spot with good drainage — two very important things.
- He pruned the plant a bit to make moving it easier.
- He dug carefully to avoid damaging the root ball.
What He Did Wrong:
- He dug up the plant before digging a hole in the new spot.
- With no hole ready to receive the bougainvillea, he put it on the ground while digging the new hole.
A Common Mistake:
There was another plant in the place where the bougainvillea was to go, so he dug up that plant and moved it to the place the bougainvillea came from. Then he planted the bougainvillea in the hole where the other plant had been. Meanwhile, the bougainvillea roots were exposed to the air. Not having the new planting hole ready and waiting is a common mistake. I even had a landscape worker in North Carolina do that to a large lantana. I was not a happy camper.
For a plant to be moved within the landscape, moved from a pot to the ground, or even re-potted, puts it into shock for a few days. The roots should be exposed to air for no more than a couple of minutes.
My Suggestions for Glen Were:
Keep the traumatized bougainvillea well watered while it recovers from the shock of being moved. Be sure it is in rich, acidic soil. It should recover soon, but will likely lose some leaves. There may also be some dead wood that needs to be removed.
When moving a plant, whether established, or newly planted, be sure to have the new hole prepared and ready to receive the plant, before digging it from its comfy home. If, like Glen, you need to move one plant in order to move another, dig up the first one and put it into a pot with good soil, or into a bucket of water until its new home is ready to receive it.
How and Where to Plant Your Bougainvillea
There is an expression among gardeners that, for any plant, a good rule of thumb is to dig a $50 hole for a $5 plant. You need a hole that is wide enough that you can easily rake soil into it around the root ball. For bougainvillea, the hole should be deep enough that the top of the root ball is just slightly above the surrounding soil level. This allows water to drain away, and prevents standing water at times of heavy rain.
Plant your bougainvillea close to a wall if you plan to let it climb a trellis. If you have space for these beauties to ramble, you can also plant them by a fence. To be on a trellis that is not against a wall, would require a very sturdy trellis, but it can be done. Those make great privacy screens. Also, there are some that have been trained and pruned to behave as if they were small ornamental trees. I have no experience with those, but it seems to me they would also require some maintenance pruning.
If you are new to a warm or mild climate, and want bright, almost year-round color, and don’t mind the thorns, bougainvillea is for you. One other thing, you will need plenty of room for this aggressive, sprawling, vine to grow and show off for you.