Tag Archives: flowering vines

Glen Asked About Transplanting Bougainvillea

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.

Bougainvillea - Becky's Purple - mlm c

This beautiful purple bougainvillea belongs to my neighbor, Becky. I enjoy seeing it out my back windows.

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:

White - mlm cThere 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.

Hot Pink - zoomed mlm c@

This is the hot pink bougainvillea that once grew near our front door.

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.

White - mlm c

This gorgeous white bougainvillea is one I saw in a garden shop. Of course, I snapped a photo. Notice the little touch of pink on that top bract?

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.

I Cut Down My Beloved Bougainvillea

Hot Pink - full bloom - mlm c@

I have always loved bougainvillea (pronounced “boo gan vee ah”) from afar. The first one I ever saw in person was in San Francisco. It had climbed two stories, and was rambling all over a 2nd floor terrace. I was enchanted with that beautiful vine. So, when we moved to central Florida, I knew that was the first tropical plant I would buy, and it was. Sadly, our tiny yard does not have a great place for this flowering vine to climb and roam. It needs a fence or garden wall to tumble over and sprawl to its heart’s content. We don’t have that place.

With a heavy heart, I cut down my bougainvillea this week. I have loved it and fretted over it for 2-1/2 years. When in full bloom, people walking their dogs would stop by and ask about it, or comment on it. It was absolutely gorgeous each spring, and very pretty in the fall. The rest of the year, it was very high maintenance with frequent pruning required to prevent it from hanging out over our front walk, and constant spraying with insecticidal soap in a failing effort to rid it of those pesky caterpillars.

On House - mlm c@

This photo was taken shortly after a severe pruning to remove it from the gutters, sofit, and roof. It had even wrapped around the downspout.

Bougainvillea grows rapidly here. Who am I kidding? Everything grows rapidly here. That can be a wonderful thing. It can also be a not so good thing. My bougainvillea was against the wall of our garage, which is parallel to the walk that leads to the front door of our home. Frequent pruning was required to keep the upper limbs from hanging out over that walk. I could walk under a lot of them, but most folks had to dodge the thorny branches of this prolific vine.

More Caterpillar Damage - mlm c@

It was once taller than the house, and soon would have been lying on the roof. Not good.

This fall, it has had only a few flowers because the caterpillars were eating the newest growth before it could mature. We’ve had a  hotter than normal summer, so insecticidal oils that don’t wash off when it rains, melted off in the heat. We’ve also had a very rainy summer, so after each rain I had to spray insecticidal soap again, and again, and again.


And then, there were those thorns. Those huge thorns.

Thorns mlm c@

 It all got to be too much trouble for this gardener.

Caterpillar Feces - mlm c@

The droppings of those caterpillars were all over our front walk, and had to be swept away daily, sometimes twice daily.

Here you see the tiny droppings on my day lilies. They are so small, they could have gotten in between our dog’s pads, or the soles of our shoes, and been tracked into the house. That presents a potential health threat. Those caterpillars had to go. Unfortunately, that meant the bougainvillea had to go, too.

Do You Know Which Part Is the Actual Flower?

Hot Pink - zoomed mlm c@

Although the showy colorful bracts everyone loves are the most dramatic part, the tiny white blossom in the center is the actual flower. They’re like poinsettias in that way.

Each bract has 3 sections with a tiny flower emerging at its base.

Hot Pink - zoomed 2 mlm c@

Will I miss the show bougainvillea puts on each spring?

Purple - mlm c@

No, I can still enjoy them in other peoples’ gardens, such as this one a couple of miles from my home.

It’s kind of like being a grandparent. You get to enjoy the kids without having to be the primary caretaker.






Mandevilla Leaves Turning Yellow

Another Mandy - mlm c

Ann S., a neighbor and friend, described her Mandevilla to me last week. It’s leaves had begun turning yellow and falling off. This was an easy one. We’d had so much rain already, and have had  about 5 more inches since we talked. This is a plant that requires good drainage.

My suggestion was to dig up the plant, and rake more soil into the bottom of the hole, or to use a garden fork to lift the plant up, push more soil underneath it, and set it back into place. Then to build up the entire planting bed, creating a raised bed. This should provide enough drainage for her beautiful vine to flourish.

More Mandevilla Vines

Behind Starbucks - mlm c

Close Up on Post

The first two of these photos were taken at an outdoor patio behind our local Starbucks coffee house. They have planted red ones, pink ones, and white ones. I’ve really enjoyed watching these vines grow this summer.

Mandevilla is also available in a cherry bright yellow. I’ll have to get a photo of one somewhere.


The third photo is one of mine, having a visit from a very accommodating dragonfly. He seemed to be posing for me to take several photos.


Dragon Fly - mlm c