Known for its heart-shaped leaves, bright coloring, and thorny, vined branches, the bougainvillea is a popular choice for many a garden the world over.
Generally considered an ornamental tree or bush, bougainvillea is an evergreen species that can flourish all year round in the right conditions.
The colorful papery leaves associated with these plants are known as bracts, while their actual flowers are small and white.
These beauties are quite hardy, and with proper care, can be just as delightful in the winter as they are in the warmer seasons.
Their peak blooming time is from April to December and is most prolific during Spring and Fall.
But, can you grow bougainvillea during winter? Well, let’s take a look.
How do you care for bougainvilleas in winter?
Although the bougainvillea prefers temperatures over 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius), you can plant them in heat-retaining areas. If they’re potted, move them to warmer spots. Also, limiting their feed and water intake, as well as pruning, can keep your bougainvillea healthy during winter.
Best garden areas to plant bougainvillea in the winter
Bougainvilleas love heat, and the ideal conditions for them are spaces in the garden that receive full sun.
They flourish in areas with well-draining, sandy soil and will struggle in areas where water tends to dam up.
Therefore, if possible, try to ensure they are planted on high ground or against hillsides or sheltering walls – even your house or garage!
This will also allow them to climb and spread in a most pleasing manner, especially if you’re growing them on a wall.
When the colder months hit, make sure not to overwater your bougainvilleas.
Check that the soil in which they are planted is not overly waterlogged or soggy, as this can lead to root rot.
If you live in an area that is prone to strong and damaging wind, try to secure your plants to support structures such as walls and trellises, thereby eliminating the risk of too much breakage.
If your bougainvilleas are not planted close to any support structures, consider constructing a temporary arrangement to which they can be secured.
For smaller and younger plants or groundcover bougainvilleas, you can use cloth or old sheets tented into the ground to keep them safe from harsh winds.
Protecting bougainvillea from the frost: Top tips
If your garden is in an area that is prone to frost, there is no need to panic!
Bougainvilleas can withstand a light freeze and will only suffer from root damage if they are consistently exposed to freezing or below freezing temperatures.
You can read more about optimal temperatures for bougainvilleas to better understand this aspect.
To safeguard them from the cold, covering your bougainvillea’s roots in a layer of compost or manure can help to protect them from dying.
Restrict their water intake, and gradually increase it only once the warmer weather returns.
Pruning back dead and dying leaves will also allow the plan to retain energy and moisture. By doing this, the bougainvillea has a far greater chance of successfully bouncing back from frost exposure.
Finally, avoid over-feeding or fertilizing these plants in the winter, as it may create an imbalance of salt and nutrients in the soil, which causes damage to their root structures.
They do not grow quickly in winter, and therefore do not require the added boost of feeding.
Preparing potted bougainvillea for winter
If you live in an area that experiences temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-2 degrees Celsius), it is advisable to keep your bougainvilleas potted.
Some may be inclined to plant their bougainvilleas in their gardens, and containerize them in the winter, but digging up your plants can cause them great stress, so it is best to keep them potted if you live in an area that experiences regular snow and frost.
If you’re not sure how to transplant your bougainvillea, better read up about it so you’ll know what you’re doing.
Make sure you select a pot or container for your bougainvillea that is quite a bit larger than its root structure.
Potted plants benefit from access to quality, moisture-retaining soil. Cut back larger, more unruly specimens to allow them room for growth.
Place them in a cool, but not freezing, area, and make sure they have access to sunlight.
Once again, be sure not to over-water them as they enter a slow-growing and more dormant phase. Check the soil regularly and increase watering only as the weather becomes warmer.
As with garden bougainvilleas, avoid feeding and fertilizing your potted plants, as this may lead to root burns.
Frequently Asked Questions about How to Care for Bougainvillea in Winter
Should I prune my bougainvilleas during or after a winter freeze?
Pruning your bougainvilleas allows room for new growth. However, avoid the urge to cut them back drastically if you see a few dry or yellowed leaves. Wait a while, and if you suspect there is freeze damage, prune the outer branches first, and then work your way to the main branches.
Is it normal for my bougainvillea to lose leaves during winter?
While it’s worrisome to note, it’s completely normal for bougainvillea to lose their leaves in the winter months. During the cold winter months, bougainvillea leaves tend to drop while the plant enters dormancy. If properly cared for, however, they will remain alive and bounce back in the spring.
Should I cover my bougainvilleas in winter?
If you live in an area that does not experience much frost, then it is not necessary to cover your plants. However, if you often experience hard frost and freezing temperatures, it is advisable to cover your plants, especially younger specimens, until the threat has passed.
Bougainvilleas are as tough as they are vibrant and tend to manage quite well in colder climes. With proper care, spring will see them come back full of vigor.
The best advice is just to keep an eye on them and establish their needs as the temperature starts to drop.
Yellowing leaves and bare branches are not necessarily a cause for concern, but the steps above can certainly assist with keeping your plants healthy and happy.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.