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How to Transplant a Bougainvillea – Top Secrets!

How to Transplant a Bougainvillea – Top Secrets!

Summer is just around the corner, and our gardens are being prepared for a burst of color. 

And, if you want to add color to your garden, one plant popular for its bright and vibrant colors is the bougainvillea. 

The bougainvillea is a tropical plant, originally founded in North America by french explorer Louis A. de Bougainville. 

It is part of the Nyctaginaceae family, which is made up of mostly drought-hardy plants. It is popular among gardens in warm climates, such as in the southern United States. 

With warmer weather on its way, you might be looking to relocate your bougainvillea and brighten up an area of your garden that was once drab and lifeless. 

So, how do you go about transplanting a bougainvillea? Read on to find out more. 


How to transplant a bougainvillea?

Bougainvilleas thrive in direct sunlight, so make sure you are transplanting your plant to an area that gets at least 5 hours of sun a day. Water thoroughly before moving, as this will prevent any root damage in the process. Next, dig around the plant ensuring to leave a lot of space around the roots. Dig a hole in your newly chosen area around 2 times the size of your bougainvilleas current root ball. Finally, carefully place your plant into the center of the hole, pressing down the soil around it with your hands to prevent any damage from occurring. 


Transplanting bougainvillea: The proper way

Although transplanting a bougainvillea does have its risks, if done properly and carefully it can be very successful

Some preparation is needed before transplanting, to minimize any damage. 

To start with, ensure that you are choosing the right spot for your bougainvillea to be moved to. 

It might seem tempting to move your plant into a shaded area that needs brightening up.

However, bougainvillea thrives in warm and bright environments, so you should choose a location that gets lots of direct sunlight.

Your plant needs to be well watered before transplanting. This is due to its very fragile root system. 

Although the bougainvillea usually thrives in very dry conditions, having dry roots whilst moving could lead to them snapping easily.

Once the bougainvillea is thoroughly watered, you can begin to remove it from the soil. Dig a hole that is around 2-3 times larger than the size of the root wall to ensure that the plant will succumb to a minimal amount of damage.

You can find a rough radius of the plant’s root wall by creating light draining holes into the soil, and using your fingertips to feel where the root wall ends. 

Carefully dig around the roots of your bougainvillea until you can gently slide them from the ground. 

When removing excess soil, gently brush the roots over with your hands. Avoid shaking the plant as this can cause roots to detach. 

Top tip – slide the plant root down onto a burlap or tarp bag. This will keep them together whilst why are being moved, and will reduce the risk of plant shock. 

You are now ready to prepare your bougainvillea’s new home. 

To start with the process, dig a large hole in your prepared soil and gravel (or sand) mix. It needs to be at least twice the size of the roots of your plant. 

If you are choosing to pot your bougainvillea, ensure that there is enough space for the roots to grow and thrive. I would recommend a gallon-sized pot. 

Place a handful of fertilizer on the hole before planting. A standard hibiscus plant food works well for bougainvillea and will replicate the natural nutrients that were in your plant’s previous location. This should in turn reduce the risk of plant shock. 


Materials you’ll need for bougainvillea transplanting

You should always be as prepared as possible before moving or transplanting any sort of plant. A change in environment or location can often be quite stressful or traumatic. 

If you aren’t fully prepared, it can result in an unnecessary waste of time and money trying to nurse your plant back to its original health. 

As bougainvillea has very fragile roots, ensure that a clean shovel or spade should be used. This will prevent any possible infection from spreading to the roots.


When best to transplant bougainvilleas

It is best to transplant bougainvilleas during their dormant seasons. 

Dormant seasons are a time where the Bougainvillea isn’t going through any period of growth due to its blooming cycle being over. 

This is before there are any signs of green leaves or buds appearing on your bougainvillea.

If bougainvilleas are transplanted whilst in their growth period, they will likely go into shock, which could result in there being no further growth or blooming on your bougainvillea for the rest of the year. 

Early spring or late fall is the best time to go about transplanting bougainvilleas, as this will reduce the risk of your plant going into shock.

It needs to be transplanted at a time where there isn’t a risk of it being affected by frosty weather.


What to do in case bougainvillea goes into plant shock

Bougainvilleas have very fragile root systems, that even the slightest disturbance can affect.

If your plant does go into shock after transplantation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have done anything wrong.

Visually, plant shock will look as if your plant has died. It will have limp and eventually dry leaves, and some of the stems may even start to break. 

If this does happen, the best thing to do is to prune back your bougainvillea to remove all of the damaged stems and leaves. This will make it easier to grow back once it recovers. 

It can take 1-3 months for a plant to recover from plant shock, so you need to be patient during this slow process. 


Safety tips and precautions during transplanting

Most varieties of bougainvillea have thorns all over their stems. 

When transplanting or handling the plant, it is wise to wear strong gardening gloves and a long sleeve t-shirt to ensure complete protection. 

Bougainvillea has a mild level of toxicity. Technically, it means that in some cases a prick from the plant’s sharp thorns can lead to dermatitis


Frequently Asked Questions about Transplanting a Bougainvillea


Do bougainvilleas come back every year?

The bougainvillea is a perennial plant, meaning that it grows back and blooms every year. If in a consistently warm and sunny climate, it can be known to bloom throughout the year. 


What is the lowest temperature a bougainvillea can withstand?

Bougainvillea cannot withstand anything under 41 degrees Fahrenheit.