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How to Trim a Bougainvillea – Step By Step

How to Trim a Bougainvillea – Step By Step

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Made up of approximately 14 species, the Bougainvillea (Nyctaginaceae) is a very hardy plant, originating from the warm tropics of South America.

The bougainvillea’s popularity comes from its bright and deeply saturated colorings, often taking the tropical colors of orange, magenta, and yellow. 

It is known for its versatility, grown in hanging baskets, across walls and hedges, and more. 

Although it takes a while to reach maturity, it is quite fast-growing and can reach over 30 feet. 

But, what if you want to prevent your plant from growing to such lengths? 

It sounds like you need to know how to trim a bougainvillea, read on to find out how!


How to trim a bougainvillea?

A bougainvillea needs to be trimmed during the early spring or late fall. You should use sterile shears, and ensure that you only trim the older and more mature branches and avoid cutting any new growth. When trimming, choose your desired length and then cut below a node on the stem. If you are removing dead leaves, then make sure to trim them with shears or scissors as opposed to pulling them off. 


Proper trimming method for bougainvillea

When trimming or pruning your bougainvillea, be sure to disinfect your shears before using them on your plant. 

Similarly, if you are trimming off dead leaves ensure that you wipe the shears between cutting each section of leaves. 

This will prevent any cross-contamination, and reduce the risk of spreading any kind of disease to the healthy leaves on your bougainvillea. 

Once sterilizing, you can begin to choose which branches to remove. 

You should always start by trimming from the lower branches of your plant first, as these branches will be older and more mature. 

The bougainvillea will only bloom from the tips of newer growth, so although trimming back the older branches may make your plant look bare, it is actually going to stimulate newer growths and therefore more blooms. 

You should always cut back just below a node (or eye) of the branch. This is the part of the branch where leaves and foliage grow from.

Doing this will prevent any injury to the fibers in the stem itself. 

Top tip – older and more mature branches or stems will feel woodier to touch and will be less flexible if you try to bend them. 

Newer branches or stems will be much thinner and almost bendy to touch. 


Nifty tips in trimming bougainvillea

An easy mistake that gardeners often make is either not trimming their bougainvillea back far enough or trimming it way too much.

Many choose to map out their desired shape but do not take into account the level of growth their bougainvillea will have over the year. 

If you are choosing to trim your bougainvillea during the fall months, you especially need to give it room for growth or this could risk it looking overgrown and untamed by the time that summer comes around.

Similarly, if you are choosing to trim your bougainvillea in the spring, be sure not to remove all of its newly viable stems and leaves. This could prevent your plant from blooming that year at all. 


Safety precautions in trimming bougainvillea

Most bougainvilleas are naturally very thorny plants. It is advised to wear the appropriate gloves and cover up your arms whilst handing bougainvillea. This is how you trim a bougainvillea.

Although not registered on the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants, bougainvillea still has a level of toxicity in which injuring yourself on their thorns has been known to lead to cases of dermatitis.