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How To Prune Bougainvillea? Best Effective Tips

How to prune Bougainvillea

Learn how to prune Bougainvillea because who doesn’t love colors? Our daily choices about our attire depict our fascination for colors. That is the same reason why bougainvillea is the favorites of gardeners around the world. With the startling display of amazing colors, bougainvillea is sure to captivate anyone with a sound heart. When children are asked about their favorite colors, the answer is seldom the same. Bougainvillea pleases everyone because they come in a variety of different colors including pink, purple, magenta, white, yellow, orange, and red. 

Bougainvillea is a perennial plant. Other than the basic maintenance, they don’t require a royal treatment—despite their looks. However, frequent pruning encourages new growth that produces magnificent colors. If bougainvillea is neglected, it will grow to the point that you would have to call “plants police” on them as this plant will overflow your garden which potentially can choke your other plants. It is a vigorous grower and needs pruning frequently to control it.

Though pruning certainly helps in controlling the plant’s growth, it is also for the benefit of the plant’s health as well. But how does it exactly do that? Pruning as you may know is the act of trimming of some leaves, branches, buds, or roots. While it may seem unproductive at first sight seeing that you are cutting away some parts of the plant instead, this actually helps the plant when properly applied. The parts of the plant that we are actually trimming are the parts that are weak, roots with molds, or dead branches. With all those unnecessary burdens removed, your plant can concentrate it’s resources to growth!  Every bougainvillea fanatic needs to know how to prune bougainvillea to enjoy those beautiful color displays to the fullest! 

We have prepared this easy-to-follow guide to help you do just that!

Effective Tips To Prune Bougainvillea

Before we jump into pruning, let me clear a common misconception about bougainvillea. The amazing colors of bougainvillea are not from its flowers! Surprised?

They are the modified leaves called bracts. Flowers of bougainvillea are cream-colored and very small. 

Another tip you should greatly consider before you get into pruning is to wear gloves. This plant is known for its thorns and even in some species it can give you some rash or cause your skin to inflame. With that said, wear some gloves for your protection.

That being said, let’s start with when to prune bougainvillea.

When to Prune Bougainvillea?

As mentioned above, bougainvillea is a vigorous grower and hence it requires regular pruning. Annual pruning is a must for encouraging new growth which produces colorful bracts. 

The best time for major pruning of bougainvillea is between late winter and early spring. That is the time when the plant is semi-deciduous, and the new growth is about to sprout from the swelled nodes. Nodes are the sites of new growth and shouldn’t all be cut down.

Minor pruning can be done throughout the growing season for encouraging new growth and shaping.

Light pruning in fall helps to shape the plant after the growing season is over.

The Required Garden Tools

Make sure that you have all the usual suspects ready to go so that you can get stuck straight into it.

  1. Pruning shears: Pruning shears are a must-have tool for pruning bougainvillea. They are designed to cut small branches and twigs with ease.
  2. Mini Chainsaw: If you want to make your life easier then grab one of these especially if you have a big job ahead. Certainly is easier than manual pruning. If you’re new to these then read our Ultimate Guide to help you out.
  3. Loppers: For thicker branches and stems, you will need a pair of loppers. Loppers have long handles and a cutting head that can cut through thicker branches with more force.
  4. Gloves: Bougainvillea has thorns, so wearing gloves is important to protect your hands from getting pricked. Choose gloves that are thick and durable.
  5. Safety glasses: When pruning bougainvillea, it’s important to protect your eyes from flying debris. Safety glasses can help prevent eye injuries.
  6. Hand saw: A hand saw may be necessary to prune thicker branches or stems that are too large for pruning shears or loppers.
  7. Garden twine: Use garden twine to tie back or support branches after pruning if necessary.

4 Steps to Pruning Bougainvillea

Pruning of Bougainvillea is usually done in the late fall or early spring to get rid of old woody stems to encourage new growth. It also helps to manage the plant.

1) Cleaning the Shears

Before we jump into pruning, make sure that the cutters or shears are clean and free from any infectious material. To do that, keep your shears in a sanitizing liquid for 15 minutes or so and then rinse thoroughly. If the shears are not clean, diseases and infections can occur

2) Thinning

This is the part where you might start thinking that this dude’s crazy. But, let’s be honest here. Bougainvillea needs tough love. You need to prune hard to help the plant grow in the coming season. The first thing that you must do is to remove the old, thick branches right back to the trunk. That’s right. We don’t want them! They won’t give us those beautiful bracts in the coming season so what’s the point? 

Also, remove any damaged or diseased branches as well—birds of a feather flock together, right?

Once you have thinned the plant down to only the newer wood, now is the time to start shaping the plant.

3) Shaping

Now comes the hard part—you need to use your brain. I know…it may sound like a lot but let me help!

You need to think about how you want your plant to look in the coming season. If there’s a special shape that you have been wanting to try out, now is the time. Trim according to that shape. But don’t cut more than one-third. The plant could die. No kidding! 

4) Tipping

Now that you’re finally done with the difficult part and your plant looks presentable at the very least—it’s time to start thinking about the future.

When it comes to increasing the growth of Bougainvillea, the single—most important thing that you can do is to tip the new growth. No, don’t cut down the whole branch for god’s sake! We only want to cut or even pinch a couple of inches off of the new growth to promote branching. This will make your plant denser and bushier. A denser and stronger plant will better be able to produce those colorful bracts. 

How pruning overgrown bougainvillea can be different?

So, you didn’t have a complete ‘how to prune Bougainvillea’ guide before and so—you didn’t take care of your Bougainvillea properly. Chances are that your plant is angry with you and is throwing tantrums at the moment. All you need to do is just follow the above-mentioned steps and an additional step specifically for pruning overgrown Bougainvillea and you’ll be just fine.

The one additional thing that you would have to take care of—after you have performed the above 4 steps—would be to cut all the remaining branches back to one-third. Cutting more than one-third is not advisable as it can lead the plant to go into a shock. You can always come back the next year and prune another one-third. After the third year, you would have gotten rid of all the overgrown bougainvillea. Easy, wasn’t it? 

How To Prune Bougainvillea

How to Prune Bougainvillea After a Freeze?

If you are a little too cautious and want your bougainvillea to stand out, you would probably be thinking about a little extra dose that you can give your plant. Then the best thing that you can do for your plant is to go for a light pruning after a freeze. No, you don’t need an extra course for that. How to prune bougainvillea after a freeze is simple. It is the preparation for the main course in early spring. Just getting rid of damaged parts and dead branches here and there will be enough to give you that extra edge. 

Tips on How to Keep Bougainvillea Blooming?

Have you ever found yourself wishing that your bougainvillea would just continue to bloom—although technically the colors are not from the flowers—but let’s not get into that again! Well, here are few tips on how to keep bougainvillea blooming that will make sure that you get to wake up to a colorful garden for as long as possible!

  1. Tip prune your bougainvillea religiously: I can’t stress enough on the importance of tip pruning. Not only will it make your plant denser, but there’s a good chance you’d get to enjoy blooms for a longer period as the bougainvillea blooms on new growth.
  2. Provide Enough Sunlight: Bougainvillea needs at least 6 hours of sunlight to give out a gorgeous full bloom so sunlight is a key factor that should always be taken care of. 
  3. Warmth Lover: Bougainvillea loves warmth. Provide it with a warm place to stay and it won’t disappoint you. 
  4. Light Prune After Flowering: Light pruning after flowering encourages new growth and rebloom.  


Bougainvillea is a tough plant. It is drought-resistant hence there is very little which can go wrong! If you don’t prune your bougainvillea, your plant is not going to die—not immediately at least—but pruning is a game-changer for the health and growth of the plant. Not pruning bougainvillea regularly will lead to an uncontrolled growth that might be tempting at first, but it doesn’t have any good in it. Imagine having to feed a hundred people on a single cake. You guessed it right! There won’t be enough for anyone! The same goes for an overgrown bougainvillea. The colorful appearance of those beautiful bracts would be lost due to a civil war amongst the branches of bougainvillea. 

Hence pruning should be done regularly! We have done our part in educating you on how to prune bougainvillea. All that’s left is for you to act. As they say, “You cannot force a camel to drink water!”

Now that you have learned how to prune your Bougainvillea, do you have any thoughts or tips you would like to share? Or any questions perhaps? Comment below! Also our website also offers other guides as well such as How to Prune Begonia and How To Prune Lavender.

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