Tips On How and When To Transplant Bougainvillea Plants

Bougainvillea is a subtropical and tropical type of plant. Bougainvilleas are winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 9 and higher, but you can keep these plants indoors during the winter in cooler climates.

There are around 14 species of these perennial vining plants which can grow to a spread and height of about 20′ feet tall. 

Transplanting Bougainvillea can be tricky, but if it is done during the plants’ dormant period, taking great care to avoid damaging the roots, it can be successful. In this article, we share advice to help you repot or transplant your Bougainvillea with confidence. Read on to learn more. 

Flowering bougainvilleaPin

Top Tips and Tricks for Repotting or Transplanting Bougainvillea

There are two distinct Bougainvillea growth cycles. For several weeks, your plant will exhibit vegetative growth. During this time lots of new stems and leaves will appear.

If your plant is getting ample sunlight, the vegetative period will be followed by a blooming period. During this time, no new vegetation will grow.

But, with a minimum of 5 hours of bright, direct sunlight daily, your plant will produce lots of beautiful blooms for up to 5 weeks.

When you transplant or repot, evaluate whether or not you need to move it. If it has not been in an optimal location, you’ll want to move it into an area where it gets the right amount of sun for the best performance.

The best location for this tropical vine is in full sun. These plants need lots of sunlight to flower well. Bougainvillea blooms are very small. But, they make up for it with bright, large, colorful bracts which surround the flowers.

Move it into a full sun location gradually over a period of 1 or 2 weeks. With enough sun, the colorful bracts will stay bright and attractive for many months.

When transplanting from one location to another, try to match the conditions. For example, if you are moving a Bougainvillea from a shady setting to a sunnier setting, provide some sort of artificial shade for a few weeks to allow your plant time to adjust.

These plants are winter hardy in USDA zones 10 and higher. They can tolerate temperatures as low as 40° degrees Fahrenheit and greater than 80° F. For best performance, your plant should have daytime temperatures of around 70° degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temperatures no lower than 60° F.

Transplant While Your Bougainvillea Is Resting

Transplanting during dormancy helps avoid traumatic shock. The best time to repot is in late autumn or early springtime. During these times, your plant will be dormant.

In the springtime, be sure to transplant your Bougainvillea before the leaves appear. After leaves begin forming, it’s best to wait until autumn to do repotting.

Repotting vs. Transplanting

One of the first tips to keep in mind regarding repotting Bougainvillea is that it’s best to avoid it. The root system of this plant is quite delicate, so disturbing the rootball with repotting is best avoided.

Furthermore, these plants do quite well when they are a little bit potbound. You can and should wait until the pot is full of roots and has little or no soil left before repotting.

Related: What Is The Best Soil For Bougainvillea?

A healthy Bougainvillea plant can be kept in a 1-gallon pot for well over 3 years. If you must repot or a transplant, the best time to do so is during the plants’ dormant period.

When you do repot, be a bit stingy with pot size. Only increase the size of the pot by one size. Remember that the rootball likes to be pot bound.

Take great care to handle the root system gently. Avoid touching or damaging it as much as possible.

At the time of repotting, give your plant a dose of 10–10–10 fertilizer prepared at half strength. Continue this throughout the growing season – spring and summer.

Transplanting in the landscape is a bit different than repotting. When transplanting a Bougainvillea into another landscape setting, begin with a hole that is a minimum of 3 times larger than the rootball. 

Be sure that your Bougainvillea is at the same height in the ground as it was in its old location. Gently fill in around the plant with fresh potting mix. Don’t tamp it down harshly. Just pat it with your hands, don’t stomp it with your feet.

At the time of transplanting, provide a very thorough, deep watering. Keep a close eye on it and water it every couple of days for the first few weeks. Doing so will help prevent transplant shock.

You can also provide extra nutrition at the time of transplanting in the landscape by adding some compost to the potting mix soil.

Don’t add fertilizer on bougainvillea at the time of landscape transplanting because this will encourage your plant to grow new leaves. When you transplant your Bougainvillea, you want it to focus on growing new roots, to begin with.

Potting Bougainvillea for Overwintering

If you live in a cool cold climate, you’ll need to move your plant indoors during late fall for the wintertime. If you have it planted in the ground, you should dig it up and put it in a pot in the autumn after blooming is complete.

Your plant will be dormant through the winter season. Dig up the whole root ball and put it into a pot that will hold it securely. There should not be space between the root ball and the sides of the pot.

If you are digging your Bougainvillea out of the landscape, you probably will not be able to get the entire root ball because when planted directly into the ground, these plants have very extensive root systems. 

When digging this type of plant up out of the ground, use a very sharp shovel or another tool to cut through the root system cleanly on all sides and across the bottom.

Lift the root ball out of the ground and slide it onto a tarp or burlap bag. Wrap it to hold it together as you move it.

Take care not to disturb the roots excessively. This will cause transplant shock. Don’t lift the plant by its stem as this can cause damage to the connection between the plant and the roots. Lift it from the bottom.

Correct Grooming and Maintenance Support Successful Transplanting

Your Bougainvillea will not need a lot of vegetation for overwintering indoors. Pruning it back dramatically in the autumn will ensure lots of good, fresh growth in the springtime.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to prune your plant back quite a bit before digging it up out of the landscape. In this way, you can be sure of getting enough roots to support the remaining plant. 

Be certain to leave a minimum of 30% of the foliage when you prune your Bougainvillea in advance of overwintering.

In the springtime when you put your Bougainvillea back outdoors, cut back damaged and dead stems. When pruning, be sure to wear gloves because these plants can have very sharp thorns.

To encourage ample blooming, be sure to pinch back new growth and deadhead the plant.

If the plant tends to topple, stake it to hold it upright. Firm staking will also prevent wind damage. Wind damage not only hurts the top of the plant but can also cause root trauma. When your plant is firmly established, you can remove the stakes.

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