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Monday, April 10, 2017

Bougainvillea Comes Back from the Dead

Q. I came from Southern California where I had beautiful red and yellow bougainvillea that grew with little help. I tried to save my beautiful pink bougainvillea last year by moving it onto my patio close to the house. I covered it every night, uncovering it in the daytime. It appeared dead this spring but just now I see some very tiny green leaves close to the bottom. Do you think this bougainvillea can come back?
Even a light freeze will damage bougainvillea like this.

A. Yes, it will come back. Bougainvillea is a frost indicator plant. In other words, if the temperature drops one degree below freezing, you will see damage to this plant. If the temperature is freezing for several hours combined with strong winds, it will die to the ground.
            Bougainvillea frequently dies to the ground each winter it freezes and resprouts from its “crown” in the spring. The crown is where the top attaches to the roots and grows just below soil level.
            After the first freeze in the fall, cut it to the ground and cover the area with 3 to 4 inches of woodchip mulch. I will sometimes use a nursery container turned upside down with the bottom cut off. I place this over the trimmed bougainvillea and fill it with mulch.
            Never fertilize bougainvillea after August 1. High nitrogen fertilizers make sensitive plants more tender when the freezing weather comes. But always continue to water it through the winter months every 10 days to two weeks.
'Barbara Karst' Bougainvillea With leaf cutter be damage
            As soon as freezing weather has passed (tomatoes have been planted), uncover it and let the sun warm the soil. As soon as you see new leaves sprout, fertilize it or apply compost. One fertilizer application is probably all it will need for the whole year. 

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