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House Plants/pruning my bougainvilla


QUESTION: Hi, I have this bougainvilla that I have summered outside and brought in during the winter.  I have done this for two years now. This being the third.  It was looking pretty bare during this past summer but it flowered well.  Now it is almost completely bare of leaves and flowers.  I would like to know if I can cut it back to about 4-6 inches on the two or three main branches and have it grow new shoots?
Is it harmful to my kitten, who likes to pull the leaves off and play with them.
Look forward to your answer
Have a great day.

ANSWER: Cheryl,

It looks like it is in very poor soil. It looks like it is in garden soil and not potting soil. It should be in a mix of 1 part potting soil, 1 part perlite and 1 part sand. I assume that it stays in the pot year around. It appears very dry in your picture. It prefers a moist soil with good drainage but it never wants to sit in a drain tray full of water.

You can cut it back but it should not be cut back so far that there are no leaves or it will die. If you cut it back to 2 leaves, put it in a very sunny location and give it a dose of 1/2 strength fertilizer for blooming plants it should produce a lot of sprouts within 4-6 weeks. If you cannot put it in a location where it can get at least 4 hours of sun on sunny days then you need to put it under florescent lights 6-12 inches above the top of the plant for 14 hours a day.

If you have more questions feel free to write again. Good luck!!


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


QUESTION: Hi Darlene,
Thank you for your previous answer.
Yes it is in regular garden soil, though when I repotted it last summer I use the original soil it was in and fertilized it well.
I have resently bought new potting soil and a clean pot.  
I have untangled the branches and all the new growth is at the ends.
Can I still cut it off where the blue tags are and have it grow new leaves? If not, how hard is it to root a branch with new leaf growth and how do I prevent it from losing the leaves at the bottom of the branches as it grows?


How do you prevent it from losing the leaves at the bottom of the branches as it grows? Give it lots of sun and it will not loose the new leaves that will sprout when you start pruning it back. Just start pruning it back so that you have at least 2 leaves left on each branch and that will cause it to sprout a lot of new sprouts further back. Then a month later you can prune back further and it will cause it to put out more new sprouts if it is getting enough sun. Trying to root cuttings will only work if you put them under lights for 14 hours a day and mist them a couple of times a day, then you will have a 50/50 chance that they will root. If you slowly cut it back and fertilize it by spring it will be back to your blue tags and very full and bushy. Keep fertilizing it regularly next summer and  it will stay bushier.  Sun and fertilizer are your answer. Good luck.


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Darlene K. Kittle


I have been an Advanced Master Gardener for 24 years and I raise around 300 houseplants and bonsai trees a year including tropicals, succulents, and cacti. I have also been a professional plant care person for businesses in the Fort Wayne, IN area and currently professionally care for bonsai trees for my customers.


I am also studying the Japanese art of bonsai with tropical plants and is President of the Fort Wayne, IN Bonsai Club.

Fort Wayne, iN Master Gardeners. President of the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club. Allen County Master Gardeners

I am not a hortculturist. I am a Purdue University Advanced Master Gardener for 24 years. I have studied plants on a personal level by growing hundreds of plants annually for the last 35 years. I have also studied under several nationally known American Bonsai experts.

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