Wintering bougainvillea

Asked October 12, 2016, 11:04 AM EDT

How do I over-winter a bougainvillea? I do not want it as a houseplant. Can I just cut it down and put it in the basement with my fairy lilies? Thank you. Nancy Benson

Hennepin County Minnesota

4 Responses

I can't say I know for a fact you can overwinter a bougainvillea in MN. However, if you plan to dispose of it or overwinter it, then I recommend you try overwintering it.

Move it into your basement in its current pot. Clean off the soil surface and remove insects / egg masses on the leaves. Let all leaves and flowers drop off. Water it once a month - just enough to keep the roots from drying out. In early spring, prune the stems back to green growth, move it into a sunny window and start watering as normal. Bougainvillea are big feeders; in other words, they require considerable nutrition, so when you see active growth (leaves emerging), start adding fertilize each time you water at half the recommended strength. Use a fertilizer that has a fairly high N-P-K analysis (such as 20-20-20).

As weather warms and daytime temps reach 50-55, move the plant outside in a protected area (filtered sun, no wind) for a few hours each day. Increase the amount of time outside each day for the next two weeks until the plant is outside all day. If there's a chance of a late frost, bring it indoors.

Good luck and let me know how your plant does!

Thank you so much, Julie! I love Master Gardeners!

A year ago, you asked about overwintering your Bougainvillea, and I am following up to find out it did. Were you able to overwinter it successfully?

Hi Julia,

Unfortunately, the bougainvillea did not survive the winter. The fairy lilies did make it. Thank you for inquiring.