I have a puny bougainvillea -- how do I get it to grow and flower?

My bougainvillea plant is two years old and still i has only a few branches and will not bloom. I have fertilized it numerous times this season with epsom salts, have withheld water as suggested. When leaving it dry did nothing, I decided to water it regularly. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
  10 answers
  • Frankie Laney Frankie Laney on Aug 01, 2013
    @Judy, do you have it in the ground or in a pot? The bougainvillea has a weak root system and does best when root bound. You can keep one in a 1 gallon pot for 3 years. A bougainvillea requires Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and Iron plus all the minor elements. The ph of the soil is important -- 6.5 is the point where most elements are available. You must feed your plant with a balanced fertilizer, either dry or water soluable. The key is balance. 20-20-20 with minor elements works fine. It is very important that the nitrogen source of whatever fertilize you use is from calcium nitrate. Note: Peters 20-20-20 or Miracle-Grow will work just fine. Give it a good watering just before it wilts. Remember good drainage is essential. Good Luck.
  • Carol Carol on Aug 01, 2013
    We had one in the ground here in central florida and it grew like a weed...loves full sun and we never fertilized it...we got tired of having to keep trimming it and put it in a pot so now its growing slower but doing fine
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Aug 02, 2013
    Frankie makes a very good point. Epsom salts is not a balanced fertilizer. It is a magnesium supplement.
  • Catherine Smith Catherine Smith on Aug 03, 2013
    Sound like a soil test is in order for starters. Espoma also has some excellent organic fertilizers that can provide the nutrients you may need. If you contact your local extension office (found under government in your phone book) they can provide you with the appropriate soil testing kit and advice.
  • Cynthia B Cynthia B on Aug 03, 2013
    Judy, I am wondering if excess rain has something to do with it. I'm looking at mine right now and realizing that it hasn't bloomed since all this rain started. The branches have grown, but no flowers. hmmmm? Maybe Douglas has an opinion?
  • Barbara S Barbara S on Aug 03, 2013
    My understanding of bouganvilla is that they don't want rich soil, and they don't want much attention. I'm in SOCAL, and we basically ignore them and get the best results.
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Aug 04, 2013
    It's possible, @Cynthia B . Bougainvillea definitely likes it on the dry side, so all this rain could be encourage leaf production at the expense of flowers.
  • Frankie Laney Frankie Laney on Aug 04, 2013
    As tough as the bougainvillea is, they do need careful care in their first couple of years and if the root ball is damaged when planted it can die off. I'm in San Diego County where they do grow profusely. . I planted one in a large hanging basket and it never did well at all. I trimmed some of the roots so it would fit...not a good idea. Once they have established, they do great with little care.
  • Becca Frierson Becca Frierson on Aug 04, 2013
    the dryer the better, when the leaves look wilting, water sparsely... good drainage, no wet feet and lots of sunshine! fertilize cause it is using all the nutrients in the soil putting on all those beautiful flowers. much like the ice plant.. succulent.. it is soo pretty, even more hardy than the bougainvillea, requires little or no water, can withstand the worst of soils. If you over water it ... it will die~~ so it is a good drought resistance plant... I have the yellow and now fuschia. they open up and bloom like crazy as long as getting sunshine.. if cloudy won't flower til the sun decides to shine again. drainage a must...
  • Thanks everyone for your helpful information about my puny bougainvillea -- will buy another fertilizer and keep you posted. Yesterday, I received a huge blooming bougainvillea as a gift and am may plant it in a flower bed.