Q. I have a bougainvilla. It’s potted in a large clay pot on my balcony. It faces the South and I live in Marina del Rey. I watered it once a week… about 1/4 a gallon. I slowed the watering down, sped it up. Moved it to a bigger pot. Nothing I have done seems to improve its health… what do you suggest?
A. I have seen gorgeous bougainvilleas growing in lava-filled pots in Hawaii and mighty few really spectacular ones in California, but I have a photo of one that was growing in an 18-inch patio with a small trellis behind the plant that was stuck down into the pot. The plant was in full sun. The owners told me they watered weekly and every other week fed it with Miracle Grow according to package directions.
Based on this, I suggest growing in a sheltered sunny location and fertilizing regularly. Water once a week by applying enough water so that water drains out the bottom of the pot; this flushes salts away. (1/4 gallon, or 1 qt., is probably not enough to permit this to happen and will result in a build-up of salts.) Fertilize every two weeks in summer with Miracle Grow and since the plant is not doing well and now it’s winter begin now but fertilize only once a month until February, then increase to every 2 weeks. Mix 1 Tablespoon Miracle Grow into 1 gallon of water and water with it. I usually don’t suggest this fertilizer and it is not an organic fertilizer, but it works for bougainvillea in pots. (Sometimes we bend the rules to make
life easier for apartment dwellers.) South-facing should be good unless there is shade cast by heavy railings or by some object. But if your plant is in cold wind this can effect its condition. Potted bougainvilleas prefer a sheltered location in full sun. However, unless the plant is shaded I think your main problem is that you are not watering and fertilizing enough.
One final caveat: make sure your plant is not sitting in a puddle. Bougainvilleas do not like wet feet.
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