Heavy pruning of a 15 year old Bougainvillea

Next Spring we are repainting the outside walls of our little place near Sainte Maxine (83)
This will necessitate cutting back a 3 meter Bougainville to 20cm. I am brave enough to do this as I have done similar heavy “pruning” to Laurels and Plumbago with great success!
We do not live full time there and therefore there are limited windows of time to do this.
My question is…when is the best time to do this.
August or early September this year or March next year.
Thank you.

If you have to hard-prune, I would opt for end of winter, before growth is restarting… before the sap starts rising… you don’t want it bleeding to death. :roll_eyes::thinking:

Have you thought of trimming it slightly, then unpinning it and holding it away from the walls you will be painting ???

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It has been suggested to unpin from the wall but I actually want to see what will happen by HARD pruning.

You say end winter so March next year. Thanks.

My Royal Horticultural Society Manual of Pruning and Training (God alone knows why I bought it, probably 'cos it was marked down to £1.50 somewhere) says “late winter or early spring, just before growth begins” (that echoes Stella’s tip) .

It further reassures that “old plants should respond to hard pruning, but are better replaced”. I’ve been surprised at how very widespread is the bougainvillea as a feature of French gardens, every garden seems to have it. But they’re easy to look after, and it’s fun pulling their heads off, when they’re dead.

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Hi Peter,
I hope you are still talking about bougainvillea! :hushed:

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Anything and everything you care to mention, Tracey, if it pleases you, I’ll pull its head off. But my tidbit from the gardening literature was uniquely vegetable-oriented.

I would hate it that you formed the wrong impression of me or my intentions at such an early stage in our relationship! :innocent::joy:


Thanks for that Peter.
Frankly I have been quite amazed here in 83 how both Laurals and Plumbago have responded to heavy pruning.
A few years ago I began by cutting just one 2/3 meter laurel to 25cm and finding 12 months later it had regained most of its height and looked much thicker and stronger. I have now done this over time to about 15/20 laurels and am very pleased with the result and have no fears when it comes to HARD pruning.
Two years ago I reduced the one plumbago we have to 25cm and it has responded Incredibly well and has now doubled in size.

So the (good excuse) opportunity to try my demolition skills on a bourgainville is too good to miss. In addition it has underperformed against the many competitors in other gardens.

We live most of the time in Luxembourg and plants respond very slowly to any change or movement. Much like Leicester where I was born.
Here in 83 it is a totally different matter. However you can also lose a delicate plant in just a few weeks of “hot” weather while away.

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Graham, I live in Ste Maxime and work as a gardener in Gassin and Ramatuelle (been my passion since childhood and now we live here my old career is history and we garden full time), wait until spring. We have a very old one on our house and my OH prunes it quite heavily twice a year. When we moved in he did it in spring then we’ve done it regularly since.
WARNING! Make sure you have boots, thick trousers, long sleeves and thick gloves when working on it, the thorns are extremely unforgiving and even the smaller ones can do some nasty damage to skin, and keep any pets locked inside until it’s all cleared away…
I adore ours but my OH hates it as he’s the one who cuts it back, I prune anything that needs care when pruning, if it’s a plant that can withstand being lopped off anywhere and still regrow then the OH does it. He isn’t a gardener for the love of it, he does it because of me and does the things that don’t require a great deal of horticultural knowledge (I think he enjoys it more than he’ll admit though :wink:).

Dizzy, thank you for the tips. I will take care.