Bougainvilleas can do well in limited spaces.

We see bougainvilleas all over our desert landscapes. Desert-dwellers often ask about planting bougainvilleas in pots; they can be a little particular when planted, so follow these tips to increase your chances of success!

• Choose the right container. You need one at least 22 inches in height and diameter, and one that is heavy with a wide bottom to reduce the risk of tipping. Be sure there are drainage holes in the pot.

• Give bougainvillea plants well-drained soil. Bougainvilleas do not require high-quality soils. Potting soil is too rich for these plants. Use a garden soil that is more coarse, with organic material and even gravel.

• Do not disturb the roots when removing from the nursery can. Handle carefully, cutting the can away from the root ball rather than pulling the plant from the can.

• Position the bougainvillea plant in the best place. Bougainvilleas are sun-lovers, and they grow best in a full sun position. Heat is not an issue for bougainvillea plants.

• Water sparingly. Bougainvillea plants weaken with too much watering, ending up with all leaf growth in place of flowers.

• Prune them. Bougainvillea plants are prolific growers and need good pruning to force blooming. Wait for the first colorful bracts to form and fall off in spring; once they fall, prune excess growth. Fertilize with a high-phosphate fertilizer. This will cause new bloom on the shorter flowering spurs; repeat during the flowering season as needed.

Marylee is the Desert’s Potted Garden Expert. Email her with comments or questions at