I have a few bougainvillea plants around our house in Southwest Florida. Two are doing OK, the hanging one is bursting out in color with red bracts and white flowers, and there's this one...

This is the second time this year that there's been a single branch (?) shooting skyward like a magic beanstalk, and each time from a different part of the plant. On this one the bougainvillea-stalk is over 5 feet tall.

None of the other plants has exhibited such a behavior (a single branch growing way, way longer and higher). This 'stalk' hasn't shown any tendency to show any color.

Is this something normal? Is this plant trying to become a tree? Is it hurting the plant letting this grow so tall? Should I worry about a giant climbing down and messing up our pool?

Click on pictures for full size.

Abnormally tall bougainvillea branch Closeup of stalk attaching to trunk

  • Sometimes people graft these... what variety is that, and do you still have the label? Where does that sprout emerge from? – J. Musser Nov 23 '15 at 16:59
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    Unfortunately, I can't find the plant info... all I know for sure is I bought it, along with 3 others, at a Lowes in Southwest Florida. The sprout emerges from the main trunk (?), about an inch above the ground – unkfrank Nov 26 '15 at 17:09
  • Can you get a picture of that area? It would be helpful. :) – J. Musser Nov 26 '15 at 18:12

Some types of Bougainvilleas are climbing plants, and you are watching a branch that is ready to climb. This is common when bougainvilleas are very well watered. A constant pruning can solve the issue.

If you let the branch grow and take care that it grows in a line you could have a beautiful tree. Only take care of the pruning. The branch will grow more but the weight will cause the branch to come down. You can add some extra support for the branch and try to do some pruning in order to prevent a random growing. When you can see that the branch is thicker and it can hold its own weight, you can remove the extra support.

  • Bougainvilleas are very popular in Singapore (tropical wet climate) because they grow so easily. All Bougainvilleas I've seen here (whether shrub or tree, big and small) exhibit this behaviour. The one in our garden just grew four shoots each about a meter long and 1-2 cm thick - in the span of four weeks during a bit of a wet spell. Constant pruning is needed to stop them from turning into unmanageable bushes. – Erwin Bolwidt Nov 30 '15 at 3:01

I think it's really just think it's trying to tell anyone and anything that's willing to pay attention that "hey I am ready to grow." I'd let the bush get a little bigger for the next few years.


I think it is the male part of the plant just the way it happens in roses. This part will keep on growing straight with no flowering. As far as I know you may cut and remove this long shoot from the base.

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    Male part? What does that mean - climbing roses do put out long canes like this, but they're not male - its just the plant wanting to get bigger and taller. Or its a sucker from below the rootstock.... – Bamboo Nov 28 '15 at 16:57

Agree with Escoce and Alexander (points given), its actually putting out a long cane like climbing roses do because it wants to get a lot taller with growth on the top. If you don't want that to happen because of where its planted, you have no choice but to keep removing the long branches like this, but it would be perfect for training up over an arbour or a low roof. Probably a different variety of Hibiscus from the others you have.

  • Not sure if this sounds correct, but does pruning these long shoots create the same effect as pruning or tipping those closer to the main body of the plant? If I trim the shoot back some, will that promote more growth/expansion at the cut site? With this right next to the screen I don't want too much happening but if my backyard remodel goes well, this will look nice next to a new arbor – unkfrank Nov 29 '15 at 13:56
  • Yes, it should create more growth at the top, where you've cut, but don't do it before the shoot is tall enough to go over whatever you're planning. If you're in the northern hemisphere, probably best to wait till spring, unless its in danger of waving about in the wind and doing some damage. – Bamboo Nov 29 '15 at 14:04
  • I am in Southwest Florida (zone 10a), so seasons are a relative term ;-) Should I still try and wait until March to trim it? I may have to trim this back, and hope for another sprout to appear closer to when I'm ready to replant it. – unkfrank Nov 29 '15 at 14:08
  • If you intend to move it, you should know that Bougainvillea resents root disturbance, and it would be better to remove that long shoot altogether now - the less topgrowth there is when you move the plant, the better, and the more soil you can take with the roots, so they're less disturbed, the better. – Bamboo Nov 30 '15 at 11:43
  • So this doesn't start straying too far off topic, I'll file away the tips (which I didn't know, so thank you for those) about moving the bougainvillea, and when I'm ready to relocate, I will ask away at that time – unkfrank Dec 1 '15 at 12:48

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