I have a number of overgrown bougainvilleas that were hit by frost damage last season. As such they have a lot of unsightly, dead branches on them. This spring I plan to do a severe pruning, but I'm dreading it. Bougainvillea's have some nasty thorns on them, end even when doing some simple trimming, I'm always covered with scratches, and the toxic nature of the thorns make my skin itch for some time. They are also a royal pain to get into trash bags as they simply shred them if you aren't careful.

What is the best way for dealing with disposing of a lot of bougainvillea branches without looking like I tangled with a pack of angry cats?

[edit] I should clarify. severely pruning back the bougainvillea's will create a lot of very thorny branches, often quite long ones. When I have trimmed the plants in the past, I ended up doing a lot of cutting the branches into smaller, more manageable pieces so that I could shove them into trash bags. I'm not looking so much as to how to keep from getting cut up, although the suggestions are great. I'm really looking for an idea of how to dispose of the branches. How do people that have dealt with a very large amount of these thorny branches deal with them? They don't compost well as they are.

Perhaps could I burn them? I know I can't do that with plants like oleander because of the toxic nature of the smoke, but what about bougainvillea?


4 Answers 4


I recently trimmed back a huge Bougainvillea in at the front of our house. It might seem a bit of a waste of time but where I wanted to trim any branch/twig longer than a foot I just clipped it twice; once near the tip and at the point where I wanted it to be for the second clip. I don't recall the thorns being such a problem. The bigger problem was trying to get the secateurs or clippers to get through the thickness of some of the older limbs.

The trimmings, being quite woody, weren't really useful to us as compost so I put them in the green bin provided by our local council for the purpose of disposing of unwanted organic material. Do you have such a system where you live?

  • In case you're interested I did another big huge trim over the weekend and largely managed to avoid being scratched. The council took away the unwanted thorny limbs this morning from our green organic rubbish bin.
    – Lisa
    Jan 24, 2012 at 23:24

You need thick gloves and long sleeves. Some available products:

  1. Trim your bougainvillea
  2. Take an ample amount of cuttings and put them in a very large plastic garbage pail.
  3. Then, take your electric trimmer and move it around the interior of the garbage pail cutting the large branches into small pieces.
  4. When the pieces are small enough, empty the garbage pail into a large plastic bag.
  5. Repeat with another ample amount of cuttings

Bougainvillea trimmings are a form of green waste, itself a form of biodegradable waste.

Municipalities often have ordinances for how residents should dispose of oversized or bulky green waste. I wasn't able to see where you live, but suggest you check for restrictions that apply to your area.

Since you asked about burning, you might particularly check for "backyard burning" ordinances. (See also, United States Environmental Protection Agency, "Backyard Burning.")

In my area, permits are required for all "open burning." More importantly, the permits aren't available for the purpose of burning "yard waste."

Any substantial bougainvillea trimmings from our yard find their way to a solid waste facility/landfill via our local bulk trash collection program. Once a quarter, residents here are permitted to place trimmings and such at the curb for this collection. The schedules are much publicized; we just trim our bougainvillea immediately ahead of the appointed pick up.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.