Friday, February 15, 2013

How do I fertilize Bouvardia plants?

Bouvardia humboldtii

Recently,  I bought bouvardia plant from nursery.  The plant has full of flowers and an amazing perfume.  I just love it.  Just would like to know how to take care of the plant.
How often do I have to fertilize and in winter can I trim the plant. How to propagate?  etc

It's only now that I sit down to write this newsletter that I remember I wrote about Bouvardia only in late December, so most of these questions are answered in that post.  There are a couple of specifics however that I did not cover.  Fertilizer is the most important, and fertilizing follows the annual growth cycle.  Bouvardia is a subtropical plant, in Melbourne's climate it goes quite dormant. Not deciduous dormant specifically dropping all it's foliage but in the cold the plant just shuts down and most if not all of the foliage will drop.  In this state the plant is quite well protected from cold and frost. We keep them out doors under a very light shade cloth and effectively ignore them for 3-4 months June through September. In October, depending on how early a given season starts to warm it will only vary 2-3 weeks we start to see the buds swelling and shooting.

Now is the time for Minh the Master to take action.  The scrappy plants are cut back. Some will have overwintered in their final pots, these ones get a top dressing of controlled release fertilizer and will be the first plants we have ready to sell around Christmas. The rest are trimmed and potted on to their final pots, potting into fresh potting mix gives them a burst of fresh fertilizer. That's about it.  bearing in mind we are growing these plants in a production nursery so they get low strength liquid fertilizer on a regular basis the whole time they are here. Commercially available Premium potting mix will not have enough fertilizer available to sustain plants though the rest of the year so they will need a top dressing in say March while they are still growing strongly and before they start to shut down for winter. What's the take home message?  Keep trimming and shaping bearing in mind that it will take about 2 months for a new flush of flowers follow a trim.

Propagation? Bouvardia is relatively easy to strike from cuttings.  We find it best to take cuttings from shoots that are not too soft so stick them in December or January.

I have a second reason for revisiting Bouvardia this week.  Jane Edmanson will feature Bouvardia on her 3AW gardening show on Saturday 23 February.  I bet There will be gardeners asking for Bouvardia in Garden Centres on Sunday 24th Feb.


  1. So sun or shade? What kind of fertiliser, any type of soil, acidic.....would they do well in Brisbane?

  2. Ideally dappled shade or morning sun only. Our potting mix is slightly acid and I don't have any specific fertiliser recommendation other than balancing Nitrogen & Potassium.

    I have no experience of gardening in Brisbane but I'm confident your climate is better suited to Bouvardia than Melbourne's :)

    1. Thanks Peter! I bought one on impulse (often turn out the best purchases I do plant wise) a sort of pinky raspberry ice cream colour, import from Holland where they use them as indoor pot plants. I never knew what it was but I stuck it in the garden in a shady corner and it thrived, with as you say sun in the morning. Pure fluke. Now I know for sure I'm more confident trying some more. I was going to try full sun. Thanks it would've fried. Do you know more or less how large and woody these things become or is it something to tuck into a gap in a border? Im not actually in Brisbane just used it as a zone because its quite close to our growing conditions in HK. They remind me of Pentas but with more substance.

    2. HK, Brisbane, all the same to me :)
      In Melbourne they almost go completely dormant over winter so we cut them back hard. They will get a bit stringy if not cut back but I can't imagine what time of year would be best for you. Wheneve they have the fewest flowers, cut hard, they grow back vigourously.

    3. Yes they would go dormant in our dry cool season so I should avoid watering I suppose. Do I cut back 'hard" to the ground....?

    4. Not quite to the ground but down to 6", leaving 3-4 pairs of buds on each stem.


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