Repotting My Bougainvillea Beastie

It’s shave and haircut time for my big bougie.
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This tree was on display for the 2012 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival in the Japanese pavilion.
Here’s some pics of it at that time.

This pic was taken by my niece Jessie
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This one by Dave
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This one off the BSF website (click here for the whole album)
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And I also found a pic on trip advisor (tripadvisor.com) that didn’t list a photo credit.
The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival is a months long event at Walt Disney World in the Epcot park. It begins in the beginning of March and finishes at the End of May.
All the countries have a gardening theme and the Japanese Pavilion uses bonsai trees that the Bonsai Societies of Florida members loan to Epcot for the duration of the show.

Getting back to my tree, it needs to be repotted. Looking at the foliage
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and how sparse and thin it is tells me that its getting root bound. Root bound trees dry out quicker.
This tree is considered an evergreen in part of its native range but, is also considered deciduous in other parts.
Huh?
It has to do with water. In the dry season this tree will drop its leaves and go dormant. The tree was first discovered on Louis Antoine de Bouganville’s voyage around the world.
The voyage’s botanist was Philibert Commerçon who, as you may have noticed, named it after Bouganville.
There’s a cool story behind the plant’s discovery. It involves a woman, Jeanne Baré, who was Commerçon’s lover, being snuck on board disguised as a man (it was against regulations for women to be onboard official government ships). She was billed his aid and it was probably she who actually discovered many of the plants on the journey; Commerçon’s health was not very good. She was also the first European woman to circumnavigate the globe
Anyway, the tree is native to South America from Brazil to Peru and down through Argentina.
In a bonsai pot it’s best to repot every year. Even the larger ones. I haven’t had much growth on this tree since last year and I haven’t repotted for two.
First, I defoliate and prune
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And I’ll clean the deadwood
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I’ve never used a carving tool on this tree, except a wire brush, and all the deadwood is natural. In the years I’ve had it (nine) they’re has been very little degradation of the deadwood.
People are always asking about wood hardener or lime sulfur and what I use. My experience is, the less you play around with a bougies deadwood, the better. Let it age naturally. It will rot but it rots faster if you try to preserve it.
Here’s a funny thing, roots will grow through the deadwood
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There is only one loose bit of wood I’ll rip off
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And then, The Brush
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There, that’s better
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There are two things people (those who “know better”) don’t like about this tree.
1.The pot
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Which I say,
“I like the pot”
and that’s really all that matters now, isn’t it?
If you don’t like the pot, buy the tree and change it, if you’d like.
And then
2. There’s this root
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I keep it because I think it’s important to the health of the tree.
And also because it bugs people.
And technically, this is a Yamadori (except for the mountain part of it I guess. Yamadori means plant collected in the mountain. We use the word Yamadori for all collected trees now) and Yamadori are allowed strange roots.
I’ve told the story of this tree many times but I’ll commit it to the digital ether here:
My regular job consists of repairing, selling and renting wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs and electric handicap scooters.
One day, in an old neighborhood in Kissimmee, I was putting batteries on an old scooter and I noticed this ten foot tall bougie with a six inch trunk.
When I was done fixin’ and I was finishing up with the customer I told him that, with all those thorns and the rampant growth (always talk down the tree) I would remove the bougie for free if he wanted to get rid of it.
He said his wife liked the tree.
That was that.
Fast forward a few months and I get a call from him again, he has a flat tire and, even though his wife still loves the tree in the front, he has a smaller one in back on the fence line that his neighbor wants him to remove.
I told him I’d help him out.
After fixing the flat on his scooter I go to the back yard and stop dead in my tracks. What a beast.
It’s been there fourth years and he’s done nothing but chop it back to keep it off the fence.
I play it cool and proceed to dig it up.
What a find.
Like they say, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. I even charged him for the new tube on his scooter.

Back to the tree.
Being that this tree is a beast, and I’m getting old, I needed help lifting it. I called Guaracha and he came over to help
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Here’re the roots
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With a tree this big it’s always tough to repot and that extra set of hands help.
Thanks Guaracha.
Rake the old soil out.
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Wash the roots
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Kinda looks like we’re holding down a goblin
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Can you see it?
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But, I digress.
We remove about 1/2 of the roots.
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Clean out the pot and put new drain hole screening in
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This next step is important with big trees. Put some soil in and shape it into a cone
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This way, when you put the tree in the pot, and you twist it into the soil, you fill in all the air spaces. Roots don’t grow where there are air spaces, obviously.
And when you use your chopstick to get the soil between the roots, do a thorough job.
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And make sure you get underneath the edges.
At this point I fertilize.
There’s a lot of misconceptions out there about “burning” the new roots after repotting.
On a tropical tree, I always fertilize at the repot.
On a deciduous tree, I fertilize after the new growth slows and hardens off, to minimize internode length.
Conifers are different as well and different conifers should be fertilized at different times. That’s another post.

To me, there’s never a nicer look than new soil in a bonsai
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I’m not a fan of moss (even though I know it’s benefits and I use it on my smaller trees) I just like fresh soil.
A little more pruning, some wire, and back on the bench it goes
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Aftercare:
Full sun, water everyday, trim errant shoots.
That’s all for now.

About adamaskwhy

Visual artist specializing in bonsai, mostly.
This entry was posted in maintenance, rare finds, yamadori and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Repotting My Bougainvillea Beastie

  1. Steve Moore says:

    Great tree — character out the whatever-a-tree-has.

  2. catherine says:

    beautiful tree with such loving care….

  3. Salim says:

    WOW!!! What an awesome tree.

    Hi Adam. My name Salim. I’m from Durban , South Africa. Really enjoy your blog. I have a couple of Yamadori Bougies as well but they seem to be taking forever to grow. Any ideas why?

    Did you do progression article on this tree?

    • adamaskwhy says:

      Thanks Salim.
      What type of soil are they in? In pots they grow best in bonsai soil. And fertilizer is important, use both granular and liquid.
      I haven’t done a progression piece on this on my blog. I do have some pics from 3 years ago, maybe I’ll put them up.

  4. I have a picture of this Bougie which I took at Epot ! I hope it was yours. I so enjoy your blog.
    I am too old to get excited about starting bonsai, but I live in the Manistee National Forest, and this is “Moss Heaven”. Several different kinds, some in sun, some thick, some thin. If you ever need moss, its quite easy to procure. I’m doing some pretty things with Kusamono, and natural pine roots. They suit me. I will enjoy and appreciate your hard work in your blog~Thank you so much for doing it.

    • adamaskwhy says:

      It was indeed the one at Epcot.
      Thank you so much for the offer of moss, this year has been very hard finding it.
      Thank you so much for reading and the kind words.

  5. Pingback: Voyages Philibert 2013 | affairspa.com

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  8. Owen O'Neill says:

    Enjoy your blog and love this tree (repotted). I live in Wilmington, NC and we have a few more months of summer like weather. My question is it too late to repot a tree (bougie) from a 3 gal container to a bonsai container or should I wait until next year. Thanks

  9. Dennis says:

    Hi Adam. Found your blog through a search of repotting a Bougie. First let me say that you have a fantastic site and I am enjoying reading and laughing at you views (jokes). I have a 90 year old Bougie, Chumono size that has not been repotted in at least five years. This season the leaves have been unusually small, folded over and sparse. It has definitely been overwatered (my wife thinks this is the solution to every bonsai problem-not enough water). We live in northern FL and have the tree on a twice daily watering regime. Recently brought back to once daily (and that might be too much as well). No apparent parasites. Would you suggest a repot? I’m a low-time bonsai fan and have only repotted smaller elms, ficus and Brazilian rain trees.

    • adamaskwhy says:

      It’s definitely time for a repot. They grow copious roots and get potbound fast. Then they stay too wet. If you’re not comfortable you can bring it down here in Orlando and I could help or I could travel up there. The hourly rate is cheaper if you come to me.

      • Dennis says:

        Yea. That’s what I thought. I’m going to repot. Thanks for the input. BTW-how is your Bougie doing?

  10. Great information Adam. I live in Wyoming and purchased a bougainvillea 2 months ago. Harsh cold winters and scorching summers. Lol. I’ve seen a couple of very nice Bouganvillea bonsai trees in and around my location and thankfully I have a heated sunroom which is what every one I spoke with is able to have them here. Great article!! Thank you.

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