Cupflowers should bloom again after a trim

Q. This year I’ve been growing a plant called cupflower (that’s the name on the tag they came with when I purchased them). Initially, when they bloomed, the plants were covered with smallish, lovely, light-purple flowers. Now the blooming is sparse. Is there a way to get them to bloom more prolifically again? I think they are very pretty and seem to be fairly easy to grow. – W. F., Albuquerque

Tracey FitzgibbonA. The plant you’re describing is commonly called cupflower and you’re correct that when they flush with their bloom the plants are covered, wearing sweet flowers that when open, look a bit like purple cups.

Their botanical name is Nierembergia and found in my bible are listed as a perennial plant, meaning you can have them grace your garden for years, as long as you tend them properly. I have several growing in large containers and have not lost one yet. But I know that if I were to forget to water the pots during the winter months, they’d probably suffer.

You say the blooms are more sparse than they were in the beginning, so they need something from you. It’s a simple haircut.

Give the mound of the Nierembergia a trimming, taking off about two inches all over. I’ll bet that within two weeks – at the most three weeks – your “cups” will overflow. You will need to keep them well-tended to ensure that the plants will and can rebound for you.

One thing I’ve read about them is if you keep them too well-watered they grow rank and spindly, not keeping their natural sturdy-stiff mounding habit they are known for.

If you haven’t fertilized since planting, and it’s been a few months, you might consider a feeding. Just don’t overfeed. Know that plants that are constantly fertilized will become lazy and unfit.

I’ve found that the cupflower I have growing in a semi-shaded area is happier than the ones in full sun. But remember that mine are grown in containers. Planted in the ground where they get full sun they can perform well as long as you take care of them.

Also, they aren’t (here’s that horrid word) drought tolerant and do need watering during the growing season.

So, give the cupflowers you have a bit of a haircut after each bloom series and I’m confident that you’ll be rewarded with mounds of cheerful purple cupflowers several more times this growing season. Continue to enjoy this easy to grow charmer!

Q. I recently spent some time in the Phoenix/Tempe area and was amazed with all the blooming plants I saw. The most impressive was, I’m told, bougainvillea. They were growing everywhere! Some were actually shaped into hedges, others were large graceful arching plants, but none the less growing everywhere. I want them in my gardens but don’t see them here. Why is that considering we’re in a desert too? – N.M., Albuquerque

A. Very simply, our desert is nothing like the desert of the Phoenix area. Mostly, it’s about altitude.

Being a mile high here, yes it’s rather desert-like, but we do get true winter weather for about 100 days each year. Meaning it gets cold, very cold.

Bougainvillea is what I’d define as a tropical plant that cannot survive extended periods of truly cold weather. Simply, they freeze to death if grown outdoors in our area.

Now that doesn’t mean you can’t have some growing in your world, just that they must be brought indoors every autumn. Here, consider them a great container or hanging basket dweller.

You’ll need to offer them a really bright and fairly warm spot indoors when they are brought in for the winter. I’d be sure to have them moved inside no later than the first week of October each year to give them the best chance of survival.

They tend to drop some of the old leaf during the transition to an indoor life, but can and usually do rebound enough to maintain life until the following spring when they are relocated back outdoors. Wait until late April at the earliest to make that annual move.

No, you’ll never see bougainvillea grown as a hedge here, but you can enjoy the plant as a container-grown individual in these parts. Just remember, they cannot and will not survive the winter here in our area if left outdoors.

Happy Diggin’ In.

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to


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