Q. My three-year-old Bougainvilleas blooms profusely in the spring, but the bracts fade & fall off in the summer. The vines are growing on a trellis with an eastern exposure. I suspect a watering problem. The Bougainvilleas are watered infrequently; however, they do receive additional moisture from the nearby Azaleas. Various websites give me conflicting advice on watering. What are your thoughts?
A. Bougainvilleas don’t require frequent watering. Instead, they prefer to be kept on the dry side with a minimal amount of fertilizer. They’re considered a drought tolerant vine. A good soaking once every ten to fourteen days should be sufficient as long as the temperatures are below ninety degrees. In your case, you can extend that period between waterings because of the extra water from the Azaleas. However, I don’t believe moisture is your problem. Bougainvilleas like a sunny location where it receives six hours or more of direct sunlight per day, March through October for a normal blooming pattern. The true flower of a Bougainvillea is the structure located in the center of the showy/colorful leaves called a bract. It’s an imperfect flower, as it has no sepals or petals. The bracts require the light intensity from the direct sunlight to turn color. Since your plants are colorful in the spring and not during the summer suggests that the lighting conditions are changes with the seasons. I have found that nearby large deciduous tree(s) in a neighbors yard is many times the reason behind the change. Once these trees are fully leafed out there aren’t sufficient foot-candles to initiate the color change. There isn’t a lot you can do except enjoy the color whenever it bloom.
Q. Despite my best efforts, I have a stubborn spider, which continues to build spider webs in the corners of my kitchen window. I don’t have anything against spiders, but I do like to have this window open. What can I do to make this spot unattractive to spiders?
A. I’m not sure that I have a great answer for the spider problem. There are over three thousand varieties of garden spiders. As a group, they are pretty, shy so they tend to run away and steer clear of humans. Spiders are, believe it or not, very beneficial in controlling garden insects, so we don’t want to remove them with pesticides. Yes, they’re poisonous spiders. The Black Widow Spider poses the only threat in the Bay Area. Spiders trap their food in the cobweb they produce which is formed mostly at night. They continue to revisit this area because it’s a great source of food. Night flying bugs are also attracted to the window because of the light. If possible, install a yellow porch light to discourage the bugs. In addition, move any ripening fruit away from the opening, as fruit flies are one of the favorite foods of spiders. I hope this helps.