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Although I greatly enjoy being able to grow many frost-sensitive plants such as Bougainvillea and Arizona Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans), I do not particularly like how they look in the winter, once frost has hit our area – zone 9a.  
And so, when hints of spring are in the air….I am itching to get back into the garden to prune them back.  In our area (the Phoenix metro area), this is generally the beginning of March which is usually after the last frost has occurred in our area.
First on my list is the Bougainvillea.  I have three in my back garden. 
 
Not too attractive is it?  You can clearly see where the frost damaged the top growth.  The bottom growth is still green as the top branches protected them from frost damage.
 
Now you would assume that you just cut back all the leafless branches, but DON’T.  Many of the naked branches are still alive.  Look closely at the branch below and you can see that the part of the branch on the left is brown with no hint of green – prune the brown part of the branch off, leaving the green shaded part alone.

You can also look and see tiny leaflets starting to emerge.  This is also a sign to look for when determining what part of the branches to prune.
 
Why not prune earlier to remove the ugly, naked branches you may ask?  Well, the answer is simple….if you prune too early and frost hits your area, it will damage the newly emerging leaves and could easily kill the live tissue inside of the branches, leaving you with a much smaller plant or a dead one.  So, as ugly as it looks in the winter….leave it alone, please?
 

All finished!  Okay, I admit, that it still does not look all that attractive and many may feel compelled to remove all of the naked branches.  But, look closely below….
 
 This is why you do not want to remove all of the naked branches.  This is my Bougainvillea one week after pruning.  Beautiful leaves are beginning to grow out from those formerly naked branches.
**Tips for pruning Bougainvillea…WEAR LONG SLEEVES to protect yourself from the thorns.  I used hand-pruners and loppers to prune all of my shrubs. 
I am working hard today at pruning back many of my other desert shrubs and will be posting about them this coming week, so please visit again :^)