Mandevilla is a classic tropical plant with gorgeous, waxy leaves and big, showy flowers. It grows well in many temperate climates and will spread quickly, but can start to look leggy and sparse in places, which may have you wondering how to make your mandevilla bushy.
To make your mandevilla bushy, you should pinch, trim, and prune the vine regularly. These three actions send signals to the plant, indicating where it should invest its energy. By selectively removing the growth, you will slowly encourage your mandevilla to fill in and look fuller.
In this article, I’ll walk you through each of the three actions to take to make your mandevilla bushy. I’ll also share specific details on when to take each of the three actions. Finally, I’ll share some other tips for encouraging additional growth during the main growing season.
1. Pinch Your Mandevilla
Mandevilla is a great option as a potted plant and makes a lovely accent plant in any garden within its growing zones. Mandevilla will generally thrive in zones 9, 10, and 11, but know that if your temperatures go below freezing, the mandevilla will die.
Regardless of whether you’re growing the plant in a pot or a garden bed, one crucial way to keep it shaped and not too shaggy is to pinch it back. While this sounds more like torture than plant maintenance, it is a tried-and-true method of easily pruning a plant.
To begin, assess your mandevilla plant for new growth. Often, mandevilla will send out new shoots in all directions, not just in an upward direction or outward.
Once you’ve assessed the plant, step back and look at the overall shape. Decide if it is too tall or wide so you can focus on which new growth to pinch back. For adding overall fullness or to make it bushier, you’ll want to pinch back all new growth.
To pinch your mandevilla, simply take a ¼ to ½ an inch piece (0.6–1 cm) at the end of new growth on the plant and pinch it off (source). You aren’t removing significant growth from the plant; that isn’t the goal.
Instead, pinching your mandevilla is a signal to the plant to stop focusing on that area of growth. It tells the plant to redirect its energy to other areas of the plant. This results in new shoots and new growth on the plant, which lends itself to a more bushy appearance.
How often should you pinch back your Mandevilla? Assess your plant every two weeks and continue to pinch back as needed until you get the shape and fullness you are seeking.
2. Trim Your Mandevilla
Another way to make your Mandevilla bushy is to trim it. This is an interim option that falls between pinching and pruning.
Some may wonder about the difference between trimming and pruning. Trimming involves selectively removing small portions of the plant to accomplish a desired result during the growing season.
Pruning is a way to remove more significant portions of the plant at the end of the growing season. The main distinctions are the amount of plant removed and when it occurs.
The best time to trim your mandevilla to encourage fullness is the mid-growing season and after the plant has produced a large number of blooms.
This helps to gently reshape the plant into a less leggy version of its current state, but it also signals the plant to produce more blooms.
The best way to trim your mandevilla is to assess your plant and identify shoots that need to be trimmed back. You’ll want to look for the vines that don’t fit within the overall shape of the plant and trim those.
You’ll also want to look for vines that don’t have many leaves or only have leaves near the tips and trim those as well.
To trim your vines, it’s best to use a pair of sharp pruning shears. One popular option is Fiskars Micro-Tip Pruning Shears (link to Amazon) because they have springs that open gently, are ergonomic, and have a full lifetime warranty.
Take care to sterilize your shears before trimming your Mandevilla. You can dip the blades in boiling water or wipe them with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol.
Hold the vine taut and trim the vines close to a juncture with leaves. Continue to trim the plant until you have the desired shape.
One word of caution: take care not to trim back more than a small fraction of the plant. As a general rule, you should never trim a Mandevilla back by more than 25% of its original size during the growing season. Doing so could stress the plant and could contribute to plant failure during the upcoming off-season.
3. Prune Your Mandevilla
The last step in helping make your Mandevilla bushier is to prune the plant. Pruning occurs during the late winter season or very early in spring before new growth appears.
Pruning is an opportunity to cut away any long, scraggly vines that have outgrown the general shape of the plant. It’s also a time to cut any vines that have more of a woody appearance rather than the lovely green shade seen in younger growth.
To prune your mandevilla, use your pruning shears to cut back up to one-third of the plant (source). As you prune, step back occasionally to see if your pruning is achieving the desired plant shape. Adjust as needed.
Again, it is crucial to prune before new growth appears on the plant. Flowers during each growing season form new growth, so pruning after the Mandevilla has begun to grow in early spring could result in a year without flowers.
Lastly, I recommend taking a photograph of your plant after you have pruned it. That way, you have a record of the shape for reference the following year.
I can’t tell you how many times I have pruned a plant and loved the results months later but could not remember how I pruned the plant to re-create it the following winter. Having this photo on hand could help you achieve similar success in the next growing season.
Ways To Encourage Additional Growth
Mandevilla loves the sun, so placing or planting your mandevilla in a spot with full sun is one crucial way to encourage additional growth and a ton of blooms. If you have a potted mandevilla that isn’t blooming as much as you’d like, relocate it to a sunnier place.
Mandevilla loves to dry out between waterings (source). The ground doesn’t have to be bone-dry, but they don’t like soggy roots. If the area gets water daily, change the watering to every other day and see if that encourages more growth.
Lastly, it is important to feed your Mandevilla. My favorite organic bloom booster is Dr. Earth Bud & Bloom Fertilizer (link to Amazon). A little bit goes a long way, and it can be used on nearly every plant in your yard.
I typically feed mine two or three times during the growing season to encourage growth and steady production of blooms.
Mandevilla is a lovely addition to any garden or patio. They bring lovely color and are relatively easy to care for. You can encourage fullness and blooms with minimal effort and get your Mandevilla looking bushy in short order.