Bougainvillea care is not difficult. In fact, these gorgeous plants thrive on neglect! In this post, I’ll show you everything you need to know about growing bougainvillea so you will have the best success.
Though it seems like it would be difficult to care for, growing bougainvillea is actually very easy in the right conditions.
This tough, drought tolerant vine is excellent for quickly covering walls or fences in the garden. But it does equally well in a container, which can be brought indoors over winter in colder climates.
Below you will learn all of the essential information you need to know about how to grow bougainvillea.
Here’s what you’ll find in this detailed bougainvillea care guide…
Information About Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea (also called Paper Flower) is native throughout South and Central America. This lovely tropical plant is a member of the Nyctaginaceae family, more commonly known as the Four O’Clock family.
The bougainvillea that growers enjoy today is a hybrid of B. spectabilis and B. glabra. Which results in a robust, evergreen, woody vine with thorns.
These vigorous plants are natural climbers that can reach 20′ in height. But they also make spectacular hanging baskets or container plants.
Bougainvillea does not tolerate cold weather, as they are only hardy to zones 9-11. The foliage and branches will die back after a hard freeze, but they will recover very quickly.
Those fortunate enough to live in warmer areas can plant it directly in the garden. The rest of us must grow bougainvillea in a container, and bring it indoors during the winter.
Different Types Of Bougainvillea
The popularity of bougainvillea has led to the development of numerous varieties on the market. All are beautiful, but here a few exceptional types to consider:
- ‘Jamaica White’ features white flowers with prominent green veins. It is a vigorous grower that blooms early, which makes it an excellent choice for containers.
- ‘Juanita Hatten’ has vibrant pink flowers, and attractive green foliage with bright gold splatters.
- ‘Surprise’ is a variety that produces an abundance of fantastic pink/white bi-color blossoms.
- ‘Barbara Karst’ is another option, with smaller individual flowers that form in showy clusters. This type also blooms early, making it good for containers and overwintering indoors.
How To Grow Bougainvillea
The first step toward establishing your new plant is to select an appropriate location. Depending on where you live, you can plant bougainvillea in the ground, in a pot, or even grow it indoors.
Planting Bougainvillea Outdoors
If you live in zones 9-11, you can plant your bougainvillea outdoors just about anywhere you want. Choose a location that gets full sun and has good drainage.
Since they are climbing plants, they look amazing growing over the top of an arch or pergola, sturdy fence, or up a wall. You can also train them as a shrub or hedge, if you prefer to keep their size smaller.
Growing Bougainvillea In Pots
Bougainvilleas grow great in containers, which can be overwintered indoors in colder climates. Select a pot that is a few inches wider in diameter than the rootball.
Make sure the container has drainage holes in the bottom, and fill it with a general purpose potting mix. Repot once the plant becomes pot-bound.
Bougainvillea Care Indoors
If you’d like to try growing bougainvillea indoors over the winter, then you should bring it inside before frost threatens your area in the fall.
Before the first killing frost, significantly prune back your plant. Then bring it indoors, and place it where the nighttime temperatures will get chilly, but not cold.
Make sure it continues to receive lots of sunlight, or add a grow light if you don’t have any natural sun in your home. Do not give it fertilizer during the winter, and remove any brown leaves as they develop.
Once all risk of frost has passed in the spring, take it back outdoors. Then give it routine water and fertilizer throughout the growing season.
Bougainvillea Plant Care Instructions
Growing bougainvillea is pretty darn easy, and they are very tolerant of imperfect care. However, in order for them to perform their best, follow these instructions.
One of the key factors for successful bougainvillea care is proper watering. They do not like to be overwatered. Too much water will cause root rot, and ultimately kill the plant.
Let the soil dry out between waterings, and then give it a deep drink. Slow down on watering during the winter months, especially if you’re going to bring it indoors.
Begin giving your bougainvillea more water as temperatures warm in mid-spring. But never allow the soil to stay wet or become soggy.
If you find it difficult to get this right, then I recommend buying yourself an inexpensive soil moisture meter to help you out.
Bougainvillea will grow well in a wide range of soil types, as long as it is never saturated with water. Plant it in an area of your garden where the soil is fast draining.
Bougainvilleas are heavy feeders that will perform best when given a consistent fertilizer. This is especially important for the ones you have in containers.
Add slow-release granules to the hole at planting time, then top-dress them monthly during the spring and summer.
The most important factor for proper bougainvillea care is providing sufficient sunlight. They require at least six hours of full sun.
When mature, healthy plants do not bloom, it’s almost always caused by lack of sunlight. So, if you are able to move it, try finding it a sunnier spot.
Indoors, place it in a south facing window. If you don’t have enough natural sun, then adding a grow light will help a ton.
One of the best features of this wonderful specimen is the bright, cheery flowers. They will bloom year round in frost-free locations.
But the colorful, papery blossoms are not actually the flower petals. Instead, their brilliant colors come from the bracts that surround the three inconspicuous white flowers.
Depending on the variety that you have, the color of the bracts could be anywhere from magenta, hot pink, red, orange, or purple.
With the proper care, bougainvilleas can even continue blooming through the winter indoors. Though, they don’t usually flower as profusely as they will outside.
A healthy bougainvillea is relatively free of damaging pests. There are a few that can attack your plant, but they do not usually pose a significant threat.
Neem oil is also a natural way to control an outbreak. Treat the plant regularly until all signs of the infestation are completely gone.
Regular pruning will result in a better looking plant. This is true whether it is grown in a container, or planted directly in the ground.
Consistent trimming also helps to manage the size and shape of these fast-growing vines. Or to train them in the form of smaller shrubs or bushes in your landscape.
Pruning is vital for containerized bougainvilleas, especially if you want to overwinter them inside. This will make it much more manageable for moving them in and out of doors.
The best time to trim them is in the fall, or at the end of the growing season. This habit will produce a more attractive plant with a thicker base.
Bougainvillea Propagation Tips
You can propagate bougainvillea by taking hard or softwood cuttings, and rooting them. For best results, take cuttings mid-winter through early spring.
Troubleshooting Common Bougainvillea Care Problems
The hardest part of bougainvillea care is when something goes wrong, and you have no idea how to fix it. So, here I will list a few of the most common problems, along with their solutions.
- Leaves are falling off – This is almost always caused by improper watering – either too much or not enough. The soil should dry out between waterings, but never to the point where the plant droops. The soil should never be soggy or wet for very long.
- Bougainvillea not flowering – Most of the time, no flowers means a lack of sunlight. But it could also be caused by a nutrient deficiency. Make sure it gets at least 6 hours of full sun, and feed it regularly with flower fertilizer.
- Not growing at all, or not very well – Slow growth can be caused by a few things. But, usually it means too much shade, improper watering, or lack of fertilizer.
- Yellow leaves – When the leaves turn yellow, that usually means it’s being overwatered. Check the soil every time you water by sticking your finger one inch deep, to make sure it needs it. A moisture gauge is a great tool to help you get it right every time.
Bougainvillea Care FAQs
In this section, I’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about growing bougainvilleas. If you can’t find an answer here, ask your question in the comments below.
Are coffee grounds good for bougainvillea?
It’s true that bougainvillea like acidic soil. However, coffee grounds are not the best way to lower the pH. They add very little acidity to the soil. Instead, use an acidic fertilizer.
It certainly won’t hurt to mix them into your garden. But coffee grounds mold very quickly, so avoid using them in pots and containers.
Can I grow bougainvillea from a cutting?
Yes! Both hardwood and softwood cuttings can easily be rooted to create new plants. See the “Bougainvillea Propagation Tips” section above for more details.
How long does it take to grow bougainvilleas?
Bougainvilleas are very fast growing plants. When given the proper care, they can cover a large pergola, fence, or wall in only a couple of years. They grow much slower in the shade, or when pot-bound.
Growing bougainvillea is much easier than you might think. As long as you choose the proper location, and follow the care instructions above, your plant will thrive for many years to come.
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Share your bougainvillea care tips in the comments section below!