Create Your Garden

Bougainvillea: How to Grow and Care with Success

Beautify your world with Bougainvillea – vibrant colors for indoor and outdoor blooms!

Bougainvillea, Bougainvillea Plant, Bougainvillea Care, Bougainvillea Plants, Indoor Plants, Houseplants

What is Bougainvillea?

Bougainvillea is a genus of flowering plants native to South America, particularly Brazil, Peru, and Argentina. It belongs to the Nyctaginaceae family and is widely known for its vibrant, colorful bracts and rapid growth.

Description: Bougainvillea is a tropical, evergreen, woody vine with thorny, branching stems. Its leaves are dark green and oval-shaped, with a slightly leathery texture. The true flowers are small, tubular, and typically white or yellow, but the plant is best known for its showy bracts, which are modified leaves that surround the flowers. Bracts come in various shades of pink, red, purple, orange, and white.

Growth habit: Bougainvillea is a vigorous grower that can be trained as a vine, shrub, or tree. It can be grown in containers, hanging baskets, or directly in the ground, and it is often used for climbing walls, trellises, or fences.

Size: Depending on the variety and growing conditions, bougainvillea can reach heights of 15 to 40 feet (4.5-12 meters) and spread 10 to 20 feet (3-6 meters).

Flowers and blooming season: The showy bracts appear throughout the year in tropical climates, with the most prolific blooming occurring in spring and autumn. In cooler regions, bougainvillea may bloom from late spring to early autumn.

Hardiness: Bougainvillea is a tropical plant and is best suited to USDA hardiness zones 10-11 but will survive in Zone 9 if protected. It is not frost-tolerant, and the minimum temperature that bougainvillea can tolerate is around 40°F (4°C).

Uses: Bougainvillea is primarily used as an ornamental plant for its stunning display of colors. It is often grown in gardens, parks, and landscapes for its vibrant, long-lasting bracts.

Toxicity: Bougainvillea is mildly toxic to humans and pets, causing irritation and vomiting if ingested. Contact with the sap can cause skin irritation and rashes.

Invasive: Bougainvillea can become invasive in some regions due to its rapid growth. It is essential to keep the plant under control through regular pruning and monitoring.

What is Special about Bougainvillea?

Bougainvillea is special for several reasons, which contribute to its popularity as an ornamental plant:

Vibrant bracts: The most notable feature of bougainvillea is its stunning, colorful bracts that come in a wide range of hues, including pink, red, purple, orange, and white. These bracts create a striking visual display that attracts attention and adds a splash of color to any landscape.

Versatility: Bougainvillea is a versatile plant that can be trained as a vine, shrub, or tree, making it suitable for various applications in gardens, parks, and landscapes. It can be grown in containers, hanging baskets, or directly in the ground, and it is often used for climbing walls, trellises, or fences.

Prolific blooming: In the right conditions, bougainvillea can bloom almost year-round in tropical climates. This extended blooming period ensures a continuous display of vibrant colors.

Drought tolerance: Once established, bougainvillea is drought-tolerant, requiring minimal watering. This characteristic makes it a suitable choice for xeriscaping or low-water gardens in regions with water restrictions.

Low maintenance: Bougainvillea is a relatively low-maintenance plant, requiring only occasional pruning to maintain its shape and encourage more abundant blooms.

Attracts pollinators: The nectar-rich flowers of Bougainvillea attract hummingbirds and butterflies, promoting a healthy ecosystem and adding to the overall beauty and diversity of your garden.

Deer: Deer tend to avoid bougainvillea due to its thorny stems and toxicity.

Overall, the combination of stunning, vibrant bracts, versatility in growth forms, and relatively low maintenance requirements make bougainvillea a special and popular plant for landscaping and ornamental purposes.

Guide Information

Hardiness 9 - 11
Heat Zones 1 - 12
Climate Zones 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, H1, H2
Plant Type Climbers, Shrubs
Genus Bougainvillea
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen
Tolerance Drought, Deer, Salt
Attracts Birds, Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Ground Covers, Arbors, Pergolas, Trellises, Wall-Side Borders, Patio And Containers, Beds And Borders, Walls And Fences
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Gravel and Rock Garden, Informal and Cottage, Mediterranean Garden
Bougainvillea ‘California Gold’
Bougainvillea ‘Helen Johnson’
Bougainvillea ‘Imperial Delight’

Main Types of Bougainvillea

There are numerous bougainvillea cultivars and hybrids, but three main species are commonly used in horticulture. These species have distinctive characteristics and are the basis for many popular cultivars:

Bougainvillea spectabilis: This species is native to Brazil and is the largest and most vigorous of the three main types. It features large, rounded bracts and broad, ovate leaves. The bracts of B. spectabilis come in various colors, including magenta, pink, and purple. This species is often used for breeding new cultivars due to its vigorous growth and vibrant colors.

Bougainvillea glabra: Also known as “paper flower,” B. glabra is native to Brazil as well. It is a smaller and less vigorous species compared to B. spectabilis, making it more suitable for smaller gardens or container growing. The bracts of B. glabra are generally smaller, more slender, and smoother than those of B. spectabilis, and they come in colors such as magenta, purple, and white. The leaves of this species are relatively small, elliptical, and have a glossy surface.

Bougainvillea peruviana: Native to Peru, B. peruviana is a more compact species with a slower growth rate. Its bracts are smaller and more tubular, and the colors range from orange to red and purple. B. peruviana has small, elliptical leaves with a slightly rough texture.

Numerous cultivars and hybrids have been developed from these three main species, offering a wide variety of colors, sizes, and growth habits. Some popular bougainvillea cultivars include:

  • Barbara Karst‘: A vigorous cultivar with intense magenta-red bracts.
  • California Gold‘: A compact variety with bright yellow bracts.
  • ‘Raspberry Ice’: A variegated variety with green and cream-colored leaves and raspberry-colored bracts.
  • Imperial Delight‘: A cultivar with white bracts edged in pink and green, variegated foliage.
  • ‘Orange King’: A variety with vibrant orange bracts.

When selecting a bougainvillea variety, consider factors such as the desired growth habit, size, and color to ensure the plant meets your specific needs and preferences.

Bougainvillea ‘James Walker’
Bougainvillea ‘Juanita Hatten’
Bougainvillea ‘La Jolla’

When to Plant Bougainvillea?

  • The best time to plant bougainvillea is in the spring or early summer when the temperatures are consistently warm and the risk of frost has passed.
  • Planting at this time allows the plant to establish its roots before the cooler months and encourages healthy growth.

Where to Plant Bougainvillea?

Choose a planting location that provides the following conditions:

  • Full sun: Bougainvillea thrives in full sun and needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day for optimal growth and blooming.
  • Well-draining soil: Bougainvillea prefers well-draining soil to prevent root rot caused by standing water. Sandy or loamy, slightly acidic soil (between a 5.5 and 6.0 pH level) is ideal.
  • Shelter: Plant bougainvillea in a spot that offers some protection from strong winds, as the branches can be brittle and may break under extreme conditions.
  • Space: Bougainvillea can grow quite large, depending on the variety. Ensure there is enough space for the plant to grow and spread without becoming crowded.
  • Support: If you are growing bougainvillea as a vine, provide support such as a trellis, fence, or wall for the plant to climb.

How to Plant Bougainvillea?

  • Prepare the planting site by loosening the soil to a depth of about 12-18 inches (30-45 cm) and mixing in organic matter, such as compost, to improve soil drainage and fertility.
  • Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball of the bougainvillea plant. The hole should be deep enough so that the top of the root ball sits level with or slightly above the surrounding soil.
  • Carefully remove the bougainvillea from its container, taking care not to damage the roots. If the plant is root-bound, gently loosen the roots before planting.
  • Place the root ball into the hole, making sure it is positioned at the correct depth. Backfill the hole with the excavated soil, gently firming it around the root ball to eliminate air pockets.
  • Water the plant thoroughly to settle the soil and help establish the roots. Add a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to help conserve moisture and suppress weeds.
  • If growing bougainvillea as a vine, gently tie the plant to the support structure using soft plant ties or strips of fabric, allowing the plant to grow upwards.

Once established, bougainvillea is relatively low-maintenance and will reward you with vibrant, colorful blooms.

Bougainvillea Oo-la-la
Bougainvillea x buttiana ‘Afterglow’
Bougainvillea x buttiana ‘Barbara Karst’

How to Care for Bougainvillea Plants?

Caring for bougainvillea plants involves providing the right conditions and performing some basic maintenance tasks to keep them healthy and encourage abundant blooms. Here are some key aspects of bougainvillea care:

  • Watering: Bougainvillea is drought-tolerant once established, but it requires regular watering during the establishment period. Water the plant deeply and allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings to avoid overwatering. In hot and dry conditions, the plant may need more frequent watering. Reduce watering during the winter months.
  • Fertilizing: Bougainvillea benefits from regular feeding to promote healthy growth and blooms. Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) every 4-6 weeks during the growing season, or use a specially-formulated bougainvillea fertilizer. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the correct application rate.
  • Pruning: Prune bougainvillea plants to maintain their shape, encourage branching, and stimulate more blooms. The best time to prune is after the main blooming season, typically in late winter or early spring. Remove dead or damaged branches and trim back the tips of the plant to encourage new growth. If necessary, more aggressive pruning can be done to keep the plant within the desired size and shape.
  • Training: If you are growing bougainvillea as a vine, train the plant to climb its support structure by gently tying the stems to the trellis, fence, or wall using soft plant ties or strips of fabric. Encourage the plant to grow in the desired direction by positioning the ties and adjusting them as the plant grows.
  • Winter protection: Bougainvillea is not frost-tolerant and needs protection from freezing temperatures. If you live in a region with cold winters, grow the plant in a container and bring it indoors during the winter months, placing it in a bright, sunny spot with temperatures above 60°F (15°C). Alternatively, protect the plant outdoors by covering it with frost cloth or a similar material during frosty nights.

By providing the right growing conditions and performing regular maintenance tasks, you can enjoy the vibrant, colorful blooms of your bougainvillea plant for years to come.

Garden Design with Bougainvillea

Incorporating bougainvillea into your garden design can add a striking visual element and a burst of vibrant color. Here are some ideas to include bougainvillea in your garden:

  • Climbing feature: Train bougainvillea as a climber on trellises, arbors, pergolas, fences, or walls to create a stunning vertical display of color. This can also provide privacy and shade in your garden.
  • Container gardens: Grow bougainvillea in containers or hanging baskets to add a pop of color to patios, balconies, or other small outdoor spaces. Choose dwarf or compact varieties for container growing.
  • Hedge or screen: Plant bougainvillea closely together to create a colorful, flowering hedge or screen. This can help delineate different areas of your garden or provide privacy from neighbors.
  • Mixed borders: Combine bougainvillea with other flowering plants and shrubs in a mixed border to create a diverse and visually appealing display. Select companion plants with similar sunlight and water requirements.
  • Focal point: Use bougainvillea as a focal point in your garden design by planting it as a standalone specimen or in a group. Its vivid colors will draw attention and create a striking visual element.
  • Espalier: Train bougainvillea to grow flat against a wall or fence in an espalier pattern. This technique can create a unique and eye-catching design while also saving space.
  • Mediterranean or tropical gardens: Bougainvillea is well-suited for Mediterranean or tropical garden styles. Combine it with other drought-tolerant plants, palms, or succulents for an exotic and low-maintenance landscape.
  • Xeriscaping: Since bougainvillea is drought-tolerant once established, it can be incorporated into xeriscapes or water-wise garden designs.

When designing your garden with bougainvillea, consider factors such as the plant’s mature size, growth habit, and color, as well as its sunlight and water requirements. By thoughtfully incorporating bougainvillea into your garden design, you can enjoy its stunning, colorful blooms and create a visually striking outdoor space.

 

Bougainvillea, Bougainvillea Plant, Bougainvillea Care, Bougainvillea Plants, Indoor Plants, Houseplants

How to Propagate

Bougainvillea can be propagated through several methods, but stem cuttings are the most common and successful way to propagate this plant. Here’s a step-by-step guide to propagating bougainvillea from stem cuttings:

  • Choose the right time: The best time to take cuttings is in late spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing.
  • Select healthy stems: Choose healthy, semi-mature stems for cuttings. These should be neither too young and green nor too old and woody. Look for stems that are about the thickness of a pencil and have at least 4-6 leaves.
  • Prepare the cutting: Use a sharp, clean pair of pruning shears to cut a 4-6 inch (10-15 cm) long piece from the selected stem. Make the cut just below a leaf node (the point where a leaf is attached to the stem). Remove the leaves from the lower half of the cutting, leaving 2-3 leaves on the upper half.
  • Rooting hormone (optional): Although not absolutely necessary, dipping the cut end of the stem in a rooting hormone powder can increase the chances of successful rooting. Tap off any excess powder before proceeding.
  • Plant the cutting: Fill a small pot or container with a well-draining, sterile potting mix or a mix of perlite and peat moss. Make a hole in the center of the mix, insert the cut end of the cutting into the hole, and firm the mix around the stem to provide support. Ensure that at least one leaf node is below the soil level, as this is where the roots will form.
  • Maintain moisture: Water the potting mix gently to settle it around the cutting and keep it consistently moist but not soggy. Overwatering can lead to rotting.
  • Create humidity: To maintain humidity around the cutting, cover the pot with a clear plastic bag or a plastic dome. Make sure the plastic doesn’t touch the leaves, as this can cause them to rot. You can use stakes or a frame to support the plastic if necessary.
  • Provide warmth and light: Place the pot in a warm location with bright, indirect light. The ideal temperature for rooting bougainvillea cuttings is between 70-80°F (21-27°C). Avoid direct sunlight, which can cause the cutting to dry out or overheat.
  • Monitor progress: Check the cutting regularly for moisture and root development. It usually takes 4-6 weeks for roots to form. You can gently tug on the cutting to see if there’s resistance, which indicates root growth.
  • Transplant: Once the cutting has developed a healthy root system, carefully transplant it into a larger pot with well-draining soil. Gradually acclimate the new plant to direct sunlight and outdoor conditions before planting it in its final location.

By following these steps, you can successfully propagate bougainvillea plants and enjoy their vibrant colors in your garden or landscape.

Pests and Diseases

Bougainvillea plants can be affected by several pests and diseases. Here are some common issues to watch for:

Aphids: These small, pear-shaped insects feed on plant sap, causing distorted leaves and reduced vigor. They also secrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which can lead to sooty mold growth. To control aphids, spray the plant with water to dislodge the insects or treat with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Mealybugs: Mealybugs are small, white, cottony insects that also feed on plant sap. Like aphids, they excrete honeydew and can cause sooty mold. Control mealybugs by dabbing them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or applying insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Spider mites: These tiny, spider-like pests feed on plant sap, causing stippling or yellowing of leaves, and can lead to leaf drop. They often create fine webs on the undersides of leaves. Control spider mites by spraying the plant with water to dislodge them, or use insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Caterpillars: Some caterpillar species may feed on bougainvillea leaves, leading to defoliation. Handpick caterpillars from the plant or use a biological control such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

Root rot: Overwatering or poorly draining soils can lead to root rot, a fungal disease that causes the roots to decay. Symptoms include yellowing leaves, wilting, and an overall decline in plant health. To prevent root rot, plant bougainvillea in well-draining soil and avoid overwatering.

Leaf spot: Fungal or bacterial leaf spot diseases can cause irregular brown or black spots on leaves, sometimes surrounded by a yellow halo. To manage leaf spot diseases, remove and discard affected leaves, improve air circulation around the plant, and avoid overhead watering.

Sooty mold: This black, powdery fungus grows on the honeydew secreted by sap-sucking pests like aphids and mealybugs. Although it doesn’t directly harm the plant, it can reduce photosynthesis and overall plant health. Control sooty mold by managing the pests that produce honeydew and gently cleaning affected leaves with a damp cloth or soapy water.

Powdery mildew: This fungal disease appears as a white, powdery coating on leaves and can cause leaf distortion or premature leaf drop. To prevent powdery mildew, ensure proper air circulation around the plant, avoid overhead watering, and apply a fungicide labeled for powdery mildew control if necessary.

Regularly inspect your bougainvillea plants for signs of pests or diseases and address issues promptly to maintain plant health and vigor. Proper cultural practices, such as appropriate watering, pruning, and sanitation, can also help prevent many problems.

Compare all Bougainvillea Varieties

Discover These Helpful Guides for Further Reading

Best Flower Bulbs for Mediterranean Gardens in Cool Countries
Great Climbers and Vines for Mediterranean Gardens in Cool Countries
Best Perennials for Mediterranean Gardens in Cool Countries
How to get the Mediterranean look
Best Shrubs for Mediterranean Gardens in Cool Countries
Lavender: How to choose the right one?

Frequently Asked Questions

Does bougainvillea come back every year?

Yes, bougainvillea is a perennial plant, meaning it comes back every year in regions where it is hardy (USDA hardiness zones 9-11). In these zones, bougainvillea can be grown outdoors year-round, and with proper care, it will continue to bloom and grow each year.

Is bougainvillea easy to maintain?

Bougainvillea is relatively easy to maintain once established. It requires full sun, well-draining soil, and moderate watering. Pruning after the blooming season helps maintain the desired shape and encourages more blooms. The plant is also drought-tolerant and can thrive in a range of soil types. However, bougainvillea may need protection from frost in colder climates and can be susceptible to certain pests and diseases, which may require some attention.

How do you keep bougainvillea blooming?

To encourage bougainvillea to bloom, follow these tips:

  • Provide full sun: Bougainvillea needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day for optimal blooming.
  • Maintain a regular watering schedule: Water the plant deeply and allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Consistent watering helps promote blooming but avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot and fewer blooms.
  • Fertilize: Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) or a bougainvillea-specific fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. This provides the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and abundant flowering.
  • Prune: Pruning after the main blooming season (late winter or early spring) helps stimulate new growth and promotes more blooms. Remove dead or damaged branches and trim back the tips of the plant to encourage branching.

Does bougainvillea survive winter?

Bougainvillea can survive winter in USDA hardiness zones 9-11, where temperatures generally remain above 40°F (4°C). In colder climates (zones 8 and below), bougainvillea is not frost-tolerant and will need protection during the winter months. You can grow bougainvillea in a container and bring it indoors during the winter, placing it in a bright, sunny spot with temperatures above 60°F (15°C). Alternatively, protect the plant outdoors by covering it with frost cloth or a similar material during frosty nights. With proper winter care, bougainvillea can survive and continue to thrive in the following growing season.

Compare All Bougainvillea
Compare Now
Guides with
Bougainvillea
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 9 - 11
Heat Zones 1 - 12
Climate Zones 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, H1, H2
Plant Type Climbers, Shrubs
Genus Bougainvillea
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen
Tolerance Drought, Deer, Salt
Attracts Birds, Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Ground Covers, Arbors, Pergolas, Trellises, Wall-Side Borders, Patio And Containers, Beds And Borders, Walls And Fences
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Gravel and Rock Garden, Informal and Cottage, Mediterranean Garden
Compare All Bougainvillea
Compare Now
Guides with
Bougainvillea

Related Items

Please Login to Proceed

You Have Reached The Free Limit, Please Subscribe to Proceed

Subscribe to Gardenia

To create additional collections, you must be a paid member of Gardenia
  • Add as many plants as you wish
  • Create and save up to 25 garden collections
Become a Member

Plant Added Successfully

You have Reached Your Limit

To add more plants, you must be a paid member of our site Become a Member

Update Your Credit
Card Information

Cancel

Create a New Collection

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

    You have been subscribed successfully

    Join Gardenia.net

    Create a membership account to save your garden designs and to view them on any device.

    Becoming a contributing member of Gardenia is easy and can be done in just a few minutes. If you provide us with your name, email address and the payment of a modest $25 annual membership fee, you will become a full member, enabling you to design and save up to 25 of your garden design ideas.

    Join now and start creating your dream garden!

    Join Gardenia.net

    Create a membership account to save your garden designs and to view them on any device.

    Becoming a contributing member of Gardenia is easy and can be done in just a few minutes. If you provide us with your name, email address and the payment of a modest $25 annual membership fee, you will become a full member, enabling you to design and save up to 25 of your garden design ideas.

    Join now and start creating your dream garden!

    Find your Hardiness Zone

    Find your Heat Zone

    Find your Climate Zone