Flower Care Flower Information Garden

Bougainvillea Plant Care

pink-purple bougainvillea flowers

With vines covered in both thorns and flowers, the Bougainvillea offers beauty with a bit of danger. When grown outdoors in warm climates, the vines can grow up to three feet per year and quickly cover arbors and fences. Not only are the vines impressive, but the showy flowers bloom during the spring, summer, and fall. Learn how to grow one of these vines in your garden.

Bougainvillea Information

First, let’s get an important fact out of the way. While bougainvillea plants are known for their many colorful flowers, these bright items aren’t actually flowers! Instead, they’re modified leaves called bracts that cover the plant’s true flowers.

Now that you know that tricky fact, take note of this essential bougainvillea information.

Common name: Bougainvillea
Scientific name: Bougainvillea genus
Bloom time: May through November, depending on the location
Height: up to 40 feet
Width: up to 40 feet
Sun: Full sun
Water: On the dryer side, water deeply but infrequently
Soil pH: 6.0 to 7.0
Soil type: Well-draining, rich
USDA Hardiness zones: 9 to 12 when grown outdoors

Planting and Growing Bougainvillea

While bougainvillea can eventually grow into towering bundles of vines, you’ll start by planting a smaller transplant. Follow these tips to end up with a healthy plant.

When to Plant Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea is a tropical plant that originates in warm regions in South America. Therefore, it can’t handle cold temperatures and may become damaged when temperatures drop below 40º. However, these plants can thrive in the heat.

With this in mind, the best time to plant bougainvillea is late spring, after colder weather has passed. The plant will be able to establish itself before it gets super hot and then have plenty of warm weather to grow in.

You can also plant bougainvillea in the summer, but you’ll need to keep it watered while its roots become established.

Where to Plant Bougainvillea

There’s no doubt about it, bougainvillea plants love the sun! So find a spot that receives full sun if you want rapid growth and lots of blooms.

You’ll also want to account for the bougainvillea’s trailing and climbing growth. Provide a place where the vines can wrap and anchor, whether that’s a sturdy fence, arbor, or bamboo trellis. If you want your plant to take over, be aware of its weight! Once the vines grow more than five or six feet long, they can quickly tear down flimsy fences.

If you’re planning on having your plant trail up a trellis or other structure, ensure this area also receives lots of sun.

As far as soil goes, these plants require excellent drainage and aeration. Loamy soil is best, but you can amend your soil with compost or peat moss.

How to Plant Bougainvillea

While you can plant bougainvillea from seed, most gardeners start with a potted transplant. This plant will likely be only a few inches to a few feet tall. No matter its size, you’ll want to start by selecting a sunny site and preparing the soil.

Dig a hole that is just a bit bigger than the plant’s pot and add a few handfuls of compost. Place the plant’s root ball into the hole and then loosely fill it with soil. Water well and prevent the soil from drying out for the first few weeks.

If you’d like to provide your plant with a trellis, now is the best time. You can opt to add one later, but you risk disturbing the plant’s roots when you place the trellis in the ground.

Basic Bougainvillea Care

After you plant your bougainvillea in a proper site, it’s time to provide it with excellent care to help it thrive.

When it comes to watering, aim for deep yet infrequent waterings. Allow the top few inches of soil fully dry before watering again. These plants hate sitting in wet soil, so make sure you don’t overwater. You can decrease the amount you water during the winter and allow the soil to become quite dry.

Bougainvilleas will benefit from regular fertilization. Choose a fertilizer that is designed for flowering plants and apply it once every two weeks in the early spring through mid-fall. While regular fertilization will help the plants grow and produce lots of flowers, don’t apply too much fertilizer. Over-fertilizing can lead to a buildup of salts which can cause plant stress. You do not need to fertilize your plant during the winter.

These plants will be happiest with humidity that is in the moderate to high range. While you can’t alter the humidity outdoors, you can use a humidifier indoors.

Pruning and Training Bougainvillea

Regardless of if you want a massive bougainvillea that climbs up an arbor and onto the side of your home or a petite plant for your patio, you’re going to need to put in some work.

While bougainvilleas are vining plants, they don’t have tendrils like peas or grapes. Instead, they climb up structures by wrapping their vines. However, they often need a bit of help to start their climbing journey. When your plant is just starting to get established, you can tie its vines to whatever you want it to climb up to help it get started on the right path.

You don’t need to prune your bougainvillea, but doing so can help keep the plant full and full of flowers. The best time to prune is later winter or early spring, right before rapid growth resumes. When you prune, remove any dead or diseased wood. You can also remove certain areas to encourage a specific shape.

Potted Bougainvillea Care

potted reddish-pink and purple bougainvillea bonsai on table outdoors

If you don’t live in a warm area, you can still grow a bougainvillea plant at home! However, you’ll need to plant it in a pot rather than in the ground. Potted bougainvilleas require similar conditions and care to their in-ground counterparts. If you keep your bougainvillea as a houseplant, you’ll also want to make sure you follow basic indoor plant care.

While you’ll provide potted plants with similar temperatures and light, these plants will not grow as massive vines. Instead, you can prune the bougainvillea so it grows as a smaller shrub. Some varieties of bougainvillea are better suited for pots than others, so make sure to read plant labels before bringing a plant home.

If you’re up for a bigger challenge, you can turn your bougainvillea into a bonsai. Like with other types of bonsai trees, you’ll need to prune and train your bougainvillea for it to grow into the desired shape. However, the payoff from doing so is worth it! Just remember to keep your bougainvillea bonsai outdoors most of the time.

Bougainvillea Fun Facts

Along with being gorgeous and fun to grow, bougainvillea plants are also fascinating! Check out these bougainvillea fun facts.

Named After an Admiral

While the bougainvillea plant existed long before Europeans laid eyes on it, a Frenchman named Philibert Commerçon was the first European to describe the plant. He decided to name it after his friend the French admiral Louis-Antoine de Bougainville.

Used Around the World

The bougainvillea plant is native to South America, but it has taken on special meaning around the world. It’s currently the national flower of Grenada, a small island in the Caribbean Sea. The bougainvillea flower is also the official territorial flower of Guam. Numerous cities in warm states and countries have also chosen the bougainvillea as their official flower.

Lots of Colors

As mentioned above, the big bougainvillea ‘flowers’ are actually modified leaves called bracts. However, these bracts come in a wide variety of colors. Some options include bright pink, orange, red, white, and light purple.

Medicinal Uses

Throughout time people have used both bougainvillea leaves and flowers for numerous medical purposes. People have made an extract from the plant and used it as a form of birth control. Other individuals have utilized the plant’s antimicrobial, antioxidant, and antifungal compounds to treat conditions including sore throats, coughs, and joint pain.

Bougainvillea Meaning and Symbolism

In the Victorian language of flowers, the bougainvillea was used to convey feelings of passion. If someone gave another person a bougainvillea, the gifter’s feelings were not hidden.

However, the bougainvillea also has other meanings around the world. The flowers can also be symbols of peace as well as a kind welcome. The exact meaning can vary depending on the flower color. White and pink flowers are more likely to be tied to meanings of peace and joy while plants with red bracts are more likely to convey passion.

Learn More About Plant Care

Now that you know more about how to care for a bougainvillea, you can explore how to take care of other plants. If you are interested in growing herbs, check out rosemary plant care, and if you’re after more bright flowers, read about growing and caring for sunflowers. If you want to browse for a new potted pal, check out our options for plant delivery and don’t forget we offer artisan-crafted seasonal flower bouquets as well.

Shop All

You Might Also Like