How to Plant, Grow and Care For Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea is a surprising flowering vine that finds its origins in South America. Native predominantly from Brazil to Peru and south to Argentina, this beautiful tropical plant has discovered its technique to many tropical and subtropical areas worldwide.

Beloved for its ease of care and spectacular floral shows, the plant could be very standard in the US and the Mediterranean area of Europe. Rising up in Southeast Florida, I can recall seeing this beautiful plant climbing the outside of many an outside shopping center or ocean-side restaurant.

The plant was first recorded by a European botanist in 1789, and it claims its identify from the French Navy admiral who captained the ship on which this botanist traveled. There’s some query as as to if or not it was recorded by Philbert Comerrcon or his lover and assistant, Jeanne Baret. As ladies weren’t allowed on navy ships, Ms. Baret, an skilled botanist, disguised herself as a person to make the journey.

The most important bougainvillea plant in the US is on the Nationwide Register of Historic Locations and can be a California state historic website. Planted in 1901 by citrus growers, the bougainvillea remains to be rising sturdy as we speak in Glendora, California.

Bougainvillea Overview

Native Space

Jap South America


Wealthy, Loamy, Effectively-Drained

Bloom Colours

Pink, Crimson, Purple, Orange, Yellow, White


Moths, Bees, Butterflies


Aphids, Leafminers, Bougainvillea Looper Caterpillar, Mealybugs, Scales, Thrips


Bacterial and Fungal Leaf Rot, Root Rot


Close-up of a flowering Bougainvillea plant with bright orange bracts, in a sunny garden against a blue sky. The plant produces long spreading vines covered with dark green waxy ovate leaves. The bracts are modified leaves that have a papery texture and surround small, tubular cream-colored flowers.
A tropical evergreen plant, this vine blooms within the late afternoon and night.

Bougainvillea is a flowering, tropical evergreen plant within the Nyctaginaceae household. This household is extra generally often called 4 O’Clocks. This identify is derived from the behavior of flowering round this time of day. Crops on this household are late afternoon bloomers. Their flowers open within the night and are pollinated at evening.

The Bougainvillea genus is giant and colourful. It consists of about 18 species and greater than 300 totally different types of flowering, woody vines. They’re tropical crops that may survive in sub-tropical climates or are grown as annuals in colder climates.

Some smaller species can be grown in containers and stored year-round so long as they’re moved indoors throughout extended chilly climate or a tough freeze.


Close-up of the flowers of the Bougainvillea plant. The plant has bright pink bracts that surround small true flowers. Bracts are modified leaves with a papery texture. The flowers are small, creamy white, tubular.
The showy, colourful bracts, typically mistaken as flowers, disguise small white or pale yellow flowers.

Greatest identified for what most individuals acknowledge as its bountiful and colourful blooms, the colourful parts of the bougainvillea plant are literally not flowers in any respect. The colourful parts of foliage are bracts that are nearer in kind to leaves than they’re to flowers. Like poinsettia crops, these bracts are far more colourful and showy than their actual flowers.

The precise flowers of the bougainvillea plant are very small and tucked away contained in the bracts for cover. Whereas the bracts are available many shades of pink, purple, orange, yellow, crimson, and white, the precise flowers are normally white or pale yellow. Whereas a plant might produce an abundance of colourful bracts year-round, probably the most prolific seasons are late spring, summer time, and fall. The cooler the local weather, the sparser the bracts will probably be within the winter.

A higher blooming season is often preceded by a dry winter. There are different strategies of accelerating the incidence of those colourful bracts, like utilizing a low-nitrogen fertilizer or pruning the plant closely within the early spring.


Close-up of the leaves of the Bougainvillea plant. The leaves are medium in size, ovoid, with narrowed tips and smooth edges. The leaves are dark green with a waxy texture.
This plant has giant ovate leaves, normally clean however generally with small hairs.

The leaves are giant, easy, and ovate, are usually clean, however can have small hairs on the underside of the leaves. They are often stable inexperienced to bluish-green or variegated. Whereas bougainvillea is normally grown for its colourful bracts, a combination of leaves and bracts creates a good looking mixture.

The ratio of bracts to leaves may be managed by two components: daylight and fertilizer. Extra solar and fewer nitrogen will encourage the expansion of extra bracts, whereas much less publicity and extra nitrogen will encourage extra inexperienced progress. Nonetheless, inadequate daylight can result in leggy progress. That is not plant for a shade backyard.


Bougainvillea may be propagated by two means, with one taking a particular lead in buying a mature plant. Each are straightforward to acquire, however propagation by cuttings is often considered probably the most handy and profitable methodology.


Top view, close-up of a small Bougainvillea plant in the garden, against the backdrop of a green lawn. The plant has ovate green leaves with a waxy texture and brown dry papery bracts that surround the seed pods.
Harvest from pods inside bracts, plant in well-draining soil, and preserve in daylight.

Bougainvillea seeds are usually not troublesome to accumulate however are identified for troublesome germination. It usually takes as much as 30 days for bougainvillea seeds to sprout, and so they don’t have a superb germination charge. Nonetheless, should you intend to develop bougainvillea for bonsai, rising from seed will yield one of the best outcomes.

Seeds may be harvested from a plant fairly simply. The seed pods may be discovered contained in the bracts the place a flower has bloomed and fallen. These pods every comprise 3 seeds. These seeds ought to be planted in a well-draining potting combine and stored in a heat sunny spot till they’re giant sufficient to be transplanted.


Close-up of young Bougainvillea seedlings in plastic cups full of potting soil mixed with sand. The cuttings have young small green ovoid leaves with a waxy texture. One of the cuttings has yellow blisters with a papery texture. Cups with cuttings are placed in a pink tray. There are many cut leaves on a wooden table.
One of the simplest ways to propagate is thru spring cuttings in well-draining soil, ideally whereas utilizing a rooting hormone.

The commonest and standard methodology of propagating bougainvillea is cuttings. Since these crops wish to be pruned to supply new progress and loads of colourful bracts, The perfect time to propagate is within the spring, after you may have pruned your plant. This additionally provides you new reducing probably the most time to grow to be established throughout an lively progress interval.

The thicker the reducing, the sooner your reducing will root, reaching a bushier plant. Nonetheless, any reducing the width of a pencil or higher will work. Scraping the bark from the underside finish of the reducing will encourage sooner rooting. Scrape bark from the decrease 2” of the reducing.

Put together a 5” or bigger pot with a rough, well-draining potting medium. Coarse sand blended with peat or soil and perlite is an efficient possibility for rooting these cuttings.  Dip the scraped finish of the reducing water, shake off any extra, then roll it in a powdered rooting hormone. Fastidiously place it in a gap within the soil, urgent the soil firmly across the cuttings.

For a number of weeks, your reducing will want constant moisture and vibrant, oblique mild. In case you wouldn’t have an area with pretty important humidity, you should utilize plastic wrap or a plastic container over the pot to take care of moisture. In case your cuttings are profitable, they’ll produce leaves in a number of weeks. Pruning the guidelines of latest branches will encourage extra branching.


Top view, close-up of a young, freshly planted Bougainvillea seedling in the garden. The seedling is small, consists of several short vertical stems densely covered with small, waxy, ovoid, bright green leaves.
Plant in spring or summer time, 2′-3′ aside.

Bougainvillea may be planted in spring or summer time. This offers your plant ample time to set roots and grow to be established in its new location. Take care when planting these crops; their stems have quite giant, stiff, and sharp thorns. Sporting high quality pair of gloves helps shield your palms when planting or pruning this plant.

Crops ought to be positioned 2’-3’ aside to keep away from crowding. Largely, these crops develop lengthy however not terribly large, though you may encourage branching with pruning. Dig a gap that’s as deep and twice as large as your plant’s root ball. Place your plant within the gap and backfill.

The best way to Develop

Below the best circumstances, it is a fast-growing and hard plant. With the best care, your Bougainvillea will probably be a considerable plant by the top of the season. A very powerful components are the soil kind and the quantity of daylight your plant receives. These two issues comprise the higher a part of the components necessary in rising a big, wholesome bougainvillea plant.


Top view, close-up of two empty black containers, three containers of flowering Bougainvillea plants, and a bowl full of potting mix. Plastic containers, rounded, black, with drainage holes. Bougainvillea plants have lush green foliage that is green in color and ovoid with a waxy texture. Bracts are bright pink with a papery texture, surrounding tiny tubular white flowers.
For chilly climates, use a big, moveable container with glorious drainage.

In case you stay in a colder local weather and are rising your bougainvillea in a container, select a pretty big however moveable one, because the plant will want shelter in freezing climate. A very powerful consider selecting a container for this plant is drainage. A big material develop bag will encourage root power and density and permit ample drainage.


Close-up of a blooming Bougainvillea creeper in a garden under full sun. The plant produces dark green, waxy, elliptical leaves. Beautiful bright paper-textured coral bracts surround tiny creamy white flowers. The flowers are small, tubular.
It thrives in full solar, needing no less than 6 hours day by day for considerable colourful bracts.

Bougainvillea are sun-loving crops. Whereas they’ll nonetheless stay in partial shade, they have an inclination to get leggy, and you find yourself with many branches, thorns, and little or no foliage. This consists of their colourful bracts. These crops require no less than 6 hours of solar day by day to supply their bracts in any important quantity.

There’s virtually no such factor as an excessive amount of solar for these crops. They honestly rise up splendidly to warmth and solar. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a sun-damaged or wilted bougainvillea.

You’re way more more likely to lose one in all these crops to overwatering than to overexposure to the solar. The extra solar your plant receives, the extra coloration it would produce, and a scarcity of daylight will end in extra inexperienced progress.


Top view, close-up of a gardener's hands in blue gloves, pouring soil into a container with a flowering Bougainvillea plant, against the background of black soil in the garden. The plant is young, small, has medium, ovate, green, waxy leaves and bright pink bracts surrounding cream-flowered racemes.
Enhance soil drainage to keep away from root rot by including sandy soil with compost or sand for higher outcomes.

Drainage is the important thing phrase the place soil kind is anxious for this plant. In case your soil could be very sandy, think about amending it with some well-rotted compost or manure so as to add vitamins.

Bougainvillea tends towards root rot if the roots are stored soggy, so soil that’s too wealthy or dense ought to be amended with coarse sand or different giant particles to interrupt up the density and permit for correct drainage.


Watering a young flowering Bougainvillea plant in the garden. Close-up of a female gardener dressed in a multicolored striped t-shirt and white trousers, watering a plant from a pink watering can. The moodoe plant is a small spreading shrub with long thin branches covered with dark green ovoid leaves with a waxy texture. The plant produces many bright white bracts that surround small true flowers. Bougainvillea grows in the background with bright pink bracts.
Water deeply each 2-3 weeks throughout extended droughts to forestall wilting.

For probably the most half, bougainvillea is properly suited to sizzling, dry climate. As soon as established, these crops can go for weeks with out watering and are unlikely to undergo from drought besides in excessive instances.

In case you expertise a big, prolonged interval of drought, water your plant deeply each 2-3 weeks. Watering sometimes however deeply will probably be higher on your bougainvillea roots than shallow waterings extra continuously. This plant is happiest when its roots dry out between waterings.

A bougainvillea can undergo from a scarcity of water in excessive warmth and low rainfall. Your plant will let you recognize that is the case by wilting. If it wilts, it wants an extended drink of water.

Local weather and Temperature

Close-up of a flowering branch of a Bougainvillea plant in a sunny garden, against a blurred green background. Bougainvillea is a tropical and subtropical woody vine or shrub that produces medium ovate green waxy leaves and bright purple bracts surrounding true flowers. The bracts are modified leaves with a papery texture. The flowers are small, cream-colored, arranged in groups of three in inflorescences in the centers of the bracts.
Defend the plant from freezing under 50°F in containers, 40°F within the floor.

Bougainvillea does not tolerate freezing climate. In case you are rising in a container in a cooler local weather, it’s best to offer the pot winter safety when the temperature drops under 50°F. Within the floor, bougainvillea will undergo injury to leaves and bracts when the temperature drops under 40°F and will die again in a freeze.

Intervals of extended freezing climate are more likely to injury the roots as properly. Some varieties, reminiscent of San Diego Crimson, are thought-about to be extra cold-tolerant than others.

By way of warmth, bougainvillea could be very tolerant. Nonetheless, should you stay in a local weather that continuously experiences temperatures of over 100°F, provide your plant some shade within the afternoon.


Close-up of a gardener spraying a Bougainvillea plant with fertilizer using a Pump Action Pressure Sprayer, in a sunny garden. The gardener is dressed in a multi-colored striped t-shirt and white trousers. Bougainvillea is a lush, bushy plant that produces many medium ovate, dark green leaves with a waxy texture. The plant also produces bright pink papery bracts that surround small white flowers.
Fertilize each 6-8 weeks from spring to late summer time.

Bougainvillea crops wish to be fertilized throughout their rising interval. From early spring till late summer time, you may fertilize each 6-8 weeks, and your plant will soak it up and reward you handsomely.

One thing to recollect is that totally different vitamins encourage various kinds of progress. Extra nitrogen could cause extra inexperienced progress and fewer improvement of colourful bracts. That isn’t to say that the plant gained’t make the most of the nitrogen you give it, nitrogen will trigger sooner progress, but it surely simply gained’t assist the plant deal with producing bracts, which most gardeners choose.

Whereas your plant is getting established, feed it a balanced fertilizer for ample progress and root improvement. A ten-10-10 formulation will do the trick. As soon as the plant is established, change to a fertilizer increased in potassium. That is represented by the third quantity within the fertilizer formulation or the “Ok” of NPK. The extra potassium will encourage the event of bracts and flowers.

Upkeep and Care

Close-up of a gardener pruning Bougainvillea branches with yellow pruners, in a sunny garden. The gardener is wearing a multicolored striped T-shirt, white trousers and orange and white gloves. The Bougainvillea plant is young, consists of thin branches covered with medium ovate leaves of dark green color with a waxy texture. The plant produces beautiful bright white bracts that surround tiny white flowers.
A longtime plant is low-maintenance, besides for infrequent pruning to encourage full progress.

Bougainvillea is a no-fuss plant, significantly as soon as it’s established. It would use fertilizer should you present it. In any other case, this can be very warmth and drought-tolerant and doesn’t want a lot common care.

The exception to that is pruning. Pruning will encourage branching and fuller, bushier progress. Pruning small quantities whereas the plant is younger will assist the plant to develop extra branches, and important pruning within the early spring will preserve your plant’s foliage dense and plush.


A number of distinctive cultivars provide an array of colours and progress habits.


Close-up of a flowering plant Bougainvillea glabra 'Formosa' in a sunny garden. Bougainvillea glabra 'Formosa' is a tropical and subtropical evergreen woody vine or shrub. The plant has simple elliptical leaves with a leathery texture. They are dark green in color, arranged alternately along the stems, and have prominent veins running through them. Violet-pink bracts are modified leaves that surround and support small, inconspicuous flowers. The flowers are white, small, clustered together in clusters called racemes.
This cold-tolerant, midsized bougainvillea has considerable, colourful blooms perfect for bonsai or small bushes.
botanical identify

Bougainvillea glabra ‘Formosa’
solar necessities

Full solar

hardiness zones

Sept. 11

‘Formosa’ is a midsized selection with fairly purple bracts. It’s appropriate for rising as a bonsai or small tree due to its measurement. This can be a significantly cold-tolerant selection, as purple varieties are typically, and an enormous producer of colourful bracts and flowers. ‘Formosa’ has an extended blooming season and is a really showy cultivar.

‘Hugh Evans’

Close-up of a flowering Bougainvillea 'Hugh Evans' plant in the garden. The plant produces many pale pink and coral bracts that surround small, inconspicuous flowers. The leaves are ovate, dark green with a waxy texture.
A hanging cultivar with bicolored bracts, ‘Hugh Evans’ has pretty blue-green foliage and spreading progress.
botanical identify

Bougainvillea ‘Hugh Evans’
solar necessities

Full solar

hardiness zones

Sept. 11

‘Hugh Evans’ is a surprising cultivar with bicolored bracts. The foliage is a beautiful blue-green coloration which fantastically enhances the bubblegum pink and coral-colored bracts. This medium to giant selection tends to unfold, so give it house to develop, and it’ll reward you with its beautiful foliage within the spring and summer time.

‘Miami Pink’

Close-up of a blooming liana plant Bougainvillea 'Miami Pink' against a blurred leafy background. The plant has ovate leaves of a shade green color with a waxy texture. The bracts are bright pink in color and have a papery texture. True bougainvillea flowers are relatively small, tubular and nondescript, white in color.
This cultivar lives as much as its identify with flashy, neon pink bracts, making it a preferred, vigorous, and enjoyable vine.
botanical identify

Bougainvillea ‘Miami Pink’
solar necessities

Full solar

hardiness zones


Splashy, flashy, and enjoyable, ‘Miami Pink’ lives as much as its namesake. This vigorous grower produces probably the most implausible, neon pink bracts en masse from spring by means of fall. The colour of this selection is noteworthy and makes this a extremely popular cultivar.

‘New River’

Bougainvillea 'New River' is a vigorous, fast growing and spreading plant with striking bracts and bright flowers. The leaves are simple, ovate to lanceolate, and have a glossy texture. They are dark green in color and are arranged alternately along the stems. Bracts are modified leaves that surround and support small, inconspicuous flowers. These bracts are a bright purplish-purple color. The flowers are small, creamy white, grouped in clusters called racemes, and located in the center of each bract.
The ‘New River’ cultivar is a dramatic, giant plant with profuse, vibrant purple bracts from spring to fall.
botanical identify

Bougainvillea ‘New River’
solar necessities

Full solar

hardiness zones

Sept. 11

In case you are in search of drama, ‘New River’ is simply the plant for you. This plant could have all of the neighbors speaking with its profusion of vibrant purple bracts from spring by means of fall. This can be a giant cultivar, reaching as much as 40’ lengthy, and makes a beautiful espalier.

‘San Diego Crimson’

Close-up of a flowering Bougainvillea buttiana 'San Diego Red' plant with profuse red bracts surrounding inconspicuous white flowers. Bracts are large, leaf-shaped, papery in structure. The leaves are dark green, usually elliptical or ovoid. They are alternately arranged along the stems and have a glossy texture. True 'San Diego Red' bougainvillea flowers are small and white, almost hidden in bright red bracts.
A very cold-tolerant and shade-tolerant selection, ‘San Diego Crimson’ shines its brightest and boldest crimson.
botanical identify

Bougainvillea buttiana ‘San Diego Crimson’
solar necessities

Full solar

hardiness zones

Sept. 11

As talked about earlier, ‘San Diego Crimson’ is a very cold-tolerant selection. It is also tolerant to a higher quantity of shade than some varieties. Nonetheless, most solar produces most coloration, and this coloration will knock your socks off. ‘San Diego Crimson’ is the brightest, boldest crimson. Additionally it is generally known as ‘Scarlett O’Hara.’ 

‘Java White’

Close-up of a blooming Bougainvillea 'Java White' bush in a garden. The plant has shiny green leaves, which are sometimes dazzled with white, which adds to its visual appeal. The leaves are oval in shape and alternate along the stems, creating a lush backdrop for the colorful bracts and flowers. The bracts are pure white, surrounding small inconspicuous white flowers in the center. The bracts are densely clustered and dense, creating a showy appearance. The flowers of 'Java White' are relatively small, greenish-cream in color and funnel-shaped.
A sublime cultivar, ‘Java White’ options tightly clustered, dense white bracts perfect for formal gardens.
botanical identify

Bougainvillea ‘Java White’
solar necessities

Full solar

hardiness zones

Sept. 11

‘Java White’ is a chic cultivar with white bracts and variegated leaves. The bracts on this selection are typically tightly clustered and dense. This selection’s smooth and refined coloration mixture makes it a beautiful addition to a proper backyard.

Pests and Illnesses

A number of annoying bugs and pathogens generally assault this plant.


Close-up of Bougainvillea flowers infested with aphids. Aphids are small insects with soft, pear-shaped green bodies that suck the juice from plants. Bougainvillea has bright pink papery bracts and small elongated pink buds with unopened flowers.
Bougainvillea faces inexperienced aphid points, harming new progress, however there are efficient options for remedy.

Most crops are susceptible to no less than one kind of aphid. For bougainvillea, inexperienced aphids is usually a actual bummer.

They like to feed on new foliage, inflicting the bracts and leaves to shrivel and stunting progress by depleting vitamins. Horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps successfully cope with these pesky sap suckers.


Close-up of a leaf infested with a Leafminer larva. The leaf is smooth, dark green. It has characteristic white serpentine patterns, these are mines or tunnels that the larva makes.
The larvae goal tender new progress, inflicting curling trails by means of the leaves and stunted progress.

Leafminers larvae wish to feast on tender new bougainvillea progress. Mature foliage is never affected besides throughout a really unhealthy infestation.

These pests trigger curling trails by means of the leaves and may deplete the brand new progress, stunting the plant. Pheromone traps are the best combatant towards leafminers.

Bougainvillea Looper Caterpillar

Close-up of Bougainvillea Looper on a green leaf. Looper caterpillar has a small, greenish yellow, smooth, elongated body. It moves in a looping motion similar to an inchworm. The leaf has an uneven hole made by the caterpillar.
This caterpillar feeds on tender leaves, inflicting minor injury.

The Bougainvillea Looper caterpillar is restricted to this plant, because it serves because the larval meals for this specific insect. The larvae are small, yellow, clean, and about 1” lengthy. They give the impression of being and transfer much like an inchworm. People will feed on tender new leaves, whereas older larvae will transfer on to older leaves.

A number of of those bugs are unlikely to break a mature plant severely, however chances are you’ll discover leaves in a sure space have been chewed across the edges. A extreme infestation may end up in huge defoliation, which might stunt the plant’s progress.

Mealybugs, Scales, Thrips

Close-up of a Mealybug on a green leaf. It is a small, soft-bodied insect with a white cottony appearance. It has an oval, segmented body and thin, cottony, thread-like legs around the body.
Mealybugs, scales, and thrips are sap-sucking pests that trigger foliage points.

These three are frequent backyard pests that each one feed on the sap of crops and go away behind a sticky excrement known as honeydew. A extreme infestation of any of those could cause curling and shriveling of foliage, lack of blooms, and a basic depletion of vitamins.

Neem oil is usually a nice resolution to regulate pests and ailments.

The honeydew they go away behind is an ideal surroundings for sooty mould to develop, which might intervene with photosynthesis. Neem oil is an efficient remedy for all three bugs, as are horticultural oils.

Bacterial and Fungal Leaf Rot

Close-up of a diseased Bougainvillea plant in a garden, against a blurry background. The plant has an upright trunk with wilted dry bracts. The leaves are green, broad, oval, waxy, covered with small brown dots due to Fungal Leaf Rot.
Leaf rot happens largely during times of extreme humidity or rain.

Leaf rot is normally the results of an excessive amount of humidity or rain and inadequate air circulation. There are a handful of pathogens that may trigger leaf rot, and most of them are waterborne. Holding useless or broken foliage pruned away and watering on the base of the plant quite than watering the foliage are methods to forestall these points.

Fungal leaf rot may be handled with fungicides, however micro organism are normally untreatable. The most effective plan of action is to take away all affected elements of the plant and take preventative measures sooner or later.

Root Rot

Close-up of the roots of a Bougainvillea plant on a white table next to a small dark green garden trowel. The plant has a medium-thick trunk and branched rusty-brown roots. Soil is scattered on the white table.
Container crops are susceptible to root rot as a consequence of fungal progress throughout overwatering, so guarantee good drainage.

Root rot is extra of a problem in container crops than it’s in these planted within the floor. So long as your soil drains properly and also you don’t always overwater this plant, it’s best to be capable of keep away from any main root points.

Nonetheless, if you’re conserving your bougainvillea in a container and it doesn’t have good drainage, it is going to be very straightforward to overwater this plant and wind up with a case of fungal root rot. To deal with root rot, you will need to dig up the basis ball, trim off badly-rotten roots, after which re-pot it in new soil. Making use of fungicide to the remaining roots earlier than replanting could also be helpful so long as it’s not more likely to trigger injury to the delicate tissues.

Closing Ideas

In case you are in search of a low-maintenance, tropical plant that makes a significant assertion within the backyard, bougainvillea matches the invoice. This beautiful and durable flowering evergreen is a vigorous grower and brings coloration and pizzazz to the panorama all year long.

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