How to Grow and Care for Bougainvillea Like a Pro

 Common Name Bougainvillea
 Botanical Name Bougainvillea
 Family Nyctaginaceae
 Plant Type Flowering vine
 Mature Size 15 to 40 feet tall and wide
 Sun Exposure Full Sun 
Soil Type Loamy, sandy, well-draining
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Varies on climate
Flower Color Varies
Hardiness Zones USDA 9 to 11
Native Area South America


Caring for the bougainvillea is relatively easy if you are in the correct USDA zone. With geography on your side, you should have an easy time ensuring your bougainvillea produces many blooms throughout the year. Here are some key things to remember to make caring for your plant even easier:

  • Plant your bougainvillea in a spot that gets full sun.
  • Trim back old growth to guarantee year-round blooms
  • Fertilize regularly, as bougainvillea is a heavy feeder.
  • Water thoroughly to encourage new growth and abundant blooms.

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Bougainvillea are low maintenance but require a few conditions to thrive, including full sun. Giving your bougainvillea will increase its vitality and the number of blooms it develops throughout the year.


While bougainvillea can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, it prefers loamy, sandy soils. One must be that the soil is well-draining. Bougainvillea will not tolerate soil that soil that holds water. One workaround for ensuring your bougainvillea is not set in standing water is to plant it at a slight elevation.


Bougainvillea cannot tolerate standing water, yet they need a considerable amount of water to produce their abundant blooms. Watering regularly will have a positive impact on the amount of blooms and the richness of your plant’s flowers. Though water is important to keep the plant producing its flowers it is known to be quite tolerant of drought conditions.

Temperature and Humidity

As a native of South America, the bougainvillea prefers warm conditions that lean towards the drier side. The main concern for bougainvillea is the amount of rain it receives, the ability to drain away correctly, and the temperature, which stays well above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keeping the plant in a container if outside of USDA zones 9-11 is best, only choosing to plant it in those few select zones.


Bougainvillea are heavy feeders, and their enormous blooms demand many nutrients. Regular feeding will help ensure those profuse blooms do not disappoint you. Applying a flowering shrub fertilizer twice a year is a good idea to help keep your bougainvillea healthy and happy.

Types of Bougainvillea 

One of the things that make the bougainvillea so popular is the number of varieties and cultivars available. There are over 100 different types on the market, but here are five popular bougainvilleas to get you excited about the possibilities:

  • Bougainvillea ‘Barbara Karst’: this is one of the most popular varieties. It has pinkish-red bracts and can grow to 30 feet very quickly.
  • Bougainvillea ‘Royal Purple’: this variety showcases deep purple bracts, creating an amazing display of color in any landscape.
  • Bougainvillea ‘Golden Jackpot’: this cultivar has bright golden-yellow bracts that draw the eye against dark green foliage.
  • Bougainvillea ‘White Madonna’: this variety features pure white bracts that lend elegance to an outdoor space.
  • Bougainvillea ‘California Gold’: this one boasts bright golden-yellow bracts that contrast beautifully with its green foliage.


Pruning is, unfortunately, a necessary chore that will make your bougainvillea stay healthy and look its best.

  1. Start by checking for dead or damaged branches and snip those off close to where they meet healthy wood.
  2. Use sharp pruning shears and wear gloves to protect your hands from the thorns. Next, you will want to decide the shape you want for your plant.
  3. Trim back branches that stick out too far or grow too long to help keep a clean and structured plant. Bougainvillea flowers on new growth so that pruning can encourage more beautiful blooms. Just be careful not to remove more than one-third of the plant’s growth at once, or it might cause some damage.
  4. Once you’ve finished pruning your bougainvillea, clean up any leaves or branches that have fallen to the ground to discourage pests and diseases from calling it home.

During the growing season, keep an eye on your plant and trim away any wilted flowers or branches that start to look unruly. Regular maintenance pruning will help your bougainvillea stay gorgeous season after season.

Propagating Bougainvillea 

Propagating bougainvillea is easy and can be done in minutes with the right tools and materials. One important thing to note is that it is illegal to propagate many cultivars from cuttings, so be sure to know if the selection you are propagating is trademarked.

Besides that legal hurdle, it takes eight easy steps, and you’ll be on your way to a beautiful new plant.

  1. Choose a healthy stem from the bougainvillea plant that is around 6-8 inches long and has several nodes (where leaves emerge) along its length.
  2. Use clean, sharp pruning shears to cut the stem at a 45-degree angle below a node. Remove any leaves from the lower half of the cutting to reduce moisture loss.
  3. Dip the cut end of the stem into rooting hormone powder, which can help stimulate root growth, although this step is optional.
  4. Fill a small pot with a well-draining potting mix. Make a hole in the soil with a pencil or stick, then insert the cutting into the hole, burying at least two nodes beneath the soil.
  5. Water the soil around the cutting until it is evenly moist but not waterlogged. Place the pot in a warm, bright location, but avoid direct sunlight, which can scorch the cutting.
  6. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. To help retain moisture and humidity, cover the pot with a plastic bag or place it in a propagating tray.
  7. After a few weeks, check for root development by gently tugging on the cutting. If you feel resistance, roots have likely formed.
  8. Once roots have developed, transplant the cutting into a larger pot or directly into the garden, ensuring it receives plenty of sunlight and regular watering to continue its growth.

How to Get Bougainvillea to Bloom 

Getting bougainvillea to bloom is all about giving it the right conditions and a little bit of patience. First, make sure your bougainvillea gets plenty of sunlight. Six hours of sunlight a day is ideal.
Then, feed it with a fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus, which helps promote flowering. Water your plant regularly, but be careful not to overwater; bougainvillea don’t like wet feet.

Finally, if your bougainvillea is still not blooming, try stressing it out by reducing water and letting the soil dry between waterings.

How to Grow Bougainvillea From Seed 

While it is possible to grow bougainvillea from seed, this propagation method is less reliable than starting plants from cuttings. The time and effort spent propagating from seed is not worth the low germination rate.

Potting and Repotting Bougainvillea 

Potting and repotting bougainvillea is an easy process that can help keep your plant healthy and thriving.

  1. When potting a bougainvillea, start with a well-draining potting mix and a container with drainage holes at the bottom.
  2. Gently remove the bougainvillea from its original container, being careful not to damage the roots, and place it in the new pot, ensuring the soil level remains the same as in the original container.
  3. Fill in gaps around the root ball with fresh potting mix and thoroughly water the plant. When repotting a bougainvillea, choose a slightly larger container than its current one to accommodate its growing roots.
  4. Carefully remove the plant from its old pot, loosen the roots if they’ve become root-bound, and place it in the new container with fresh potting mix.
  5. Water the plant well after repotting to help it settle into its new home.


Because it hails from a tropical environment, overwintering a bougainvillea is essential for survival in colder climates. Before the first frost, bring your potted bougainvillea indoors to a sunny spot, like a south-facing window.

Trim back any leggy growth to encourage bushiness and reduce the plant’s overall size, making it easier to manage indoors. Water the plant sparingly during winter, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings to prevent root rot.

Keep an eye out for pests, like aphids or whiteflies, which are more common indoors. If your bougainvillea is in the ground, consider covering it with a frost cloth during cold spells.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases 

Bougainvillea can face pests and diseases that may affect their health and appearance, but luckily, these are usually not serious enough to harm the plant. Common pests include aphids, which can easily be treated by a strong jet of water from a hose or neem oil treatment.

Whiteflies are another common pest, leaving behind sticky honeydew and causing yellowing and wilting of leaves. Treat a white fly infestation with mild insecticide or horticultural soap.   

As for diseases, bougainvillea can be susceptible to fungal infections such as powdery mildew, which appears as a white powdery coating on leaves, and leaf spot, characterized by dark spots on the foliage.

Avoid overwatering and properly remove yard waste to reduce the chance of these
issues occurring. If your plant does catch a fungal infection, the best way to treat it is with a fungicide by following the directions on the product’s label.

Common Problems With Bougainvillea 

Common problems with bougainvillea include wilting, yellowing leaves, and lack of blooming. Wilting can be caused by underwatering or overwatering, so it’s important to check the soil moisture and
adjust the amount of water your plant receives to ensure it’s neither too dry nor waterlogged.

Yellowing leaves can signal nutrient deficiencies, especially nitrogen, so feeding the plant with a balanced fertilizer can help correct this issue. Another issue concerns blooming; Bougainvillea may not bloom if they don’t receive enough sunlight, so ensure they get at least six hours per day to encourage flowering.

Pruning can also stimulate blooming by promoting new growth. Lastly, if pests like aphids or whiteflies are present, treat them promptly with insecticidal soap or neem oil to prevent damage to the plant.


  • Bougainvillea should not be planted in areas where there will be standing water or areas that have poor draining soil.

  • With proper trimming and when planted in the correct zones, USDA zones 9-11, bougainvillea can be grown throughout the year.

  • The pros are that they are fast-growing, are extremely attractive, and come in several varieties of sizes and colors. The cons are they have a limited growing range unless you plan to raise the plant in a container, and they have wickedly sharp thorns.

  • Because bougainvillea enjoy crowded roots they will do much better when planted in pots when their roots can be packed tightly together.

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