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How to Grow Bougainvilleas

Updated on March 25, 2017

How to Grow Beautiful Bougainvillea

Bougainvilleas, also known as Paper Plants, are one of my all-time favorite plants. They are beautiful vine-type plants that have a very unique blossom and full of color. Knowing how to grow bougainvillea properly will make the difference between having an ordinary vine growing in your yard or a beautiful, brightly colored vine that will bloom from spring to fall.

Many people believe that bougainvilleas are hard to grow, not true! With the proper care they are very easy and make for a low-maintenance plant. Here you will learn everything you need to know on how to grow bougainvillea and insure a beautiful plant full of blooms all summer long. Be sure to go all the way to the bottom to check out some of the beautiful colors of bougainvillea and different ways you can train them.

Image Source: UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

Common Names:


Paper Plant

Paper Flower

Bougainvillea Description - What Bougainvilleas Look Like

bougainvillea bloom
bougainvillea bloom

Bougainvillea is a beautiful vine that has a hardy, woody stem and beautiful blossoms that are made up of 3 delicate, colored petals that look much like tissue paper surrounding 1 to 3 tiny white flowers.

Along the vine you will find several sharp thorns that range from one centimeter to three inches in length. The size and quantity of thorns depends on several different factors including care, pruning and the variety of bougainvillea you are growing.

A healthy bougainvillea can grow upwards of 100 feet unless you choose to prune it to maintain it's shape and size. With that said, you can train your bougainvillea to grow several feet up a trellis, or keep it tidy and shaped in a large pot or hanging basket. Be sure to scroll all the way down for several beautiful pictures of all the different colors.

Image Source:

variegated bougainvillea
variegated bougainvillea

Bougainvillea Foliage

Variegated Bougainvilleas are My Favorite!

Bougainvilleas are not only available in a variety of blossom colors, but also foliage colors. The most common is the simple green foliage, but most colors are also available in variegated.

I, personally, love the variegated! The white and green makes stunning backdrop for the bright colored blossoms. I love the bright pink bougainvilleas with variegated foliage in hanging baskets. They look great hanging from the porch!

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Bougainvillea Sun Requirements

Bougainvilleas Grow Best in Full Sun!

Bougainvilleas require full sun to grow their best and produce thousands of beautiful blooms. The most common 'problem' with bougainvillea is that the grower has a beautiful, lush plant that is growing. Simply moving it into full sun will do the trick.

If you are growing your bougainvillea indoors, make sure that it is near a window that gets plenty of bright sun. If not, you the blooms will be scarce.

Bougainvillea Water Requirements

Do Not Over Water Your Bougainvillea

Bougainvilleas are a common plant in Florida so it's no surprise that they thrive well in dry soil. Always allow the soil to dry between each watering and never leave it sitting in water for any long period of time. Over watering can cause leaf and blooms to drop, foliage to turn yellow and damage to the roots.

If you are growing your bougainvillea in a container insure there are holes for proper drainage.

How & When to Fertilize a Bougainvillea

Fertilizing your bougainvillea will insure a beautifully blooming plant. However, when learning how to grow bougainvilleas, one of the important things to remember is that when you fertilize always use a fertilizer that is specifically created for bougainvillea, or use an all-purpose fertilizer at half the recommended strength This means, whatever the package says to use, use 1/2 that amount. Using a full strength, general purpose fertilizer can burn and even kill your bougainvillea.

Repotting Bougainvillea

Be Careful with The Roots!

Bougainvilleas have a very delicate, fibrous root system. Always avoid disturbing the roots and only repot when absolutely necessary. Instead of repotting, simply add a top layer of soil when possible. When you do report, always upsize the pot and add additional soil so that the root ball is undisturbed. It's best to do this when the soil is nearly dry. Never break apart the roots as you would with trees or shrubs and it will severely damage the plant.

Bougainvillea Propagation - Propagate Bougainvillea by Cuttings

Growing Bougainvillea from Cuttings
Growing Bougainvillea from Cuttings

How to Propagate Bougainvillia from Cuttings

Bougainvillea is best propagated from stem cuttings. Take softwood cuttings from a healthy bougainvillea, dip in rooting hormone and plant in sterile soil, or Perlite and water and allow 2-3 weeks for a good root system to form.

Important: Bougainvillea cuttings need to be misted a couple times a day until misted. The more the better! You can use a misting system in a greenhouse or simply use a misting bottle or misting nozzle. Nothing too fancy required, as long as they stay moist.

Why is My Bougainvillea Not Blooming?

The Reason Why Your Bougainvillea is Not Blooming

A bougainvillea that won't bloom is a common complaint among gardeners who aren't familiar with growing them. The good news is that it's usually a simple fix!

The most common reason a bougainvillea won't bloom is simply because it is not getting enough sun. Re-position your plant so that it is getting full sun and with in a few weeks it should be full of blooms. If you are growing your bougainvillea indoors, find a window that provides more sun.

If your bougainvillea receives full sun and still isn't blooming, make sure that you are fertilizing it properly and that you are not over-watering it.

Bonsai Bouganvillea - Bouganvilleas Make Great Bonsai Plants

bonsai bougainvillea
bonsai bougainvillea

Bougainvillea is one of the more common choices for a blooming bonsai. As seen in the photo above, they look like small blooming trees and can easily be trained using a bonsai dish or other shallow dish. Image Source: BIG.USA

Bougainvillea Tree - Bougainvilleas Can Be Trained to Grow into a Tree Form

bougainvillea tree
bougainvillea tree

Bougainvilleas are commonly grown as a vine-type plant, but the tree form is becoming more and more popular. Simply choose the thickest, healthiest stem, support it in an upright direction and keep all the lower portions pinched off. Pinch the tips out of the each limb to encourage a thicker, bushier top.Image Source:

Training Bougainvillea - Bougainvilleas Can Be Trained to Grow in a Variety of Shapes and Sizes

Bougainvilleas have to be one of the easiest, most versatile, blooming plants! Not only are they hardy to most warm weather conditions, they can take a lot of handling and pruning to shape or train to grow in or on just about any type of support.

Bougainvilleas can be grown...

In pots and shaped into a 'bush' form.

In hanging baskets and either trained to bush or vine out.

On arbors and trellises.

Along walls and fences for a beautiful blooming privacy shield.

Over arches for a romantic feel.

Creative Commons Image by arichards63 on Flickr

Bougainvillea Colors

Bougainvilleas come in a variety of colors including:

Light Pink

Dark Pink


Light Orange

Dark Orange



Peachy Salmon

Pink and Orange Mix

Pink and White Mix

White and Pink (RARE)

Pink and Yellow (RARE)

White Bougainvillea

White bouainvillea
White bouainvillea

This is a lovely white bougainvillea. While they aren't as common as the pinks, it still just as stunning. The most well-known white bougainvillea is 'Miss Alice'.

Creative Commons Image by kaiyanwong223 on Flickr.

Yellow Bougainvillea

yellow bougainvillea
yellow bougainvillea

Here is a lovely yellow bougainvillea. So Pretty!

Creative Commons Image by hewy on Flickr.

Red Bougainvillea

Red bougainvillea
Red bougainvillea

The red bougainvilleas are one of my favorites! They are a BRIGHT, blood red.

Creative Commons Image by jillmotts on Flickr.

"Orange King" Bougainvillea - Light Orange Colored Bougainvillea

orange bougainvillea
orange bougainvillea

This is an "Orange King" Bougainvillea. It's more of a bright-yellowish orange in comparison to the dark orange bougainvilleas. Image Source: World Travel with Anne.

Amazon Associate Disclosure

Stephanie Manning is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Share Your Thoughts on How to Grow Bougainvillea

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    • profile image


      15 months ago

      I need advice on how to care for my Bougainvillea in doors over the winter where there is no extended sunshine.

      Many thanks.

    • profile image

      Jorge Mérida 

      2 years ago

      Beautiful flowers! growing them in Guatemala, love the different colors!


    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I love them just planted mine so hoping if I follow your advise won't go too wrong. I am truly looking forward to see the beautiful plant having amazing colors .

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I love bougainvilleas but as yet to be successful in growing them to the beauty they can be. Not easily deterred, I am arming myself with all the professional information I can handle. Having said that, I have yet to read anything about how to minimize the painful long thorns. I would like to cut them off as I would a rose stem. Does anyone know if this is damaging to the plant?

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      4 years ago

      Hello I am in Phoenix, AZ. My plant gets sun light from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. in the afternoon. They are up against a cinder block wall. In the spring the come alive and grow and bloom then as we warm up they drop all of their flowers and begin to wilt then slowly I get a few blooms. My neighbors all have beautiful continues blooms on big bushes. I can get mine to grow at all. I water once a week for 1 hour on drip. What fertilizer should I use?

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Bougainvilleas need to wilt to produce more flowers!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Mine has been getting eaten alive by something all summer!! Which pests are bougainvilleas commonly susceptible to in Ohio?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have a hot-pink bougainvillea on a trellis near my front door. It has been gorgeous. I was wondering about those tree-types that I have been seeing at farmers' markets and nurseries. Thanks for the info on those. I think I will get one for my backyard. Good luck with this beautiful lens.


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