Bougainvillea : How To Grow and Care Bougainvillea in Pots

The tips for growing bougainvillea tree in pots and ground are considered including how to propagate, fertilize and prune it for colourful display.

The bougainvillea can be grown in a small pots or hanging baskets or in ground as a hedge or a bush or it can be climbed up a trellis or vertically on a wall to have a colorful display of bracts and flowers.



Bougainvillea makes unique and graceful forms if grown for bonsai or topiary purposes.

The Bougainvillea, native to the coasts of Brazil in South America, is an immensely versatile and showy plant that makes our roads, parks and gardens abundantly colourful. Its long arching branches bear heart-shaped leaves and masses of papery bracts in purple, pink, yellow, white, orange and burgundy colours.

Related Articles:
Bonsai Bougainvillea Care | How to make Bougainvillea Bonsai | Training a Bonsai Bougainvillea | Bougainvillea Bonsai Pruning

Tips For Growing Bougainvillea in Containers

Red Bougainvillea
Red Bougainvillea
My first experiment with bougainvillea was several years ago with a small cutting which I had put directly into the soil in a rainy season. The new growth started very soon, within 3-4 weeks.

At that time I did not care about the quality of soil and also gave only nitrogen fertilizer so the plant grew in uncontrollable proportion with very less flowers. I was fed-up with the wild growth of the bougainvillea plant, I wanted it to be very small, though not as small as a bonsai.

I again planted bougainvillea a few years ago, this time in a pot. Since then I have grown several plants producing different colours, all in pots using stem cuttings from my neighbourhood. Every time, the effort was rewarding.

The bougainvillea bonsai care and tips are different than a normal tree.

Growing Bougainvillea by Cuttings

  1. Propagating and rooting of bougainvillea from cuttings is very easy. Select a semi-hard wood stem and take about 6 inch long cutting. Remove all of the leaves except for the top 2 leaves. Remove half portion of these leaves.
  2. Remove the bark of the bottom node, dip in homemade rooting hormone or honey and place in a small pot filled with washed river soil. The roots will be visible at the bottom holes of the pot between 2-3 months.

Pot Requirement

  1. Bougainvillea can be grown in plastic or terra cotta pots, hanging baskets lined with sphagnum moss, planter boxes and concrete planters, even old laundry baskets will serve the purpose.
  2. The container having adequate number of holes at its bottom to provide drainage is the best. Use broken pieces of clay pots or Styrofoam packing material to line the bottom of the container for drainage.
  3. Bougainvillea plant does not need large pots. If you see the roots coming out from the bottom, then either re-pot in the next larger size container or take out the plant and trim the smaller roots and re-pot in the same container.
  4. To shape the bougainvillea in the pot, you can put a trellis in the pot. you can place the trellis at the centre while planting the plant without disturbing the roots. if the plant is already grown, then do not put the trellis at the centre, instead put it at a distance from the centre, may be at the rim of the pot.
  5. The container requirement for bougainvillea bonsai is different.

The Size of the Container

  1. Start with the smallest pot as Bougainvillea do well if its roots are pot-bound. Re-pot into larger pot sizes gradually, from a plant in a 6 inch pot into a 9 inch pot and so on. Remember, the root system needs time to grow into each new pot, 2-3 years. So never be in hurry to re-pot.
  2. When you re-pot, remember not to disturb the roots or prune them because the plant might take weeks to recover after shock. Always handle the delicate root system with care.

Soil Requirement

  1. Bougainvillea love well drained yet moisture-retentive soil to support its extremely fine and tender root system. Garden centres sell bougainvillea specific premixed growing media. (How to make garden soil)
  2. I added well decomposed compost  (making compost at home) and river sand to the soil to make it well draining. Bougainvillea does best with a soil pH of 5.5-6.5, so I also added some acidic soil.

Position, Where to Plant

  1. Bougainvillea, a tropical plant, thrives in full sun, at least 5 hours a day of direct sunlight is required for good bloom, the more is better.
  2. Plants grown indoors, in partial shade will have only vegetative growth, but no bloom.
  3. You can put the pot near a metal fencing to receive light brightness due to reflection and also heat.
  4. Growing bougainvillea in cold climates: If you live in a colder area, you can plant it in a pot and bring it indoors for the winter. Indoors, the plant will survive the outside harsh weather. Bougainvillea can be made to flower by triacontanol in cold climates. Triaboost induce good growth and flowers.

Watering

  1. Water sparingly as bougainvillea plants produce too much leaf growth in place of flowers with excessive water.
  2. Over-watering can cause rot and weakening of the plant.
  3. If the plant receives too much water when the small buds appear from new growth, the bud will drop off and in its place a thorn will develop.
  4. To induce flowering, allow the plant to dry and wilt for a few hours, and then water.

Fertilization

  1. Bougainvillea are heavy feeders that require regular monthly fertilization during blooming season.
  2. If you feed your bougainvillea a fertilizer with N:P:K ratio as 10:10:10, the plant will produce excessive green growth without blooms.
  3. Adding some iron in the form of chelate in the soil will produce vibrant and beautiful colour.
  4. Bougainvillea likes acidic soil, so add some azalea fertilizer.
  5. A fertilizer high in potassium will produce extensive colourful blooms.
  6. Liquid fertilizers are more effective and convenient than solid fertilizers to apply. Consider feeding with homemade bougainvillea fertilizer comfrey tea fertilizer which is high in potassium.
Yellow Colour Bougainvillea in Pot
Yellow Colour Bougainvillea in Pot

Pruning of Bougainvillea

  1. As bougainvillea generally blooms on new growth, you should cut back the branches that have finished flowering. This will force plant to produce new growth and bougainvillea to bloom.
  2. Bougainvillea plants need good pruning to force blooming and maintain its shape.
  3. There is no particular time for pruning, but it is better to prune after flowering.
  4. Because the new flowers develop at the new growth, the more they are pruned the more new growth will be encouraged.
  5. The new growth tips of a new bougainvillea should be pinched every few weeks to give it a busy shape. 
  6. The bougainvillea can be grown as a bonsai even in ground if it is pruned timely by removing most of the growing branches (Pruning for Bonsai).

Bougainvillea Pests

Bougainvillea tree is normally pest-free. I have not seen any aphids and other pests on my bougainvillea plants.

Bougainvillea Flowers

    Bougainvillea flowering Season is summer, autumn and spring, but many plants refuse to bloom. There are some methods to force the plant to bloom (How To Force Bougainvilleas to Bloom).
  1. We generally consider the colourful displays exhibited by bougainvillea as their flowers but actually these are not flowers, but the bracts with small white flowers at their centre.
  2. The tiny flowers are always white irrespective of the colour of bracts.
Tiny White Bougainvillea Flowers
Tiny White Bougainvillea Flowers

References

  1. Simon, Eric, Brighten Up With Bougainvillea, 2005
  2. Schoelhorn, Richard and Erin Alavrez, Warm Climate Production Guidelines for Bougainvillea, University of Florida /IFAS Extension, October 1, 2002.
  3. Parsons, Growing Bougainvilleas, http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/publications/bougainvillea.html
  4. Mohammad Moneruzzaman Khandaker, Golam Faruq, M. Motior Rahman, M. Sofian-Azirun, and Amru Nasrulhaq Boyce, “The Influence of 1-Triacontanol on the Growth, Flowering, and Quality of Potted Bougainvillea Plants (Bougainvillea glabra var. “Elizabeth Angus”) under Natural Conditions,” The Scientific World Journal, vol. 2013, Article ID 308651, 12 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/308651.

7comments

Great tips on Bougainvilleas. I was watering my plant too much and it started becoming leafy. Once I pruned it, reduced water, the new growth produced flowers. Thanks.
Reply

We have this plant at home and it is blooming well indicating the soil, sunlight and watering is appropriate as mentioned in the article. Thanks.
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I just change bougainvillea soil cos use a few years but now bracts look pale?
Reply

Feed with seaweed solution and wait for some time.over the time the plant will again become green.
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I want to plant a white and pink mix variety of bougainvillea on the terrace in pots. What should be the pot size and variety i should ask for in nursery.
Reply

To start with you can plant 2 bougainvilleas in one pot of size about one foot in diameter. When the roots start to emerge from the bottom holes, then transfer to next higher size. Choose a variety from your local nursery, a plant already blooming (more colored leaves).
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