Bougainvillea : How To Grow and Care Bougainvillea in Pots


The bougainvillea plant can be grown in a small pots or hanging baskets or in ground as a hedge or a bush or a vine that can be climbed up a trellis or vertically on a wall to have a colorful display of its bracts and flowers. The bougainvillea care is very easy, even if the plant is growing in a pot.

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

Bougainvillea makes unique and graceful forms if grown for bonsai or topiary purposes. Continue reading below to take care for growing bougainvilleas in pots and ground including bougainvillea fertilizer and how to propagate and prune it for colorful display.


Bougainvillea makes unique and graceful forms if grown for bonsai or topiary purposes. Continue reading below to take care for growing bougainvilleas in pots and ground including bougainvillea fertilizer and how to propagate and prune it for colorful display.

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

Tips For Growing Bougainvillea Tree in Containers

Red Bougainvillea growing in a pot
Picture of Red Bougainvillea Growing in a pot
My first experiment with bougainvillea plant 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. The bougainvillea bonsai are different than a normal bougainvillea tree.

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

Bougainvillea Propagation 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 for Bougainvillea Plant

  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 center while planting the plant without disturbing the roots. if the plant is already grown, then do not put the trellis at the center, instead put it at a distance from the center, 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 plant 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 for Bougainvillea Plant

  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 Bougainvillea

  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 Bougainvillea Plant

  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.

Bougainvillea 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 color.
  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 Plant

  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 colorful displays exhibited by bougainvillea as their flowers but actually these are not flowers, but the bracts with small white flowers at their center.
  2. The tiny Bougainvillea flowers are always white irrespective of the color 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
  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.




11 comments

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.
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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?
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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.
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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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Bought bright pink bougainvillea in a pot in the summer. Had beautiful bloom. Roots reached bottom so replanted in larger pot in autumn. I left it outdoors this winter and see it has lost all leaves. There have been some nights with below freezing temperatures too. It's going to be like this weather for one more winter month. Is it too late to get the plant inside? Should I just take cuttings and plant them in smaller window sill pots to start new plants at this stage. Will it grow? Plus the plant was water logged last month as I had left the pot in a bowl which got filled with rain water.
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Multiple adverse things have happened to the plant. Freezing temperatures and water logged, so most probably the plant will not survive. Any way, move the pot indoors in a sunny place, if possible. You can try propagating this plant by taking cuttings. Good Luck!
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Thank you for the very informative site. Love bougainvillea. I have small plant in a very big pot. Didnt know about the correct pot size before. How do I transplant it into smaller pot to promote bushier growth and not kill it? Live in central India( very hot and long summers, mild and short​ winters) Thank you
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1. Transplant only in the evening in shade. After transplanting, place the pot in shade for 3-4 days and shift it to sunny position only when you see that the leaves are in good shape.
2. To transplant, first water the plant. Then push a khurpi all around the plant, 2-3 inch away from the trunk. You can now pull out the plant with the help of khurpi and re-pot in a new pot. OR you can transplant in the following manner.
3. The soil should be dry. Tap the plant outside from all the sides. This way the soil will leave the sides of the pot. Then hold the trunk in between your fingers of one hand and invert the pot on your palm and tap the pot. The whole plant will come out on your hand. Carefully remove the outer soil and re-pot in a new pot.
4. After re-potting, feed the plant with seaweed solution (not compulsary).
Reply

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