Looking for some easy tips for how to grow bougainvillea plants? Well, you’re in the right place, friends! These gorgeous vines with their colourful bracts and ‘always ready for a party’ demeanour have made them the darling of backyard growers. And we’ve got all the info you need to keep your bougainvillea in tip top shape and adding some serious color to your days!
What are Bougainvillea Plants?
Also called paper flower, bougainvillea (pronounced boo- or boh-gun-VEE-yuh) are large, shrub-like tropical vines with heart-shaped leaves and masses of paper-thin flowers (called bracts) on thorny branches. These annual plants grow 15-20 feet tall and need support, like a trellis, wall, or arbor. The many cultivars include double-flower and variegated types.
How to Grow Bougainvillea
When planting, dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice the width. Bougainvillea plants like well-draining, slightly acid soil. Use a well-draining soil of equal parts sand, silt, and clay mixed with some organic matter. If in doubt, check the soil package for a mention of ‘quick draining’. This will give your bougainvillea the right environment to establish a lovely, supportive root system. Pack the soil to get all of the air out. Then soak the whole area with a gallon of water. On top, add 2 inches of organic mulch.
How to get Bougainvillea to Bloom
Originally from South America, and named by a French botanist, bougainvillea plants have two growth cycles: vegetative, when they produce new leaves and stems, and a blooming period, where they are in flower for 3-5 weeks.
The question of how to grow bougainvillea is often only trumped by the question of how to get bougainvillea to bloom. Bougainvillea need full sun (minimum of about 5 hours) to bloom. These plants only bloom on new growth, so make sure you prune in early summer in order to shape and strengthen them. For fuller growth, you can pinch about a 1/2 inch off the soft tips of young plants. New stems will grow from 2-3 leaf buds down below the pinch. The best time to do this is after the flowering cycle. In bloom, bougainvillea plants are heavy feeders. Their roots are typically weak and need iron. Use a 6-8-10 water soluble or granular food monthly, and be sure to follow package directions.
How to Grow Bougainvillea: Water Needs
Paper Flower plants are drought-hardy. It’s best to give them 2-3 inches water once a week. You can let the soil dry out in between waterings, but make sure it’s not bone dry. And ensure all of the water drains away, as these plants don’t like wet feet.
Bougainvillea: A Warm Weather Plant
Bougainvillea will survive the winter only in zones 9-11. Find your grow zone here. They need a minimum nighttime temperature of 60 degrees, and can survive in daytime temps of 100 degrees or more. While they can get by on 5 hours of sun, they do best with 8-10 hours of full sun.
Not ready to say goodbye to your bougainvillea at the end of the season? We’ve got tips on overwintering annuals. Be sure to take it indoors before the first frost, though typically an overwintered bougainvillea will not bloom.
Bougainvillea look great with all sorts of companions. For some color contrast, you can try growing purple shades of bougainvillea with yellow shades of coreopsis. And pair orange/yellow shades of bougainvilllea with lovely purple salvia.
Keen to try growing some bougainvillea of your own? We’ve put together a gorgeous collection, so choose your favorite and discover the wonderful world of bougainvillea plants!