Growing Bougainvillea: A Guide to Achieving Beautiful Blooms

growing bougainvillea

Looking for a color explosion in flower form? Nothing evokes passion and beauty in a garden like bougainvillea. Bougainvillea vines bursting with beautiful blooms are like having a flower party right in your yard. So if you want to start growing bougainvillea and are hoping for the full floral effect, read on! We’ve got all the info you need to get the most out of these incredible vines.

Bougainvillea: Flowering Vines

Sometimes called “paper flowers”, bougainvillea consist of colorful, paper-like bracts surrounding tiny white blooms. But bougainvillea are more than your typical flower. Unlike traditional upright stems with flowers on top, bougainvillea are woody, evergreen vines that can grow up to 30 feet long in warmer climates. They also have thin, spiky branches, and small, elliptical leaves that are usually green or gray-green in color. Bougainvillea love warm climates – they are on our list of the most heat tolerant plants. They are also super drought-tolerant once they are well-established. 

Bougainvillea: Garden Uses

Most often, bougainvillea plants are grown as outdoor ornamentals. They are a popular choice for covering walls, fences, and trellises. But they can also be grown as indoor houseplants! If you opt for this, you’ll need to pay more attention to watering and lighting.

Growing Bougainvillea: Tips and Tricks to Get the Best Flowers

Even though bougainvillea are relatively easy to grow, follow these tips for optimal garden success:


More sun = more flowers! Bougainvillea plants need plenty of sunlight to grow and flower well. Choose an outdoor spot that receives full sun for most of the day. If you’re growing your plants indoors, place them in a sunny, south-facing window. You can also use a grow light to provide sufficient light.


Prepare the garden soil by adding compost or well-rotted manure to help improve its fertility and structure. Bougainvillea plants prefer well-drained soil, so be sure to choose a location with good drainage. When growing bougainvillea in containers, it’s important to choose a pot that is large enough to accommodate the plant’s root system and to use a well-draining soil mix. We do not recommend starting with anything smaller than an 18-inch pot. 


Young plants should be watered regularly. BUT be sure to allow the soil to dry out a bit between waterings as overwatered plants can develop root rot. After they are established, watering deeply every 3-4 weeks is sufficient. Container plants should only be watered once the top of the soil starts to dry out. This same application should be followed for indoor plants. If your home has dry heat during the winter, it’s a good idea to mist your bougainvillea at least once a week.


When it comes to bougainvillea, lack of fertilizer is the main reason for a lack of flowers. Bougainvillea appreciate a balanced, slow-release fertilizer, like a 20-20-20. Garden plants should have fertilizer applied every 3-4 months. Plants grown in containers, both indoors and outdoors, will require weekly applications of fertilization.


A good rule of thumb is to prune the bougainvillea plant just enough to maintain its desired size and shape by removing any branches that are growing too long or that are out of proportion with the rest of the plant. Regularly remove any dead or damaged branches as they will not recover and will only take energy away from the rest of the plant. If the plant starts getting too dense, you can thin it out by removing some of the older, woody branches. This will allow light and air to reach the center of the plant, which can help to encourage new growth. If you are planning to bring your bougainvillea indoors for the winter, it is generally best to prune it before you bring it inside. Always use clean, sharp shears or scissors when pruning. 

purple bougainvillea and white bougainvillea

Growing Bougainvillea: Problems and Solutions

Although bougainvillea plants are generally easy to care for, they can experience leaf drop and a lack of flowering. The most common causes are environmental stress, nutrient deficiency, pest infestations, diseases, or improper pruning. To prevent or correct these issues, it is important to provide proper care and address any problems right away by doing the following:

· Environmental stress, such as extreme temperatures, drought, or excessive humidity, can cause bougainvillea plants to drop their leaves and stop flowering. If the plant is in a container, move it to a more regulated environment. 

· Nutrient deficiency, particularly a lack of nitrogen or potassium, can also cause these problems. Giving the plant an extra application should correct the issue. If it has not been on a fertilizer routine, now is a great time to get started. 

· Aphids are small insects that feed on plant fluids and can cause curling, yellowing, and distortion of leaves and stunting of shoots. They can also produce a sticky substance called honeydew. Insecticidal soap and neem oil are two non-chemical ways to treat aphids. 

· Leaf miners create tunnels in young leaves and cause them to curl and look distorted. Pheromone traps will control leaf miners.

· Bacterial and fungal leaf spot can occur when there is excess moisture on the leaves, causing lesions and distorted growth. Apply a copper fungicide to control these diseases. 

· Scale insects feed on plant juices and can cause yellowing and distortion of leaves and stunting of shoots. Spraying plants with a horticultural oil at the proper time usually provides adequate control.

· Spider mites are tiny insects that can cause stippling, yellowing, and distortion of leaves. They can be controlled through cultural and chemical methods. Pyrethrin is an all-natural spray to use to control spider mites.

· The bougainvillea looper is a 1″ green or brown caterpillar, also known as the inchworm or measuring worm. It feeds mostly at night and can be hard to spot on the plant due to its ability to mimic stems and branches. Spraying the plant with all-natural Bacillus thuringiensis will control any caterpillar issues. 

So there you have it! You are now prepared to successfully grow and care for bougainvillea plants and enjoy their beautiful, colorful blooms for years to come.

Want to get growing? Check out our collection of bougainvillea plants to find your favorites!

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