Bougainvillea is a genus of thorny ornamental vines, bushes, and trees belonging to the four o’clock family, Nyctaginaceae. It is a beautiful plant that can be used in many different ways, depending on what you are looking for.
A bougainvillea plant can grow as a bonsai tree, ground cover, or hedge. It can also grow up against a building or fence or even as a container plant to bring color inside during the winter months.
It is a tropical plant that tends to do well in warm climates such as Los Angeles or South Florida.
If you want an almost year-round floral display, bougainvillea is your plant! I have experience with bougainvillea and am sharing care tips so it will thrive in your garden or indoors.
How to Care for Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea care starts with choosing the right variety for your area. The bougainvillea plant should be planted in full sun to partial shade, depending on the specific bougainvillea vine you are growing.
Water bougainvilleas deeply but infrequently so that water penetrates down to about 12 inches deep where the roots are located. Watering less often will cause bracts and leaves to fall off, which can weaken or kill it!
Bougainvilleas do best when watered weekly during periods of drought conditions. Experts suggest using a slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote mixed at half strength since over-fertilizing is a common (and easy) mistake people make – too much nitrogen will result in bracts that are mostly green and no blooms.
Pests and diseases that can affect bougainvillea are aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, and whiteflies. If you notice any of these pests on your plant, use a block of insecticidal soap to get rid of them.
Planting and Repotting
Bougainvillea can be planted in the ground or in a container. When planting bougainvillea in the ground, dig a hole twice as wide and just as deep as the nursery pot is. If you are planting bougainvillea in a container, use a pot that is at least 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep.
When repotting bougainvillea, be sure to loosen the root ball before putting it into the new pot and fill it in around the roots with fresh soil. Water thoroughly after replanting.
Bougainvillea bonsai is an important part of bougainvillea care.
Prune bougainvilleas after they bloom to maintain their shape and keep them healthy, but be careful not to remove too much at one time, or flower production will decrease.
How to Grow Bougainvillea in Containers
Bougainvillea can grow in containers as long as you plant it in a well-draining potting soil that contains vermiculite, perlite, peat moss, composted bark, organic fertilizers like cottonseed meal or blood meal, etc.
If your bougainvillea flowers aren’t blooming enough for your liking choose the next larger size container available to give it more room to grow.
Growing Bougainvillea in a Hedge or as Ground Cover
Bougainvilleas make great hedges and ground covers because they are fast-growing (some varieties only take one year before producing flowers) and need very little maintenance once they are established.
When planting bougainvillea as a hedge or ground cover, space plants 18 to 24 inches apart and water regularly during the first growing season.
Bougainvilleas respond well to regular fertilization with a balanced fertilizer like 20-20-20 (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) which can be applied every four to six weeks throughout the year. Be sure not to overfertilize bougainvillea, as this will result in more green bracts and fewer flowers.