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How to Grow and Care for Bougainvillea

Maria is a master gardener and master of public health. She & her husband, known online as The Gardener & The Cook, live in coastal Alabama.

This bright pink color is just one of the many colors available to those who love this gorgeous flowering vine.

This bright pink color is just one of the many colors available to those who love this gorgeous flowering vine.

Bougainvillea Thrives in Mild Climates

These beautiful vines are rapid growers and climbers, as well as prolific bloomers. They need a warm climate, full sun, and very good drainage. How to pronounce it? It's pronounced "boo-gan-vee-ah".

Bougainvillea is native to Central America, most of South America, the Caribbean Islands, Spain, parts of the United States, and many other warm climates. This gorgeous vine is available in many colors including hot pink (my favorite) red, purple, lavender, yellow, orange, pale pink, white, and white with pink-tipped edges.

What We'll Cover Here

  • Planting tips
  • Growing tips
  • Spring bougainvillea care
  • Keeping caterpillars away
  • Summer bougainvillea care
  • Winter bougainvillea care
  • How to prune a bougainvillea
  • The best bougainvillea for pots and containers

Having a bougainvillea in your garden, either in a pot or in the ground, is always joyful due to the gorgeous flush of color. Like all plants, bougainvillea starts out relatively small, but will quickly take over the space provided, and then some. In spring and fall with the right care, these beauties will explode into a profusion of color, spreading their thorny branches to cover a wall or fence completely.

Where does bougainvillea grow best?

Bougainvillea is a hardy perennial vine, but it prefers the temperate climates of USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9 through 11. (Not sure which zone you live in? See the map below — just click on the source link to see a larger version.) Bougainvillea can also be grown as an annual or as a houseplant outside those zones. If you choose to grow them as annuals, be aware doing this can be quite expensive. A 3-foot tall bougainvillea can cost as much as $50.

How quickly does bougainvillea grow?

Bougainvillea is among the fastest growing plants. Typically it will put on a startling 36 inches of growth every year, up to a limit of about 30 feet. With this in mind, choose a spot against a warm, protected wall or fence where you want to add a BIG splash of color. Rest assured, you don't have to let the plant get that big! See tips for pruning your bougainvillea below, and be aware that, if you put it near a garden path, or near the door to your home, you will be pruning it frequently. Very frequently!

Is bougainvillea evergreen?

Yes. All plants drop leaves periodically, just as we humans lose a few hairs daily. While your bougainvillea will drop some leaves throughout the year, it is classified as evergreen in mild climates and keeps its leaves year-round.

Does bougainvillea bloom all year?

No, a bougainvillea will typically bloom from November or December to April here in the U.S., with the heaviest bloom-time in spring and autumn. This can vary depending on where you live. For example, when we lived in central Florida, our heaviest bloom-time was early-to-mid spring and late autumn (i.e., December), both of which are times when the weather is cooler. I once saw them blooming profusely in San Francisco in July — the daytime temperature there was in the mid-60s.

How should I fertilize my bougainvillea?

Some gardeners recommend using a tablespoon of hibiscus fertilizer every 3 to 4 weeks in the spring and summer. Bougainvillea needs rich, acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.0. Now that we have moved to Zone 8b, I no longer grow this vine, but when we lived in Florida, I sprinkled used coffee grounds around the one I had. I also put coffee grounds around my azaleas, which require acidic soil, as well. If we don't drink all the coffee made in the mornings, I dilute it with plain water for my acid-loving plants, and pour it around them.

This is the USDA Map of Gardening Zones, based on cold hardiness. The column on the right indicates the different zones by color.

This is the USDA Map of Gardening Zones, based on cold hardiness. The column on the right indicates the different zones by color.

Planting Tips:

  1. First, prepare the planting hole. The hole should be wide enough that you can easily rake soil into it around the root ball. It should be deep enough that the top of the root ball is just slightly above the surrounding soil level. This allows water to drain away, and prevents standing water at times of heavy rain.
  2. Bougainvillea likes a lot of water when it is first planted, but once established, it does better with its soil a little on the dry side. Take care to plant it in an area with really good drainage.
  3. Take care when planting or replanting a bougainvillea. Don't handle the root ball any more than necessary, as the roots are fragile and can easily break. If the plant has been in the pot too long, and the roots are going round and round, they will need to be loosened. Otherwise, they will continue to go round and round, when they should be spreading out in their new home. In fact, when considering any plant for purchase, it's a good idea to lift the root ball out of the pot to see if the roots are going round and round. If they are, choose a different one.
  4. If it becomes necessary to prune any plant when installing it (for example, if a limb gets broken) always place your cut immediately above a joint, taking care to cut on an angle, so water will run off rather than soaking into the raw wood.

Growing a Healthy Bougainvillea

Again, to confirm which zone you live in, consult the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map above.

ClimateAnnual or Perennial?Care and WateringSeasonal Tips

Zones 9 - 11

Grows perennially with flowers April to December.

When first planted or transplanted, the soil around a bougainvillea should be kept moist. Be sure to plant where it will have good drainage. After the plant is established it will prefer to be left on the dry side.

Prune your bougainvillea in winter after it has finished blooming (January is a good time). Always cut at a joint. Don't be afraid to prune aggressively, if needed. New growth will begin to emerge in a few weeks.

Zone 1 - 8

Grows as an annual outdoors or as a perennial in a container indoors.

For outdoor plants, protect the plant from freezing temps by covering it with a cloth all the way to the ground, and mulching the roots. Indoor potted plants will bloom from May to December. Keep the plant well watered when first planted, but then keep dry for more flowers once established.

Prune the potted plant severely before cold weather sets in, and take indoors. Apply a tablespoon of hibiscus fertilizer every 3 to 4 weeks in spring and summer. If it is grown outdoors, be prepared to lose the plant if your winter is less than mild.

Bougainvillea bracts and flowers.

Bougainvillea bracts and flowers.

Caterpillars and the Damage They Can Do

I plucked this caterpillar off of my plant. This is the guy that created all this damage to my bougainvillea.

I plucked this caterpillar off of my plant. This is the guy that created all this damage to my bougainvillea.

Spring Bougainvillea Care

When the spring peak of blooming has passed, your bougainvillea will still be blooming but with far fewer flowers. It's time to be on the lookout for pests that will eat the leaves, and leave you with an unsightly plant that has no flowers.

How to Keep Destructive Caterpillars Away

The photo above shows what caterpillars did to my once-beautiful hot-pink bougainvillea. There was only one flower left on the entire plant, so I was not a happy gardener. The first photo is of one of the pests that did this. These guys come out only at night, but are sometimes still there in early morning. Sometimes they are so still they look like small sticks, or like the little brown stems left behind by spent bracts.

Occasionally, they can be seen hanging from a tiny string of web, or on a leaf, boring into it. The ones I have seen range from about 1 to 3 inches long. Most are about an inch (2.54 cm). The smallest ones are green in color. The largest ones are a greenish-brown. This one was a little over an inch long.

This happened before I became a master gardener, so I took this guy (in a zip-closed bag) to my local master gardeners for expert advice. They said it was a caterpillar and not the kind that soon becomes a beautiful butterfly! I was told to get an organic product called Neem, and to spray my plant with it in the early morning or in the evening. The master gardeners I spoke with said they knew Lowe's, Home Depot, and some independent local stores all carry Neem.

I found it at Home Depot. I tried Ace Hardware first, as they were closer to my home, but they did not have this product. Maybe they will got it later, as they said they had had several requests for it. Neem comes in a highly concentrated form, in a tiny bottle. Mix it two tablespoons per gallon of water, then pour some into a spray bottle for easy use. I used an empty gallon milk jug to mix it. Be sure to read the section below on summer care for using Neem oil.

Summer Bougainvillea Care

In the summer heat, Neem oil — or any oil — will melt and slide right off of your plants. At times of temperatures in the high-80s Fahrenheit or above, insecticidal soaps will work best.

It is true that the insecticidal soaps will need to be sprayed after each rain, but they do work. I used to spray my pansies and mondo grass with cayenne pepper dissolved in water to prevent rabbits and squirrels from eating them. It, too, has to be re-sprayed after a rain, but it's a lot cheaper than insecticidal soaps, and you probably already have some in your pantry.

Winter Bougainvillea Care

Your bougainvillea will be in full bloom in late winter/earlyspring and fall. As the weather gets cooler and cooler, be sure your bougainvillea has good drainage to prevent possible root rot from having "soggy feet".

Also, make sure it is secured to its trellis, wall, or fence to prevent wind damage. The older canes are thick, hard, and sturdy, but the new wood will be tender and very flexible. They can become broken in high winds.

Wind and freeze damage can be cut away, allowing new growth to emerge. You may want to consider pruning it back a bit — after it finishes blooming, of course. When pruning those larger canes with huge thorns, I often used wire cutters to clip off the thorns on the sections to be removed, then used my pruners or loppers to remove the canes.

Damage From a Hard Freeze

Freeze damage on my neighbor's bougainvillea. This damage can be cut away, allowing new growth to emerge.

Freeze damage on my neighbor's bougainvillea. This damage can be cut away, allowing new growth to emerge.

Protecting Bougainvillea in Freezing Temperatures

In central Florida (Zone 9a), where I lived when I first wrote this article, a hard freeze is considered 4 hours or more, at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Hard freezes there are infrequent, but do happen from time to time. In January, 2018, a hard freeze damaged a lot of plants, including some freestanding bougainvillea; that is, those not protected by a wall or fence, a trellis, or the side of a building.

Mine was planted against a trellis on the wall of our garage, and was protected by that wall, as well as by the eaves of the roof overhang. My neighbor's bougainvillea (shown in the freeze damage photo above) and some hibiscus bushes are in a large planting bed that is in an open area of her backyard. Normally, this is not a problem, but in the event of a prolonged freeze, it leaves these tropical plants quite vulnerable; so they must be covered.

The plant in that photo suffered severe damage but it did survive. Green leaves can be seen on the bottom half of the plant. The dead portions can be always cut away after danger of additional freezing temps has passed. This will allow new growth to emerge at the site of the pruning, and on healthy areas below.

All free-standing tropical plants should be covered if there is a danger of a hard freeze, but DO NOT use plastic bags or sheets of plastic. Anywhere plastic touches the plant, it will be damaged. DO be sure to remove coverings as soon as possible after the sun is shining on the plants. It can get very warm underneath the coverings even if it is still cold outdoors. You don't want your plants to bake under the covering.

Want to Try Rooting a Cutting?

My bougainvillea when it was first planted.

My bougainvillea when it was first planted.

These Vines Are Fast-Growing

I have loved bougainvillea since I first saw one on a trip to San Francisco. When we relocated to Florida, I could finally grow my own. I purchased the one in the photo above about a month after we moved into our new home. Below is a photo of how it looked the day it was planted in late winter of 2013. In less than 12 months, it reached the roof of the house and almost covered the entire wall behind it. It also grew behind the downspout, and as the tender little tendrils became thick, hardened vines, it began to loosen the downspout. That little trellis had to be replaced with three larger and stronger ones in the summer of 2014. Unfortunately, getting it onto those trellises required some pruning, so it was no longer laying on our roof. When it began putting out new growth, I trained it to grow away from the downspout.

This is the first bougainvillea I ever saw. It was growing on a balcony, set against an ominous looking sky in San Francisco.

This is the first bougainvillea I ever saw. It was growing on a balcony, set against an ominous looking sky in San Francisco.

How to Prune Your Bougainvillea

Be forewarned, this gorgeous flowering vine can become quite invasive. I decided to prune mine in the way that a vineyard manager prunes grape vines, but not as severely. After all, it is only the new growth that produces flowers. Take care when pruning a bougainvillea, as it has large, sharp thorns that can cause skin rashes.

Mine was on a wall near my front door, so I couldn't allow it to drift out over the front walk.

  • I removed the lowest branches that wandered across the ground by clipping them at their joint with the main trunk.
  • Whenever possible, I threaded higher branches into the trellis, or behind other branches that were securely trellised.
  • Any that grew out toward the walk that led to our front door, I clipped at the point where the branch left the main trunk, taking care not to scar the trunk.

Do not let anyone tell you that you can simply snip off the ends of the branches to encourage new growth. You will get new growth, but you will be snipping off the flower buds. Bougainvillea blooms only on the tips of new growth. As branches get older, little side shoots will emerge, and they will bloom on their tips, too. This is how larger plants appear to be covered in a solid mass of flowers.

My Favorite Loppers

Dissolve cayenne pepper in warm water, then spray it on plants to discourage pests.

Dissolve cayenne pepper in warm water, then spray it on plants to discourage pests.

Something to Remember

The sap of bougainvillea is mildly toxic. If ingested in large enough amounts, it can lead to illness. While the leaves are not toxic, a prick from the thorns can lead to dermatitis, a skin rash that is typically caused by an allergic reaction.

– Maria Logan Montgomery

Master Gardener

These Vines Grow Quickly, and Must be Managed

Here you can see how this plant gets into soffits and roof shingles if not managed properly.

Here you can see how this plant gets into soffits and roof shingles if not managed properly.

Best Bougainvillea for Pots and Containers

Growing a bougainvillea in a pot isn't that different from growing it in the ground, though if you live where frost is an issue you will have to move any outdoor potted plant indoors during the winter. Some varieties are better than others for pots. Here are some that do well as potted plants:

  • “Miss Alice” (white bracts)
  • “Bambino Baby Sophia” (orange bracts)
  • "Rosenka" and "Singapore Pink" (pink bracts)
  • “La Jolla” and “Crimson Jewel” (red bracts)
  • “Oo-La-La” and “Raspberry Ice” (magenta bracts)
  • “Vera Deep Purple” (purple bracts)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: We just arrived back in the Phoenix area and our Bougainvillea is sad, wilted and no color. What should we do now?

Answer: If I count correctly, you wrote to me in October. That's when they should be blooming like crazy, at least around here, it is. I recommend checking for too much or too little water -- they need good drainage. You could check for pests -- mealy bugs almost killed mine. I'm not familiar with the soils, seasons in Phoenix. It would be a good idea to check with a local master gardener at your local county extension office.

Question: Do I fertilize and cut off leaves and flowers in winter?

Answer: I apologize for being so long in replying. I haven't logged on for quite a while. The spent blooms will drop off when they are done. Fertilize twice per year, in early spring and mid-summer, using a slow-release fertilizer.

Question: I have bougainvillea growing around rebar in a pot -- should I cut out the rebar and plant it for it to thrive?

Answer: I think you are asking if you should plant it in the ground instead of in a pot. It will grow far larger if in the ground. If you have cold winters you will need to keep it potted, but if you're in zone 9, 10, or 11, it should be fine in the ground.

Question: My bougainvillea has faded and looks sick. What can I do to liven it up?

Answer: Bougainvillea blooms twice per year: spring and fall or early winter. The colorful bracts will fade when spent, then will brown and drop to the ground.

Question: Can you propagate Bougainvillea from a cutting?

Answer: I have never tried, but you probably can. You could cut off a small branch. The smaller the better. Wet the cut end, then dip it in rooting medium, then put it into a small pot of good soil. The way I would do it if my plant had a branch close to the ground, is to scrape a little of the bark off the underside of the branch. You can do this with your thumbnail or a small knife. Then press the cut side to the ground, put a little soil over it, and weight it down with a rock or a brick. Give it a few weeks to take root -- a few months if you want lots of good strong roots. After it grows some roots, you can cut it off of the mother plant and relocate it to whatever sunny spot you would like. I do this frequently with azaleas. It works every time. Thanks for reading my article, and for your question.

Question: When pruning Bougainvillea do I cut off the sharp thorns?

Answer: It's not necessary, but I often did when I had a bougainvillea. It made handling the branches I had removed much easier.

Question: Do Bougainvilleas do well in pots?

Answer: They may be fine in large pots, but pots will require two things of you:

1. More frequent watering, as the small amount of soil, will dry out more quickly, especially in hot weather.

2. In a pot, the root ball is surrounded with cold air in winter which makes it more susceptible to freeze damage.

Question: I repotted my bougainvillea a week ago, and it was doing fine. I watered yesterday, and this morning it seems to be either wilted or maybe sun-scorched. I moved it into a more shaded area. How can I save my bougainvilleas?

Answer: Is there any chance there could be air pockets in the soil that are allowing air to be around the roots? You can check this by pressing the soil down with your hands to ensure it is well packed, but not compacted. When you watered it, was there a saucer under the pot to catch the water that ran out the drainage holes? If so, how long was the plant allowed to sit in that water? Thirty minutes is the max to let the pot sit in water. If it is wilted, it may appreciate a short time in the shade, but remember this is a sun-loving plant. It needs good drainage & lots of sunshine.

Question: I have a bougainvillea tree in a large pot, which I bring indoors in the winter. Can I prune it before I bring it indoors?

Answer: Yes, you can. Be sure to remove no more than 1/3 of any branch at any one time. If it needs more than that removed, wait 2 or 3 weeks, then remove a little more.

Question: What soil helps zone 9 purple bougainvillea keep purple?

Answer: All the purple ones I have seen have remained purple. Are the flowers fading from dark purple to light purple, or changing color completely? It could be a lack of nutrients. These plants prefer a slightly acidic soil, so you may want to test the pH of the soil.

Question: I have recently purchased young potted cuttings of bougainvillea. I am in zone 7. How should I care for them over the winter?

Answer: In zone 7, you will need to take them indoors over the winter. They will need at least 6 hours of sun per day, and good drainage.

Question: What is the ratio of water to coffee for fertilizing? You mentioned that you dilute extra coffee.

Answer: I don't recommend any particular ratio. My coffee is not overly strong, so I use it as is. My husband's coffee, on the other hand, is very strong, so I put some water in it -- probably about 50/50.

Question: My indoor plant is wilting. How do I bring it back ?

Answer: It could be needing water, it could be that it has had too much water, or it could be getting too much or too little light. Maybe it needs plant food (fertilizer). If the leaves have turned brown, it needs water and/or fertilizer. On the other hand, if the leaves have turned yellow, it has too much water. You didn't say what type of plant it is. Some need bright, indirect light. Others need low light.

Question: What causes bourgainvillea bracts to dry?

Answer: All flowers and bracts have a short life-span. When spent, they naturally dry out, turn brown, and are dropped.

Question: Can I keep Bougainvillea low growing hedge like?

Answer: Bougainvillea are vines or trained into very small ornamental trees, much like tree-roses. Trying to make a hedge out of a vine would require installation of a lot of supports, as well as constant tying of new growth to the supports; OR a huge amount of pruning. It would be less frustrating to plant something that naturally makes a hedge.

Question: Why do the bougainvillea’s color fade away?

Answer: The color on any plant will fade as the blossoms and bracts age.

Question: Would a bougainvillea grow better in a plastic or terra cotta container?

Answer: Either is fine. If you use plastic, be sure there are some drainage holes in the bottom. All the terra cotta pots I have ever seen already have drainage holes. You may have to water the plant more often in terra cotta, as it is a porous material, so it "breathes" a bit. This can be good if the plant is over-watered. It can be not so good in dry weather, requiring you to water more often. Bougainvillea does require good drainage, so keep that in mind when choosing your container. Enjoy your beautiful plant.

Question: Does bougainvillea graft well onto certain types of trees to adorn an already-hardy-&-mature root system/established tree?

Answer: I've never heard of grafting a bougainvillea onto a tree no matter how mature the tree may be. Be aware that in plant-speak, the word hardy means it can withstand cold temperatures. Do you want the bougainvillea to climb a tree similar to the way wild wisteria does? If so, why not just plant the bougainvillea next to the tree? These vines grow rapidly, and will soon be climbing the tree. It is possible, however, that as the vines grow older and larger (about as big around my wrist) they can damage the tree in a choking fashion.

Question: I live in Flagler County, Florida. it’s mid-February. My bougainvillea has a lot of thorny branches, but not one leaf. Why wouldn't my bougainvillea have more leaves?

Answer: Without more information, it is hard to say. Does your bougainvillea get adequate sunlight? Does it have good drainage? Both are must-haves for it to flourish. When there were leaves, were they bug-eaten? Or did they just turn brown or yellow, and fall off? If they turned yellow, the plan was getting too much water. I'm really sorry I can't provide more of an answer, but I will need more information in order to do so.

Question: I live in a small town by a large lake. I put both bougainvilleas in hanging baskets in my green house for the winter. When I took them out today, one looks great with lots of flowers the other one looks bad, no flowers and a lot of brown bracts should I trim off the brown parts?

Answer: Yes, I would trim off the brown parts. Any chance the brown one got too much water, maybe from a leaky roof or window in the greenhouse? Or maybe not enough sun?

Question: Is bougainvillea poisonous?

Answer: The sap of bougainvillea is mildly toxic. If ingested in large enough amounts, it can lead to illness. While the leaves are not toxic, a prick from the thorns can lead to dermatitis, a skin rash that is typically caused by an allergic reaction.

Question: We live in Hawaii, and I am planting bougainvillea in a large planter box (with good drainage) hopefully to grow up the lattice wall. What kind of soil should we use? I was considering mixing palm/cactus soil with regular potting soil.

Answer: I recommend using regular potting soil. I'm not familiar with cactus soil, and even after living in Florida for 7 years, going to the master gardener's palm school, and working the plant clinics, I have never heard of palm soil. Palms do have specific nutrient requirements. Your bougainvillea requires mainly good rich soil with good drainage, and full sun. It will be beautiful on your lattice.

Question: Is it normal for a bougainvillea to lose all the flowers at once? It is mid December in Yucatan, Mexico.

Answer: I've never seen one lose all the flowers literally at once. They do, however, typically bloom twice per year: spring and fall. They need good drainage and full sun. If those needs are being met, it may need a good fertilizer.

Question: Would a vygie (lampranthus) in anyway hamper the growth of the bougainvillea?

Answer: Both are drought tolerant, so water needs are compatible.

Question: What contrasting drought tolerant shrub pairs well with bougainvillea?

Answer: All shrubs, once established, will survive all but extreme drought. Around here, shrubs grow so very large they would block the view of the beautiful bougainvillea flowers. Also, bougainvillea grows quite large -- I mean really large. When I had one on a trellis, I planted daylilies in front of it because they are drought-tolerant, too, and they grow only about 18-24 inches high. Depending on what zone you are in, you could also use bearded iris, as they are very drought tolerant. Unfortunately, they don't do well here in central Florida because the winters are not cold enough for long enough. I'm just not sure shrubs would be good to plant near a bougainvillea unless you have the free-standing type that has been trained to grow as a small tree -- this type will need constant pruning and shaping, and so would any shrub planted near it.

Question: I pruned back a bed of bougainvillea today at work. Will they bloom back properly? I know the best time is in January.

Answer: Bougainvillea will survive severe pruning, and bloom beautifully again. The timing for when to prune depends on where you live and work. They can be pruned pretty much any time, but the best time is in early spring before the plant has set its flower buds. In January, in central Florida (Zone 9) they have just finished the autumn bloom cycle, so it is a good time for that area.

Question: I have a small tree Bougainvillea. Do all the same rules apply? I'm in San Diego, CA.

Answer: They sure do.

Question: Where can I purchase bougainvilleas ?

Answer: If you live in an area where they can be successfully grown, any good garden center, even the big box stores will have them.

Question: I have my young bougainvillea in a pot, and will bring it inside for the winter. How do I care for it?

Answer: Just be sure it gets full sun (at least 6 hours per day) and that it has good drainage. It doesn't like soggy soil.

© 2014 MariaMontgomery

Your Comments Are Always Welcome

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on September 02, 2020:

Do you mean the roots have grown through cracks in the sides of the pot, or that they have grown through the drainage holes on the bottom of the pot? That will make a big difference in the advice I give you.

Based on what you have told me, I would say, if you break off the pot, you should dig a hole, and put the root ball into the ground. Dig a nice hole that is twice as big around as the pot or root ball. Set the plant a little high in the ground so it will have good drainage. This plant does not like soggy soil.

It would help if you could send me a close-up photo of the pot and roots. If you want to do that , please send it to Good luck with replanting your bougainvillea, and thank you for reading my article.

Luis Montanez on September 02, 2020:

i have a large bougainvillea in a clay pot that is breaking from age. The plant’s roots arr on the ground off the pot, but some of the trunk is within the soil on the pot. Can I just break off the pot and clean the soil from the trunk and let it stay on the ground? Thanks

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on August 14, 2020:

If the plant were in the ground, I would say twice per week is fine (assuming no rain). You didn't say where you are, but I believe I can safely assume that, if you're growing a bougainvillea, you probably live where there are hot summers. Plants grown in pots dry out far more quickly than those in the ground. If you've had a really hot summer, and not enough rain, you should probably be watering more. Just feel the top one inch of soil with your finger. If the top one inch is dry, it's time to water. Withholding water will trigger blooming, but withholding too much will also trigger leaf loss. I fear this may be what has happened. I hope this helps you, and thank you for for reading my article.

WALTER POUNDS on August 14, 2020:

We have a Bouainvillea and is blooming great but all the leaves have fallen off but the blooms are still there. Its watered about twice a week and is in a pot

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on July 27, 2020:

Yes, bone meal is a good source of phosphorous. It's the middle number in the 3 numbers on bags of fertilizer. You just reminded me of an article I meant to write about the 3 numbers, what they mean, and what each of the chemicals are for. Thanks!

Barry Allen on July 24, 2020:

Do Bougainvillea like bone meal fertilizer in order to encourage blooming? I used some organic bone meal for my outdoor potted bougainvillea hoping for blooms in late July. I live in the desert in Las Vegas. Thank you!

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on July 17, 2020:

Root rot is rare in bougainvillea, but it could be root rot caused by too much water. If it is root rot, remove the plant immediately and trash it. Also remove some of the soil and any affected mulch around the base of the plant.

It could also be powdery mildew. This can be treated by spraying it with a fungicide. There are organic ones that are safer to use. Also, any branches with this mildew should be removed and trashed, not composted.

By any chance are the leaves turning pale green or yellow? If you want, you can send me a close-up photo of the bark and leaves at I’ll take a look at it and see if I can think of anything else that might help.

Sally Holmes on July 17, 2020:

Help, my HUGE bougainvillea in Portugal seems to be dying. The bark seems to have mould patches on it ! This time of the year is should be thriving, but the last two weeks it has started going really down hill

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on June 29, 2020:

Typically, with potted plants, a good measure of whether they need water is to put your finger into the soil. If the top 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) is dry, the plant needs water. Bougainvillea, however, prefers to dry out a bit between waterings, and needs good drainage. When your plants are dry, just water thoroughly. If the water runs out the bottom of the pot quickly, be sure to put a plant saucer under it. After about 30 minutes, pour off any remaining water in the saucer. I hope this helps you with those gorgeous plants, and thanks for reading my article.

Ozayr Adam on June 26, 2020:

Hi, I have 2x potted bougeinvillea plants (300mm in diameter) on my balcony which ensure they get enough daily sun. Can you please advise on watering instructions. I am most concerned with how many litres of water i should give these pots and how often i should water them weekly. Information is quite vague online in this regards and its difficult for me to ascertain whether i am over or under watering them

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on June 25, 2020:

This is a tropical plant, so yes, you most definitely should put it in a pot. It needs full sun, so that side of your home is best.

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on May 08, 2020:

Rust is a fungal disease that attacks many plants. Low light or not enough hours per day of sunlight, coupled with high humidity and warm temps encourage rust. You can treat this with a broad-spectrum fungicide. Be sure to rake away any affected leaves that have fallen to the ground as rain and irrigation water will splash the spores back onto your plant, as well as onto neighboring plants. Be sure your irrigation system, if you use one, is not spraying overhead, but close to the ground, and also be sure to water in the early morning hours so the leaves have plenty of time to dry before the evening brings lower temperatures. I hope your bougainvillea perks up.

Paula Stockwell on May 06, 2020:

Why would the leaves start turning brown and rusty looking?

Karen Ryan on May 02, 2020:

My husband takes his trimmer saw every 2 wks or so and "trims" our bougainvillea as if it is a green shrub. It looks hideous and all the blooms are cut off. It started out huge and overgrown when we moved here, but now it looks like a dwarf bush. He will NOT listen to me. He does the same with pentas. Do you EVER trim bushes with flowers on them? I say no. We live in SWFl. We also have a bush with blue flowers, that he just cut down to the ground, even though it was blooming. Please help!!! We are used to flowers in NEPA, where we would cut down the plants right before frost and we had a beautiful garden. I am clueless down here.

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on April 11, 2020:

My experience with bougainvillea is in Zones 9a & 8b. Southwest Florida is in Zone 11a & 11b. I am not sure when the blooming cycles are in your area, but no matter where you are, pruning should be done immediately after blooming. If it had not finished a winter bloom cycle at the time you pruned, it’s possible you could have cut off any flower buds.

You said you added more organic soil & more mulch. Did you remove some old soil before adding more soil? If not, the roots of the plant may now be too deep. The point at which it comes out of the ground should be set slightly higher than the surrounding soil level to encourage better drainage. Deep mulch (about 6 inches) is good except against the trunk of any plant or tree, where it should not be up against the trunk. Keep the mulch fairly thin in the first few inches from the trunk. I hope this helps.

rachel on April 04, 2020:

Help! I live in SW Florida, My bougainvillea is barely flowering. i did a hard trim back in early Feb. which seemed to help a bit. the plants receive about 8 hours of sun, I have cut back on watering, i use coffee grounds 2X a week, bougainvillea food, removed, the juniper around it, added more mulch, more organic soil, but the leaves are all green, and have maybe 6 flowers between 7 bougainvilleas plants. no root rut, drainage is good, no bugs. help!?

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on October 15, 2019:

I just Googled Tomball, Tx, and learned you are in Zone 9a, same as me. I'm not sure why it never bloomed again, but it blooms only twice per year: spring and fall/winter. You should never leave it in the pot it came in if you are putting it in the ground, so I'm glad you didn't. It does need well drained soil, and full sun. Wait and see if it blooms around November or December. They seem to have more flowers and colorful bracts then than they do in the spring. Good luck with it. If you have time, let me know how it does.

Carnell M Hight on October 11, 2019:

I live in Texas, Tomball, Tx 77375 I believe zone 9 not sure if it is zone a or b, Anyway I planted my Bougainvillea about 6 months ago. All blooms fell off and never bloomed again. I did plant my Bougainvillea in the ground and did not know it was best to leave in the the pot it came in . Well I think the Bougainvillea in one of the most beautiful plants I have ever seen. Please help. Thank you.

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on August 24, 2019:

Bougainvillea is prolific in any warm climate, and will flower year after year. Of course, it performs best if it is happy: good soil, good drainage, full sun. on August 23, 2019:

why is it that in kenya bougainvillea produces flower after years

Sonia on May 28, 2019:

I have No pink flowers left on my bougainvillea, we are towards the end of spring in Texas. Do we know why this is happened?

AnnieG on April 16, 2019:

We live in Phoenix, AZ and have grown bougainvillea before, however, in our new home we'd love to plant Miss Alice (the dwarf white thornless variety) but cannot find it in any nursery. Does the white variety not do well in the AZ summers?

Kathy Green on April 04, 2019:

I bought my bogainvelia from home depot in January 2019; it had beautiful hot pink almost red looking blooms all over it. I live in southwest Florida and had planted 2 bogainvelia plants last year. I was told to water them everday in the summer. I did that and fertilized every 8 weeks. They only grew maybe a foot taller if that lost all bracts and flowers but got a lot of new growth leaves only. I still have them planted in full sun and they bloom some of the time. They are still alive but some branches are only getting new growth on the ends. Should I cut the branch way back it has no other branches extending from it. My newly planted bogainvelia of about 10 weeks already lost almost all its blooms. I am paranoid about the watering because I think I watered too much on my older ones. We have sandy soil so I add compost with cow manure and bogainvelia fertilizer. I dig down in the soil around it to try and ascertain if it is damp enough. I cannot tell because the soil always feels damper a little deeper but how do I know how often to water? How many months is considered well established? Thank you for your help!

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on December 20, 2018:

Bougainvillea typically stay true to color, unlike hydrangea which change with the pH of the soil. Has yours faded in color, or changed in some other way? If so, please let me know, and I will research this for you. If you want, you can e-mail me at and send a photo of your plant. Thanks so much for reading my article.

Georgia l Munson on December 19, 2018:

I'm in Zone 9 .

Arizona. I love deep purple bougainvillea. What is the a good additives for the soil to keep it purple.?

Carol on December 04, 2018:

Don't worry if your newly planted bougie is stuck in neutral. We live in the desert southwest and our vine bougie dropped all its leaves within a month of planting and looked almost dead for about 2 years! We were thinking of pulling it up and trying some other type of vine. Then, all of a sudden it turned into a beast! It grows new branches overnight and is taller than our roof! So, be patient and give the roots time to settle in and get established.

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on August 27, 2018:

Do you mean underneath the root ball? If you have poor drainage, that would be a good idea. You could also plant it a tiny bit high, so the soil slopes away from it. If you mean on top of the soil around the plant, please don't do that. Rocks get really hot in the summer. They also are heavy and contribute to soil compaction which makes it difficult for roots to draw oxygen from the soil. Thanks for visiting my article.

Natalie on August 24, 2018:

Is it a good idea to put some small river rocks at the base of my bougainvillea?

Nazia on July 11, 2018:

I haveVera deep purple I want to transfer it in big pot

N. on April 13, 2018:

What is the lowest temperature at night that BOUGAINVILLEA still tolerate? I live in NC, took plant inside for winter. Want to take it out outside, when can i do it?

Sarbari Sarkar on August 31, 2017:

I have a great variety of bougainvillea plants, including purple, orange,peach and lots of other shades. I just love them.... wonderful colours,no maintenance to speak of,just lots of sunshine.

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on May 12, 2017:

I write a garden blog called "In the Garden with Maria". On it I answer my readers' gardening questions. Here's the link to one entitled, "Why Won't My Bougainvillea Bloom?" I hope you enjoy it, and that it helps. You can also reach the blog by clicking on the source name under the intro photo on this hub. Thanks for visiting, and good luck with your bougainvillea.

Debby on May 08, 2017:

I have 2 bougainvillea that have never bloomed. I have tried what I think to be everything. Should I throw them out and start over again? They are in the ground and I fertilize with the right stuff, but still nothing. So bummed!

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on April 05, 2017:

In Atlanta you will need to grow Bougainvillea in a large pot that can be taken indoors during winter. When I lived in Charlotte NC, I visited Key West where I bought a bougainvillea from a woman who assured me it would survive the winter if it became established before winter arrived. That was definitely not true.

Carla on April 03, 2017:

Will these grow year round in the south (Atlanta)?

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on May 26, 2015:

You're welcome. So glad you enjoyed my article. Thanks for visiting.

Thelma Alberts from Germany on May 25, 2015:

I love bougainvillea. I have some of these flowers in my tropical garden which is in my home country Philippines. I wish I have that purple bougainvillea too. Thanks for sharing some informations about this beautiful plant.

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on February 14, 2015:

You would probably need to grow it in a large pot, then move it indoors in temps below 40 degrees. Maybe even below 50 degrees if it is not in a protected area such as against a wall. It would be a lot of trouble, but well worth it if you love prolific flowers. Let me know if you try it.

Gregory Jones from IL on February 13, 2015:

I landscaped in Florida for about 10 years and love the large varieties of color of bougainvillea. I wish we could grow it up here in IL year 'round.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 13, 2015:

This is a tough one to grow in our neck of the woods. I've seen it done, but it sure takes a lot of care. We are just too cool and damp here....but I would love to grow one successfully.

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on February 13, 2015:

I love them, too, BigMarble. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they would grow everywhere?

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on September 19, 2014:

Hi, Paula! I first saw them, and fell in love, too, in San Francisco. Then again in Key West. I'm so glad I can grow them now.

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on September 19, 2014:

The best times are in between bloom cycles. Mine is just now beginning to put out new growth. If it were to be pruned now, it would lose all the flower buds that will soon be coming. I suggest waiting until it has finished blooming. Of course, if is has grown too large, you could selectively remove some of the canes. I don't remember whether I covered this in the article, but if the thorns are a huge problem for you, take a pair of wire cutters, and clip off the thorns so you can safely handle the branches.

Paula Atwell from Cleveland, OH on September 16, 2014:

We don't have these in our area, but I fell in love with them when I visited my sister in LA. So, so very beautiful. :)

Audrey Howitt from California on September 16, 2014:

Well, I had been wondering how to trim my plant and you answered that question--I wonder if it matters when I clip it??

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on July 10, 2014:

@burntchestnut: I need to add orange to my list of colors for this plant. Do you know whether it comes in any other colors I didn't mention? Thank you for the squidlike and comment. Both are appreciated. See you around Squidoo.

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on July 10, 2014:

@tracy-arizmendi: Thank you, Tracy1973. I think they are almost gone now, but the plant still has to recover. It has lots of stripped leaves. Thanks for the squidlike and for the nice comment.

Tracy Arizmendi from Northern Virginia on July 08, 2014:

Great article! Very informative and well written. I hope you have gotten rid of those pesky caterpillars!

burntchestnut on July 08, 2014:

I live in San Antonio and there are bougainvilleas everywhere and in many colors.