How to Plant Bougainvillea Outdoors


In spite of its brilliant show-stopping blooms, bougainvillea is surprisingly easy to get along with and, once planted, makes few demands. Bougainvillea, native to South America, is especially suited to hot, dry climates where it will often bloom for much of the year. To take best advantage of this fast-growing color explosion, plant bougainvillea where it can sprawl over a fence or arbor. Bougainvillea is hardy to USDA Zones 9 to 11. In cooler climates, bougainvillea will come back after being nipped from a light frost, but won't tolerate a hard freeze.

Step 1

Prepare a spot where bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp) will be exposed to full sunlight all day. Select a spot where the soil drains well.

Step 2

Dig a hole at least twice as large as the bougainvillea's root ball. Remove the plant from the nursery container, and place it in the hole. Adjust the soil in the bottom of the hole if necessary, so that the top of the roots is even with or slightly higher than the surface of the soil.

Step 3

Backfill the hole with the same soil until the hole is approximately two-thirds full. Fill the hole with water and allow it to drain, then finish filling the hole with soil.

Step 4

Water the bougainvillea regularly during the first growing season, and don't allow the roots to dry out. Once the plant is established, bougainvillea will tolerate dry periods, but will do best if the soil isn't allowed to dry completely. Water the plant deeply, then water again when the soil feels slightly dry.

Step 5

Fertilize bougainvillea in early spring with a balanced granular fertilizer with a ratio such as 10-10-10. Apply the fertilizer according to the instructions on the fertilizer package. Repeat in mid-summer.

Step 6

Prune bougainvillea in autumn after summer blooming has ended.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid planting bougainvillea near swimming pools or playgrounds, as the thorns are sharp enough to pierce bare skin.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Balanced granular fertilizer


  • Clemson University: Bougainvillea
  • Floridata: Bougainvillea spp
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Shrubs: Functions, Planting, and Maintenance
Keywords: plant bougainvillea outdoors, plant a bougainvillea, plant bougainvillea vine

About this Author

M.H. Dyer is a long-time writer, editor and proofreader. She has been a contributor to the East-Oregonian Newspaper and See Jane Run magazine, and is author of a memoir, “The Tumbleweed Chronicles, a Sideways Look at Life." She holds an Master of Fine Arts from National University, San Diego.