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How to Get Bougainvillea to Bloom

By Jay Golberg ; Updated September 21, 2017

The bougainvillea is a thorny plant that thrives in hot and humid conditions. The flower is small and white but it is surrounded by colorful bracts that may be a vibrant pink, purple, yellow or orange depending on the type. Bougainvilleas produce long unruly stems that can grow 20 feet or more in its native range. The plant is appropriate as a container plant anywhere in the United States, but where there are freezing temperatures in winter, it will need protection. The most common problem with bougainvilleas is a lack of flower production. Bougainvilleas must be located in full sun with no shade for flower production to occur.

Plant bougainvillea in a pot that is no more than 2 inches in diameter larger than the root base of the bougainvillea in its current point. The bougainvillea plant prefers to have the roots crowded, so growing in a pot is recommended. However, do not allow the roots to encircle the root ball. If this happens, cut the roots off that are encircling or girdling the root ball before planting.

Cover drain holes in the pot with small pebbles or rock chips so the potting soil cannot pack down and clog the drain holes. Bougainvilleas need good drainage.

Add potting soil and plant the bougainvillea in the pot at the same level it was in the nursery pot or previous planting location.

Fertilize with fertilizer labeled specifically for hibiscus plants, because hibiscus fertilizer contains more potassium than other fertilizers and will help the plant produce new blooms. Use the exact amount specified on the fertilizer container label according to your pot size. Water well after adding fertilizer so the fertilizer does not sit on top of the soil, as this can damage the shallower roots.

Cut back all limbs by one third after planting and after every bloom period. Bougainvilleas bloom on new wood, so you want the plant to generate new wood several times during the growing season. This step is difficult after watching your plant grow, but it must be done to produce new blooms.


Things You Will Need

  • Garden shears or scissors
  • Potting soil
  • Flower pot
  • Hibiscus fertilizer
  • Small pebbles or rock chips


  • Bougainvilleas prefer to be on the dry side, so water when dry, but don't let the plant completely wilt for long periods of time.

About the Author


Jay Golberg is a certified Texas nursery professional and professional project manager. He has 30 years of business and farming experience and holds bachelor's degrees in English writing from St. Edward's University and finance from Lamar University.