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How to Care for Bougainvillea Plants

By J. Lang Wood
Bougainvillea comes in a variety of colors.

Bougainvillea is one of the most popular plants both in the South, where it blooms all year long, and in the northern half of the United States, where it is a prolific bloomer in spring and summer. A native of the Brazilian coast, bougainvillea was introduced to the rest of the world by a French botanist who named that plant after his friend, Captain Louis de Bougainville. The plant produces bracts of orange, red, purple and magenta flowers on woody vines that can be trained to follow walls or pruned into topiary designs. Its low maintenance makes it a favorite with gardeners everywhere.

How to Care for a Bouganvillea Plant

Plant your bougainvillea in a sunny location. This plant needs at least five hours of full sun each day, according to Bougainvillea Growers International. If you live in a northern environment, make sure your indoor bougainvillea sits in a sunny window and move it outdoors in warm seasons to take full advantage of summer light. If grown outdoors, night temperatures should stay above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In northern climates, plants should be brought into a garage or sheltered storage area when temperatures drop.

Water bougainvillea sparingly. Though water needs depend on environmental conditions, bougainvillea is by nature drought tolerant. Once established, it needs little additional water as long as there is occasional rain. Do not allow it to get bone dry, however, as this will cause foliage and bracts to drop off. Do not allow the plant to sit in water. Good drainage is essential for bougainvillea to keep blooming. When grown in pots, make sure there are holes for drainage.

Feed bougainvillea carefully. Bougainvillea are known for their thin and delicate root systems. Use a balanced fertilizer with iron and other micronutrients to strengthen the root system. Timed release fertilizers are a good choice for bougainvillea plants because small amounts of the nutrients are available to the plant constantly. Feed the plant regularly during heavy growing seasons according to package directions. Reduce feedings by half during cool weather.

Prune bougainvillea as needed. You can prune bougainvillea at any time to prevent it from encroaching on other plants or other areas. Pinching back the soft tips with allow the plant to grow fuller and bloom more.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Pot, trellis or stakes
  • Water
  • Slow release fertilizer
  • Pruning shears

Tips

  • Bougainvillea can be planted in hanging baskets, staked in 1- to 3-gallon pots, trained as a tree, and on trellises or along walls.
  • Bougainvillea should be treated as a summer annual in northern climates.
  • In the South, bougainvillea can be used as a groundcover, trellis plant, hedge or cascading planter item.

Warnings

  • Do not put saucers under potted bougainvillea plants. The roots should not sit in water.
  • Caterpillars, aphids and mites can be a problem. Consult your local nursery center for proper pesticides for your area.