The Bougainvillea is known for its lavish display of vibrant bracts showering the vine during the summer months. The species does better in warmer climates but can be planted in pots and brought indoors in colder temperatures.

Tiny flowers hide inside husks or bracts of a paper texture in varied colors, with the classic shade being magenta. While the bracts are approximately an inch in size, the spade-shaped foliage is roughly three inches, with woody, stiff vines saturated with oversized thorns.

The standard species can grow to 20 feet depending on the Bougainvillea care and conditions; USDA zones 9-11 are the hardiest zones.

Tips On Adding Bougainvillea to Your Garden

Bougainvillea is suited to tropical landscapes, but it can also be a container plant taken indoors in cooler climates. The dwarf species makes a brilliant variety for hanging pots, and some gardeners train the vine as a bonsai.

The stiff stems are unique to this vine variety. When regularly trimmed, they create an almost hedge-like barrier, ideal for a privacy plant growing along a wall on a property line.

How to grow

The best time to plant Bougainvillea is when the threat of frost has passed in the spring. The vine’s roots are extremely brittle and sensitive, making it necessary to be gentle with planting. The hole should be double the size of the root ball and as deep.

For rocky or sandy soil, a small amount of compost can be used or create a slight mound for planting to provide drainage if that’s a problem. Go here for guidance on growing Bougainvillea.

Providing care and maintenance

For roughly the first two years, Bougainvillea should be watered weekly for strong roots. When planted in pots, watering will be consistent throughout the plant’s lifespan, approximately every few days, depending on the temperature.

When flowering stops in the fall, the vine can be trimmed back to control its growth. If that’s not a concern, pruning is not necessary. Bougainvillea can withstand a slight frost.

The leaves will likely fall, and the top growth could die. In the winter, heavily mulching the roots is recommended to prevent freezing.

Any dead portions should be removed in early spring to encourage new growth. If properly cared for, the Bougainvillea will sprout well-established plants even following a frost.

Potted plants kept indoors for the winter should be situated in a sunny location with only minimal water. The leaves will likely fall but will come back when taken outdoors in the spring.

Learn bougainvillea care by visiting

Exposure to pests and disease

When cared for properly, Bougainvillea has few problems with pests or disease. Fungal problems can occur, such as “leaf spot” with excessive irrigation or soil lacking drainage. When plants are overly fertilized, a greater chance of sucking insects could occur such as aphids and white flies.

The recommended control techniques for these pests include either insecticidal soap or horticultural oil for serious infestations.

Toxicity and bougainvillea

The bougainvillea vine produces a sap considered mildly toxic for companion pets. This can come from a prick from one of the large thorns. The foliage is not toxic. The pet’s response will either be an allergic reaction or a skin infection, making it necessary to pay attention if pets play near the plant.

For humans, these vines are not considered to be poisonous and are not toxic if ingested. A person’s body can withstand the thorn’s jab, while an animal such as a dog or cat will have symptoms showing signs of a mild illness.

Sun and heat exposure

Bougainvillea loves the sun and heat. They should be planted in full sun with exposure for at least six hours each day. The vine can tolerate extreme temperatures. Under these conditions, a bougainvillea will produce the most bracts or “flowers” more abundantly.

If planted in a pot in cooler climates, the plant should be brought indoors before the first frost. It should be placed where it receives the most heat and sun with minimum water.

If your Bougainvillea is sparsely blooming or appears thin, it needs more heat and sunlight.

Final Thought

The Bougainvillea is a rather hardy species with showy bracts that many believe to be flowers. In fact, the little white or yellow trumpet-shaped flowers hide inside the vibrant papery bracts in all their glorious colors. These low-maintenance vines do best in tropical locations.

Still, gardeners in cooler climates can take advantage of its beauty by planting it in hanging baskets or pots and keeping it indoors before the frost hits. The plant grows vigorously and, with proper training, can be manipulated into a shrub, tree, or even a bonsai.

The vine promotes a healthy ecosystem with nectar-rich flowers that draw pollinators aside from diversifying the garden and adding stunning visual appeal.

Luke Johnson