There are few more magnificent blooming vines, much like the bougainvillea. This popular, tropical landscaping plant offers endless cascading blooms, which come in a range of shades and colours.
Ideal for the Australian climate and easy to keep happy, bougainvillea’s are the perfect option for a simple, striking garden plant. Easy to care for, easy to grow.
Here is everything you need to know about bougainvillea plants.
What is Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea plants form part of the Nyctaginaceae family and are popular ornamental vines that thrive in warm conditions.
Native to South American regions, including Brazil and Peru, these plants produce colourful sepal-like bracts that surround three simple waxy flowers. Often, these bracts are mistaken as the bougainvillea flower. However, the colourful elements of this species are, in fact, part of the foliage.
Bougainvilleas have become a popular garden plant, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. In the right conditions, these plants will produce incredible inflorescence as much as 11 months of the year.
Depending on the variety, this inflorescence will be blue, mauve, pink, yellow, red and even white.
Many gardeners choose to grow bougainvilleas:
- Along a trellis or wall.
- In pots or hanging baskets.
- As a hedge.
- As ground cover.
- As a tree.
- As a bonsai.
There are a lot of types of bougainvillea plants. So, before making your purchase be sure to find out the shape, size and colour of your potential plant. This way, you can ensure you’re buying the right cultivar for what you want.
Here are a few of our favourite varieties:
- Bougainvillea ‘Gold Rush’. This variety is great for growing along a trellis or wall or as a bougainvillea ground cover. It produces light, almost golden blooms.
- Bougainvillea ‘White Stripe’. This pearl coloured bougainvillea is a stunning summer annual, which can offer an elegant touch to your garden.
- Bougainvillea ‘Cherry Blossom’. A striking variety, with gentle pink-tipped flowers. Ideal for hanging baskets.
- Bougainvillea ‘Purple Queen’. If a pop of colour is what you’re looking for, this is an ideal option. With deep plum coloured flowers, this bougainvillea will make a statement.
- Bougainvillea ‘Barbara Karst’. Another great cultivar to grow along with patios or a trellis, this variety is water-wise and evergreen in warmer climates.
How to Grow Bougainvillea
Especially in the Australian climate, bougainvillea plants are incredibly easy to grow. The most important part of bougainvillea growth is ensuring that your plant gets plenty of sunlight.
Ideally, you’ll want to grow your bougainvillea hedge or plant in full sun, south-facing spot. These plants need a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight to produce a plentiful bloom.
Should it not be provided with the right level of sun, your bougainvillea flowers will lack a distinct brightness. This can be a common issue when growing bougainvillea in pots. Even indoors, you’ll need to ensure enough daily, direct sunlight.
Bougainvillea plants prefer well-draining, slightly acidic soil. It is often recommended, especially when growing bougainvillea in pots, to spruce the soil with a mix of sand, peat moss or perlite.
Check out our review on the best soils for pots.
The ideal soil PH range is between 5.5 and 6.0. To keep your soil at the right acidity level, you can always add limestone or sulphur to the soil from time to time.
The easiest way to get your hands on a healthy growing bougainvillea is to purchase a smaller plant from your local garden centre. This way, you can also ensure you’re choosing the right cultivar you’re looking for.
Propagating bougainvillea from a cutting is possible but can be incredibly difficult to get right. You would need to:
- Remove a smaller shoot from a healthy, blooming bougainvillea during the spring.
- Your cutting should be around 8 centimetres in length.
- Dip the cutting into a rooting hormone, and plant into a rich compost mix to root.
- Keep your cutting in a sheltered, warm and humid spot.
Again, this method may not always result in success.
If you’ve purchased your bougainvillea plants from a local nursery, you will need to prepare the planting site before you start.
Here is what you’ll need for planting bougainvillea:
- Nourish the soil of the planting site with a high-phosphate fertiliser. Simply mix into the soil.
- Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball. Ensure that the soil is loose and moist.
- Remove the root ball from the bag and gently tousle the roots loose.
- Plant into the hole and backfill. Gently press onto the top of the soil to remove any air pockets.
- Water thoroughly directly after planting.
If you’re planning on growing a bougainvillea hedge, you can simply line a few bougainvillea plants into a row. Connect these plants with a few horizontal wires, onto which the vines will be able to creep, connecting your hedge.
Bougainvillea Care Guide
Once established, bougainvillea plants are fairly easy to care for. However, it is important to note that bougainvillea plants are prolific growers, so a little maintenance may be required to keep your garden looking well kept.
When it comes to water, you can be incredibly sparing. Bougainvilleas are drought tolerant plants and don’t do well with wet feet; as such, you’ll only want to give them a deep watering every 3 to 4 weeks. Allow at least the first 5 centimetres of soil to dry out between watering.
Fertiliser can be added annually during the spring. This will encourage bushy growth and a wealth of bloom. Be sure to choose a balanced, slow-release, high-phosphorus fertiliser.
If you're growing your bougainvillaea in pots and live in a region with a particularly cold region, it may be advisable to move your pots into a sheltered location during the winter. Most healthy plants will be able to tolerate conditions around 2°C in winter.
Pruning will be the most important part of your bougainvillea care. Done at the end of the flowering season, pruning is the best way to force a bountiful bloom and control shape and size.
When pruning, be sure to:
- Use a pair of gloves. Not only does the bougainvillea have thorny stems, but the sap from the stems can cause rashes for some people. Rather protect yourself with a good pair of gardening gloves.
- Sterilize Your Shears. Before cutting, be sure to clean your shears to protect your bougainvillea from any potential disease. (Here is our review on the Best Garden Shears for 2021)
- Cut Back A Bit. Your plants won’t have an issue if you get a little excited with your shears. When pruning, cut back as much as 1/3 of the stems.
These plants don’t often have issues unless the conditions are unfavourable. As long as you’re ensuring enough sun and that your soil is draining, your plants should be fairly happy.
Why Does My Bougainvillea Have Pale leaves?
Drab and pale leaves are often a sign of overwatering. Again, these plants are privy to wet feet. So, make sure your soil is draining in between watering. Alternatively, regularly test your soil with a soil moisture meter.
Why Are These Bugs on My Bougainvillea?
An insect infestation can lead to mottled growth of the bougainvillea flower. The culprits are usually scale insects, aphids or spider mites. Consider using a natural insecticide or neem oil to treat this issue.
Wrapping Up Our Bougainvillea Growing Guide
Always ensure your bougainvillea is getting all of the sunlight it needs. Check on your soil occasionally, making sure the moisture level is right, and don’t forget to prune when needed.
Follow these tips, and you’ll have plenty of brilliantly blooming bougainvillea’s almost year-round.