How to plant and grow bougainvillea

How to plant and grow bougainvillea

If you're looking for a hardy tropical vine with lots of color, you've found it. Bougainvillea plants are tough as nails, including their nail-like spines. These plants put on a stunning display of color in the spring on their new growth. If you are considering planting bougainvillea in your garden, make sure you allow it plenty of room to spread and grow; Some varieties reach 40 feet.

What many people think of as bougainvillea flowers are not actually flowers at all. The showy, paper-like structures are a modified leaf called bract. These bracts hide the actual flowers inside, which are small, trumpet-shaped, white and yellow. The showy bracts are usually found on new growth, with an even more showy display after winter dormancy. Typically, you will see the best blooms after a dry winter.

Infernal overview

Genus name Infernal
Common name Infernal
Plant type vine
a light sun
to rise 8 to 20 feet
an offer 10 to 40 feet
Flower color Orange, pink, purple, red, white, yellow
Color of foliage Blue green
Season features Autumn bloom, spring bloom, summer bloom
Special features Attracts birds, good for containers, low maintenance
Regions 10, 11, 9
Spread Stem cuttings
Problem solvers Drought tolerant

Where to grow bougainvillea

Bougainvilleas are tropical plants that thrive in hot, dry climates. In areas cooler than zone 9, they are grown as annuals or container plants. In the garden, plant this woody climber next to a fence or provide a trellis or other support.

Ed Golish

How and when to plant bougainvillea

In the garden, plant these South American natives 6 to 9 feet apart in well-drained soil and away from other plants to give them room to grow. Since there are sharp thorns, locate them several feet away from a walkway or other activity area. Plant bougainvillea in the garden in spring or summer, giving the plant time to develop a strong root system before cold weather.

Bougainvillea care tips

a light

Bougainvillea needs a lot of sun. Some varieties can handle part sun but will not perform well in full sun. In less than full sun, plants will be sparser and the flower display will be less dramatic, if any at all. On the other hand, keeping your bougainvillea in full sun will keep your plant thriving.

Soil and water

If you are planting bougainvillea in the ground, make sure the soil is well-drained; They don't like to stay wet for long. This plant likes to be dry, so water it deeply every three or four weeks rather than frequently. If you haven't had a large display of flowers recently, try giving your plant a dry period by withholding water. This can sometimes trick your plants into a dormant period and stimulate flowering.

If you are using bougainvillea as an indoor houseplant, plant it in moist, well-drained soil and keep the plants dry over the winter.

Temperature and humidity

In the garden, this plant does best when the temperature is at least 60 degrees F, and will tolerate temperatures up to 95 degrees F. It thrives in dry conditions.

When grown as a houseplant, bougainvillea likes high humidity of about 50 percent during the flowering period and lower humidity during the winter.


Bougainvillea is a heavy feeder. Fertilize the plant monthly during the active growing season. Scrape granular fertilizer into the soil and water well. If you cannot find a designated bougainvillea fertilizer, use a general purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer.


If your plants grow out of control, pruning and maintenance are best done in the fall before a new growth cycle. You can also prune tall stems periodically as needed throughout the year.

Pests and problems

The biggest threat to bougainvillea plants in the garden is the aptly named bougainvillea caterpillar. This one-inch-long caterpillar feeds on the plant's leaves, making them appear ragged. You probably won't see this pest because when you touch the plant, the larvae fall to the ground. If you see leaves that have been chewed, you can treat the plant with a control such as Bacillus Thuringiensis.

Infernal training

When searching for a home for your bougainvillea, consider how you plan to train it. These hardy-growing plants can quickly take over a wall or garden area, but can be trained and maintained to suit a desired environment. Bougainvillea can also be used in containers and trained as a shrub or sprawling ground cover.

Due to the woody nature of bougainvillea and its vigorous growth, these plants lend themselves to manipulation in various ways. Most common, especially in tropical areas where the plants are hardy, is to allow these plants to climb walls and trellises. This is the simplest way to display the gorgeous blooms of bougainvillea.

They can also be used in hanging baskets with minimal care. Since these plants do not have tendrils, they take some convincing, but no training is required as a hanging basket plant.

Types of infernal

The infernal “Barbara Karst.”

Jeffrey Ricus

Infernal 'Barbara Karst' is a particularly popular variety with large clusters of red bracts throughout the summer and fall. Climbs to 40 feet. Zones: 9-11

The infernal “California Gold”.

Denny Schrock

Infernal 'California Gold' is one of the best-performing yellow-flowering bougainvillea varieties. It begins blooming at an early age and produces intermittent warm yellow bracts throughout the year. It climbs to 30 feet. Zones: 9-10

'Juanita Hatan' Bougainvillea

Denny Schrock

Infernal 'Juanita Hatten' offers bold fuchsia-pink flowers in summer and green, gold-speckled leaves. It rises to 20 feet.

Zones: 9-10

The infernal “Sundown Orange.”

Denny Schrock

Infernal 'Sundown Orange' offers bracts that start out deep orange, fade to coral, and mature to salmon pink. It blooms in summer and reaches a height of 20 feet.

Zones: 9-11

Frequently asked questions

  • Can bougainvillea be trained as topiary plants?

    Bougainvillea plants make wonderful plants. Because they are fast-growing, it is easy to create tall topiary plants with minimal effort. On a smaller scale, bougainvillea can make stunning bonsai specimens, but they require relentless pruning over several years.

  • How can I encourage more blooms on my bougainvillea?

    In general, the plant thrives best in direct sunlight and short days, which you may not be able to control. However, you can increase flowering by planting bougainvillea in well-drained soil, watering it infrequently, fertilizing sparingly, and pinching off tips to encourage new growth.

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