Bougainvillea Plant

Bougainvillea isn’t your typical houseplant—in its wild , it’s a sprawling climber and shrub with formidable thorns, often found on the outside of buildings (like climbing up a trellis or over a fence) or in gardens in subtropical-to-tropical climates. Native to South America, bougainvillea was named in honor of Louis Antoine de Bougainville, a sailor and explorer during the late 1700s. Best planted within the spring, bougainvillea may be a quick grower, often adding quite 36 inches long per annum . It’s known for its green foliage and vibrant pink, purple, and orange hues that the majority people assume are the plant’s flowers—however, they’re actually petal-like bracts that hide bougainvillea’s true blooms, which are typically Pieris rapae or yellow buds.

If you don’t sleep in a warm enough climate to successfully grow bougainvillea outdoors year-round, you’re in luck—the shrub is surprisingly easy to grow indoors in containers or pots and may thrive if the proper conditions are maintained.

Botanical name Bougainvillea
Common nameBougainvillea, lesser bougainvillea, paper flower
Plant typePerennial shrub 
Mature size15–40 ft. tall, 15–40 ft. wide (outdoors); 2–6 ft. tall, 1–3 ft. wide (indoors)
Sun exposureFull sun
Soil type Moist but well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom timeSpring, summer, fall
Flower colorPink, purple, red, yellow
Hardiness zones 9–11 (USDA)
Native areaSouth America
ToxicityMildly toxic to pets

Watch Now: the way to Grow a Bougainvillea Indoors

overhead view of bouganvillea plant

Bougainvillea Care

Despite its showy nature, bougainvillea isn’t a very high-maintenance plant. The vine-y shrub typically blooms 3 times a year once established, often going dormant and losing its leaves, bracts, and flowers during the cooler winter months. It prospers best in tropical or semi-tropical environments, and can therefore require much water and sunlight whether planted indoors or outdoors.

Bougainvillea must be trimmed to take care of its shape, but an excessive amount of aggressive pruning of latest growth will reduce bloom color. the simplest approach is to prune within the fall after the season is complete therefore the plant will bloom from next season’s new growth.


Bougainvillea plants are lovers of sunlight and wish full daily exposure so as to thrive. due to this, many growers prefer to move their potted bougainvillea outdoors during the summer months so as to make sure it gets enough rays. During the winter months (or if choosing to stay your plant indoors full-time), choose a sunny spot near an enormous window and consider rotating your plant throughout the house because the day progresses to urge it enough light. Another important note: the color saturation of your bougainvillea relates to what proportion sunlight it gets—more light equals brighter hues.


When it involves soil, bougainvillea plants thrive during a moist but well-drained potting mix that’s slightly acidic (between a 5.5 and 6.0 pH level). Top your mixture with compost to make sure an upscale , nutritious soil, and choose a pot with a minimum of one drainage hole within the base to lower the danger of plant disease.


Keep your plant evenly moist during the spring, summer, and fall months, and nearly dry in winter (bougainvillea blooms better with drier winter conditions). Water your bougainvillea to saturation, then let the primary inch approximately of soil dry out before watering again. an excessive amount of water can cause overly green growth and eventually root rot; insufficientand therefore the plant can wilt.

Temperature and Humidity

Bougainvillea may be a relatively hardy plant, ready to withstand a variety of temperatures, from tropical highs of 80 degrees Fahrenheit and above, all the way right down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. That being said, for your bougainvillea to really thrive indoors, maintain temperatures around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. thanks to its tropical origins, humidity is useful, too—spritzing the plant with water isn’t necessary, but if your house is particularly dry alittle humidifier near your bougainvillea can help.


Bougainvillea requires tons of nutrition to supply blooms throughout the season, especially indoors (where most plants are less likely to bloom as frequently). For the simplest chance at a successfully full plant, feed your bougainvillea every seven to 10 days employing a weak liquid fertilizer. There are several fertilizer blends specifically geared toward bougainvillea on the market, but one formulated for other tropical plants, like hibiscus, can work too.

Is Bougainvillea Toxic?

While not dangerously toxic, the sap of bougainvillea is understood to cause a light reaction in both pets and youngsters if ingested in large enough quantities. additionally, the plant possesses sharp thorns throughout its shrubbery, which may cause scratches or skin irritation.

Symptoms of Poisoning

  • If your child or pet has ingested the sap of bougainvillea and is experiencing any nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, contact a doctor immediately.
  • If a person or pet comes in touch with the thorns bougainvillea and experiences painful itching, stinging, or burning skin, or notices any blisters or sores, contact a doctor immediately.

Potting & Repotting

When choosing a vessel to plant your bougainvillea in, always choose a bigger size than you think that you would like. Bougainvillea spreads rapidly and, in suitable environments, will quickly grow into small trees or large shrubs several feet high. to stay things manageable in containers, control the plant’s growth with yearly repotting and root pruning within the spring. Once the plant is large enough, aim to repot it every two years.

Common Pests & Diseases

Outdoors, bougainvillea can experience a couple of pests, most notably bougainvillea looper caterpillar, which feeds on the leaves of the plant. However, when indoors, you’ll want to stay an eye fixed out for mealybugs, a standard indoor pest. Mealybugs appear most frequently on the stems and leaves of a plant, identifiable by the fuzzy, white mass they create as they group together. Mealybugs feed off of latest growth, eventually damaging the leaves and causing them to yellow and die. To rid your bougainvillea of mealybugs, treat it with neem oil weekly until they’ve died off.

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