Gordon Braswell is a retired nursery owner who specialized in Bougainvilleas. His purpose for developing a wonderful website on his specialty of bougainvillea was to provide enough information about this wonderful plant so that anyone interested in growing it will have the necessary knowledge to be successful.  In a communication with Gordon, he stated

 "I wouldn't be surprised if my web host folded any day now since they have loaded the pages with useless ads ---  I would be disappointed if the Information about bougainvilleas would be lost.  So incorporate as you see fit.  You have my permission. "


INTRODUCTION:  One of the beauties of bougainvilleas is the way they show off their blooms (acutally, their bracts). In this tutorial, I will strive to give useful information about growing bougainvillea so that you may enjoy this wonderful flowering vine.

Bougainvillea Bloom Season in North America

Bougainvilleas' natural habitat is equatorial where day and night lengths are almost equal. Bougainvilleas in these areas tend to bloom year round, but in North America, best blooming occurs when the night length and day length are almost equal (in spring or fall). In winter, blooming is better than in the dog days of August because of night length. Also, some cultivars are triggered to bloom after a rainy season followed by a dry season.

Best Climate for Bougainvillea

Bougainvilleas are tropical and must be protected from frost. In Zone 8 and cooler, you are almost limited to growing them in some kind of container unless you treat them as an Annual (plant a new plant outdoors each year) -- which works fine if you obtain a large plant in the Spring.

Bougainvilleas thrive in full sun. At least 5 hours a day of full sunlight is the minimal light required for good bloom. More hours of direct sun is better. Less than 5 hours and the plant may not bloom very well. In shade or partial shade, you will have nice vegetative growth, but little or no bloom.

A Bougainvillea just doesn't bloom well indoors. If possible, keep your plant outdoors (in the maximum sun available). If placed on a porch, patio or balcony, where the plant receives at least 5 hours of sun each day (afternoon sun is best), then it should bloom ok.

A bougainvillea likes high humidity just before it comes into bloom. Once bloom has been initated, then it will tolerate less humidity.

Bougainvillea has two distint growth cycles:

A vegetative growth period for seveal weeks -- when new leaves and stems grow.

A blooming period of several weeks when little or no vegetative growth occurs.

Choosing a Container

The image for this page is bougainvillea in a 1-gallon nursery container. I have successfully grown bougainvillea in a 1-gal pot for 3 years or more, so don't rush to repot - the plant will bloom better when pot-bound. It is important that you don't place the pot directly on the ground -- in one summer the roots will grow down into the soil and roots will be damaged when you lift the pot -- all the feeder roots will be left in the ground. I always place a container on something other than the ground. Air will prune the roots and they won't grow out of the holes in the bottom of the pot.

Drainage is Essential

Notice the saucers on the pot and also on the hanging basket. If you use these type containers, I strongly recommend that you take the saucer off -- you will damage bougainvillea roots if the plant stands in water or the water can't drain completely from the pot.

Try all kinds of Containers

Generally, bougainvillea can be grown in anything that will hold soil and allow proper drainage. Some of the more traditionally used containers include terra cotta (clay) pots, plastic pots, hanging baskets, wire baskets lined with sphagnum moss or fibrous liners, concrete planters, planter boxes, whiskey barrels, 5-gallon buckets, tubs, and bushel baskets. Some of these containers are more durable than others are.

Don't limit yourself to the traditional when it comes to choosing a container. Be creative! Choosing a container that fits the look you are trying to create is half the fun of growing bougainvillea in containers!

Some self-watering containers have been manufactured to improve drainage and also have built-in reservoirs for watering plants. It is important to remember that a bougainvillea does not tolerate standing in water. Whatever container you choose, consider these tips:

Soil suitable for Bougainvillea

Bougainvilleas will thrive in almost any soil as long as it is well-drained and fertile. Soils that work for other plants you grow will be fine for your bougainvillea.

It is important to select a growing medium that drains well but that will also help keep plants from drying out between waterings. Keeping containers moist yet well drained is the most important key to successful bougainvillea culture in containers.

To grow beautiful bougainvilleas a number of cultural actions are required. Among these, perhaps the most important is the type of growing medium used. Due to the relatively shallow depth and limited volume of a container, growing media must be amended to provide the appropriate physical and chemical properties necessary for plant growth.

Field soils are generally unsatisfactory for growing bougainvillea in containers. This is primarily because soils do not provide the aeration, drainage and water holding capacity required. To improve this situation several "soilless" growing media have been developed.

The best growing mixture is one that is soilless. Soilless media are free of any disease pathogens, insect pests, and weed seeds. They are also generally lightweight and porous, allowing for a well-drained yet moisture-retentive mix. Premixed growing media are available from garden centers. However, be careful not to use peat or peatlite mixes alone. By themselves, these media tend to become compacted, too lightweight, and hard to wet. My greatest problem with peat/peatlite mixes is when the soil dries completely, the rootball will pull away from the side of the pot, and it is almost impossible to completely wet the soil again -- the water simply runs down the side of the container and drains out the bottom. If your plant dries out and you use this type of mix, to rewet it, let the pot sit in a pail of water until the soil ball is completely wet.

Mix your own soil

You can create your own blend of soil mix by using peat moss, vermiculite or perlite, sterile potting soil or composted soil mix, and coarse builder's sand. Note: Ph of the soil is very important. If you mix your own soil, then you should consider the following:  Bougainvillea prefer a pH in the 6.0 to 6.5 range.

Some commercially prepared growing mixtures have an added wetting agent which is a great help when it comes to planting and watering. You may also consider adding water-absorbing polymers or "gel" that absorbs and retains up to 400 times its weight in water. Polymers are nontoxic and last for a number of years before breaking down in the environment.

Here is the mix I used in my nursery for bougainvillea:

70% Horticultural peat moss
20% Pine Bark (old bark) - In North Flordia, pine bark is a cheap and readily available ingredient.
10% River Sand.
The amount of lime added was always based on soil testing and it varies.

A commonly used soilless mixture:

1 part garden soil (not clay)
1 part washed builder's sand, perlite, or pumice
1 part horticultural peat moss
1 quart steamed bonemeal per bushel (8 gallons) of mixture
1 pint dolomite lime per bushel of soil mix

Mix all ingredients thoroughly by shoveling them from one pile to another at least three times. Pulverize any large lumps or clods as you mix. When thoroughly mixed add sufficient water to moisten the mixture and store in a sheltered spot until you are ready to use it. A garbage can, wastebasket, or large bucket makes a handy storage container.

This general potting mixture provides a suitable growth medium for most container plants, including vegetables, bedding plants, geraniums, begonias, fuchsias, and ivies. But, for bougainvillea I found that the 70%peat, 20%pine bark and 10%sand with the amount of dolomite lime always depending upon soil testing -- however, you should be able to use the above mixture with excellent results for your bougainvillea.

Before using your mix to repot plants, be sure it is damp. Totally dry soil mixture is difficult to handle and may damage tender roots before the plant is watered.

Sterilizing Soil

It is normally unnecessary or even undesirable to sterilize potting soils. Garden soils contain millions of living organisms beneficial to the soil. They only rarely contain disease organisms that might damage your houseplants. Young seedlings during the first 2 to 4 weeks of growth are the most susceptible to attack by soil-borne disease organisms. To prevent damping off disease on seedlings, it may help to heat treat the soil used for seedling production.

The easiest method of home soil treatment is with oven heat. Place the container of soil in the oven and bake until the center of the mix is 140°F for 30 minutes. Use thermometer to check. A microwave oven also may be used.

Table 1. Commonly used soilless mixtures.

Volume/Volume Ratio Components
2:1 Peat, Perlite
2:1:1 Peat, Perlite, Vermiculite
3:1:1 Peat, Perlite, Vermiculite
2:1:1 Peat, Bark, Sand
2:1:1 Peat, Bark, Perlite
3:1:1 Peat, Bark, Sand

Bougainvillea roots are fragile

A bougainvillea has a weak root system and will bloom best when the roots complelely fill the pot.

Repotting Bougainvillea

A bougainvillea blooms best when pot-bound. So, do not be tempted to repot unless you must. I have found that it is best to leave the plant in its original container until the roots have replaced all of the soil and you can't keep the plant well watered. For example, it is not unusal to grow a bougainvillea in a 1-gallon pot for 3 or more years.

When it is necessary to repot remember that a bougainvillea has a very delicate root system and a fragile root to stem connection. Handle bougainvillea with care.

I do not recommend root pruning when you repot your bougainvillea - in fact, disturb the roots as little as possible because the plant might go into shock and take weeks to recover. For this reason, you should always pot into a larger container than the old one. For example, if the plant has been growing in a 6-inch pot, then you should report into a 8-inch pot.

When repotting bougainvillea remember that it loves to be pot-bound, so pot into the smallest container available for the purpose you desire.

Fertilizer is Essential

The image for this page is bracts of a bougainvillea glabra. When bougainvillea is healthy, all parts of the plant - stems, leaves and bracts will be glossy colored and show signs of vigor. Roots will be white. Underfed bougainvillea will look the opposite.

Cultivating bougainvilleas is an enjoyable and rewarding experience. The basic culture is not difficult and most plants require only a few minutes of attention each week once the basic environmental requirements are satisfied. They do, however, require this minimal care on a regular basis. Plants are living things and must be managed so that their life-support systems are continuous.

Feeding Your Bougainvillea

You must feed your plant with a balanced fertilizer, either dry or water soluable. The key is balance. 20-20-20 with minor elements works fine. For the last few years, I have used 15-5-15 ca-mg with chelated Iron as my primary fertilizer, If you know the ph of your water and the ph of your soil, you can tailor a specific fertilize program. It is very important that the nitrogen source of whatever fertilize you use is from calcium nitrate. (Urea and ammonium nitrate both have caused me problems when feeding Bougainvillea) Note: Peters 20-20-20 or Miracle-Grow will work just fine.

Plants growing in containers have a limited volume of soil from which to extract the mineral nutrients (fertilizer) needed for growth. The supply of nutrients in the containers becomes exhausted rapidly if the plant is actively growing. Replenish nutrients regularly. The easiest way is to water the plants with a solution of soluble fertilizer.

Many totally soluble fertilizers are available in most garden stores. Since they vary in strength (percent of fertilizer nutrients), dilute or dissolve them in your watering can according to the label directions. Mix only enough of this fertilizer solution to water your container plants once each time you fertilize. Fertilize your bougainvilleas regularly with a soluble fertilizer. During the long days of the year (Easter to Thanksgiving) when they are actively growing, fertilize about every other week.

Feed less in Winter

During the short days of the year (Thanksgiving to Easter) fertilize only every 4 to 6 weeks. If the plants are totally dormant (no leaves or buds), do not fertilize until new growth starts.

Fertilizer tips

Bougainvillea Nutrient/PH Requirements

A bougainvillea requires Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and Iron plus all the minor elements. But, unless the ph of your soil isn't in the proper range, then tons of fertilizer won't help. So when I say the ph of the soil is important -- it is! Look at the chart below: ph 6.5 is the point where most elements are available.

PH Bar Graph

This bar graph gives the pH ranges at which plant nutrients will be most available. The wider the bar, the more available the nutrient. Calcium, magnesium and potassium--the exchangeable bases--are most available at high pH and unavailable at low pH. Nitrogen and sulfur have similar available pH ranges. Iron, manganese, zinc, and copper are less available at high pH values. Phosphorus and boron are unavailable at both low pH and high pH.

Fertilizer Elements

Packaged fertilizers are required by law to have the percentages of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) printed on the bag. You will see 10-10-10 or 25-15-30, etc. The numbers represent the percentage of each nutrient in the product, first number is for nitrogen, the second for phosphorus and, the third for potassium.

Many chemical fertilizers will also contain trace elements and minor nutrients (minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, etc.), all of which are necessary in very small amounts for good plant growth. The label will list the percentages of these microelements as well.

For a bag of fertilizer with an NPK of 10-10-10, the customer knows that 30% of the bag is actual fertilizer, 70% will be fillers or a "carrier." It makes good economic sense to buy the product with the highest total percentage but remember you must know your plants' needs first. If the percentage is higher read the instructions carefully since you may need to apply LESS than the manufacturer recommends!

Nitrogen provides growing power and makes plant leaves and stems green.

Nitrogen is used to form basic proteins, chlorophyll, and enzymes for the plant cells. In short, a plant can't grow without it.

Your plants use the nitrate or nitric form of nitrogen immediately because they're soluble. But over-watering can wash them away. The ammonium types of nitrogen will take from two weeks to three months for the plant to use, but won't leach out of the pot.

When using fertilizers, check the package to see which kind of nitrogen you're getting. The "N" number of the "N-P-K" formula will tell you the percentage of nitrogen, by weight, in the mix. A "quick release" fertilizer will contain nitrates so your plant can use them right away. "Slow release" indicates the ammonium form of nitrogen. Ammonium nitrate is actually a half-and-half mix of nitric oxygen (quick release) and ammonium nitrogen (slow release).

When fertilizing, remember that too much nitrogen can be as bad as too little. Plants can suffer nitrogen burn or grow so much foliage that they never flower.

Phosphorous stimulates budding and blooming.

Plants need phosphorus to produce fruits, flowers, and seeds. It also helps make your plants more resistant to disease. Phosphorus doesn't dissolve like nitrogen. The soil will hang onto phosphorus, not releasing it into water.

If you're looking for good sources of phosphorus, check the ingredients of any plant food you buy. The "P" number of the "N-P-K" formula will tell you the percentage of phosphorus, by weight, in the mix. You should also look for ingredients like bonemeal, colloidal phosphate, or rock phosphate.

You may also see superphosphates, a more soluble form of phosphorus. Be careful with these: Overfeeding with superphosphates can actually create phosphorus deficiencies because they wash away too easily (the perils of a "quick fix").

Potassium promotes strong vigorous roots and resistance to disease.

Potassium is a nutrient your plants need for good internal chemistry. Plants use potassium to produce the sugars, starches, proteins and enzymes they need to grow and thrive. Potassium also helps your plants regulate their water usage, and better withstand the cold.

Other Microelements

Your plants need certain trace elements and nutrients to make the best use of soil, water, and air. An important thing to remember about trace minerals is that plants can't always use the most common forms. If your garden store supplies them, get the chelated forms of the trace minerals. Chelated minerals have already gone through the chemical changes that make the minerals usable to your plants.

Magnesium (Mg) and Iron (Fe) are the "chlorophyll helpers." They're both important to the plant's production of chlorophyll. Magnesium, in fact, makes up the core of the chlorophyll molecule. Dolomitic lime and epsom salts are good sources of magnesium. To supply your plants with iron, try spraying liquid seaweed or chelated iron


Calcium (Ca) and boron (B) are essential for proper water uptake, and both are important for proper cell formation. Calcium is present in gypsum, lime, and oyster shells. Boron is available in borax and a chelated boron spray.

Sulfur (S), zinc (Zn), and manganese (Mn) are the "catalysts" that help other nutrients such as nitrogen become usable by your plants. Gypsum and flowers of sulfur are good sources of sulfur. The others are available in chelated form, usually as a spray.

Don't worry -- remember, all of the above can be found in ready made mixes such as peters or miracle-gro.

Deficiency signs:

Nitrogen deficiency: Older leaves turn a pale green and the veins are usually a reddish color. New growth will be stunted.

Phosphorus deficiency: The veins will turn red to purple and the plant as a whole will look purplish.

Potassium deficiency:
Causes the edges of older the leaves to be a purple color and the leaf tips will be a brownish color.

Magnesium deficiency:
First appears on older leaves where they turn a spotted yellow or tan color.

Zinc deficiency (rare):
Will look almost like magnesium but here the leaf will be twisted.

Iron deficiency (always one of my greatest problems):
Young growth is stunted and pale -- you'll know its iron if the veins on the leaf remain green.

Calcium is another element that I always had to supplement because of the sweetness of my water...
When it is deficient, dead areas appear in young growth and the tips soon die.

How often to Fertilize

I prefer to feed each time I water, but you can fertilize weekly, bi-monthly, or every other time you water. If you do it each time you water, use 200 ppm (about 1 tablespoon of 20-20-20 water soluable fertilizer) per gallon of water. If you feed less often, then increase the amout to 400 ppm (2 tablespoons per gallon

Watering Your Bougainvillea

A healthy bougainvillea in a container, especially in a hanging basket, will drink a lot of water during the warm times of the year. In cooler periods or when you bring your bougainvillea indoors for the winter, the water requirement will be much less.

I am often asked the question - How much water? I always have to answer with it VARIES:

It varies with the soil type,
the root system,
the size of the plant,
and the air temperature.

Soon after potting up, the plant may be happy with one soaking a week. After the roots have developed, the same plant may require water daily.

My Rule of Thumb about watering a Bougainvillea

No plant should be watered if it doesn't need it. Likewise, a plant which needs water MUST be watered immediately. Over watering is as harmful as Under watering.

I try to inspect my plants daily and experience has taught me to know the sign of a Bougainvillea when it is about to wilt. Try to learn from the plant, and give it a good soaking just before it reaches the wilt stage.

General information about watering all container plants

Watering is the most important (and most often abused) cultural practice. Bougainvilleas must have a continuous and adequate supply of water, but they can only absorb water from the soil under certain conditions. First, there must be a supply of water in the soil. The soil particles hold a certain amount of water too firmly for the plants to take. The water supply available to plants is water in excess of that required to satisfy the soil itself.

Second, some air must be in the soil for the plant roots to function and absorb water. Therefore, the soil must not contain so much water that no room is left for air. A good potting soil will not hold too much water if a hole in the bottom of the container allows excess water to drain away.

The difference between these two extremes is called the available water supply. Proper water management is a watering program that avoids both extremes and maintains a supply of available water at all times. The following guidelines may help you establish a satisfactory watering schedule.

Bougainvillea is NOT frost Hardy

 This plant requires winter protection. A bougainvillea may be killed if the temperature remains below freezing for 4 hours. A light frost will not kill the plant, but within a day after the frost, all the leaves and bracts will fall off. In this case, the plant will regrow if not subjected to more frosts for longer duration.

Winter Protection for Bougainvillea

It is not unusual for a bougainvillea to be full of bloom when it comes time to move it indoors for winter. Almost immediately after bringing a plant like this (full of bloom) inside, all the bracts will fall off and most of the leaves will eventually fall off as well. I recommend that you do a hard prune before moving it indoors

Why I recommend a "Hard Prune" -

If you have planted your bougainvillea in the soil outdoors and want to dig it up and move it indoors for the winter, expect the plant to go into dormancy sooner than if it had been in a container -- the root damage as a result of digging will be the cause rather than the cool weather -- but the plant should survive this kind of transplanting.

Where to place your bougainvillea while indoors

Any space which doesn't freeze will be fine for your bougainvillea while indoors. If you put your plant in a high light area which remains warm during the winter nights, it may not go into dormancy and will be in better shape once Spring comes. If the spot you have doesn't have much light and stays cool during the day, then expect the plant to go into dormancy.

I received an email from a long time bougainvillea grower who puts his bougainvillea in the garage just before the first frost/freeze, waters just enough to keep the roots from drying out and then when the nights warm in the Spring, moves his bougainvillea back outside.

While indoors, domancy may occur

After a few weeks indoors bougainvillea may go into domancy and all the leaves will fall off. While indoors, water very little, just keep the soil slightly damp.

When Spring returns

After the nights warm in the Spring, move your bougainvillea outside and start watering and fertilizing. In a few weeks, new growth should appear and soon bloom should start again.

A Greenhouse is Nice

If you have a greenhouse, then your bougainvillea will reward you with bloom all winter. You wouldn't have to prune as above - just move the plant from outside into the greenhouse.

If you are interested in a hobby greenhouse, check out the Hobby Greenhouse Association.

Propagating Bougainvillea is Fun

So many of the bougainvilleas being cultivated today resulted in what we call a "bud" sport (a stem that is different than the other stems of the mother plant). To reproduce this bougainvillea - asexual propagation is required - rooting a cutting. Below I explain how to do this.

Ways for Propagating Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea may be propagated by seed, cutting, laying or tissue culture. It is commonly believed that bougainvillea hybirds are sterile and only the species may be propagated by seed. I am still researching this and will be updating as required

I will only discuss propagating by cutting here. You may root bougainvillea by either "hardwood" "softwood" or "leaf bud" cuttings. If you would like to try rooting in late spring or early summer (or as long as night temps remain 55 degrees or warmer), it is best to use softwood cuttings. If you want to root during fall and winter (when night temps are cooler than above), hardwood cuttings will probably work best.

See Plant Propagation Methods for more information about asexual propagation methods.

Rooting Environment

Commerical growers usually use either mist or fog to root their bougainvillea. For home rooting, a 3 or 4" pot filled with sandy peat covered with something like a plastic sandwich bag and placed in shade should work. Keep the soil moist during the rooting period. Your object is to maintain a very high percent of humidity around the cutting until roots strike. Softwood cutting 'stuck' in May or early June should be rooted by the end of August. Hardwood cuttings will usually take 3 or 4 months.

A plastic bag alone can serve as a propagation environment. Simply place some moist propagation medium in the bottom of the bag, insert the cuttings, and tie the top of the bag closed.

Special tips

For bougainvillea, the tip cutting doesn't work very well. The soft leaves in the tip are subject to various diseases and rot often occurs when using this type cutting. Additionally, once rooted, only 1 stem will grow and pinching will be required to initiate more stem breaks. You may use the tips, but I always discard the tips (throw them away). 

For bougainvillea, the sub-terminal cutting has always worked best for me. This type cutting is stronger and will ward off disease problems. Also, new stems will usually grow from each leaf bud and less pinching is required to obtain a nicely branched bougainvillea when using this type cutting.

If you don't have enough stem material to root, you may use a leaf-bud cutting l but you should have better rooting percentages using the sub-terminal cutting .

Pruning and Pinching

 By pinching I mean, cutting off a part of the plant stem(s). With bougainvillea, we use the terms "soft" pinch and "hard" pinch - below I will try to explain these methods of pruning.

Pruning Bougainvillea

Unless you stop a vine like this, it will continue to grow outward. You must pinch in order to promote a more bushy plant.

Soft Pinch

A soft pinch is removing the "soft" or tender tip of new growth from a branch.

A soft pinch is used most often on young tender stems to promote side shoot branching. Most bougainvillea cultivars will send out 1 or 2 new stems after a pinch -- from the leaf-buds just below the cut.

Hard Pinch

A hard pinch is removing most of a branch from the plant.

A hard pinch is taken when you want to control the growth of stems which have gotten out-of-hand (to maintain the shape you desire) or any time you want to obtain a bushy form. For hanging baskets, I always cut back hard at least once a year (it doesn't harm the plant to cut back hard after each bloom cycle)...this always helped the plant bush out wonderfully.

When to pinch

Bougainvilleas may be pruned at any time of the year. Bloom initiation does not depend upon pruning - a bougainvillea has a bloom cycle followed by a rest period whether pruned or not.

Young plants should be pinched often to produce a bushy large plant. Most bougainvillea cultivars tend to grow without producing side shoots.

I always soft pinch out the tip of any "liner" (baby plant) that I am potting up, then 4 or 5 weeks later, soft pinch out the tips of all stems on the plant. If the plant hasn't filled out after another 4 or 5 weeks, I pinch it again. Some cultivars will branch better than others. Do not be afraid to pinch a bougainvillea -- the more you do the better the plant will branch.

After you have a bushy plants, it is best to prune for shape. For container bougainvillea, I perfer to prune all my pots or baskets back to the edge of the container after blooming has stopped. This keeps them compact and causes a beautiful basket or pot to be a spectacular sight the next time they bloom. Prune your bougainvillea and you'll be rewarded for the effort.

When to "hard" prune

I recommend that you should do a hard prune when you need to contain growth or when you are preparing to move your bougainvillea indoors for the winter .    The "Soft Prune" isn't recommended for bougainvillea (or any vine type plant) UNLESS you are trying to obtain a special form, such as a espalier or you want a bushier plant . When new growth appears, the plant will be top heavy and completely out of form.

Bougainvilleas love to be grown in a hanging basket

 To grow a basket  you MUST prune often. This started as one small liner. Two years later, it was well shaped with branches radiating from the center of the basket outward in all directions. This is 2-1/2 years after planting. Even a basket  or winter protection indoors, I recommend a hard prune when you move it indoors for the winter. (You don't have to do this, but it is difficult to manage a basket like this indoors during the winter without cutting it back hard.)

Growing a Bougainvillea Basket

 I like to start with a 10-inch hanging basket similar to this. Use whatever type you have or like. A bougainvillea grows well in this cheap plastic type. If  grown properly, the basket will be hidden and doesn't serve a decorative function when the plant is in bloom. 

Most small bougainvillea on the market for retail customers will be in 4" pots or even 1-gal containers .  Immediately on planting - I remove the tip (pinch out the tip). Then about 4 weeks later, I pinch out the tips of the new branches resulting from the initial pinch. Again, in about 4 weeks, I remove all the tips from all the new growth resulting from the second pinch. Usually, this will be enough to get the plant branching similar the the image below.  If you can obtain a plant  in a 6-inch pot  then you gain about 6-8 months over the liner size plant.

A basket of full  size may be grown in one season (May, June and July) if you start with a plant such as the 6-inch   This is assuming that you plant the 6-inch pot plant into the basket no later than March 15th and pinch out the tips. If you start with a small liner then it will take at least 2 growing season to reach full size.

Notes about pinching/pruning

A bougainvillea, like most vining type plants, will continue to grow outward without sending out side branches from each leaf-bud point unless the stem is pinched. If you want one long stem, then don't pinch out the tip. But for hanging baskets, the form desired requires pinching.  By pinching out the tip,   most bougainvillea cultivars will send out new stems from 2 to 3 leaf-buds (usually only 2) below the cut. So it is important when growing a basket, not to wait for the branches to grow very far beyond the basket edge before you remove all the tips -- otherwise, the growth will be bare in the center of the basket and the growth will be mis-shaped and not very attractive.

Bougainvilleas are highly suitable for Standards

The above images show a single-stem standard and a 3-stem standard. Bougainvilleas are perfect for training either way. Note the highlighted area in the Barbara Karst image. Start your multi-stem standards just above the soil line and allow 2, 3 or even 4 canes to grow.

Growing a Bougainvillea Standard

The most critical part of creating a bougainvillea standard is forming a strong, straight stem. Line up the stake next to the stem, and push it down into the soil to the bottom of the pot. During the growing period, most people use twist-ties to secure the stem to the stake every few inches . For display, the twist-ties may be replaced with raffia or ribbons. Tie the stem to the stake at several places. Don't twist too tightly -- the stem needs space to grow. If the stem is slightly bent, you may have to twist the tie more firmly to hold the stem in place until it "adapts" to its new form. Make the twist on the stake side -- not on the stem side -- to avoid damaging the stem.

Bougainvilleas generally look better at 3 or 4 feet tall.

I used to remove all foliage from the stem as soon as I could, but this slowed plant growth--there wasn't enough leaf surface to photosynthesize food for the plant. It is best to wait until you start forming the head to remove foliage and thorns.

When the stem is within a few inches of the height you want your mature standard to be, pinch out the growing tip (inside the rectangle area in image). Now is the time to remove the thorns, leaves and any lateral shoots from the stem.

Keep pruning to encourage branching, Use a soft pinch (see Pruning/Pinching if you don't understand what a soft pinch is) after branches have 4 leaf nodes, then soft pinch these when each branch has two leaf nodes.

It is possible to grow a bougainvillea standard within 2-3 years. A good stake is needed until the trunk is thick enough to support the crown -- this may take several years.

Botanical Bougainvillea


The following information is provided to help understand more about bougainvillea.
Scroll through the page or jump to the following sections:

Bougainvillea Species
Hybird Groups
Variegated Bougainvillea
New Bougainvillea from Seed
New Bougainvillea from Mutations
Link To List of Technical Writing about Bougainvillea

Return to Bougainvillea Info Main Page

Bougainvillea species

Bougainvillea glabra -- It is thought that this climbing evergreen member of the family was first identified by Choisy about 1850.

Bougainvillea peruviana -- It is thought that this climbing evergreen member was first identified by Humbolt around 1810. This species is noted for its green colored bark.

Bougainvillea spectabilis -- This was the first member of the family to be identifed. Willdenow is credited with this identification in 1798. This species is noted for its hairy leaves and stems.

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Bougainvillea Species
Hybird Groups
Variegated Bougainvillea
New Bougainvillea from Seed
New Bougainvillea from Mutations
Link To List of Technical Writing about Bougainvillea

Return to Bougainvillea Info Main Page

Bougainvillea Hybird Groups - (Interspecies)

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Bougainvillea Species
Hybird Groups
Variegated Bougainvillea
New Bougainvillea from Seed
New Bougainvillea from Mutations
Link To List of Technical Writing about Bougainvillea

Return to Bougainvillea Info Main Page

Variegated Bougainvillea

This information provided by Omvery Chong from Seremban N. Sembilan, West Malaysia: I am indebted to Omvery for his help in several areas of this web site and his willingness to share his knowledge with us.

Variegated cultivars can be generally categorized into 2 groups.

Scroll through the list or jump to the following sections:

Bougainvillea Species
Hybird Groups
Variegated Bougainvillea
New Bougainvillea from Seed
New Bougainvillea from Mutations
Link To List of Technical Writing about Bougainvillea

Return to Bougainvillea Info Main Page

New Bougainvillea from Seed

Seed of bougainvillea is available in some parts of the world, namely from (Asia or Africa), but it has been reported that these seed are primarily from the "species". Although, it is commonly thought that most Bougainvillea hybirds are "sterile", there is a lot that we must learn before we can say for a fact that they are "sterile":

Seed production in bougainvillea is primarily a result of the mother plant being grown in the ideal climate and under certain environmental situations. In Malaysia and surrounding areas, it is easier to get certain hybirds to set seed than in other areas of the world. However, even here it is not easy to get seed to set:

If you are lucky enough to get a bougainvillea hybird to set seed, it should take about 30 days for the pod to ripen and then germination is fairly quick and easy. Seed are reported to be viable for up to a year or more.

Scroll through the list or jump to the following sections:

Bougainvillea Species
Hybird Groups
Variegated Bougainvillea
New Bougainvillea from Seed
New Bougainvillea from Mutations
Link To List of Technical Writing about Bougainvillea

Return to Bougainvillea Info Main Page

New Bougainvillea from Mutations

All species and hybrids of bougainvillea can give rise to mutations or bud-sports and give us an entirely new cultivar.

It appears that in countries where bougainvillea are native, mutations occur more readily than in the temperate zones. For example my friend in Malaysia provided this information about mutations:

Scroll through the list or jump to the following sections:

Bougainvillea Species
Hybird Groups
Variegated Bougainvillea
New Bougainvillea from Seed
New Bougainvillea from Mutations
Link To List of Technical Writing about Bougainvillea

Return to Bougainvillea Info Main Page

List of writing about Bougainvillea

There is little 'in-depth' resources on the web for Bougainvillea. If you know of a site, let me know.

Here is a Bougliography as Compiled by:

Dr. Jeff Norcini, Mr. Judd Butler, and Ms. Lucy Rogers
University of Florida/IFAS
North Florida Research and Education Center
Rt. 4, Box 4092
Monticello, Florida 32344

This page doesn't provide links, just a listing of various writings concerning bougainvillea.

Scroll through the list or jump to the following sections:

Bougainvillea Species
Hybird Groups
Variegated Bougainvillea
New Bougainvillea from Seed
New Bougainvillea from Mutations
Link To List of Technical Writing about Bougainvillea

Return to Bougainvillea Info Main Page


Red Shades

Barbara Karst

Large bright red bracts. A most popular standby that always performs well. Almost constant bloomer.


Double red . Leaves are edged in white-yellow variegation. Repeat bloomer.


Rich red. Low spreading bush type. Very slow growing.

Double Red

Deep red. Cluster of fluffy bracts over nice green leaves.

Helen Johnson

A dwarf red . Compact and bushy grower. Branches freely.

Juanita Hatten

Red . Foilage may be slightly variegated in shades of green. Branches freely.

Jamaica Red

Purple-red bracts. Hugh grower.

La Jolla

Red bracts. Compact. Very much like Barbara Karst.


Red to peach bracts. This is a spectabilis cultivar. Normally only seasonal bloom.

Mrs E. W. Bick

Bright red. This is a spectabilis cultivar. Normally only seasonal bloom.


Red. This is small plant may be grown as a dwarf. Repeat bloomer.

Killie Campbell

Red. Large bracts, excellent trailing growth. Repeat bloomer.

Mrs Butt

Red to peach bracts. This is a buttiana cultivar. Large repeat bloomer.


Red. This is a dwarf type. Repeat bloomer.

Raspberry Ice

Red. Varigated foliage. Slow grower. Repeat bloomer.

Scarlet O'Hara

Purple-red bracts. Hugh grower. Needs large container to do well.

Temple Fire

Brick red bracts. Good branching habit. May be grown as a dwarf.


Bright red. This is a spectabilis cultivar. Normally only seasonal bloom.

Turley's Special

Bright red. This is a spectabilis cultivar. Normally only seasonal bloom.

Pink Shades

Double Pink

Hugh clusters of bright pink. Repeat bloomer.

James Walker

Large pink to reddish orange. Very nice tri-colored effect. Large plant.

Mary Palmer

Pink and white bracts on same plant. Tends to revert to all pink.

Miami Pink

Dark pink bracts. Does best in the landscape.

Pink Pixie

True miniature. Small pink bracts. Good for small pots.

Singapore Pink

Pinkish lavender. This is a glabra cultivar. Repeat bloomer.


Free blooming pink which may sport white flowers.


Pink to red to orange. Pictrure of this one reminds me of James Walker. Repeat bloomer.

Tropical Bouquet

Orange but quickly becomes pink.


Pink bracts. Leaf centers creamy yellow - some white bracts may be sported.

Orange Shades

Alabama Sunset

Orange-gold flowers, older bracts light pink.

California Gold

Large gold bracts. Can be considered as yellow in some enviornments.


Opens with coral orange bracts maturing to pink. Vigorous growth habit.

Double Orange

Orange to pink bracts, sometimes speckled with touches of red.


Coral orange. Variegated foilage speckled with yellow. Repeat bloomer.

Gwyneth Portland

Coppery orange. May be grown as a dwarf. Repeat bloomer.

Hawaiian Gold

Gold to gold-pink. This is a buttiana cultivar. Repeat bloomer.

Hugh Evans

Pale orange bracts, fading to pale pink. Compact habit.

Isobel Greensmith

Pink to orange bracts. Loose growth habit, responses well to pruning.

Jamaica Orange

Orange bracts. Occasionally, leaves will show golden blotches but mostly the leaves will remain green.

Mrs. McClean

Coppery Orange. This is a buttiana cultivar. Repeat bloomer. Sport of Mrs Butt

Rainbow Gold

Pastel orange bracts, good orange bloomer.


New bracts orangish gold maturing to pink. Can be classed as dwarf because of slow compact growth.

White Shades


White. This is a glabra cultivar. Repeat bloomer. Responds well to pruning.

Apple Blossom

White with pink edge. This is a buttiana cultivar. I've read where it is slow to bloom.

Double White

Large clusters of white bracts, sometimes edged with pink.


White. This may be called Mary Palmer's Enchantment. Repeat bloomer. Under some environmental conditions bracts show some pink.

Golden Summer

White. Variegated yellow-gold foliage. Repeat bloomer.

Jamacia White

White bracts. Vigorous grower. Requires age to bloom well.


White bracts. Rapid grower but can be used in containers.

Summer Snow

Pure white and excellent for wedding situations.

Purple Shades


Lavender purple bracts. Compact and well branched growth habit.

Dr. David Barry

Large lavender bracts. Fine for containers.

Elizabeth Angus

Deep purple bracts. Can suffer leaf problems if allowed to remain in wet humid situations.


Light purple. This is a glabra cultivar. Repeat bloomer. Bracts tend to fade to brown and remain on the plant. Old bracts should be removed for best show.

John Lattin

Lavender. This is a glabra cultivar. Repeat bloomer. Requires pruning to shape.

Mrs Eva

Mauve. Compact, prolific bloomer with long lasting bracts. Repeat bloomer.


Purple. This is a glabra cultivar. Repeat bloomer. In Latin America know as 'flor de verano'.

Pride of Zimbabwe

Light purple bracts. This is a spectabilis cultivar. Normally only seasonal bloom.

Royal Purple

Dark purple bracts. Good replacement for Elizabeth Angus in humid areas.


Purple bracts. Small dark green leaves. Good repeat bloomer.

Varigated Bougainvillea from Malaysia

The following list was received from my friend from Malaysia and I am very glad to put them on this page. This is truely an impressive list of VARIGATED bougainvillea. Omvrey Chong
Here is Omvrey's list verbatium:

B.spectabilis cultivars

“Queen Margaret”

Beautiful variegated form of “Rosa Catalina”. Variegations in different sizes and shades splashed cream and green on the leaves. However, this cultivar is rather shy flowering in Malaysia.

B.glabra cultivars

“Hati Gadis”

Large bright purple bracts with green and white variegation. A bud sport of “Elizabeth Angus”.

Hati Gadis II”

Another bud-sport of “Elizabeth Angus” with green and yellow leaves. It is much prettier than the green and white “Hati Gadis”.

“Malaysia Indah”

Another bud-sport of “Elizabeth Angus” with gold and green splashed leaves. A terrific cultivar because it gives contrasting colours in the garden.

“Purple Gem”

A small variegated variety with small bright purple bracts. Though this is a B.glabra cultivar, it is rather shy flowering.

“Danger Ivy”

A variegated cultivar with beautiful cream and green leaves. Bracts are pink and will only bloom during extreme dry season. It has a very vigorous growth habit but not very popular in Malaysia because this cultivar hardly bloom.


A variegated B.glabra cultivar with purple bracts. The flowering period seems to be seasonal.


Another bud sport of “Elizabeth Angus” but with yellow leaves splashed with green markings. Leaves and bracts are distorted. Thorn small but very close.

“Proton Saga”

Leaves gold but splashed with green dots. Bracts hang in drooping panicles, palest lavender-pink. Erect growth conditions. A bud-sport of “Singapore Beauty”.

“White Proton Saga”

A bud-sport of “Proton Saga” with splashed leaves and pure white bracts.

“Magnificent Barry”

Bud-sport of Variegated Singapore Beauty with green and yellow variegated leaves.

“Ms. Alice’s Coat”

A bud sport of “Singapore White” with green and yellow variegation and pure white bracts.

“Golden Lady”

Bud-sport of “Magnificent Barry” but with all gold coloured leaves.

“Mrs. Eva Variegata”

A light mauve bracts with white and green leaves. Very free flowering.

“Mrs. Eva Variegata- White”

A bud-sport of variegated “Mrs. Eva” but with white bracts.

“Mrs. Eva Variegata- Purple”

A bud sport of variegated “Mrs. Eva” but with purple bracts.

“Eva’s Ice-cream”

Variegated form of “Mrs. Eva’s” . Bracts are bi-coloured with light mauve and white. Very free flowering also.

“Eva’s Ice-cream Highlight”

A variegated bud-sport of “Eva’s Ice-cream” but leaves are cupped up and much smaller than “Eva’s Ice-cream”. The bi-coloured bracts are of a darker mauve shade with white colour and are much smaller than the original cultivar. .

“Eva’s Wonder”

Same characteristics as “Mrs. Eva” but bracts are purple in colour. Leaves are green and yellow in variegation. Old leaves are sometimes all green.

“Mrs. Eva II”

Same features like “Mrs. Eva Variegata” but with green and yellow variegation.

“Mrs. Eva Variegata- White II”

Same features as “Mrs. Eva Variegata- White” but with green and yellow variegation.

“Mrs. Eva’s Ice-cream Highlight II”

Another bud sport of “Mrs. Eva’s Ice cream Highlight”. The leaves are green but the edges is yellow.

“Ratana Mauve” (Mauve Butterfly)

Leaves are greyish in colour and distorted. Bracts are mauve and also distorted in hanging manner. Very free flowering. Bud-sport of “Mrs. Eva”.

“Ratana White” (White Butterfly)

A pure white distorted bract variety with distorted greyish leaves.

“Ratana Purple” (Purple Butterfly)

Leaves are distorted with many wrinkles. Bracts are purple in coloured. It should be a bud-sport of “Elizabeth Angus”.

“Angus Supreme”

Green leaves edged with gold. Bracts are purple and somehow sticking together. A bud-sport of “Elizabeth Angus”.

“Sweet Dream”

A bud sport of “Sanderiana”. Leaves are all gold in colour, bracts are pale lavender. A thornless variety.

“Snow White”

Another bud sport of “Mrs. Eva- White” with cream leaves splashed with green marking. Free flowering variety.

“Mini White”

Leaves are small and variegated. Bracts are longer but small and are white in coloured. A shy flowering variety.

“Eva’s Heart”

Beautiful variegated cultivar with white bracts that blended with pink shade.

B. x buttiana cultivars

“ Batik Yellow”

Variegated leaves. Yellow bracts.

“Gautama’s Red”

Leaves are gold splashed with green, thick texture and cupped up. Bracts are fiery red. Very beautiful. Bud-sport of “Mrs.Butt”.

“Gautama Batik”

A green and white variegated variety of “Mrs.Butt”.

“Hujan Panas- Pink” (Pink Fantasy)

A pink variety of “Hujan Panas”. Bud-sport of “Texas Dawn”.

“Hujan Panas II- Pink”

Pink bracts but leaves are decorated with gold dots that gathered in the central of leaves.

Spectoperuviana hybrids

“Thimma” (Vicky)

Bracts are bicoloured and leaves have a large splash of gold in the centre of each. Bracts are pink and white. Bud-sport of “Mary Palmer”.

“Makris” (Ice-cream)

Bud-sport of “Mary Palmer” with bi-coloured bracts. When bracts are pink, it shows some white pigmentation and vice versa.

“Magic Makris” (Magic Ice-cream)

Bud sport of “Makris” with leaves has gold splash in central. Bracts are of softer pink and white.

Inter- specific hybrids

“Ninja Turtle” (Sirih Junjung Batik)

Variegated plant with small leathery leaves. Internodes very short and leaves crowded. Thorns short, stubby and blunt, larger on strong canes. Bracts small and densely packed magenta- red in colour.

“Sakura” (Flamingo Pink)

Moderate grower with dark green leaves, bracts medium with white mixed with shading of pink on upper half of bract.

“Sakura Batik”

A bud sport of “Sakura” with green and white leaves.

“Tembikai” (Watermelon)

A variegated Brunei variety. Bracts are soft pink changing to various degree of peach. A very beautiful but rare variety.


Green leaves somewhat cupped up when leaves still young. Bracts are white but decorated with red dots. Dots are pink at start but as weather gets more and more torrid, pink dots turn to red.

“Ladybird Batik”

A bud sport of “Ladybird” with green and white leaves but bracts are somewhat smaller than the green leaves variety.

“Batik Red”

A bud sport of “Mrs. Butt” with red bracts. Leaves are green and white.

“Batik Orange”

A bud sport of “Orange King” with variegated leaves.

“Batik Pink”

A pink variety with variegated leaves.

“China Beauty”

A very soft rosy pink with variegated leaves . Very pretty, as weather gets hotter, rosy bracts will turn to a deeper red.

“Iguana Variegata”

Variegated leaves when young and green leaves when aged. Bracts change its colour from orange to dusty pink.

“Chili Red Batik”

Fiery red bracts with variegated leaves.

“Marietta” (Cinderella)

Variegated leaves with many double red bracts in a single bloom.

“Yellow Wonder”

Yellow bract variety with variegated leaves. Matured leaves turn green, giving the plant a grafted looking effect.

“Indian Beauty” (Miss India)

A very beautiful variety with leaves look shinning as if being waxed. Bracts are red and usually it grows very tall without much branching. Whole plant looks like an artificial plastic plant.

“Mona Lisa”

A variety looks like “Indian Beauty” but is a dwarfed cultivar. Leaves are very crisped as if it has been rolled up along the edges.

“Mona Lisa- Yellow”

A bud sport of “Mona Lisa” but with yellow bracts. Leaves are not that crisp compare to the red variety.

“Mini Marble” (Tang Long) (Chinese Lantern)

Leaves are green and bracts are orange. Bracts curled inward forming a small marble shape. Beautiful cause it looks like many small lanterns hanging up.

“Red Lotus”

A red coloured “Mini Marble” but leaves are greyish in coloured and sometimes variegated and cupped up.

“Puteri Mahsuri”

Leaves are variegated and distorted and twisted in arrangement. Bracts are small, distorted, and twisted in arrangement. A cultivar that does not look like bougainvillea.

“Orange Puteri Mahsuri”

Bud-sport of “Puteri Mahsuri” with orange bracts.

“Mahsuri Reflex”

Bud-sport of “Puteri Mahsuri”.

“Mahsuri Reflex - Pink”

Bud-sport of “Puteri Mahsuri” but with pink bracts.

“Ikan Bilis” (The Ray Fish) (Puteri Emas)

Once mistakenly being recognized as the yellow bud-sport of “Puteri Mahsuri”. Bracts are yellow, distorted, small and twisted.

“Poultolni batik”

Variegated plant with yellow and green leaves. Bracts are red.

“Poultolni Orange Variegata”

Orange bracts with variegated leaves.

“Hong Kong’s Beauty”

Variegated bud sport of “Juanita Hatten”. Leaves are gold with a green central patch. Bracts are red, stems and veins are gold colour.

“Red September”

Leaves look like “Hong Kong’s Beauty” but the variegation is less prominent. Bracts are bicoloured, red and pink.

“Lady Pink”

Leaves are very pretty, gold splashed with green. Bracts are big and are pink in coloured.

“Queen Marble”

Leaves and bracts are distorted. Leaves are green but stripped with gold lines. Bracts are orange in coloured.

“Queen Marble- Red”

Stripped leaves cultivar with red bracts.


A very rare variety. Leaves and bracts are medium in size. Leaves are gold marked with different shade of green splashed and bracts are red.


A very beautiful variety. Bud sport of “Queen Marble” with multicoloured leaves. New leaves are yellow edged by green pigment. Bracts are red and very well contrast with the multicoloured leaves.

“Strawberry Delight”

A beautiful bud sport of “Strawberry”. Leaves are distorted so does the red bracts.

“Blue Moon”

A dark red gets to maroon variety. Leaves are variegated.

“New Pink”

A pink coloured variety with the same leaves as above.

“Orange Batik 11”

An orange variety with less prominent variegated leaves.

“Yellow Batik 11”

A yellow variety with less prominent variegated leaves.

“Red Batik 11”

A red variety with less prominent variegated leaves.

“Ratana Red” (Red Butterfly)

A bud sport of “Red Batik” with leaves and bracts distorted. Bracts are red in coloured as if many small butterflies resting above the leaves.

“Ratana Yellow” (Yellow Butterfly)

A yellow butterfly.

“Ratana Orange” (Orange Butterfly)

An orange butterfly.

“Ratana Pink” (Pink Butterfly)

A pink butterfly.

“Ratana Rainbow”

Bud sport of “Sakura” with distorted bracts showing white coloured tipped with pink. Leaves also distorted.

“Ratana Butterfly”

A variety which looks very much like “Ratana Rainbow’.

“Hujan Panas” (Red Fantasy)

A bud sport of “Juanita Hatten” with red bracts against gold dotted leaves.

"Hujan Panas – Orange”

Orange bracts variety which leaves same with “Hujan PanasII- Pink”.

“Red Ribbons”

A variegated variety with leaves distorted and bracts also distorted. Bracts are red, very fine.

“Chili Delight”

Green but distorted leaves. Bracts are orange in coloured, distorted and twisted in arrangement.

“Baby Rose”

Bracts are white but company by many mauve dots. Leaves are dark green.

“Muar’s Butterfly”

Bracts and leaves size same as “Ratana Rainbow”. Bracts are red.


The link below takes you to a comprehensive photo gallery of various Bougainvillea cultivars.



Thank you Gordon for allowing us to share this information with the gardening community free of commercialism.