Bougainvilleas are beautiful vine-like shrubs that come in a variety of vibrant colors and make for a stunning statement in any home or garden. They prefer mild winter areas and can grow against a fence, building, on a trellis, in containers or as a hedge. With over 250 varieties of bougainvilleas out there, you’ll be sure to find the perfect one for your home!
Below we’ll cover proper bougainvillea care in pots, including sun, water, temperature and other care needs so you can begin nurturing your bougainvilleas in containers. We’ve also included different types of bougainvilleas and some frequently asked care questions so you can become familiar with these beautiful summer flowers!
Bougainvilleas are tropical vines with beautiful and vibrant bracts (modified leaves) which surround tiny white flowers. So the colorful parts you see when you look at a bougainvillea are actually the leaves, not petals!
This stunning plant can be found in the warmest parts of the world, including Mexico, India, the Mediterranean and the southern United States. Bougainvilleas go all the way back to 1768 when French explorer Philibert Commerçon saw these flowers in their native home of Brazil and named them after his friend, Louis Antoine de Bougainville. Since then, this pretty (but thorny!) plant has been introduced to many southern climates and is loved by many.
With over 250 varieties of bougainvilleas out there, most of them reach between 3 to39 feet in height. Though these vivid blooms are relatively easy to grow, they prefer to be in full sunlight and require a bit of maintenance.
9 Types of Bougainvilleas
While widely known for their vivid colors and vine-like features, there are plenty of varieties out there that have unique characteristics to fit any garden aesthetic. Below are some of the most popular bougainvillea varieties that are best suited for container growth.
Considered one of the most popular varieties, this beautiful shrub grows bracts in bright shades of magenta and red that surround tiny white flowers. Once they’re fully mature, they can grow up to 20 feet high. If you live in hardiness zones 9-12, consider the Barbara Karst!
If you live in a hotter climate (zone 11 or higher), consider getting Camarillo Fiestas. These fast-spreading vines love the heat and grow hot pink and gold bracts that can sometimes get up to 30 feet tall.
These famously gold bracts will add a warm and inviting touch to your garden and prefer hardiness zones between 10 and 12. They can grow up to 15 feet high and bloom in early spring to late fall.
As the name suggests, these bougainvilleas look quite similar to the cherry blossom tree. They grow in beautiful shades of light pink with a white center and are perfect for hanging baskets during the summertime. This variety prefers to grow in hardiness zones 9-11.
Looking for something more elegant? These stunning varieties grow clusters of white, round bracts that thrive in late spring to early fall. Because it tends to spread quickly, you’ll want to place it in a spiller container, where it can spill gracefully over the pot. White Stripes like to be grown in hardiness zones 11 and above.
Known for their fragrance, White Madonnas are often seen in shades of white and sometimes light pink. Be sure you provide moderate water and full sunlight to ensure the health and happiness of the plant. White Madonnas prefer hardiness zones 8 or 9.
These gorgeous lilac paper leaves are the perfect accent to any garden or home and are quite easy to care for. Unlike other bougainvillea varieties, Silhouettes are slow-growing and completely thornless, so if you have pets or young children, this may be a good choice for you. If you live in hardiness zone 10, this variety would do well in your garden.
This variety comes in a deep shade of purple and you’ll often find small white flowers within the bracts. These bougainvilleas can grow up to 20 feet high and are perfect if you’re looking for a plant that creates a beautiful display in an outdoor setting. Keep in mind these plants like a hardiness zone of 10 or higher.
If you want a more toned-down and subtle bougainvillea, Delta Dawns may be the perfect choice for you. The pastel orange bracts and creamy white leaves are a lovely addition to any home or patio, and they grow all year-round! Consider these plants if you live in a hardiness zone of 9 or 10.
How To Care for Bougainvillea in Pots
Bougainvilleas are dazzling shrubs of leaves and flowers that are moderately easy to grow and perfect for those who want a vibrant addition to their garden. However, they are sensitive to cold temperatures in the winter months and require full sunlight, so it’s important to keep a close eye on them, especially in the early stages of growth.
Bougainvilleas love the heat! They require at least six hours of full sunlight a day and can handle even the hottest of summers. If you want your plant to produce an abundance of flowers, make sure it’s sitting in direct sunlight. Oftentimes when bougainvilleas struggle to bloom, it’s because they aren’t receiving enough light, which will cause the plant to look thin and sparse.
Potted bougainvilleas require regular watering. During the hot months, you can expect to water your plant at least once a week. If temperatures reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, consider watering your flowers twice a week to ensure they’re well hydrated. During the winter months, you’ll only need to water them every 2-3 weeks.
Bougainvilleas are considered tropical plants and prefer to grow in warmer climates. That being said, established vines can withstand colder temperatures in the winter months. However, bougainvilleas thrive in hardiness zones 9 and above, so if temperatures drop below 30 degrees, we recommend bringing your potted plant inside.
Due to the sap the plant produces, bougainvilleas are considered mildly toxic to pets. The leaves themselves are not toxic, but a single prick from one of the thorns can lead to skin infections or an allergic reaction, so make sure you keep an eye on your pets!
If ingested by humans, bougainvilleas are not toxic or considered a poisonous plant. Our bodies can handle ingesting a plant like this one, but many animals, like cats and dogs, may experience mild illness or symptoms.
Pests & Problems
Pests: Though bougainvilleas are typically pest-free, they can occasionally attract pests like aphids, thrips, spider mites, slugs and caterpillars. If you come across a pest problem, consider spraying them with a mixture of dish soap and water, using neem oil or buying an insecticide if you want a harsher solution.
Problems: Like many other plants, bougainvilleas can be susceptible to common diseases such as root rot, leaf spots and nutrient deficiencies. To avoid this, be sure your bougainvilleas are well-drained and receive enough water and sunlight.
Repotting and Propagation
Repotting: Since bougainvilleas are known for their fast-growing habits, regular repotting is recommended to ensure they don’t outgrow their pot. Follow these steps below when repotting your plant:
- Remove the plant by grasping the stem near the base.
- Slide the bougainvillea out of the container with the pot turned on its side.
- Rinse out the pot or container with fresh water and remove any remaining debris.
- Fill the new container with 3 inches of potting soil and carefully place the plant inside.
- Water lightly to keep the soil slightly moist.
Propagation: Cut stems that are at least 6 inches in length and fill a container with peat and perlite. Place the cutting in the soil mixture (about 1-2 inches deep) and remove any remaining leaves from the stem.
While bougainvilleas are relatively easy to take care of, you may still encounter some problems or have questions about how to raise them. Below are some common questions about bougainvillea care and the plant’s life cycle.
Why is my bougainvillea dying?
There could be many factors playing a role in the decline of your plant’s health, but one of the most common reasons is overwatering. You’ll begin to notice the leaves falling off and stunted growth, which is a sign to cut back on your watering routine.
Be sure to take into account the temperature your plant is growing in — in the colder months, you won’t need to water the plant as often as the summer months, when temperatures reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Do bougainvilleas bloom year-round?
With proper care, bougainvilleas are known to last year-round when planted outdoors. They thrive in the heat and can withstand colder temperatures — just be sure to bring the plant inside if temperatures reach below 30 degrees to ensure year-round growth.
How do you keep bougainvilleas blooming?
In order to ensure abundant blooms on bougainvilleas, make sure the plant is receiving full sunlight. If your container bougainvilleas are grown indoors year-round, they will experience shorter blooming periods due to a lack of sunlight. To optimize the amount of light the plant gets, place it by a south-facing window. Outdoor bougainvilleas that are in containers require a sunny spot, ideally by a south-facing wall.
Whether you choose to grow Delta Dawns or Barbara Karsts, you’ll surely be in for a treat with these vibrant and multicolored flowers. Bougainvilleas are a must in any garden and are perfect for all experience levels. With a few of our tips in your back pocket, you’ll be mastering the basics of bougainvillea care and will become an expert in no time!