Why wont my bougainvillea bloom

Bougainvillea Won’t Bloom

Q: My bougainvillea vine was blooming when I bought it and has grown like a weed. Someone told me not to water it too much so I’ve withheld water–still no blooms. What kind of fertilizer should I use? It gets some shade.

A: Will you feel better if I tell you that lots of people have the very same problem? No? OK, here are some suggestions.

1. Plant in full sun. The more sun your plant gets, the more blooms you’ll get. Bougainvillea will not bloom in shade.

2. Don’t water. This vine is well-adapted to arid climates where there are defined wet and dry seasons.

3. Go easy on nitrogen fertilizer or you’ll get all leaves and no blooms. Try feeding it once a month in summer with a tablespoon of Epsom salts dissolved in a gallon of water.

4. To get blooms, the vine needs to go dormant between September and February. Absolutely do not feed or water during this time.

5. Vines tend to bloom at times when nights are longer than days or the day-length is decreasing. Some selections are more day-length sensitive than others.

Good luck, Grumpy

Bougainvillea Not Blooming : Force Your Bougainvillea To Bloom

The most common complaint on potted bougainvillea is that they stop flowering shortly after the plant they buy it from the nursery. It is so frustrating to see that the plant which was full of bright and attractive blossoms in the nursery has become dull. So how to keep bougainvillea blooming all year round?
Most bougainvilleas bloom almost all year round if grown outdoors, specifically from spring through summer, if given the right growing conditions and care. In cooler climates, they will bloom for only a limited time in summer.

Propagated Bougainvillea growing in a pot

No Flowers on bougainvillea? Why does bougainvillea not bloom? Why your bougainvillea not blooming? What has gone wrong?

The reasons for a bougainvillea not blooming are the following:
Wrong soil
Not enough Light
Heavy Pruning or no pruning Learn how to how to keep bougainvillea blooming or how to force your potted bougainvilleas to bloom by taking proper care of light, watering, fertilizing, pruning and re-potting.

How to Get Bougainvillea to Flower

There are ways to force potted bougainvilleas or grown in ground to bloom by taking proper care of light, watering, fertilizing, pruning and re-potting.

Bougainvillea care in pot | Bonsai Bougainvillea Care | How to make Bougainvillea Bonsai | Bonsai Bougainvillea Training | Bougainvillea Bonsai Pruning | How to propagate bougainvillea from cuttings | Propagate Bougainvillea from cuttings Video

Proper Soil

The bougainvilleas thrives in slightly acidic free-draining rich soil, pH 5.5 to 6.0. You can add some azalea potting mix or limestone in the soil to make it acidic. Make the soil free-draining by adding coarse river sand.

Light and Temperature

  1. The flowering of bougainvilleas depend on the amount of light the plants receive. If growing in shade, they will produce plenty of good dark green leaves, but they will not bloom.
  2. Put the bougainvillea plant in direct sun for at least eight hours daily for them to bloom their best.
  3. Cover the Bougainvillea plant with a blanket to protect it from frost, otherwise it can be damaged or killed.
  4. Place an indoor Bougainvillea plant in the brightest area of the house during winter – a south-facing window, and move it outside for the summer.

Watering Trick For Bougainvillea To Bloom

  1. To force bougainvillea into bloom, nurseries often withhold water for a few months. Then they water the plant heavily. The plant thinks that it was dying due to drought, will now think it has one last chance to propagate itself, so it blooms heavily to produce seeds. This is the best trick to bloom your bougainvilleas.
  2. Bougainvillea are very drought-tolerant and thrive on neglect. So do not over-water the plant. Only water them when the leaves are withering, give water only when the soil feels dry at 3 or 4 inches deep into the soil.
  3. If growing in ground, you do not need to water them frequently once they are established.
  4. A little wilting can be used to encourage a reluctant bloomer to flower. When little colorful flower buds start to appear, water more frequently.
  5. Never allow a bougainvillea plant in bloom to wilt severely, as this will greatly shorten the blooming time.

Fertilizing For Bougainvillea To Bloom

  1. Too much frequent nitrogen fertilizer encourages a bougainvillea plant to grow lots of vegetative parts like leaves and stems at the expense of buds. Only a new plant needs a higher nitrogen fertilizer to help encourage good growth.
  2. Use a high-potash fertilizer, such as a hibiscus or tomato fertilizer during spring and summer.
  3. I feed my plants with a liquid feed high in potassium every 3-4 weeks. If the plant starts growing vigorously with big green leaves, then cut back on fertilizer.
  4. A tablespoon of Epsom salt can help.
  5. If nothing works, giving a dose of bone meals or super phosphate would produce new flowers in about 3 weeks.

Size of Container and Re-potting of Bougainvillea Plant

  1. Bougainvilleas bloom much better when the roots have become pot-bound or slightly crowded in the pot. Repot into a bigger pot ONLY when the health of the plant begins to suffer, otherwise shifting them into larger pots will encourage a large plant without blooms.
  2. I leave bougainvilleas in the same pots for many years.
  3. If you want to grow bougainvillea in ground, plant it in a pot and bury in the ground for root binding.

Bougainvillea Pruning and Pinching

Proper pruning is important for bougainvillea to bloom.

  1. Bougainvillea pruning encourages new growth and blooms., pruning overgrown bougainvillea is actually a bloom booster.
  2. Pinch off about 1/2 inch of the stem tips and prune plants in early spring to encourage more flowers.
  3. When blooms finish for the season, cut it back by a few inches to force blooming. Heavy pruning will reduce the amount of blooms.
  4. Prune any suckers grown at the base of the plant to encourage more growth at the top.

Age of the Plant

As the plant matures, flowering will increase both in amount and duration. An older bougainvillea in a pot or ground will bloom more on and off for several months.

Bougainvillea propagation | Bougainvillea care | Bonsai Bougainvillea Care | How to make Bougainvillea Bonsai | Bonsai Bougainvillea Training | Bougainvillea Bonsai Pruning | Video- Growing Bougainvillea from cutting

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How to keep bougainvillea blooming video


Photo: Dan Culbert

Bougainvillea is a tropical vining shrub that comes in a wide array of bright and fanciful colors.

The “flowers” are actually modified leaves, called bracts, that are long-lasting and bright. The colorful bracts outshine the plant’s true (but tiny) flower, much like a poinsettia. They appear periodically throughout most of the year, but are especially plentiful in the winter, when the splashes of color are a welcome sight. Bougainvillea blooms in fuschia, red, white, yellow, and orange.

Bougainvilleas require full sun and actually perform better when their soil is left a little dry, making this a perfect plant for the drought-tolerant landscape. It needs to be protected from frost and freeze.


It can be pruned into a shrub-like form, trained to grow over fences and trellises, and even used for espliers. Dwarf varieties can be planted on top of a wall or in hanging baskets, where they will create cascades of color.

The best time to prune bougainvillea is in late winter or early spring after it flowers, or at the start of the rainy season. If you wait until late summer or early fall, your plant may produce fewer flowers during the following winter.

It’s a good idea to wear heavy gloves, since many cultivars have sharp thorns. Use a pair of pruning shears to cut back any errant branches, and work to give your plant a pleasing shape.

You can even use the smaller cuttings to propagate new plants. If you do, then you’ll be able to share beautiful bougainvilleas with all your gardening friends.

Why Won’t My Bougainvillea Bloom?

What happens if your bougainvillea won’t bloom? Sun is a critical part of the equation. The more sun your vine gets, the more blooms it will put out. Without some direct sun, it just won’t flower.

Water is another key factor. Bougainvillea is native to arid climates, so check that your irrigation system isn’t applying more water than the plant needs.

If you’re pruning too often, you could be cutting off new blooms as well. Finally, go easy on the fertilizer. Too much nitrogen will encourage your plant to produce leaves instead of blooms.

So try neglecting your bougainvillea instead of babying it. You should be rewarded with beautiful blooms!


  • Florida Plant ID: Bougainvillea

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Trick to bougainvillea is drainage, timing

It’s hard to describe what bougainvillea means to a lot of us Floridians.
It’s so colorful that the term “flamboyant” is not descriptive enough. Neon magenta does not come close to describing the color of the papery-looking flowers.
Or flaming orange with hint of key lime. Or soft pink that has been kissed by the sun setting over the Marquesas.
And it is a survivor: It grows in the most destitute of locations – we’re talking chalky old coral beds, no soil and brutal sun, or rain that ranges from bare dribble to hurricane deluge.
And despite that beauty and strength, the sprawling vine/bush has ornery thorns that will, well, do severe damage when you try to disentangle it from your front gate or even try to prune it away from the doorway.
However, let’s just sum it up in one word: this plant is tropical.
And for northerners, it can be temperamental, too.
I am writing this surrounded by a virtual bed of bougainvillea, an island 27.3 miles nearly due east from Key West, where the perennial reigns supreme, lavishly balanced by silvery white buttonwood hedges, verdant coconut palms, wild tie-dye crotons and lush hibiscus.
It is one of a cornucopia of things we can’t grow in Gainesville. But is it?
Not really. According to a few gardening people down here in the tropics, we can have this “paper flower” in North Central Florida. And grow it as well, it is pointed out, as in Savannah, Ga., which is several hours north and east from us, or the patio gardens of New Orleans, La., quite some 100 miles north and west of us.
OK, the trick I’ve been told, is drainage and timing. Bougainvillea has a very fine root system that will not tolerate soggy soil.
One nurseryman even went so far to say we should excavate the soil, add sand and rocks, and then plant the bougainvillea.
“Down here, we excavate a hole into what we call the ground, and we have this perfect pot. Put a little lean potting soil in there, plant your bougainvillea, water it, and you’re done,” says Frank D’Isa, owner of Octopuses Garden on Big Pine Key. “The key is, it drains so quickly, we never have to worry about overwatering.”
Yes, there is the cold factor. Bougainvillea grows best in zones 9b-11; Gainesville is zone 8b. But I’ve been told by everyone I talked to that after it gets frosted (not frozen) down, the plant will revive just fine after pruning off the dead parts.
Oh, let’s talk pruning. Don’t bother pruning it, the folks at Bayside Landscaping on Ramrod Key say.
Just cut away the extraneous stuff, or the branches that are old and unproductive, in the spring. They remind me that bouganivillea blooms on new wood.
Bougainvillea (boog-an-VILL-eh-uh) glabra is a fast-growing woody perennial that is often sold as hanging baskets up in our neck of the woods.
The flowers – actually they are bracts surrounding white, trumpet-shaped flowers – are produced at the ends of branches and range in color from white to deep cerise, with magenta and orange the most popular.
Individual flowers can last up to eight weeks. Foliage can be green or variegated. Mature size can range from 3-foot dwarfs to 40-foot giants.
It is very tolerant of salt, so it is perfect for our coastal areas. Ideal temperature range is 65 degrees at night and 75-95 during the day.
However, since it looms most prolifically when the days get shorter in the fall (or, more correctly, the nights get longer), getting it to bloom in Gainesville’s temperate area in October can sometimes be tricky. A way to prompt color is giving the plant some stress.
The growers in the Keys suggest withholding water starting late summer, almost to the point of wilt, and using only a low-nitrogen fertilizer.
D’Isa uses 4-6 month time release fertilizer twice a year, merely sprinkling some on the top of the ground.
If you purchase a bougainvillea from the store, though, he says it will lose its leaves after flowering.
“That’s normal,” D’Isa says. “Don’t give up on it. And don’t fuss over it. It’ll come back. And remember it wants to bloom in the fall, even though mine are colorful all year long.
“They really just grow and grow without any interference by us.”

Garden Q&A: Bougainvillea needs full sun to look its best

My bougainvillea was planted in the shade and now I have no blooms. I have used several different kinds of fertilizers, but still no blooms. What can I do to make my plant bloom?

This is a case of right plant/right place. Bougainvilleas do best when planted in full sun and do poorly in dense shade.

Both bush and climbing types need pruning to maintain size and vigor. Pruning after September and during the flowering season will greatly reduce the amount of flowering. Keep bougainvillea on the dry side, especially if you want lots of blooms. They can be grown in most soils, although they prefer slightly acidic conditions. Too much water will promote root rot and cause leaves to drop.

Care should be taken to avoid overfertilizing bougainvilleas, particularly with nitrogen as this may lead to excessive vegetative growth and reduced flowering. Fertilizing established plants are best confined to spring and late summer. If fertilizer is applied after September or October, there is likely to be vegetative growth and little flowering.

For spring fertilizer application, use a balanced complete fertilizer, such as 6-6-6-3. For the late summer fertilizer application, use a bloom-booster, such as 4-6-8.

Bougainvilleas withstand pruning well, and it is essential to achieve the desired shape and size. Although the bougainvillea is normally a climbing plant, it can be pruned to be a shrub and can also be planted in pots. Pruning after the late summer or early fall will severely reduce flower production during the peak winter season.

You may have to consider another flowering plant to replace your nonblooming bougainvillea. Gingers, camellias, oakleaf hydrangeas or azaleas are all tolerant of shaded areas and may bring you more pleasure.

The University of Florida has a publication on landscape plants for shaded sites: edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG252. Another option would be to move the bougainvillea to a sunny site.

I’ve noticed that the bark on my live oak tree has been chewed off on several branches. What’s going on here?

This one really puzzled me, but we have a great group of experts that we can call on at the Duval County Extension Office.

I put this question to Larry Figart, the County Forester, and he knew right away what the problem was. It would appear that the culprits are squirrels. Squirrels will chew the bark off of several tree species, including live oak trees.

Following are the three theories as to why they do this:

Gnawing in search of water. This theory looks at bark stripping, which occurs during the dry months. This theory has been weakened by the fact that squirrels have been observed stripping bark in wet weather.

Gnawing to cope with pain. The idea behind this theory is that pregnant female squirrels late in their term, don’t eat. So the belief is that they gnaw on bark to cope with the pain.

Gnawing in search of food. This theory holds that squirrels are gnawing in search of the inner bark that would satisfy a particular nutritional need.

These are just theories, and no one really knows the true reason. Most branches where the bark has been gnawed will heal over in time, and the worse damage that could occur would be the loss of a limb or two.

Tom Bruton is a master gardener with the Duval County Agricultural Extension Office and the University of Florida.

Way back in January when my garden was brown and bleak I remember saying with great feeling, “I am hungry for color.” The only flowers blooming then were pansies. It is now July, with the temperature at 94 degrees.
I live in Houston, so I am used to intense heat. I know with extreme heat I can have lots of color in flowers, and at my age, 95, that is important.
Now, in summer, my garden is full of color. To the west of my house the blossoms on my neighbor’s crape myrtle trees cascade over a fence, in bright colors of pink, red and watermelon. On my side of the fence grow white shell ginger, yellow bells, yellow shrimp plant and red roses. At the back door where I stand to look out at this colorful realm is my hummingbird tree (hamelia patens), which is full of red tubular blossoms, not quite ready for the hummingbirds. I’ve seen only one hummingbird. But soon the tubular blooms will open wide enough for the birds to suck the sweet nectar. Hidden in an alcove behind the hummingbird tree grow four tall Red Sister Cordyline plants, which enjoy morning sun and afternoon shade.
But my pride and joy this season are my Bougainvillea. Seven large pots (twenty inches in diameter) each hold 6-foot tall Bougainvilleas standing in full hot glorious sun.
To find out that this flower needed that kind of hot full sun, I had to move the first pot twice because it would not bloom. First I put my bougainvillea under a tree. It did not bloom, so I moved it near an 11 foot wall. Still, it did not bloom. So I put the plant in a large pot and placed it in the driveway in full sun. Now all seven plants bloom every five or six weeks and then rest from blooming for five or six weeks.
The question people ask me most often (I am a member of the horticulture committee of my garden club) is, “Why doesn’t my bougainvillea bloom?”
Bougainvillea Care
1. Plant in Pots – Bougainvilleas like their roots to be crowded in a pot. In order to make the bougainvillea crowded in the ground you would have to cut the roots back. In the ground, the plant will stay vegetative and bloom little.
2. Soil to Use in Pots – Be sure your pots have good holes in the bottom, so you will have good drainage. Use good potting soil mixed with rich compost.
3. Fertilizing – Fertilize with Hibiscus Food, 12-4-18. Hibiscus food has more potash than many other fertilizers. Be sure to measure exactly the amount of food according to the size of your pot. My pots are 20 inches in diameter so according to the directions on the container I give my plants one half cup once a month. I noticed my helper, Raul Lopez, was giving a small handful of fertilizer to the pots, and I said, “Raul, you are not giving enough Hibiscus food.” Thereafter, he measured exactly.
4. Watering – Bougainvillea comes from a hot humid climate, and it is happy in this atmosphere. (The plant was discovered by the French explorer Antoine de Bougainvillea, who on a trip to the Pacific Ocean in 1768 discovered the vine.) Water every other day – not every day. Be sure the dirt in the pot feels dry before you water. Water large pots until water runs out the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Dennis Wright, a landscape architect, told me, “The bougainvillea likes to wither.” It is difficult to know when the plant withers, but I can usually tell when the plant’s leaves start to dry.
5. Freezing Weather – When cold weather comes, Raul pulls the pots into the garage. They will keep their blooms for a while, but soon the leaves drop, and the plants freeze. I know this will happen, so I don’t worry about it. I just pray for freezing weather to go away. When it does, Raul trims all the dead leaves and branches down to a third of the original size. Fortunately, they all grow back.
6. Cutting Back – May 6 – After fertilizing the pots, they grew long trailing limbs. Blossoms grew on the ends of only a few. I wanted to cut off these long limbs but I was afraid to, because I remembered how beautiful bougainvillea look in mid-summer with lots of red blooms. Their vibrant color does not come from their small white tubular flowers, but from the three large paper-like bracts that surround each flower. The name of my Bougainvillea is Barbara Karst. My mentor, Rich Boettler of Teas Nursery said to me, “I don’t know about pruning them like we do roses, but why don’t you make some trial cuts and see what happens.”
Raul and I numbered the large pots of Bougainvillea, 1-7. We put sticks of bamboo all the same length in all the pots, and Raul tied the long limbs to the bamboo poles. He cut 12 inches from the limbs in two pots, 20 inches from the limbs in two pots, 30 inches from the limbs in two pots, and from one pot we cut nothing.
Result: June 30
What we found was that the plants we cut back 20 and 30 inches grew to the top of the bamboo sticks with lots of blossoms. The plants cut 12 inches grew halfway to the top of the bamboo stick with blossoms. The plant we did not cut back at all grew to the top of the stick, but blossoms were scarce.
From this experiment, Raul and I decided that blossoms like to grow on new wood, and the more you cut them back, the more blossoms you will get.
As I look out my back door towards the east side of my garden, I see my tall white crape myrtle tree and my pink crape myrtle. The white one is on its second blooming. Raul trimmed it when the seeds hung down. The pink one doesn’t get as much sun as the white, so it has not finished blooming and growing seeds.
Along the east side there is a bed of pink geraniums still blooming in hot weather. Nasturtiums were dug up very early because they ran all over the bed. Larkspur has gone to seed, but the lavender color is still pretty. I also have five and six foot zinnias, with shorter ones below. I look forward to planting zinnias early on the Friday before Easter when warm weather comes. I buy a package of seeds to grow tall zinnias and I buy small plants to grow the shorter ones. Zinnias love sun and heat. They don’t like water on their leaves so we turn the sprinkler to go on early in the morning so the leaves dry off and don’t get fungus.
In the back of the yard my faithful pink shrimp plants bloom all year round. All you have to do is pick them. I have pink cannas from May until frost. All you have to do is dead head the canna blossoms and look to see if they have been bitten by insects.
I am very happy in the summer months when my sun-loving plants bloom. When I came home from a neighborly July 4th parade held each year on a boulevard near my house, I felt full of a feeling of thanks, that we have the freedom to have a parade. All the neighbors’ children were riding their bicycles and tricycles or walking with their parents behind them. When I walked up my driveway and saw my seven pots of Bougainvillea standing tall, full of red blossoms, I was happy to belong in a free country surrounded by flowers.

Lillian’s Compost Recipe

Prepare a mixture of green grass cuttings, dry brown leaves and worn out plants. Here’s how to do it: Make a layer of the mixture of green and dried material 5 feet by 5 feet, 6 inches tall. Sprinkle over it a 1/2 inch layer of dirt and 13-13-13 fertilizer. Water the layer just enough to moisten. Next, make another layer and keep on until the compost pile is five feet high. That’s enough for that pile but now is the most important element: giving air to the microbes by turning with a pitchfork. The more often you turn it, the quicker you will get finished compost.

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Q: My bougainvillea was planted in the shade and I have had no blooms. What can I do to make my plant bloom?

Q: My bougainvillea was planted in the shade and I have had no blooms. I have used several different kinds of fertilizers but still no blooms. What can I do to make my plant bloom?

A: This is a case of Right Plant/Right Place. Bougainvillea will grow in a variety of soil types, is highly drought tolerant but should be grown in full sun in acid soil to produce numerous colored bracts (similar to poinsettia or dogwood). If it receives too much shade and/or water it will resists blooming.

You may need to consider another flowering plant to replace your non-blooming bougainvillea. Ginger, camellia, oakleaf hydrangea or azalea are all tolerant of shaded areas and may bring you more pleasure. Attached is a University of Florida publication on landscape plants for shaded sites: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG252.

Another option would be to move the bougainvillea to a sunny site. The following information is regarding bougainvillea cultivars, should you decide to keep the plant. Bougainvillea can tolerate hot, dry locations but chlorosis may be a problem in alkaline soil (high pH). Regular pruning will be necessary to shape the plant or direct its growth since shoots often grow vigorously, but Bougainvillea tolerates trimming well. These vigorous shoots can stunt growth on the rest of the plant if they are left to develop. Be careful when trimming to avoid injury from the 1 to 2-inch-long thorns.

This is generally a low-maintenance plant. It is not uncommon for plants often loose many leaves following a flowering period. This usually preceeds a new growth flush. This plant is very versatile in the proper environment as it can be used as a hedge, espalier, cascading or formed into a single trunk tree.

Bougainvillea plants come in a variety of colors listed below. ‘Barbara Karst’, bright red bracts, vigorous growth; ‘Afterglow’, yellow-orange, heavy bloom, sparse foliage; `Hawaii’ (‘Raspberry Ice’), red bloom, leaves have golden yellow margins, is one of the hardiest. Dwarf cultivars include: ‘Crimson Jewel’, combines crimson, pink, and orange; ‘Oo-la-la’, very purple. There is also a cultivar available with variegated foliage, ‘Variegata’. Bougainvillea spectabilis has purple-red flower bracts, thorny stems, leaves thick, large, and hairy. Bougainvillea glabra has smooth leaves, rose-red flower bracts, is less thorny, and is hardier. Propagation is by seeds or cuttings. Check out the University of Florida publication from which the above information was adapted: http://hort.ufl.edu/shrubs/BOUSPPA.PDF

by kathywarner

Posted: July 7, 2017

Category: Home Landscapes

Tags: bougainvillea, shrubs

If you live in a temperate climate and want an (almost) year-round floral fiesta, then bougainvillea is the plant for you. Depending on the variety, it can be grown on a trellis or over an arbor, against a building or fence, in containers, as a hedge or ground cover, in tree form, and as a bonsai. I’ve done many posts and videos on this plant. Here I’m straight up sharing care and growing tips for bougainvillea, a plant I have a lot of experience with.

Bougainvillea can grow anywhere from 1′ to 8′ to 30′, depending on the species or variety. There are actually quite a few dwarf bougainvilleas on the market now if you don’t want one the maintenance that goes along with one that grows to 25′. In the warmth and full sun that it loves, bougainvillea is fast growing.

This video with care & growing tips for bougainvillea is long – I have a lot to tell you!

Bougainvillea Care & Growing Tips


Bougainvillea needs at least 6 hours of full sun a day to flower profusely and look its best. This plant loves the heat too. No enough sun = not enough color. If you live where it’s borderline zones hardy (see zones below), planting a bougainvillea against a warm wall will help.


This plant is hardy from USDA zones 9b – 11. It doesn’t like to go below 30 degrees F and definitely not for a prolonged period of time. 1 or 2 random nights around freezing will be okay. Older, established bougainvilleas can withstand a freeze much better than newly planted ones. Many varieties will lose part or all of their leaves in climates with winters on the cooler end of the spectrum. Remember, this is one plant that loves sun and heat!


When it comes to watering, bougainvillea is pretty drought tolerant once established. It prefers a good, deep watering every 3-4 weeks rather than frequent shallow waterings.

When establishing, be sure to give your bougainvillea regular water. It’s subject to a few types of root rots so don’t over-water. The soil should be well-drained which will help prevent rot. I plan on doing a post and video on how to plant bougainvillea so I’ll go into the topic of soil more in-depth there. Another result of too much water – more green growth and fewer flowers. No thank you, flowers, please.

This is what bougainvillea trained to grow as a hedge looks like.


I’ve never fertilized bougainvilleas, either when planting or as part of maintenance. I always feed them with compost, a good dose upon planting and a 3″ topping every late winter/early spring every year or 2. I used to work at a nursery in Berkeley where a grower recommended fertilizing them with a palm and hibiscus food.

This flower food would be another option if you feel yours needs fertilizing to up the ante on the bloom. Be sure to follow the directions on the box – an application once or twice a year will be just fine.


In my Santa Barbara garden, aphids could be an issue on the new growth of my bougainvilleas in early spring. I just sprayed them off with a gentle blast of the garden hose.

The bougainvillea looper caterpillar has been an issue with my bougies in Arizona and California. They’re green, brown or greenish-yellow and very tiny – maybe 1″ long. They feed at night and chew mainly on the leaves. I just let them be and they eventually go away. Because my bougies drop a lot of their leaves in the winter, it’s not an issue for me.

A couple of weeks ago leafcutter bees were enjoying 1 of my bougainvilleas, which you’ll see in the video, but now they seem to have moved on. They move fast and are valuable pollinators for many plants. For that reason, I let them be also.

I’m touching briefly on this subject here but I’ll tell you that it’s a crapshoot. Bougainvilleas don’t like to have their roots disturbed. I’ve never transplanted one and don’t recommend it. You’d be better off just buying a new one. If you try it, just be as careful as possible.

Double the bougainvillea color show!


The taller growing bougainvilleas need strong support and need to be trained and tied. They aren’t attaching or twining vines. Make sure the ties you use are strong and that you tie them well – some of their branches get to be good-sized. They can be trained on a trellis, over an arbor, on a fence or across a structure. The lower growing varieties are suited to be hedges, ground covers, and free-form shapes (I’ve seen 1 pruned into a swan shape and another into a giant basket). I trained my “Barbara Karst” in Santa Barbara into an “umbrella tree”. They’re also a suitable bonsai plant.

In Containers

Bougainvillea does fine in containers but I’d recommend using 1 of the lowing growing varieties for this. The taller ones need a very large pot to accommodate the large root systems. A good organic potting soil with a good dose of compost mixed in would make this plant happy.

I’ve done a few posts on pruning bougainvilleas which you can find here on our website. I give mine their big pruning in late winter – this sets the tone for how I want them to grow and look throughout the season. I’ll do 2 or 3 lighter ones after each bloom cycle. If you pinch the tender ends which are about to bloom, the show of color will be denser and not all at the ends. A word of warning: all bougainvilleas that I’ve come across have thorns so use caution when pruning. If you’re not careful, you can come out from a round of pruning looking like you’ve been in the lion cage!

My Bougainvillea glabra in Santa Barbara which I trained across the garage.

As you can see, I’ve pruned my Bougainvillea “Rainbow Gold” here in Tucson much differently.


I’m saving the best for last! These flowering machines will bloom year-round in warm climates. In a climate where the winters are cool, they’ll bloom for 9-10 months. The tiny white centers are actually the flowers and the bracts (these are actually colored leaves) are what give us those big shows of color. Bougainvilleas put out a big explosion of color, drop their bracts and then flower again.

The colors you can find bougainvilleas in are: white to yellow to gold to pink to magenta to reddish-purple. Some have 2-toned colors and variegated foliage too. Something for all, except you lovers of blue.

The color of bougainvillea can change after you plant it. This has to do with the breeding. My bougainvilleas, all well established, will change color a bit as the season’s progress. When the temps are cooler, the color seems to be more intense. My “Rainbow Gold” has newer flowers which are orange and then they fade to pink.

If your bougainvillea is growing in part sun, the color could be a bit off. The bottom line: the warmer the spot is where you have your bougainvillea and the more sun it’s in, the more bloom and color you’ll get.

This is Bougainvillea “Mary Palmer’s Enchantment”. When the entire plant is covered in blooms, it looks like snow!

Bougainvilleas take a little maintenance, mainly in the forms of pruning and the sweeping, but in my book are well worth it for their big shows of color. Carmen Miranda would approve! Are you a fan of bougainvilleas too?

Happy gardening & thanks for stopping by,

Enjoy Some Additional Bougainvillea Care Guides!

How To Plant Bougainvillea To Grow Successfully

What Is Eating My Bougainvillea Leaves?

How I Prune & Trim My Bougainvillea For Maximum Bloom

Pruning Bougainvillea In Summer (Mid-Season) To Encourage More Bloom

How To Care For Bougainvillea In Winter

Please Check Out these Beautiful Plants Too!

How To Care For & Grow Star Jasmine

How To Grow Pink Jasmine Vine

The Most Important Thing to Do Before Pruning: Clean And Sharpen Your Pruning Tools

Organic Flower Gardening: Good Things To Know

Gardening 101

Bougainvillea Not Blooming: How To Get Bougainvillea To Flower

As beautiful as they are the in garden or landscape, getting blooms on bougainvillea can be a difficult task because of the way most gardeners think about their plants. Plants, after all, need careful, dedicated care, so no flowers on bougainvillea must mean that they’re not getting enough food, water or light. Shouldn’t it? A bougainvillea not blooming is a problem that’s easy to overcome, provided you think differently about your plants.

“Why doesn’t my bougainvillea bloom?” It’s a common question that growers everywhere ask about the gorgeous plants they brought home from the nursery, when they find the blooms stop coming shortly after the plant landed in its new spot in the garden.

The problem with bougainvillea is that they’re tough plants, hardy to the point of almost being weeds. That being said, they need to be cared for like weeds if you’re to find success with them. They need to be neglected to within an inch of their lives.

There are several errors that growers tend to make that interfere with bougainvillea flower formation, including:

Overwatering. Being the hardy plants they are, bougainvillea don’t need much water. Like cactus, your bougainvillea is actually native to very arid conditions so water it only when the top two inches of the soil feel dry to the touch. More than that and you’ll encourage root rot and discourage blooms.

Overfeeding. When you find your bougainvillea has lots of gorgeous green growth and no blooms, it’s probably because of an excessive amount of nitrogen fertilizer. Like other plants, too much nitrogen encourages bougainvillea to add lots of vegetative parts like leaves and stems at the expense of buds. If you want blooms and your plant looks healthy, focus your efforts on supplementing phosphate and potassium, adding nitrogen only when your plant’s leaves start to look slightly less green than usual.

Over Pruning. Heavy pruning of bougainvillea will seriously reduce the amount of blooms your bougainvillea produces, so if you must trim, do so carefully. It’s recommended that you only trim right after a bloom if you trim at all. Again, being wild plants, pruning isn’t really in their plans, so if you’re trimming just to keep your plant small, you might as well replace it with a dwarf variety.

Repotting. Again, your bougainvillea thrives on neglect, including being allowed to become root bound. This is why landscape bougainvilleas often don’t bloom as rigorously or as frequently as those planted in pots. Some growers choose to plant their bougainvilleas in pots buried in the ground, which works to marry the concept of root binding with landscape integration.

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