If you’ve never grown Bougainvillea before then you are in for a treat. These sweethearts of South America are hardy and beautiful plants and today we’ll tell you how to grow Bougainvillea so that you’ll know more about them and can ensure that they are getting everything that they need to thrive!
In this article, we’ll share two tried and true techniques that you can use and we’ll also provide some growing tips and some pointers on helping you get your Bougainvilleas to bloom.
If you’re ready, then let’s talk about how to grow Bougainvillea and what you’ll need to know to keep them happy and healthy!
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Growing your Bougainvillea – Two techniques you can try at home
There are 3 common ways to grow Bougainvilleas – by seed, by cuttings, and by layering – and today we’ll cover the first two as they are the easiest way to get started with growing Bougainvilleas of your own.
In the sections below, we’ll tell you how to grow your Bougainvillea from seed or cutting and we’ll present it in a step-by-step form so that everything should be clear, concise, and easy to follow. Let’s take a look at how it’s done and what you’re going to need!
Growing Bougainvillea from seed
Growing a Bougainvillea ‘from scratch’ isn’t hard, it just takes a little bit of patience and a whole lot of love. In this section, we’ll tell you how it’s done and we’ll also cover how to grow a Bougainvillea from cuttings in the section that follows so that you can use this method if you already have some established plants.
With that said, here is how you can grow Bougainvilleas from seeds the ‘old-fashioned’ way!
What you’ll need:
- Egg carton with drainage holes or a Seedling tray (like this Burpee Superseed Dishwasher-safe tray)
- Bougainvillea seeds
- Loamy, rich soil (any well-draining potting soil will be okay)
- Heating pad (or a very warm window spot – ideally around 75 degrees)
Steps to germinate your seeds:
1. Add Soil in Tray
Start off by putting some of your soil into the seedling tray and making a little hole for each seedling you want to make.
2. Add Seeds
Put 2 – 3 seeds into each hole in order to maximize our chances of getting the healthiest seedling that we can.
3. Place Tray in Sun
Place the tray somewhere warm and sunny, such as next to a southern or western facing window, and put your heating pad underneath it (optional, but a heating pad set at 75 degrees can speed up the germination process)
4. Maintaing by Watering
Water when the topmost soil is dry and wait – Germination is a slow process and it can take 30 -40 days or even a little more. Once you see your plants sprouting up, you’ll want to give them a little time so that they establish a good root system. Let them grow to be 5 to 6 inches tall and they should be ready to transplant where you like.
We should note, some folks will transplant their bougainvillea immediately to the garden, while others prefer to put it in a pot and raise it for another 2 to 3 months to ensure that it’s nice and hardy. That part will be up to you but we wanted to mention that, just in case you’ve had some problems getting your plants established.
Next, we’ll look at how to grow Bougainvillea from cuttings, so stick around if you’re interested in learning this or you can skip that section and go to the tips if you already know how to nurture cuttings!
Growing Bougainvillea from cuttings
Propagating a Bougainvillea plant from cuttings is probably the most popular method for growing them. That’s because you are essentially cloning a nice, healthy plant that is already established and it gives you a little bit of a ‘sneak preview’ as to what you can expect as it grows.
It’s quite easy to do, so let’s go over the steps so that you try this method if you’ve already got a plant or two in the garden that could use some company!
What you’ll need:
- Garden shears
- Soil mix of 1 part peat and 1 part perlite
- Rooting hormone (like this Garden Safe Takeroot rooting hormone)
- 1 small pot for each cutting (with drainage holes)
Steps to select, grow, and nurture your cuttings:
1. Starting off, put on your gloves and get your shears, and we want to look for softwood portions of your plant for cuttings. Softwood will be best for our purposes as it’s not old or new – it’s just right.
2. Look for sections with 5 to 6 existing nodes and cut a few clippings like this – you’ll want each to be 5 to 7 inches in length.
3. You’ll want to remove the leaves from your cutting and dip the bottom end into your rooting hormone and we’re ready to plant these. Put your soil mixture of 1 part peat and 1 part perlite into your pots.
4. Make a hole in the center of each pot and plant your cutting 2 – 3 inches deep. Water the soil and you can water again when the top 1 inch is dry and it should take about 8 weeks to properly root. You’ll be able to tell, as small leaves will make an appearance.
At this point, you can transplant your Bougainvillea plant to your garden or you can move it to a larger pot and nurture it for another 2 – 3 months if you want to ensure that it will be as hardy as possible before it goes into the garden.
Tips on growing your Bougainvillea
In this section, we’re going to give you some ‘quick and digestible’ tips to help you encourage your Bougainvillea to grow into happy and healthy adult plants. Here are some basics and useful tips to keep in mind:
- Bougainvilleas need 6 hours of sunlight every day, so make sure that you put them somewhere that they can get it!
- Loamy, well-draining soils are best for Bougainvillea and according to Texas A&m University, some pro growers in Alabama like to use a mix of 4 parts well-rotted pine bark, 3 parts peat moss, and 2 parts perlite for best results. That said, a well-draining potting soil will do and the drainage is the most important part, so be sure there’s some perlite in there to help avoid root rot.
- Bougainvilleas don’t do cold well, so if you live somewhere where the winters dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for more than a day or two, it’s best to raise your bougainvilleas in large pots that you can move when it’s cold.
- Once a month, apply a 10-10-10 balanced fertilizer, or you can use a Hibiscus fertilizer every 6 weeks to help promote healthy growth.
- Bougainvillea roots are fragile, so be very careful with the root ball when you are transplanting them to their permanent home!
Tips on encouraging flowering
Growing your Bougainvillea is arguably the most time-consuming part, but you also want to make sure that it flowers nicely so it’s brightening up your garden. Below are some tips that can help ensure that your Bougainvillea has everything it needs to flower and truly shine!
- Bougainvilleas need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight but they will also flower the best if they can get 12 hours of darkness. If you’re growing them inside, keep this in mind when setting the light timers.
- Less water actually encourages more flowers – Keep in mind that Bougainvillea plants are drought resistant, so they bloom naturally in hot and dry places. Watering them once a week is just about perfect.
- Once your Bougainvilleas are healthy and settled in their new locations, less or even no fertilizer is ideal for flowering. That’s because these plants will actually prioritize reproduction over growing new leaves and extending roots. Once you’ve nurtured it to a healthy size and spread, by using less fertilizer you can see this natural adaptation in action and you’ll get lots of lovely blooms for it!
- Pruning is essential for blooms, but don’t overdo it. Bougainvilleas bloom on new growth, rather than old wood, so light pruning in the late winter or early spring will help to ensure new blooms but if you prune too much, your plant will focus instead on creating and sustaining too many new vines and shoots. It takes awhile to learn the balance, so start off with VERY light pruning for best results and to get a feel for the ‘magic’ amount.
- Your soil MUST be well-draining. Bougainvillea are adapted for hot areas and are native to Brazil, so your soil must be well-draining for them to thrive. Too much water puts them in danger of root rot, so be very careful to ensure that their soil won’t retain too much water.
While we try to hit the perfect mix of ‘informative and useful’, it’s easy to miss a few things along the way, and so we’ve collected a few frequently asked questions to help fill in any gaps. Below you’ll find some common questions and answers that we think you’ll find helpful and after that, we’ll formally wrap things up for the day!
What is the lifespan of a Bougainvillea plant?
While the Westdale Nursery in Bradford-On-Avon UK boasts a 200 year old specimen, your average Bougainvillea has a lifespan of approximately 50 years. They’re quite hardy plants, so if you take good care of them then you’ll be enjoying your Bougainvilleas well into the foreseeable future!
What is the best month to plant Bougainvillea?
The warmer months are the best months for planting your Bougainvillea so a lot will depend on where you live. This could be early to late spring, summer, or early fall. Think about where you live and the months when the sun is nice and bright and it’s warm outside – at minimum 75 degrees – and you’ll have the ideal planting time.
How fast do Bougainvillea grow?
Bougainvillea plants are fast-growers, and as long as the conditions are ideal, they can grow as much as 36 inches a year! Keeping that in mind, a trellis is a good idea if you want to help your Bougainvillea to climb and reach its full, glorious potential!
Do Bougainvillea lose their leaves when they flower?
Yes, those colorful bracts will be lost after every blooming cycle and this is completely normal, but cold can also cause your plant’s leaves to fall off. Remember, these are Brazil natives, so if it gets fairly cold where you live in the winters (lower than 32 degrees and they really don’t like anything under 40, to be frank) then you may want to consider keeping them in containers that you can move inside to keep warm.
How many days does bougainvillea bloom?
As long as there is plenty of sunlight, you can expect your Bougainvillea to bloom for a period of 3 to 5 weeks. Don’t forget that light pruning is also essential – those blooms are going to appear on the newer growths that result – so a little trimming will help to give you the most blooms for this season.
Do Bougainvillea like acidic soil?
As far as a specific pH, Bougainvillea do well in a pH between 5.5 and 6.0. A little elemental sulfur will work in a pinch for adjusting the pH if you need it, and you can also add some well-aged compost every spring and that will slowly adjust the pH levels over time.
Some final words on growing Bougainvilleas
Today we’ve talked about how to grow Bougainvillea and with the steps we’ve provided, you should be able to get started growing some lovely Bougainvilleas on your own. Just remember that they will need plenty of sunlight and that loamy, slightly acidic soil is going to be their favorite.
Watering once a week will be ideal, as these plants are susceptible to root rot from overwatering, and if whether you are using the seed or cuttings method to grow your plant, keep in mind that you can always raise it in a pot for 2 to 3 months to make sure it’s hardy and ready for transplantation to its new home.
We’d like to thank you for visiting us today and hope that you’ll enjoy your new Bougainvilleas – they really brighten up the garden and if you take care of them, you’ll be enjoying them for decades!
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