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How to propagate Bougainvillea (2 Ways)

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If you’ve ever wondered how to propagate Bougainvillea plants then you have come to the right place! Today, we’ve got two techniques to share with you that can help you to make a tiny clone of any of your beloved Bougainvillea plants that you can nurture and transplant wherever you like in your garden.

It’s surprisingly easy to do with just a few tools and materials that you probably already have lying around at home, so if you’re ready, let’s talk about how to propagate Bougainvillea to bring a little more beauty to your home garden!

How to propagate Bougainvillea – Two techniques to try at home

There are two main ways to go about propagating your Bougainvillea – the first is a method called ‘layering’ where we can isolate a living branch and encourage it to grow roots, and the second method is propagation from cuttings. 

In the sections below, we’ll detail step-by-step what you’ll need to do in order to give these techniques a try and create your new clone plants for transplantation. Let’s take a look at how it’s done!

Propagating a Bougainvillea already growing in the yard

Rosina standing under a Bougainvillea
Rosina standing under a large red Bougainvillea

If you’ve already got a healthy Bougainvillea growing in the yard, propagation is a piece of cake – it just takes a few simple steps and a lot of patience to let Nature do her thing. Below we’ll detail the steps that you need for a technique called ‘air layering’ that you can do in the spring or early summer. 

Materials Needed:

  • Plastic coke bottle
  • A small handful of Peat moss
  • A small handful of compost
  •  Big sheet of tinfoil

Tools needed:

  • Boxcutter
  • Sharp scissors


First off, we need to prepare our bottle. Cut the bottle in half lengthwise, and keep the top half with the lip of the bottle where you normally screw the cap. Next, cut down the center of the lip to the bottom of the bottle, so that we have an open slit in the top for one of your Bougainvillea branches.

Locate a branch that is poking out from your Bougainvillea at or very close to the soil level, and cut thin slits on two sides of the branch towards the base –cut just deep enough so that we can peel the outer layer of the branch to expose the green and white underneath.

Slip the branch into your plastic bottle, with the slit facing up, and we’re going to fill the bottle with your peat moss and compost.

Wrap up your bottle and branch with your tinfoil, leaving the end facing you open for now, rather like a ‘tinfoil bouquet’ until it’s nice and tightly in place round the base. Now, start closing up the open end, so that it’s tightly wrapped up except for where the branch is coming out of the tight foil. This is going to block off the rest of the plant from sunlight and the wound we’ve created should encourage root growth. 

After that, we simply need to keep the compost and peat moist with light watering until fall. By this time, we should have new roots in the area where we’ve cut, so that you can trace down the branch and sever it past these roots, and you’ll now have a tiny clone of your original Bougainvillea that you can plant wherever you like!

Propagating a Bougainvillea from cuttings

Propagating a Bougainvillea from cuttings is quite easy to do and you get to ‘see more of the action’ as your cuttings start creating roots in preparation for transferring them to a pot and then finally, to their new spot in your garden. Below are the steps that you’ll need to do this!

Materials Needed:

Tools Needed: 

  • Pruning shears
  • Gloves
  • Box cutter


  1. Take your time and find a few steps that are hard at the bottom, yet soft at the tip, and trim this off with your shears so that you have a few 4 to 6 inch cuttings. You could just take one, but getting a few cuttings will help to ensure success.
  2. Remove the side shoots from your cutting and using your box cutter, cut a ½ long inch strip off the end of it – basically, we just want to be able to peel back the bark from this area with a light cut a half inch up so that a  little tugging will let us peel it to expose the area just under the bark. This creates a wound that will develop roots later.
  3. Leave 4 to 5 leaves around the top of the stem, but remove the soft tips and lowest leaves towards the bottom. 
  4. Prepare your container by filling with 1 part coil and 1 part perlite, along with enough water so that the mixture is moist. We’ll use this to plant our cuttings shortly. 
  5. Go ahead and dip the ‘wounded’ portion of your cutting into your hormone powder, giving it a light shake to remove excess, and then plant it into your container medium.
  6. Move your container somewhere where it is warm and can get indirect sunlight – not direct – and you can put your plastic bag over the top so that it will have a greenhouse effect to help keep the plant warm. If you have a heated propagator this is really the best solution, but if not then just make sure that you are keeping the plant housed in a warm location.
  7. Check daily to ensure that the soil stays nice and damp and within a space of 4 to 6 weeks, you should start to see new leaves developing and some noticeable growth. At this point, you can remove the bag, but go ahead and let it grow for another 2 to 3 weeks so that it will be nice and hardy for transplanting to its new location!

Tips for successful propagation of your Bougainvillea cuttings

In order to help ensure that your cuttings do well, we’ve compiled a few useful tips that can help with the process. Here are a few things to keep in mind with your cuttings:

  • You can make cuttings from soft or hardwood samples, so be sure to try both so that you can see this working firsthand.
  • While summer cuttings work, for best results take some anywhere from mid=winter to early spring.
  • For softwood cuttings, a bottom heat of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for faster rooting. With hardwood cuttings, you want about 5010 degrees warmer than surrounding air temperature. 
  • The layering technique is most effective in the late winter or early spring.
  • When you are transplanting your new Bougainvillea plants, try gradually introducing them to more sunlight, rather than just moving them immediately into direct light. You can simply move their container to somewhere they’ll get partial light first and after 3 – 4 of this they should be ready for more.

Common issues after transplantation and what to do

If it’s your first time propagating your Bougainvilleas, then we’ve got some quick troubleshooting tips to help a little in case you run into some common issues. Here are some things to watch”

Yellowing leaves – Yellowing usually indicates that you are giving your new plant too much water. Get in the habit of testing the top inch of topsoil with your finger to make sure that it’s dry before you water again.

Leaves falling off – This can occur from too much or too little watering. Test the topsoil and if it’s already moist, then you’re probably overwatering your plant and you need to let the soil dry out before you water it again. Once you’ve done this, just water when the top inch of topsoil is dry and you should be okay.

Not flowering – If your new Bougainvillea is slow to flower, it’s usually a matter of sunlight or nutrients – make sure it’s getting 6 hours of sunlight every day and fertilize once a month with a balanced flower fertilizer for best results. Also, once your plants are established, get in the habit of pruning them in May to stimulate flowering.


It’s just about time to call it a day, but we get a lot of questions on propagating Bougainvilleas and so we’ve collected some of the most common ones and their answers to help ensure your success when you try today’s techniques. Let’s take a look!

How long does it take cuttings to root?

Usually, it’s going to take 3 to 4 weeks for your cuttings to root, although sometimes it can take a little longer. Pay close attention to the root growth and when they are approximately 1 to 2 inches long, then they are ready for you to pot so that you can carefully cultivate the plant for 2 – 3 months until it’s strong enough to transplant.

Why are my bougainvillea cuttings not rooting?

You’ll want to make sure that you’ve got all of your basics covered – the right soil mix, rooting hormone, ideal temperatures, sunlight, and water. For soil, an equal mix of soil and perlite is ideal, and temperature underneath the pot should be 50 degrees Fahrenheit for soft cuttings, 10 degrees above the surrounding temperature for hard ones.

Sunlight at this stage should be indirect – direct sunlight could kill your cutting – and watering is best done with a spray bottle and only when the top inch of soil is dry.

Can I propagate Bougainvillea cuttings in water?

Yes, you can, and to do this, you’ll want to start with smaller cuttings which measure 2 to 3 inches each. Insert your cuttings into the water and keep them in a warm, bright place, changing out your water every 2 days. When the roots have grown to be 1 to 2 inches long, then the cutting is ready for transplanting to a pot to nurture until it’s ready to transfer to your garden.

What is the best rooting hormone for Bougainvillea?

The best rooting hormones (also known as exogenous auxins, if you want to get fancy) are going to be these 3 – IAA, IBA, or NAA – or more formally, Indole-3-acetic acid, Indole-3-butyric acid, and Naphthalene Acetic acid.

What is a natural organic rooting solution for cuttings?

You can make a homemade rooting solution by mixing 3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar into 1 gallon of water. Simply dip your cuttings into this before planting if you don’t have any rooting hormone handy, and it makes for a quick and organic rooting powder alternative in a pinch.

How do I know if my plant cuttings are working?

Within 1 to 2 weeks, as long as you are very careful about it, you can check the cuttings if you are worried. To do this, you have to very carefully work your hand under the cutting to the wounded area, loosening up the medium enough so that you may gently lift the cutting out to check.

If no roots have formed yet or they are simply on the small side, you can give a quick dip in your rooting hormone, shaking off the excess, and then plant it again and check within 1 – 2 weeks.

In Conclusion

In today’s article, we’ve talked about how to propagate your Bougainvillea and shared the two most popular methods – layering and propagation by cuttings. While it takes a little patience, both of these methods are tried and true and will get you a nice little clone of your current plant.

Remember, if you can, heating the bottom is ideal for encouraging faster root growth, but if this is not possible then just be sure that it’s in a warm place and getting bright, but indirect sunlight.

While the process normally takes a few weeks, once you’ve got roots that are 1 to 2 inches long then cuttings can go into the pot, and after 2 to 3 months of careful care your new plant will be ready to put in the garden!

Before we go, we’d just like to say that if you have some Bougainvillea tips of your own to share with us and the other readers, then please don’t hesitate to post. We really get some of the most amazing tips that way and while we don’t say it enough, we thank you and our plants do, too.

Thanks so much for visiting and we hope to see you again soon!

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