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All about Bougainvillea


A little bit of introduction

Everyday, I usually think of what to write and so, I came across this topic. It is so happened that during one evening, my parents were taking about their bougainvillea plant at our garden gate hedge. I searched out on the next day to see whether anyone on Hubpages has actually written about bougainvilleas. And there was someone who has actually written about it but not in full context. And then I went into Google and found only a few website about bougainvilleas and one of the website that I found was this www.bgi-usa.com. Nice website! I decided to extract some of the information from the website mentioned and change a little bit, here and there.

Bougainvillea's versatility is legendary and is an immensely showy, floriferous and hardy plant. Virtually pest-free and disease resistant, it rewards its owner with an abundance of color and vitality when it is well looked after. It makes one of the best hedges, bushes, and curb-liners. Along with palms and sunshine, the cascading blooms of bougainvillea provide in our house makes the garden look so colourful with life. That is the reason why my parents planted the bougainvillea at the garden gate hedge. Bougainvillea can be coaxed into a small manageable pot plant or a sizeable tree, to spread itself vertically on a wall, or climb up a trellis and form a luscious crown or burst forth into graceful arches.

It is definitely true to say that without the bougainvillea, our roads, parks, and private gardens would be a lot less colorful that what we see today. Almost everywhere we go, its brilliant hues and cheerful bursts punctuate the lush green mantle that cloaks our tropical environment. As a woody clambering vine, bougainvillea will stand alone and can be pruned into a standard, but it is perfect along fence lines, on walls, in containers and hanging baskets, and as a hedge or an accent plant. Its long arching branches are thorny, and bear heart-shaped leaves and masses of papery bracts in white, pink, orange, purple, and burgundy. Many cultivars, including double flowered and variegated, is available.


Below is a little history of bougainvillea. Geeze! I didn't know bougainvilleas are origninated from Brazil. Did you know? Read about the history!

In 1768, a native to coastal Brazil, the bougainvillea was discovered in Rio de Janeiro by French naturalist Dr. Philibert Commerson. The plant is named after his close friend and ship's admiral Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, who commanded the ship La Boudeuse that sailed around the world between 1766-1769, and in which Commerson was a passenger.

In 1789, 20 years after Commerson's discovery, first published as ‘Buginvillea' in Genera Plantarium by A.L. de Jusseau. In the 1930s, the genus was subsequently split in several ways until it was finally corrected to 'Bougainvillea' in the Index Kewensis. Originally, B. spectabilis and B. glabra were hardly differentiated until the mid 1980s when botanists recognized them to be totally distinct species. In early 19th century, these two species were the first to be introduced into Europe, and soon, nurseries in France and England did a thriving trade providing specimens to Australia and other faraway countries. Meanwhile, Kew Gardens distributed plants it had propagated to British colonies throughout the world. Soon thereafter, an important event in the history of bougainvillea took place with the discovery of a crimson bougainvillea in Cartagena, a Spanish port in the Mediterranean, by Mrs. R.V. Butt. Originally thought to be a distinct species, it was named B. buttiana in her honour. However, it was later discovered to be a natural hybrid of a variety of B. glabra and possibly B. peruviana - a "local pink bougainvillea" from Peru. Natural hybrids were soon found to be common occurrences all over the world. For instance, around the 1930s, when the three species were grown together, many hybrid crosses were created almost spontaneously in East Africa, India, the Canary Islands, Australia, North America, and the Philippines.

Scientific classification

Kingdom - Plantae

Division - Magnoliophyta

Class - Magnoliopsida

Order - Caryophyllales

Family - Nyctaginaceae

Genus - Bougainvillea


  • Bougainvillea spectabilis
  • Bougainvillea glabra
  • Bougainvillea peruviana
  • Cultivar (or variety)

Species and Hybrids

There are many types of species and hybrids of bougainvillea. The followings are few :

Bougainvillea spectabilis is a large climber with distinctive curved thorns, and hair on stems and leaves. The bracts are crinkled, fairly large, egg-shaped, and possess colors in the rose, rusty-red, and purple. Flowers are cream in color, slender, with very hairy tubes. Leaves are large, ovate to rounded, leathery in texture and hairy underneath. The bark is pale and corky. Branching is close and short, giving rise to a very dense plant. The first species collected, it was described from dried specimens by Willdenow (1798).

Bougainvillea glabra has thinner branches that spread in many directions and have distinctive pointed triangle-shaped bracts that come in a range of whites, lilacs, mauves, and purples. Thorns are short, thin, and curved at the tips. Leaves are fairly evenly elliptical, widest about the middle. The small cream flowers are relatively big and tube-shaped. The also tend to flower virtually continuously, and often down the entire length of the branch. Originally described and named by Choisy (1849).

Bougainvillea peruviana has a branching habit that is looser and more open. This is a climbing, spiny, spreading shrub with greenish bark. Thorns (spines) are thin, straight in youth and curved when older. Leaves are thin and ovate to broadly ovate. The small roundish bracts, usually in light to dark magenta colors, are quite delicate to the touch, and are crinkly in appearance. Flowering is recurrent after strong vegetative growth in response to dry weather. This species was described and named by Humbold and Bonpland (1808).

Pruning and Pinching

Bougainvillea 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. A hard prune is recommended when you need to contain growth or when you are preparing to move your bougainvillea indoors for the winter. The ‘Soft Prune' is recommended for bougainvillea only when trying to obtain a special form. 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. By pinching out the tip, most bougainvillea cultivars will send out new stems from 2 to 3 leaf-buds below the cut. Some varieties do not send out any new stems, so their appearance is always stringy or bare.

Repotting Bougainvillea

A bougainvillea blooms best when pot-bound so do not be tempted to re-pot unless you must. 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 unusual to grow a bougainvillea in a 1 gallon pot for three or more years. When it is necessary to re-pot remember that a bougainvillea has a very delicate root system and a fragile root to stem connection. Handle bougainvillea with care. Root pruning is not recommended when re-potting bougainvillea - in fact, disturb the roots as little as possible because the plant might go into shock and take weeks to recover. Bougainvillea love to be pot-bound, so pot in the smallest container available for the purpose you desire. Re-pot into larger pot sizes gradually. For example, move a plant in a 6" pot into a 9" or 10" pot. Several years later, you can then move up to a 14" pot. The root system needs time to grow into each new pot.

Root System of Bougainvillea Cuttings

Primarily, bougainvillea are propagated by stem cuttings. Early in 1992, two scientists from North Florida Research and Education Center shown that using copper hydroxide fertilize pots help cuttings to grow more fibrous roots. This manner would make the roots less prone to breakage. Proper growth and development by feeding the plant a higher phosphorus fertilizer will help to keep the roots as strong as possible.

Please vote!


willyboy@ez99.com on April 23, 2012:

My 25 year old bougainvillea that provided shade, privacy and security on my condominium patio was recently viciously attacked by the homeowners association,leaving absolutely no foliage on canes 2 to 3/4 inches in diameter 8 to 10 feet long. Will it survive? And how will I best aid its recovery?

David McC on March 28, 2012:

My bougainvillea has masses of leaves but few flowers. I have been fertilizing with Potash and Sulphate.

I usually hard prune in the fall.

Any suggestions?

eveklc (author) from Malaysia on March 25, 2012:

Oh dear, I hope it's still alright.

Does the plant still have any green leaf? As long as if it is in the pot and still growing with nice leaf, you will just need to put the pot back into the sun (must shower with lots of water and a lot of sun light).

Carol on March 25, 2012:

Need to know what to do with the bougainvilla that we have kept over the winter in the dark.

tanihajones on March 23, 2012:

most pretty plant

eveklc (author) from Malaysia on October 11, 2011:

Ok...Thank you all for putting comments on my hub for "All about bougainvillea!". Yeah it's true that I have not been updating this hub but really appreciate the comments.

@Kurt Nemo: If the plant has grown so big, I feel that re-potting would not been a good idea. But if you want to re-pot, I would suggest to replant by cutting from the branch of the big plant. Do not cut only one branch to one pot. Try cutting a few branches to a few pots. Sometimes, it would not grow. Water them and have them put under the sun. I hope this answers your questions.

@Peter Leong: I will be updating this hub on the root system soon.

@Ellen & @Victoria: Bougainvillea needs a lot of sun. What about putting the pot under bright lights.

I hope the answers are alright!

Kurt Nemo on September 04, 2011:

Hello, I am living in Malaysia. I inherited a 30+ year old Bougainvillea tree from my dad who wanted to get rid of it last year. The trunk of this tree is about 8 inches thick and 5 feet tall. I had replanted this tree on the ground last year and now thinking of potting it. Need some advise on:

1. Is it a good idea to pot it?

2. If yes, what size of pot should I use. The root itself was about 1-1.5 feet deep when i planted it last year.

3. What kinda care shall I observe during the replanting into the pot and then after?

Jeet Dutta on August 26, 2011:

I agree with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your future updates from next one. Just saying thanks will not just be enough, for the fantastic clarity in you guys answer.


Jeet Dutta


Victoria Thompson on August 16, 2011:

I have fell in love with this flowering bush. I recently bought my bougainvillea for my local greenhouse, here in belleville, MI. I hung them outside my coffe shop in 1gal hanging pots. I get so..many wonderful compliments on its bright color. Please tell me how to help them to survive the winter here in Michigan.

Ellen in Napa on June 09, 2011:

Thank you! We were just about to repot ours and I would have put it in too large of a pot. Often these plants die off in our area in the Winter. (Northern CA) How best to keep them alive?

Peter Leong on February 12, 2011:

The article is good. However it didn't mention much on the root system as to whether Bougainvillea when planted does its root grow deep downwards or laterally. If it grows downwards, then with no problem because it wouldn't give pressure against retaining wall and foot paths. Please explain.

Ronalin Saberon on January 10, 2011:

Thank you for the meaingful all about the bougainvillea and please can you put more meaningful about bougainvillea :D

bregitte suerte on August 17, 2009:

well.ang ganda ganda ng bougenvilla xuper.

ang ganda pa ng kulay nya!

JUNE WHITTON on July 09, 2009:


PLEASE HELP US....jawtalksagain@anit.es

eveklc (author) from Malaysia on March 31, 2009:

Flora, your bougainvillea have bright pink leaves, maybe because of the sun. :)

flora on March 03, 2009:

why do the bouganvillea have bright pink leaves?

eveklc (author) from Malaysia on February 11, 2009:

Wow! What fertilizer did you give your plant? That's very mysterious!

Joaquin on February 11, 2009:

Thanks for the input above. Has anyone ever seen a bougainvillea plant bloom dark red for 6 years and is currently blooming pink?

Very curious (mysterious)!!

eveklc (author) from Malaysia on February 10, 2009:

I am sorry guys..... I have not looked into Hubpages like a year already....anyway, thanks for writing on my comment column in regards of the above.

Joaquin, I think it is funny for dark red bougainvilla to bloom during winter when bougainvilla needs a lot of sunshine. Unless, there is sun during winter.... :-)

Thanks all, again!

Joaquin on February 10, 2009:

I've had a dark red bougainvilla for 6 years now but this year in the midlle of winter it's blooming with beautiful pink blooms. Is this normal?

christine on October 21, 2008:

well does this plant have its plant response like response to light, gravity, etc..??

and please explain

Gardening Angel from Southwestern Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh on June 07, 2008:


Bougainvillea are one of my favorite flowers. Only wish I could grow more of them. Very nice Hub pages. Please visit mine.

Gardening Angel

Dorsi Diaz from The San Francisco Bay Area on May 08, 2008:

This was one of my moms favorite plants- hers is growing huge where she planted it- I need to do some more pruning on it again!Good information.

Norweigen Cruise Line on April 28, 2008:

Amazing flower....my mom have a flower like that on my house



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