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The Bold, Brash, and Beautiful Bougainvillea

Living on a farm in Brazil, I've gained local in-depth knowledge of food, plants, and traditions, which I share through my articles.



How to Grow Bougainvillea

One of the most stunning plants you can grow is the Bougainvillea. This fast-growing plant can transform your garden from ho-hum to wow in just a few months.

Here at our home in Brazil, we have many Bougainvillea growing. Some of these were here when we bought our home, others we have bought from garden centers and yet others were given to us.

Here in the tropics of Brazil, they thrive but that doesn't mean you have to move to enjoy this showy plant. There are many varieties available that can be grown in pots and moved indoors if you live in an area where frost and cold winters are a problem.

Butterfly on Bougainvillea

Butterfly on Bougainvillea

The Bract

During the morning, the butterflies, hummingbirds and other nectar loving birds and insects flock towards the Bougainvillea. It is worth mentioning, the colored part is not the flower. This is a bract which is a modified leaf. It lures the pollinators in to the tiny flower that the butterfly above has his proboscis in.

Hardy Bouganvillea

If you live in an area where the temperature doesn't drop below freezing, you may be able to grow bougainvillaea. Even if your temperatures do drop, with adequate protection, you may still be able to grow some varieties.They are a hardy plant.

If you use a planter, these can be over-wintered inside in a heated conservatory or similar place.

Use flowers to hide a fence

Use flowers to hide a fence

Pruning Bougainvillea

The pruning you will be doing on this plant is determined by how you want them to grow. I have seen hedges that are made from Bougainvillea, round bushes and walls and fences covered with it. It makes a brilliant display of color.

We are training ours to cover our barbed wire fence. They are wonderful plants to have as a coverage. They are either thick with dark green foliage or covered in beautiful flowers.

If you are trying to create a shape, or make it climb, you will need something for it to go up. A wall with a trellis attached is ideal. In the video below, you will see the woman in Santa Barbara has trained hers to climb over her garage. This requires tying to keep it in place. Be careful when doing this as Bougainvillea has thorns.They are also an excellent choice as a barrier or security fencing because of this. So when it comes time to prune, you will want to wear gauntlet style gardening gloves if you are going to be cutting it back or tying into place.

Another tip, trim off all dead flowers or any nibbled leaves. Do this regularly to keep your plant at its best.

If you find the base is beginning to look sparse, pinch off leaves near the top with your fingers, this will encourage growth lower down the stalk.

The paper flower

The paper flower

History of Bougainvillea

I love knowing the history of plants. Plants that are not native to where we live often have an interesting history and the Bougainvillea is no exception.

It is believed that the plant was discovered by a Frenchwoman named Jeanne Baré . She arrived in Brazil, where she collected the specimen and is believed to be the first European to have seen it. She was only there because her lover, a French botanist by the name of Philibert Commerçon, cunningly brought her aboard the ship Étoile dressed as a man. Her lover suffered from a leg wound and much of the collecting of samples had to be completed by Miss Baré. Because of this voyage she was also the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.

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So where did the name Bougainvillea come from? The captain of the ship was named Louis Antoine de Bougainvillea. ¹

White Bougainvillea

White Bougainvillea

Propagating Bougainvillea

Propagating bougainvillea is quite straightforward. I have included a video below that explains which part you should cut to get the best chance of rooting. There is also a powder which I have used as well to assist in the rapid development of the roots.

Once the plant has sufficient roots, I transplant it to a bag and I personally wait until the plant is at least 18" high to plant into the ground. I have rambunctious dogs who don't seem to care about my flowers.

We have sandy soil where we live and the plants do well. For maximum flowering, allow the plant to dry out between watering. They perform best when they are stressed. We have had no problems with disease and only occasionally get caterpillars eating the leaves. We choose not to spray but manually remove those we see. The birds, wasps, spiders, and lizards get the rest.


¹Jeanne Baret. (2018, April 02). Retrieved April 09, 2018, from

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Mary Wickison


Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 30, 2014:

That I don't know. Where I live it is always warm. I live 3 degrees south of the equator. I think there are hardy varieties, but best to check with your nursery. What a shame.

JoAnn on March 29, 2014:

I live in texas we had several spells of freezing. I had planted my bougainvillea, I have noticed as everything else is starting to come "back to life" it is not I didn't realize when I bought it that a freeze would kill it :( any chance of it coming back?

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on May 28, 2013:

They are beautiful. They can also be made into bonsai which I haven't seen but sounds ideal for people in cooler climates.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on May 28, 2013:

Bougainvilleas are in full bloom right now in South Texas and the colors are amazing! They are definitely showy but boy can those thorns get you! Ouch! They almost do look like paper flowers. Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos and video, now I want to go out and buy some more. :)

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on May 14, 2013:

Hello Thelma,

They look stunning at a fence or cascading over a wall. It takes the harshness out of what could potentially be unattractive. Plus, I don't know if all varieties have thorns (spikes is a better word I think) but ours do. So it is pretty and an effective deterrent. Thank you for your kind words and wishes.

Thelma Alberts from Germany on May 14, 2013:

Beautiful bougainvilleas! I love this flower and I do even have this in my garden in my home country. My bougainvilleas are in different colors. I find the idea of making this plant as a fence covering. I have to plant new ones near my fence. Thanks for sharing this very useful and informative hub. Well done. Have a lovely day!

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on May 03, 2013:

I think you will be able to source that with no problem. Plus if you find it locally, it should be able to grow well in your area.

RTalloni on May 03, 2013:

I think I am going to have to go buy a plant! Don't know if I goofed or if getting the cutting from there to here was just too much for them. I think they will be easy to find, though.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on May 01, 2013:

When they drop their colored bracts they are messy. Pink and white is a wonderful combination. We also have some that are orange but they never seem to blend with the others.

Be prepared for neighbors and people passing to stop and 'oo' and 'ah' over your plants. As you say, they instantly prettify a place.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

vibesites from United States on May 01, 2013:

Although bougainvilleas are a bit messy I still love the plant. We're having this in our front yard with colors of white and pink, instantly prettifying the place. Thanks for posting! :)

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on April 29, 2013:

Hello MsDora,

Our fence which is barbed wire on top of a wall isn't very attractive. Plus we also use the Bougainvillea to help break the wind down the side of the house.

I am pleased you enjoyed it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 29, 2013:

Beautiful and instructional. I like the idea of using the bougainvillea to hide a fence. I'll work on that. Voted Up!

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on April 27, 2013:

Hi RTalloni,

Thank you for your comment and I wish you success with your gardening quest.

RTalloni on April 27, 2013:

Thanks for this look at growing bougainvillea! Yours are beautiful and I am hope to find a white variety. I am once again attempting to start this plant from cuttings (from an aunt's garden in another state) and have high hopes of success this time. :)

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on April 27, 2013:

Hello Joe,

I am glad you enjoy it. There is much plant sharing that goes on here. When a garden is admired, the owner is so pleased, they give you a cutting to take home. Likewise if someone asks for a plant, we cut off a twig for them to replant. Thanks for sharing your memories of Kaua'i.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on April 27, 2013:

I know a man here in Brazil who is in construction. His son is a horticulturist. The father says his son, brings life to his projects by adding plants. It is so true, plants can change the feel of a place. Thanks for the votes and sharing.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on April 27, 2013:

Hi SGBrown,

I hope you have more success with this one. Thanks for sharing and the vote.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on April 27, 2013:

I too am from California and I think my Aunt had them growing at their place in Southern California. We also have another one here that we nearly gave up on. We transplanted it and now it is growing up the pillar in our BBQ area. It is amazing what a difference adding plants can make.

Thank you for your vote.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on April 27, 2013:

Hi Sharkye,

You can even have them as a bonsai. Perfect for an indoor plant.

Thank you for the vote and comment. Have a great weekend.

Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on April 26, 2013:

Makes me homesick! Where I grew up on the island of Kaua'i, these beautiful plants grew abundantly down the cliffs of Kealia. Just about every neighborhood had at least a few homes where bougainvillea brightened up the fences and trellises. Wonderful hub, my friend! Thank you for sharing!


Sneha Sunny from India on April 26, 2013:

It's beautiful! I had one bougainvillea that I had planted in a pot but it couldn't survive. :( Anyway, I don't have any temperature problem here so I will once again give it a try. I really like the idea to use this plant to climb and cover things like you did with the wire fence and the lady did in her garage. That gives a more natural, beautiful, colorful and peaceful look!

Thank you for this wonderful share. Rated, voted up and shared! :)

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on April 26, 2013:

So glad I saw this! I just bought a bougainvillea this past week-end. I had one once before, but didn't over winter it very well and it didn't make it. I hope to do better with this one. As cold as it gets here, I will have to bring it in come winter. Thank you for this timely and useful information! Voted up and useful! :)

moonlake from America on April 26, 2013:

I love bougainvillea but can't grow them here. We use to have one growning over the top of our carport in Calif. it was so pretty. Voted up.

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on April 26, 2013:

I used to love seeing these growing in the deep South. They are especially wild and lovely in Louisiana. Its much too cold in the winter to grow one outdoors where I live now, but I certainly enjoyed looking at the lovely pictures you shared. Great advice on how to root one too! I may have to try that one day and keep it indoors! Voting up!

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on April 26, 2013:

Hello Peggy,

They are stunning plants. Thank you for your kind words, vote and sharing. Have a great weekend.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 26, 2013:

What a wonderful article about Bougainvilleas. They grow outside in South Texas and cascade over fences, etc. They grow well in pots here in Houston and like you suggested, can be protected from the occasional freeze that we have in the winter by bringing them inside of a garage or other structure. Great photos! Am going to share and pin this hub. Also voted up and useful.

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