How to plant, grow and prune bougainvillea

If you’re looking for a plant with vibrant colours to bring a tropical look to your garden, then you can’t go past bougainvillea. With just a little care it will bring colour to your garden for months of the year.

What you need to know about bougainvillea

Name: bougainvillea. Bougainvillea species and varieties.

Height: up to 4m, but dwarf forms are available

Foliage: evergreen.

Climate: cold temperate, warm temperate, arid/semi-arid, sub-tropical and tropical.

Soil: prefers deep, well-drained soil.

Position: full sun.

Flowering: showy flowers of various colours in summer.

Feeding: regular feeding with a balanced, controlled-release fertiliser.

Watering: regular watering.
Bougainvillea

Appearance and characteristics of bougainvillea

Bougainvillea is an evergreen climber that’s covered in colour in the warmer months. The most common varieties are shades of red, orange, pink and purple, but white and even golden forms are available. The true flower of a bougainvillea is a very small cream trumpet. The plant derives its showiness from coloured leaves that surround this insignificant flower. 

As well as a stunning array of colours, there are also forms with variegated foliage—with the leaves coloured green and cream—giving interest even when not in flower.

Once known only as a very large climber, there are now many forms of bougainvillea, including dwarfs, so you can pick one to suit any spot.

How to plant and grow bougainvillea

Bougainvillea really does best when grown in full sun. 

1. Plant it in a well-drained or sandy soil. 
2. Add a little compost to the hole to help hold the moisture. 
3. If growing one of the smaller varieties in a pot or container, ensure you use a good-quality potting mix. 
4. Be gentle when planting your bougainvillea, as they don’t like much root disturbance at this time. 

As bougainvillea has thorns, it is important to wear strong garden gloves and take a bit of extra care at planting and pruning time.

 

Climate

Bougainvillea can be grown from warm temperate to tropical areas with ease, and is very comfortable growing in coastal gardens. The only thing it doesn’t like is cold or frost. Once established, bougainvillea is really very dry-tolerant, and will do remarkably well with only an occasional deep watering in warm weather.

Feeding

To keep your growing bougainvillea healthy and flowering, apply a fertiliser in spring. It is important to use one that is low in nitrogen and high in potassium. Fertilisers designed to promote flowers and fruit will do the job. 

Diseases and pests

Bougainvillea is pretty much pest and disease free, so makes a great plant for beginner gardeners.

How to prune bougainvillea

Bougainvillea is best pruned once the flowering has finished. This is usually in autumn, but can be at other times depending on the variety. Remove the length of stem that has flowered just behind the first flower. If your plant puts out extra-long shoots of growth—known as watershoots—these can be removed altogether.

How to grow bougainvillea from cuttings

You can make your own extra bougainvillea plants by taking cuttings in summer or early autumn:

  1. Take 15cm-long cuttings from the new shoots with a little bit of the old growth attached.
  2. Remove any leaves from the bottom third of the cutting.
  3. Place it to this depth into a pot of propagating sand.
  4. Keep the bougainvillea cuttings damp.

Start planting today

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.
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