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Caring for Bougainvillea Plants: How To Do It Right

They bloom in bright colors and give off a summery feeling. The bougainvillea plant actually comes from tropical areas, but is now also becoming increasingly popular in Central Europe. In this country, however, there are a few things you should consider when caring for bougainvillea.

So that you can make your bougainvillea bloom and enjoy its beauty over a longer period of time, we will explain in this article how you can optimally care for your bougainvillea. We try to clarify the most frequently asked questions and give you important tips on bougainvillea care.

the essentials in brief

  • Bougainvillea plants are native to South America. The plants are used to the subtropical to tropical climate and therefore like summer temperatures. So you should choose a sunny place for the plant.
  • Bougainvilleas bloom from late summer to early autumn. Due to the temperature sensitivity of the plant, it is important to overwinter it in good time and not to give it outside too early.
  • There are a few things to consider when caring for the bougainvillea. For optimal growth and a vigorous flowering phase, the plant must be repotted and cut back regularly. In addition, you should water and fertilize at the right intervals.

Caring for Bougainvillea Plants: What You Should Know

The bougainvillea is also called the triplet flower and is one of the wonder flower plants. They are found in subtropical to tropical climates.

The bougainvillea is now widespread. Because of its colorful flowers, it can also be seen on many balconies or terraces in Germany.

They originally come from South American countries such as Brazil, but are now also cultivated in Central Europe and other areas. The plant got its name from the French navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville.

Where is the best place to plant a bougainvillea?

In Germany, bougainvillea plants are most likely to be found on balconies, terraces or in winter gardens. In any case, you need a sunny location, as the plant feels comfortable in summer temperatures.

You should also choose a location that protects the plant from rain and storms, otherwise you risk losing its leaves. Since the bougainvillea is a climbing plant, you should also choose a place where the bougainvillea can climb.

How do you get a bougainvillea to bloom?

As already mentioned, a sunny and light location is important to get a beautifully blooming bougainvillea. If it is not sunny enough, the plant cannot draw enough energy from photosynthesis. In addition, it should get enough fresh air and be fertilized and watered regularly.

It is also important to note the size of the bucket, it should not be too small and if necessary you have to cut back the bougainvillea. The bougainvillea usually bloom in late summer or early autumn. Basically, the bougainvillea can bloom here between March and October.

What soil do you use for bougainvillea plants?

Regular repotting is sometimes important for the care of the plant. If you want your plant to continue growing, you should change the pot and soil on your plant every two to three years.

A peat-free potting soil, which has a slightly increased clay content, is suitable for this, as it can store moisture well. Normal potting soil can also be used, or a mixture of garden soil and compost soil.

How often should you fertilize a bougainvillea?

Between June and August you should fertilize the bougainvillea once a week. You can use a fertilizer with a nutrient combination of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium.

The phosphate content should be slightly higher than the other nutrients. Organic fertilizers such as compost can also be used; these are more environmentally friendly and provide the plant with nutrients for longer than mineral fertilizers.

How often should you water a bougainvillea?

The bougainvillea plants do not need too much water. That is why you should not water a bougainvillea excessively, otherwise there is a risk of waterlogging, which can quickly lead to root rot in this type of plant. If the plant is not watered enough, it will lose its leaves.

However, it can recover if it is poured again. Basically, the moisture inside the soil should always be checked. Ideally, it is not wet, but slightly damp.

How do you cut back a bougainvillea?

The bougainvillea forms its flowers at the tips of the shoots, which is why the plant should not be cut back before the first flowering. If you shorten the shoots by about half after the first blossom, they can branch out again and new blossoms can develop at the branches.

In the growth phase you should cut back the shoots about once a month and then fertilize the plant.

A larger pruning of the bougainvillea should be done before the growth phase. All side shoots are cut off from the main shoot directly at the starting point. This can be combined well with repotting the plant.

How to repot a bougainvillea

Repotting should be done in the spring and should be done approximately every 2 to 3 years. The bougainvillea is a very sensitive plant, which is why you should be careful when repotting.

Because the roots are only slightly connected and unstable, you should not act too roughly, even if the roots have grown together with the pot, and if necessary cut open the pot. It is usually advisable to use somewhat smaller pots, as the bougainvillea then focuses more on the formation of flowers, while the plant places more emphasis on growth in larger pots.

How do you overwinter a bougainvillea?

A bright place with temperatures between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius is suitable for wintering, and the ground should not be too cold either. Most bougainvillea species lose their leaves in winter, but they usually grow back in spring.
It is important to overwinter the bougainvillea early enough to protect it from the cold.

In winter, the bougainvillea should be watered a little less, usually it is enough if the soil only has a little moisture. In addition, pests often appear in winter, which is why you should check the plant more closely during this time. An exception is the Bougainvillea glabra, which should be wintered cool.

From around mid to late October, depending on the region and the corresponding climate, you should give the bougainvillea to its winter quarters. In spring, at the end of March-April, the plant can then be put outside again. However, one should keep in mind that the temperature is constantly above 0 degrees Celsius.

What temperature can a bougainvillea tolerate?

Since the bougainvillea comes from subtropical-tropical areas, it is not very frost-resistant. The bougainvillea can survive temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius, but if it is more often exposed to sub-zero temperatures, this can mean death for the plant.

What types of bougainvillea plants are there?

There are different types of bougainvillea plants. In the following table we present the most important of them. We also give an overview of the characteristics of the different types of bougainvillea.
Bougainvillea glabraHeight up to 5 m, thorny branches, lilac-colored bracts
Bougainvillea peruvianaunbranched main shoot, different flower forms, splitting of the inflorescence
Bougainvillea spectabilishooked thorns, very hairy leaves, yellowish flowers

These are only the most important representatives. There are a number of other varieties, most of which are crosses of the species listed here. There are now a number of Bougainvillea hybrids.

What diseases and pests can a bougainvillea get?

A disease that can occur more frequently in bougainvillea is powdery mildew. In most cases this is due to overwatering of the plant. In this case, symptoms such as: white or gray spots on the leaves, brown discoloration of the coating, curling of the leaves and later also mold. In the event of illness, the infected parts of the plant should be removed.

If the humidity is too low, there is a risk of spider mite or scale insect infestation. In this case you should try to increase the humidity or spray the plant with a mixture of soapy water and alcohol. If necessary, you also have to resort to pesticides.


The bougainvillea can beautify every terrace and balcony, but it also needs to be cared for accordingly. Above all, a sunny location with summer temperatures and enough air is important.

If you want the plant to live for a longer period of time, it must be overwintered in good time, as the plant does not tolerate temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius. For optimal care, it should also be repotted and cut back at regular intervals.

So there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to cultivate a bougainvillea. All in all, this works well if you get information and follow the guidelines. However, you should already have some experience as a gardener.

Image source: Montian Noowong / Unsplash

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We at the editorial team are a team of gardening professionals and hobby gardeners. It is important for us to provide you with well-researched guides and test reports so that you are well prepared and equipped for your next garden adventure in spring, summer, autumn and winter.