How to grow and care for Bougainvillea Indoors

Houseplant, Bougainvillea

Botanical name: Bougainvillea glabra
Family: Nyctaginaceae

Bougainvillea commonly called Paper Flower is a popular flowering houseplant which is grown for the showy blooms as a shrub or in a hanging basket. There are hundreds of Bougainvillea plants grown for their showy blooms but Bougainvillea glabra is the one commonly grown as a houseplant. The blooms are clusters of brightly colored papery bracts in pink, red, orange or purple surrounding small, creamy-white flowers. Bougainvillea is an evergreen, climbing shrub with thorny stems. It is native to Brazil and can grow to a height of 12 ft if not pruned. Bougainvillea can be trained into a bonsai or on a trellis. There are many hybrids of Bougainvillea to choose from. Most popular are the large-leaved, large-flowered Mrs Butt whose flowers are rose-crimson. Magnificawhich is purple. Raspberry Ice whose flowers are ravishing red. Alexendra which is pink and is a prolific bloomer. Harissii whose variegated grey-green foliage is splashed with cream-white among many others.

How to Grow Bougainvillea

Light

Bougainvillea prefers very bright light conditions with some direct sunlight. Bougainvillea will not bloom if the light is not enough. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants

Water

Keep the soil moist at all times for Bougainvillea and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering during the cold period. Avoid waterlogging as it can lead to Root-rot Disease. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

Temperature

Average warmth to above average between 16-270C is ideal for Bougainvillea. Protect the plant from cold and hot draughts. Learn more on temperature for houseplants.

Humidity

Average room humidity is ideal for Bougainvillea. Mist the leaves occasionally and set the pot on a wet pebble tray to raise humidity if the air is too dry.

Feeding

Feed Bougainvillea with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer every 2-3 weeks during the growing season. Withhold feeding in the cold season as growth is minimal and it can lead to fertilizer burn. Find out more on how to feed houseplants.

Repotting

Repot Bougainvillea during the growing season only when the plant is extremely pot-bound; it blooms more when pot-bound. Do not repot a plant that is in flower. Use a pot 1 size larger and one that has a drainage hole to prevent waterlogging as it can lead to Root-rot Disease. The soil should be rich in organic matter and free-draining. Large Bougainvillea plants can be top-dressed annually by replacing the top 3-4 in of soil with fresh soil. Take care not to expose the roots to dry air; maintain them moist.

Pruning

Pruning Bougainvillea is easy. Remove dead flowers and leaves to maintain the plant neat and tidy. Pinch off the growing tips to encourage compact growth and prevent the plant from getting unruly. After flowering, lightly cut back the stems to rejuvenate growth and prevent the plant from becoming leggy. Place the plant in a cool place and reduce watering until new growth emerges. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.

How to Propagate Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season from stem-tip cuttings.

Propagating Bougainvillea from stem-tip cuttings
Take a 4-6 stem-tip cuttings from a healthy Bougainvillea plant. Insert the cuttings in moist free-draining soil. Place the set up in a warm well-lit spot. Maintain the soil moist through out until the new plants are well established.

Common Problems in Growing Bougainvillea

  • Yellowing leaves and leaf drop
  • Yellowing leaves and leaf drop in Bougainvillea is due to overwatering; maintain the soil moist but never allow the soil to become soggy.

  • No blooms
  • Bougainvillea will not bloom if the light is too little. It requires very bright light with some direct sunlight. The other reason is underfeeding; feed Bougainvillea every 2-3 weeks with a balanced water soluble fertilizer during the growing season.

  • Yellowing, wilted leaves
  • Yellow and wilting leaves in Bougainvillea are due to underwatering; maintain the soil moist and never allow the soil to dry out completely.

  • Pests
  • The common pests in Bougainvillea are Spider Mites and Aphids.

  • Diseases
  • One common disease in Bougainvillea is Root-rot which is brought about by waterlogging. Never allow Bougainvillea to sit in soggy soil; ensure good drainage of both the pot and the soil.

Toxicity

Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra) plants are non-toxic to humans and pets. However, the stems bear thorns which can cause injury; always wear gloves when handling to protect yourself.

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