How to Grow and Care for Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra) Indoors

Bougainvillea, Bougainvillea glabra

Botanical name: Bougainvillea glabra
Family: Nyctaginaceae


Bougainvillea glabra commonly called Bougainvillea or 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.

Paper Flower is an evergreen, climbing shrub with thorny stems which can be trained into a bonsai and can also be grown on a trellis.


The blooms in Bougainvillea are clusters of brightly colored papery bracts in pink, red, orange or purple surrounding small, creamy-white flowers.


Bougainvillea glabra is native to Brazil and can grow to a height of 12 ft if not pruned.


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.

Bougainvillea, Bougainvillea glabra

Photo Credit: Amazon

Bougainvillea glabra Care Indoors

Bougainvillea glabra care indoors is easy when it is provided with the right growing conditions. Paper Flower requires very bright light with some direct sunlight, average warmth and humidity and moderately moist, fertile, well-drained soil to thrive.

Bougainvillea plant also needs regular feeding and frequent pruning for lush growth. Keep on reading for more on these growing conditions and how to achieve them.

Light Requirements

Bougainvillea grows best in very bright light conditions with some direct sunlight. It will not bloom if it is not receiving enough light. It can also grow under a grow light where natural lighting is inadequate.

Regularly turn the pot to ensure that the Paper Flower receives light from all sides for an even growth. Check out this guide on understanding light for houseplants.


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 season as growth is minimal at this time. Read more on how to water houseplants.

Ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to root-rot disease and eventual death of the plant.


The best temperature for growing Bougainvillea indoors is an average warmth to above average between 16-270C.

Keep the Paper Flower plant from cold and hot draughts to prevent sudden changes in temperature as they can affect the plant growth negatively. Read more on understanding temperature for houseplants.


Average room humidity is ideal for Bougainvillea. To raise humidity where the temperatures are very high, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Fertilizer (Feeding)

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


Repot Bougainvillea during the growing season only when the plant is extremely pot-bound as it blooms more when it is pot-bound.

Do not repot a Paper Flower that is in flower as the repotting shock may shorten the flowering period.

Use a pot 1 size larger and one that has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to root-rot disease.

The 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 while repotting. Keep the roots moist by covering them with a wet towel or by ensuring there is a ball of soil around them.


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 Paper Flower plant in a cool place and reduce watering until new growth emerges. Read more on how to prune houseplants.


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

How to propagate Bougainvillea from stem-tip cuttings

Take a 4-6 stem-tip cuttings from a healthy Bougainvillea plant. Strip off the lower leaves of the cuttings and coat the lower part of the stem in a rooting hormone.

Carefully insert the coated cuttings in moist, free-draining soil and ensure the rooting container has adequate drainage holes to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to rotting.

Place the set up in a warm, well-lit spot and maintain the soil moist through out until the cuttings are rooted.

Allow the new Bougainvillea plants to be well established before transplanting after which routine care can begin.

Bougainvillea, Bougainvillea glabra

Photo Credit: Noah Garden Center

Bougainvillea glabra Problems Indoors

Bougainvillea glabra problems indoors are brought about by improper care and they include wilting, leaf drop, yellow leaves, lack of blooms, pests and diseases. Continue reading for more on these problems and how to fix them.

Leaves yellowing and dropping

Yellowing and dropping leaves in Bougainvillea are caused by overwatering resulting in soggy soil. Maintain the soil moist but never allow the soil to become soggy. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole and the soil is free-draining to prevent it from getting soggy.

No blooms

One reason why Bougainvillea will not bloom is that it is not receiving adequate light (too little light).

Move the plant to a brighter spot as it requires very bright light with some direct sunlight inorder to thrive and bloom or instal a grow light if the natural lighting is inadequate.

The second reason why Paper Flower will not bloom is underfeeding. Feed the plant every 2-3 weeks with a balanced, liquid fertilizer during the growing season.

Yellow and wilted leaves

Yellow and wilting leaves in Bougainvillea are due to underwatering. Maintain the soil moist at all times and never allow the soil to dry out completely.


Bougainvillea pests; Spider Mites and Aphids. Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to other houseplants and treat it appropriately for the pests.


Bougainvillea is prone to root-rot disease which is brought about by soggy soil. Never allow the Paper Flower to sit in soggy soil. Ensure that there is good drainage of both the pot and the soil.

Is Bougainvillea toxic?

Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra) plants are considered to be non-toxic to humans and pets. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has not listed them as toxic to pets.

However, the stems of Bougainvillea bear thorns which can cause injury. Always wear gloves when handling the Paper Flower to protect yourself.

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