Bougainvillea glabra Plant Indoor Care, Propagation and Problems with Solutions

Bougainvillea glabra commonly called Bougainvillea Plant 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.

Bougainvillea, Bougainvillea glabra

Botanical name: Bougainvillea glabra
Family: Nyctaginaceae
Common names: Bougainvillea Plant, Paper Flower


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


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


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.

Is Bougainvillea toxic?

Bougainvillea glabra 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.

Bougainvillea glabra Care Indoors

Bougainvillea glabra prospers in very bright light with some direct sunlight, average warmth, average humidity and moderately moist, fertile, well-drained soil coupled with regular feeding during the growing season.

Bougainvillea Plant needs frequent pruning to keep the plant neat, to minimize pest infestations, to encourage bushy growth and rejuvenate growth.

Repotting is needed only when it becomes pot-bound. Keep on reading for more on these growing conditions and how to achieve them.

Bougainvillea, Bougainvillea glabra


Water Bougainvillea liberally during the growing season and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings to keep the soil moderately moist.

Decrease watering during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

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

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.

Regularly rotate the pot to ensure that the Paper Flower receives light from all sides for an even growth.

Bougainvillea glabra can also grow under grow lights where natural lighting is inadequate. Check out these full spectrum grow lights on Amazon.

Temperature and Humidity

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.

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


Feed Bougainvillea with a balanced, liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks during the growing season to promote a lush growth.

Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is reduced and feeding can lead to fertilizer burn as the plant does not need it.

Potting Mix

The best potting mix for Bougainvillea should be rich in organic matter and free-draining to prevent it from getting soggy while providing the required nutrients.

Most multi-purpose potting mixes are ideal for this plant. Buy quality Potting Mix online from Amazon for your Bougainvillea Plant.


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. Check out these Flower Pots with Multi Mesh Drainage Holes on Amazon.

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 discourage pest infestations. Pinch off the growing tips to encourage compact growth and prevent the plant from getting unruly.

After flowering, lightly cutback 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

Bougainvillea glabra Problems and Solutions

Bougainvillea glabra growing problems 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 moderately moist but not soggy during the growing season and fairly moist in the cold period but do not allow the soil to dry out.

Ensure that 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 Bougainvillea glabra 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 moderately moist and never allow the soil to dry out completely.

Water the Paper Flower thoroughly during the growing season while allowing the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings and keep the soil moderately moist.

Lessen watering during the cold period to maintain the soil slightly moist but never allow it to dry out completely.


Common pests in Bougainvillea are 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. Do not allow the plant to sit in soggy soil. Ensure that there is good drainage of both the pot and the soil. Read on how to treat root-rot disease in houseplants.

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