Growing Bougainvillea In Pots: How To Plant & Care For A Bougainvillea Container Garden
Why Grow A Bougainvillea? Beauty, Color & An Endless Jubilee Of Flowers
Few things in nature can rival the stunning beauty of the bougainvillea - especially in Florida, California, and other hot, perpetually sunny places where the lush, colorful flowering vine brightens even the dullest buildings and dustiest facades. If you are looking for the epitome of tropical flowering beauty in all its glory and the most abundant, nearly year-round flowering display, then read on to learn how to grow bougainvillea in a pot.
Reason #2 To Grow A Bougainvillea: Few Flowering Plants Are Easier To Grow - In The Right, Hot Climate
It's hard to even imagine some of the most brutally hot regions without bougainvillea's signature bursts of color adorning otherwise thorny shrubs and burning deep crimson, magenta and burgundy waves across terrain, fences and yards. Like a mirage in the desert, waterfalls of color cascade over arbors and brighten pergolas, draping steamy hot landscapes with their almost otherworldly beauty. Part of this bountiful beauty can be attributed to the fact that bougainvillea are just that easy to grow, with one caveat; you must be in the right, hot climate.
Reason #3 To Grow A Bougainvillea: Privacy & Shade
Thriving in intense heat and sun, prodigious bougainvillea offers both a visual and physical respite from the heat. While stunning to look at, they also provide shade, define property boundaries and grant privacy from neighbors that may be a little too close.
What If You Do Not Live in "Bougainvillea Country?" Consider Pots & Dwarf Varieties
And for those not living in "bougainvillea country," who reside in more temperate zones but crave the look of tropical foliage? Well, it won't be easy to grow these heat-loving plants in cooler places. Not to mention, without the requisite hours of sunlight, your bougainvillea will struggle to bloom. But if your heart is set on it and if you are up for a challenge, planting a bougainvillea as a specimen container plant may be your best bet. For a list of compact and dwarf specimens in a rainbow of hues, scroll down below to the section titled, "How To Grow Bougainvillea In A Pot: Which Varieties Of Bougainvillea Are Suitable For Growing In Containers?"
By growing a compact or dwarf bougainvillea in a container around your garden, you can impart a tropical feel to your property at least during the summer months. But you must remember to cover your tropical shrubs or relocate them indoors into a greenhouse or near a very bright Southern-facing window as temperatures drop.
Why Grow A Bougainvillea In A Pot? Planting Bougainvillea In Containers Allows You To Minimize Their Size & Spread As Well As Grow Them In Less Than Ideal Locations
While the bougainvillea is a stunning and romantic sight, often inspiring leisure and reflection in many a garden, for too many would-be home gardeners, bougainvillea's graceful climbing cascade can just as easily become a large, intimidating, messy mass that could overtake any garden in no time flat. It is because of these wild and untamable tendencies that many home gardeners shy away from growing bougainvillea, ultimately missing out on the beauty, brightness, and privacy it can bring to any outdoor space.
What if there were a way to enjoy the beauty of the bougainvillea, plus the potential privacy the dense shrub can offer, while minimizing and containing its size and tendency to overtake everything it comes in contact with? Well, it's your lucky day, because there is. Read on below to find out how to grow bougainvillea successfully in containers.
How To Grow Bougainvillea In A Pot -- Climate Considerations
Where Can You Grow Bougainvillea? Can Bougainvillea Survive Winters?
As a thorny, woody, flowering vine or ornamental shrub native to the tropics, the bougainvillea plant will thrive outdoors in USDA plant hardiness zones 9b or higher. In the US, bougainvillea thrives in areas with warm climates from South Carolina to Florida to California, and in Europe, the gorgeous tropical plant blooms profusely throughout the Mediterranean basin.
Bougainvillea can survive in temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but anything below that and the leaves and bracts may begin to wilt. Anything below 32 degrees Fahrenheit and damage is more likely to occur, depending on the length of time the temperature remains below 32 degrees Fahrenheit and how far below 32 degrees the temperature drops.
Can You Grow Bougainvillea In Temperate Climates? Possibly, If In Containers
As a container plant, you could potentially grow potted compact varieties of bougainvillea in cooler zones, although flowering may be limited due to short growing seasons and fewer hours of daylight. Enjoy your outdoor potted bougainvillea on patios or in the garden in warmer months. Then, as soon as the temperature drops, move your potted bougainvillea indoors or cover them for the winter.
How To Grow Bougainvillea In A Pot -- Blooming Bougainvillea
When Do Bougainvillea Bloom? When Do Bougainvillea Bloom In Florida?
Bougainvillea typically bloom from May through December in most non-tropical places, but in frost-free Florida and other places with mild, frost-free winters, bougainvillea are evergreen, meaning they can bloom for up to 12 months of the year in USDA zones 9 through 11. While the vibrant flowering bracts will appear periodically throughout the year, they are especially bountiful in drier winter months when they graciously bloom in time to add warm color to brighten up the winter season.
How Long Do Bougainvillea Bloom For? How Long Do They Bloom In Florida?
Since bougainvillea typically cycle from a dormant state to a flowering state, you will notice that you can get at least three to five weeks of a blooming or flowering period. However, in Florida and other places in USDA zones 9 - 11, where they can grow year-round, they can also bloom year-round, although the dry winter months is their prime blooming time. Yes, I did say dry months.
The more heat and direct sun, the better, so hot tropical and desert places will have the most robust, and longer, blooming periods. Provided your bougainvillea receives at least five hours of direct sun per day, a healthy bougainvillea will flower for at least three to five weeks at a time or even much longer in very sunny places.
Bottomline, since stress and dryness promote blooming, as a drought-resistant plant, you'll want to be sure to keep the soil slightly drier wherever possible for maximum blooms. Prune heavily early in the season (or you risk cutting off potential blooms). Learn when and how to prune your bougainvillea here. In addition, use a fertilizer low in nitrogen to encourage blooming.
How Large Can A Bougainvillea Get?
Fast-growing stems can reach heights between 20 to 30 feet tall for many varieties of bougainvillea. Look for compact or dwarf varieties that reach a maximum height and width of 3 to 6 feet. For the typical bougainvillea, because they are such prodigious climbers, if you do not keep your bougainvillea in check it will grow wild and out of control. To curb this wild growth, be sure that regular pruning is part of your bougainvillea care and maintenance routine.
How To Grow Bougainvillea In A Pot: Which Varieties Of Bougainvillea Are Suitable For Growing In Containers?
When selecting bougainvillea to plant in pots, you will want to choose smaller, more compact or dwarf varieties. "Helen Johnson" is a true dwarf variety, reaching about three feet, with beautiful magenta-purple flowers. Varieties such as "La Jolla" and "Crimson Jewel" are ideal for red container varieties, or choose "Oo-La-La" for magenta-red blooms in a dwarf variety that will remain small, usually reaching heights no taller than 18 inches. "Raspberry Ice" is another compact variety option, or for a deep purple variety, try "Vera Deep Purple" or "Purple Queen" for a bright purple. "Singapore Pink" is a good choice if pink is your preference. You can also try "Cherry Blossom" if pink and cream is the look you desire. For lovers of sunny yellow, there is the bright "Gold Rush."
If you are seeking a less thorny bougainvillea, the "Glabra" variety contains fewer thorns than most other types of bougainvillea.
How To Grow Bougainvillea In A Pot -- Location & Pot Considerations
Growing Bougainvillea In A Pot Is Easy - First Choose A Sunny Spot - How Much Sun Does My Bougainvillea Need?
Because they are native to South America and one of the few lush flowering shrubs that can thrive under intense, even desert, heat and sun, bougainvillea can not only withstand full sun, but actually produce more flowers the more sun they receive. Thus, choose a very sunny location to promote the most flowering, and remember, unlike many flowering plants, bougainvillea can handle strong southern and western exposures.
Length Of Sun Exposure And Its Effect On Bougainvillea Flowering
Make sure that the spot you choose for your bougainvillea gets at least 5 to 6 hours of full sun per day as anything less will produce a bloom that is mediocre to non-existent. If you find your bougainvillea struggles to flower, consider relocating it to a sunnier spot and you should see an improvement. Of course, the advantage to planting your bougainvillea in a pot is that you can easily relocate it to a sunnier spot in your garden if you ever notice it needs more direct light.
What Type of Pot Can You Grow A Bougainvillea In?
For portability purposes and to accommodate changing weather conditions, I prefer lightweight plastic, resin or ceramic pots for easy lifting and portability as needed. If you live further north, you will definitely be moving your potted bougainvillea depending on the season so keep that in mind when choosing your container.
Even when its roots are slightly constricted in a pot, compact Bougainvillea can still grow quite well. As stated above, Bougainvillea come in a range of varieties with plenty of compact and bushy types available that work well in containers. Of course, the larger you expect your bougainvillea to get, the larger pot size you'll need.
For a true dwarf bougainvillea, consider the "Helen Johnson" variety, which is a beautiful hardy little shrub with hot pinkish-purple flowers that is easy to keep compact in size. While growing bougainvillea in pots does limit their size, choosing a compact variety will ensure they remain small and healthy enough to produce profuse blooms.
Keep Pots Lightweight & Make Sure There Is Drainage
And of course, be sure that your pot has drainage holes and, if not, be sure to drill at least one.
Consider your bougainvillea variety and chose a pot size accordingly. I chose a pot that was about 16 inches wide and 20 inches tall to allow sufficient room for my compact bougainvillea to grow.
Tip! Promote Drainage in Your Pots
Depending on how tall or deep your pot is, you may want to line the bottom with a layer of plastic bottles as lightweight filler that promotes even drainage.
What Is the Best Soil for Growing Bougainvillea? What Kind of Soil Does A Potted Bougainvillea Need?
For such hardy plants, bougainvillea have rather delicate root systems. You can use a regular potting soil, but make sure it does not have a high concentration of peat moss because too much peat retains moisture and can result in root rot. The most important thing for bougainvillea is that its soil and pot both have excellent drainage. This way, your bougainvillea can extract just the right amount of water it needs, while any excess water drains out. After all, bougainvillea are native to extremely hot and dry climates and are exceedingly drought-tolerant so do prefer overall drier conditions.
A good mix of soil would be 3/4 potting soil plus 1/4 cactus and succulent mix towards the bottom of the pot to ensure the best drainage.
How To Plant Bougainvillea In A Pot?
Once you have added your desired combination of soil - remember, add your mix for aeration and drainage to the pot, such as 1/4 part cactus and succulent mix at the bottom, then you can begin adding some potting soil, leaving plenty of space for your bougainvillea.
As for your bougainvillea, you will want to start with a hydrated plant as one that is overly dry is likely to be harder to manipulate. A drier plant may also get stressed and struggle to acclimate to the new pot.
Here, I used scissors to cut both sides of the plastic container housing the bougainvillea. This made it easy to slide the plant out without disturbing its roots too much. Bougainvillea is hardy in many ways but actually prefers not to have its roots messed with too much due to its very fine root system.
Loosen and tease out any roots and then top off with remaining potting soil, packing it firmly. Follow up with a thorough soaking of water to ensure the plant is well hydrated. A bougainvillea really appreciates a good drink when it is newly planted and struggling to establish itself and its roots. In general, bougainvillea in pots appreciate more hydration than those growing in-ground.
Care & Watering After Transplanting Your Potted Bougainvillea
Move your newly potted bougainvillea to a sunny spot. Consider adding a support trellis alongside it to give its vines something to attach themselves to and encourage upwards growth.
Also, immediately after transplant, provide your bougainvillea a good soaking to ensure its roots are well integrated into the potting soil mix. Observe its growth to see how it adjusts to its new pot. If it continues to look healthy, you may water it no more than a couple times a week in the beginning, and then once a week once it is established. If you receive regular late afternoon or early evening rainstorms in the summer as I do, your bougainvillea may get more than enough water even as it begins to establish its roots.
Potted bougainvillea are not quite as drought-tolerant as those planted in the ground. Therefore, while you don't need to water too often and you want your plant to dry between waterings, you will still need to supply periodic hydration -- definitely more so than you would for a bougainvillea in the ground, which can be quite self-sufficient.
That said, once we enter the drier seasons, your bougainvillea should reward you with its signature colorful bright winter blooms. If its blooms are only mediocre, consider relocating your potted bougainvillea to a sunnier location to promote more plentiful blooming.
Conclusion - Growing Bougainvillea In Pots Brings Tropical Beauty, Privacy & Versatility To Almost Any Outdoor Space
Growing bougainvillea in pots allows you to import this unique tropical beauty to your home and garden. By planting bougainvillea in containers, you can enjoy the potential privacy and definition bougainvillea bring to any outdoor space. At the same time, you effectively minimize the size and spread of the plant without minimizing your enjoyment of their incomparable splendid beauty.
Have you tried planting bougainvillea in containers with any success? Comment down below to share your experience with this tropical beauty.