Tips On Growing Bougainvillea In Florida

Bougainvillea, a member of the Nyctaginaceae family, bursts with vibrant colors during the warmer months, typically blooming from late February through early May in central Florida south.

These gorgeous plants flourish in subtropical climates and are the perfect plant for Florida.

Blooming Potted BougainvilleaPin

The Bougainvillea and its subspecies are popular in their native South American countries, such as Colombia, Brazil, Peru, and Argentina.

Moreover, this plant is commonly cultivated in Arizona, South Florida, South Texas, and Southern California.  

The subspecies are:

There are also many hybrid Bougainvillea as a result of species crossing.

The popular hybrids are:

  • Jamaica White
  • Scarlett O’Hara
  • Gold Rush
  • Raspberry Ice
  • Orange King
  • Don Mario

This perennial pop of color can bring light to any yard and makes an excellent plant for your drought-tolerant landscape.

It also grows well in a pot or hanging basket.

Bougainvillea Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Bougainvillea spp.
  • Common Name(s): Florida Bougainvillea, Paper Flower
  • Synonyms: None
  • Pronunciation: boo-guhn-vi-lee-uh
  • Family & Origin: Nyctaginaceae family, native to South America (Colombia, Brazil, Peru, and Argentina)
  • Growability: Easy to grow
  • Grow Zone: 9-11
  • Size: Can grow up to 30 feet tall and wide
  • Flowering: Blooms in spring and summer with bright pink, purple, red, or orange bracts
  • Light: Full sun
  • Humidity: Tolerates low humidity
  • Temperature: Can tolerate temperatures as low as 30°F
  • Soil: Well-draining soil
  • Water: Occasional deep waterings
  • Fertilizer: Fertilize established plants in late summer with a bloom booster fertilizer
  • Pests & Diseases: Can be susceptible to aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. May also be prone to fungal diseases like root rot if overwatered.
  • Propagation: Can be propagated through stem cuttings
  • Plant Uses: Can be used as a climbing vine, hedge, or container plant. Adds vibrant color to landscapes.

Bougainvillea plants grow in many ways, making it a diverse plant. It does require a bit of pruning to keep up with maintenance.

Bougainvillea Care Tips

The Bougainvillea is durable and able to survive in drought conditions. But this plant needs some care to flourish and flower properly.

Bougainvillea is recommended for USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9 – 11.

Here are the proper plant care instructions to follow:

Size And Growth

The Bougainvillea is a fast grower plant that can also be grown and shaped into a variety of forms. 

Prune it into a standard, train the branches to run along fences and walls, hang it in baskets, or plant it as a shrub, accent plant, or a vine for a trellis, arbor, or hedge.

The Bougainvillea glabra species, aka “paper flower” or “lesser Bougainvillea,” reaches 10′ – 12′ feet. In contrast, the larger Bougainvillea spectabilis, or “great bougainvillea,” reaches 15′ – 40′ feet.

Bougainvillea Flowers And Fragrance

While the Bougainvillea has small flowers, they bloom in close clusters surrounded by colorful bract year-round.

Like Lavender or poinsettia, these bracts are responsible for their famous rich colors. But the actual flowers tend to be white.

The bracts bloom vibrantly and come in a variety of colors, such as:

  • Magenta
  • Red
  • Purple
  • Orange
  • Pink
  • White

Depending on your location, the Bougainvillea blooms in Florida, typically from late February to May. A blooming Bougainvillea in spring puts on quite a show!

The Bougainvillea is physically bold and bright and grows extremely large.

Its scent is quite simple and understated. Its fragrance is sweet, delicious, and subtle, like a Honeysuckle.

Related: Bougainvillea Not Blooming? How To Get Bougainvillea To Flower

Light And Temperature

The Bougainvillea requires full sun and climates not prone to harsh winters. This makes Florida the perfect location for it.

Florida is also ideal since the Bougainvillea is native to sub-tropical regions and has a high salt tolerance.

When deciding where to place your Bougainvillea, ensure it receives full and direct sunlight.

Watering And Feeding

Florida provides both the climate and the sun needed for the Bougainvillea to thrive and blossom. But the frequent rainfall during Florida summers poses a slight problem.

Bougainvillea grows best in dry soil and doesn’t need much water. Occasional deep watering is best. While a little rain won’t hurt, a lot of water won’t help. 

Avoid using irrigation heads because being doused with water once established may result in insect problems and stop the plant from blooming.

The same goes for fertilizing Bougainvillea. Overfeeding your Bougainvillea will cause it to produce more leaves than blooms.

Fertilize established plants in late summer with a bloom booster fertilizer.

You can also use palm and hibiscus food once or twice in late spring and mid-summer during the active growing season.  

Soil And Transplanting

Native to arid regions, the Bougainvillea thrives in drier well-drained soil. It will not tolerate soggy soil.

If you’re growing your Bougainvillea as a houseplant or in a hanging pot, repot it annually.

When transplanting Bougainvillea, be careful plant’s roots don’t hold to the soil well.

It helps to cut back the roots about 1″ – 2″ inches and then repot the plant in either the same container or one of equal size.

Also, ensure the container has adequate drainage holes so excess water can flow freely.

Grooming And Maintenance

Pruning is the critical grooming method for maintaining your Bougainvillea.

NOTE: The best time to prune is in spring or late winter for shape and to remove any dead wood.

Pruning in late summer or early fall will result in fewer flowers during the following winter.

Pull out your pruning shears and prune Bougainvillea after it flowers in either the late winter or early spring. You can also prune it during Florida’s rainy season.

If you prune at the wrong time or prune too much, your Bougainvillea won’t bloom properly, which is a shame since its beautiful blooms are its claim to fame.

It’s best to prune your thorny plant back within two or three buds of the main stems. This helps with overcrowding and keeping the Bougainvillea’s desired shape.

Moreover, trimming your bougainvillea after each bloom cycle and using fertilizer will also promote new growth and flowers.

Wear gloves and watch your hand placement as you prune, as most cultivars have sharp thorns.

NOTE: There are a thornless variety and several dwarf varieties.

Related: Is Bougainvillea Toxic or Poisonous?

How To Propagate Bougainvillea

  • Save the pruned stems, as these allow for Bougainvillea propagation.
  • These stem cuttings should be at least 1/8″ inches thick and have at least three nodes.
  • Drip cuttings in rooting hormone powder
  • Plant several stem cuttings together in 4” pot.
  • Space the cuttings 1″ – 2″ inches apart.
  • Plant them in a moist soil of sand and peat or a perlite and peat mixture.
  • Cover with plastic to retain moisture
  • Place potted cuttings in bright indirect light
  • Cutting should begin to root in 4-6 weeks.

The ideal time to propagate your Bougainvillea is during the summer, which lasts anywhere between 4 – 12 weeks.

Bougainvillea Pests Or Diseases

Bougainvillea can flower under stress and withstand droughts, making them durable plants. Their durability includes withstanding pests and diseases, yet, they aren’t impervious.

Fungal and bacterial leaf spot diseases can affect your Bougainvillea and pests such as aphids, scales, caterpillars, and mealybugs.

Related: Check out this article on Bougainvillea Pests

To prevent pests and diseases, prune your Bougainvillea regularly. A lack of pruning and proper maintenance leads to overcrowding and tangling. This will invite pests and diseases.

Rejuvenate old potting soil with compost, fresh soil, or store-bought plant nutrients. It is up to you to decide the best choice for your plants.

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