Bougainvillea glabra (pronounced boo-gan-vil-lee-AY-nuh GLAY-bruh), also known as a paper flower or lesser Bougainvillea, is a plant with colorful leaves or bracts native to South America.
While its flowers remain small, the bracts take on a bright pink, purple, or red color during the blooming season.
Bougainvillea glabra is an evergreen that belongs to the Nyctaginaceae family and to the Bougainvillea genus. This perennial is a popular plant in warm regions, but it does well in colder climates if you keep it inside.
Here are a few tips to help you care for your Bougainvillea glabra.
Bougainvillea Glabra Care
Paper flowers are popular because they’re straightforward to care for and bloom with bright colors.
Size & Growth
Bougainvillea glabra is a climbing shrub that can reach 30 feet in height, but it’s more common to see plants between 10 and 12 feet. In a planter, it will usually reach two or three feet in height.
It’s a fast-growing plant that can gain 36” per year in optimal conditions. Most of the growth happens from May to December.
Flowers and Fragrance
In its native environment, Bougainvillea glabra flowers all year round. In colder climates, this plant blooms from summer to autumn with flowering cycles that last four to six weeks.
The flowers are small and hidden by the colorful bracts. However, it’s not a plant with a strong fragrance.
Light & Temperature
This plant thrives with plenty of sun and a hot, dry climate. Your Bougainvillea glabra should get at least five hours of sunlight a day.
Frost can be an issue. A light frost won’t kill your Bougainvillea, but the root system can die if the ground freezes. It’s best to keep this plant indoors if you live in an area with a cold climate.
Instead of disturbing the root system by transplanting your paper flower to a container, it’s best to keep it as a potted plant and move it inside or outside, depending on the temperature.
More on Growing Bougainvillea in Pots
Watering and Fertilizer
You need to let the soil dry between watering. It’s a drought-tolerant plant once it develops a healthy root system.
Glabra does best with deep watering every three to four weeks. You might need to water more regularly in the first couple of years since the root system will be shallow.
Read these 12 Tips on Bougainvillea Watering
For potted plants, choose a container with large drainage holes and empty the water dish regularly. Water less often during the dormant season.
Bougainvillea glabra thrives in rich and loamy soil. If you have this type of soil, you might not need to add fertilizer.
You can use fertilizer during the blooming season that lasts from May to December. Bougainvillea plants are heavy feeders. Feed once a month with a product that contains nitrogen and phosphate. A slow-release fertilizer also provides steady feeding. If you want more flower growth, choose a plant food with lots of Potash.
Check out this article on Fertilizer For Bougainvillea
Soil & Transplanting
Bougainvillea glabra is a plant that needs rich and loamy soil to thrive. However, it’s a resistant plant that can adapt to different environments.
Potted Bougainvillea Plants
If you decide to keep it as an indoor plant, opt for rich soil that will retain moisture well. You can remove brown leaves in the winter to help the plant conserve moisture. Keep it in a spot with plenty of natural light but avoid warm temperatures and overly humid environments.
Transplanting can damage the root system of this plant. If you live in a cold area, it’s best to keep your Bougainvillea glabra in a planter at all times and to re-pot regularly to accommodate for the plant’s growth.
Related: Best Potting Soil For Bougainvillea
Grooming, Pruning and Maintenance
Bougainvillea glabra is a plant with spectacular growth. It’s a hardy plant, and you won’t damage it easily by pruning.
You can prune shoots to shape the plant at the end of the flowering cycle. It’s safe to cut shoots close to the main stem to shape the plant. If you need to reduce the size of your Bougainvillea to bring it inside, it’s safe to prune when the temperature starts dropping.
How To Propagate Bougainvillea Glabra
You can stimulate growth by pinching soft tips at the end of the flowering season during the first years of the plant’s life. This technique will create more branching.
There are different methods you can use to propagate this plant, depending on how you want to grow it:
- If you’re going to use it as ground cover, it’s okay to let it grow naturally with minimal pruning.
- You can create a bush by pinching the soft tips to get more branching.
- If you want to turn your Bougainvillea into a tree, you’ll have to remove new shoots to form a trunk. Pick a robust central shoot that will become the trunk and prune all the other shoots.
- You can get your paper flower to grow as a vine if you have a frame it can attach itself to. Use twine to secure stems to the structure and prune new shoots to limit growth away from the frame. Add more twine to shape new shoots.
- If you keep your Bougainvillea in a container, pinch the soft tips to get a bush shape.
- Maintaining a bonsai requires more frequent care. Cut the shoots that are close to the soil to form a central trunk and prune your bonsai at the top. You can feed every two weeks during the growing season to get plenty of new foliage.
Bougainvillea Glabra Pests or Diseases
Rot is one of the most common issues you can encounter with a paper flower. This plant won’t do well in areas with lots of precipitation. If possible, plant your Bougainvillea on high ground to provide more drainage and prevent water from pooling around the plant.
It’s a resistant plant that is not prone to pests or diseases. However, it’s possible to find common garden pests on your Bougainvillea, like aphids, beetles, snails, slugs, or mites.
Young plants can develop leaf spots due to fungus or bacteria. You can prevent this issue by keeping the foliage dry.