Growing Bougainvillea - Tips, Ideas and Care

A healthy bougainvillea plant growing in the right location is a magnificent sight when it is in full bloom. These colorful plants are not difficult to grow, as long as you follow these few basic tips for growing bougainvillea. Given the right position, plenty of direct sun, the correct watering and a little fertilizer, you can have a bougainvillea that is the talk of the neighborhood.

The bougainvillea is a tropical plant that grows profusely in South America and on the islands of the Pacific, so you will need to find a warm, sunny location in your garden if you are going to have success growing them. They have a climbing, twining habit so will need some support.

Bougainvilleas prefer warm to hot climates that have temperate winters but there are ways you can also have one if you live where winters are colder. A potted bougainvillea can be moved around to the warmest spots in your garden, even in winter. If you have a protected patio that gets year-round sunshine, you will be able to grow a bougainvillea up and over the patio. Another ideal location is a warm, sun-drenched wall where you can train the bougainvillea onto a trellis or lattice; it will receive reflected warmth from the wall in winter to help it cope with cooler temperatures.

Find a spot in your garden that gets 5 hours of direct sunlight each day to ensure the best blooms; afternoon sun is especially good for bougainvillea. It needs a well-drained soil as it hates having wet feet, so make sure that you use a sandy loam for the plant to grow in. Raising the plant above the surrounding garden bed also helps drainage. Lightly mulch around the plant to retain soil temperature and moisture.

Bougainvilleas like to climb and twine their branches, so provide some support for your new plant. You can train the plant to go wherever you want, simply by tying the branches you want onto the supports and trimming off any that are growing in the wrong place. Bougainvilleas don't mind a bit of pruning, which can be done at any time of the year, but immediately after flowering is a good time.

Bougainvilleas like to be watered deeply and then left to dry out. Think about how tropical islands get their rain – sudden, drenching storms which quickly clear away. Your watering mimics this. Only water again when the soil starts to feel dry.

If you decide to grow your bougainvillea in a pot, here are some special growing tips. Use a good quality potting soil that is free-draining, a pot with a drainage hole that is one size larger than the nursery pot you bought it in and some pebbles in the bottom to ensure good drainage. When newly planted, place the pot in a shaded area to allow the plant to recover and then move it into a sunny spot where it will receive 5 hours of sun a day. Bougainvilleas also bonsai very well and create a dramatic picture as a miniature plant covered with colorful blooms. Water your potted bougainvillea deeply, allowing the water to run out the drainage hole but don't keep it standing in a saucer of water. Water again when the soil feels dry to the touch.

Bougainvilleas in the ground may not need fertilizing, but a complete liquid or slow release fertilizer applied after flowering will keep it looking its best and flowering well. Potted bougainvilleas will need a slow release fertilizer applied 2 or 3 times a year, to replenish the nutrients used up by the plant. You will need to repot the plant when the roots fill the pot it is in.