Bougainvillea - Bougainville

General Information:

Bougainvillea, is a native of South America, coast of Brazil.

In the 1760’s the French botanist Philibert Commerson discovered the colorful vining plant and named it bouganvillea after his friend and captain, Louis A. de Bougainville. It is also called  as `Paper Flower` in English.

It is grown extensively in India. It is a member of the Nyctaginaceae family. relatives. The Bougainvillea has spiny, cascading stems which end with colorful bracts of purple, lavender, carmine, scarlet, red, pink, orange, yellow and white. Single and double flower forms are available. Double forms tend to carry their blooms near the end of the stems rather than distributing them evenly over the plant. The colorful, papery "blooms" are not flowers; they are bracts. The true flower is white, trumpet shaped and almost unnoticeable within the bracts.

Bougainvillea can be used in a multitude of ways:

Bougainvillea is an evergreen vine which can spread horizontally or hang downwards as it is climbing upwards, it makes itself at home in almost any situation. It can be grown as a hedge, pruned as an espalier, trained as a tree or contained in a pot in a variety of shapes. Its trunk tends to be gnarled. Bougainvillea is ideal for bonsai.

They flower most heavily in winter and early spring, but some plants put forth scattered clusters all year.

Bougainvillea are available in nurseries and from bonsai specialty growers.


Full sun.


It is a tropical and a warm weather plant. In colder regions it has to be given some protection during the severe winter months. If you are growing them in pots, place the pots under shade during the winter months. Plants grown outdoor may loose their total leaves but these will come back with the spring.

Soil type:

Bougainvillea will thrive in almost any soil as long as it is well-drained and fertile. Soils that work for other plants you grow will be fine for your bougainvillea but ensure that the soil does not hold water.


If you want to be successful with bougainvillea keep containers moist but ensure that water does not hold since they do not like flooded water.

At the same time make sure you do not  let the plants dry out between waterings.

Sparse to light watering and good drainage is loved by this plant.


Fertiliser once in the spring with a low nitrogen fertiliser and maybe once again just before the winter approach. The old established method of forcing flowers is to withhold water to a point of causing severe stress to the plant. Research at the PAU, Ludhiana has found that plants flower best when given high nitrogen fertilisers and short day lengths (15 hours of darkness is a must for every 24 hour period).

Pruning and wiring:

The bougainvillea takes well to pruning; a useful attribute in styling bonsai. Because bougainvillea generally blooms on new growth, each branch, as blooms begin to fade, should be cut back to a point somewhat shorter than the desired length. Seal all cuts to prevent rot. If rot is detected on a collected specimen, cut it out completely.


Bougainvillea may be grown from air layers, root cuttings and branch cuttings. Young shoots, a few inches in length, should be placed in sandy soil with bottom heat and moisture. Half-ripened or old wood cuttings in six to twelve inch lengths may be rooted April to June.

Repotting: Repot in Spring. Do not prune the roots too severely.

Pests and Diseases:

Caterpillars, aphids, scale, greenfly and mineral deficiencies (chlorosis). Apply 20 ml Endosulfan in 1 liter water once a week in spring and rainy weather. Do not spray if a rainfall is eminent

Care must be taken that fungus does not invade the plant. If it does, reduce humidity and apply a  preventive spray of fungicide.

Suggested varieties:




Bougainvillea brazilinensis

'Pink Pixie' bougainvillea

Bougainvillea buttiana 'Golden Glow'

Bright yellow bracts which fade to apricot.

Bougainvillea buttiana 'Louis Wathen'

Orange bracts.

Bougainvillea buttiana 'Mrs. Butt'

Crimson bracts.

Bougainvillea buttiana 'Orange King'

Orange bracts

Bougainvillea glabra: paper flower, lesser bougainvillea

It has shiny green, slightly hairy leaves and magenta colored bracts. This is also best for Bonsi.

Bougainvillea glabra 'Magnifica'

Rose pink bracts

Bougainvillea glabra 'Snow White'

White bracts

Bougainvillea peruviana

Rosy pink bracts

Bougainvillea spectabilis

Pink or mauve bracts