How to propagate bougainvillea

This article was co-authored by Monique Capanelli. Monique Capanelli is a Plant Specialist and the Owner and Designer for Articulture Designs, an innovative design firm and boutique in Austin, Texas. With over 15 years of experience, Monique specializes in interior botanical design, living walls, event decor, and sustainable landscape design. She attended the University of Texas at Austin. Monique is a Certified Permaculture Designer. She provides plant and botanical design experiences, from small gifts to entire transformations, to shoppers as well as commercial clients including Whole Foods Market and The Four Seasons.

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Raising a garden full of woody, bright-bloomed bougainvillea only requires a single plant. Simply cut 6–8 inches (15–20 cm) from the stem of an existing plant, coat the end in rooting hormone, and stick it in a shallow container filled with well-drained potting soil. After a thorough initial watering, cover the cutting with a plastic bag and leave it to sit somewhere dim and cool. With minimal interference, it will develop into its own self-sufficient plant in as little as 3-6 months.

How to propagate bougainvillea

At heights of only 18 to 24 inches, miniature bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp.), also known as dwarf bougainvillea, is generally grown as a ground cover where it sprawls to a width of 6 to 8 feet. The plant also does well in containers, and is grown indoors in cool weather climates. Bougainvillea is suitable for growing outdoors all year round in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9b through 11, where it provides pink or purple blooms throughout the year.

Keep your miniature bougainvillea slightly on the dry side, as bougainvillea blooms best when it is stressed. When the plant is slightly wilted or the soil looks dry, water the plant enough to completely saturate the root zone — wetting the soil to a depth of about 6 to 8 inches. Let the soil dry before watering again, but never let the soil become bone dry.

Fertilize the plant every other week between spring and fall, as bougainvilleas require a consistent supply of nutrients during flowering season. Feed the plant a dilute mixture of an all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer mixed at a rate of 1 to 2 teaspoons in 1 gallon of water. Decrease the frequency during the winter, feeding the plant once every four to six weeks.

Pinch about 1/2 inch from the tender growing tips of new stems after each flush of blooms to create a bushier, fuller plant — usually about every four to six weeks. Every time you pinch the plant, several new stems will grow just below the pinched spot.

Prune bougainvillea in late summer or early spring if the plant is unruly or outgrowing its boundaries. Use pruners or hand shears to make each cut just above a leaf. Although pruning decreases blooming in the next bloom cycle, the plant rebounds quickly. Trim the plant lightly throughout the summer to maintain the desired size and shape.

Watch for signs of damage by bougainvillea caterpillars, recognized by the ragged holes chewed in the leaves. The caterpillar usually isn’t a serious threat. If the infestation is light, remove the pests by hand at night or early in the morning.

Spray miniature bougainvillea with insecticidal soap spray if the plant is bothered by aphids. Coat the tops and bottoms of the leaves with the spray, and then repeat every four to seven days.

One of the reasons bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp.) makes such a long-lasting, colorful display is that the bright structures thought of as “flowers” are papery bracts rather than true flowers. Each bract has a small, white, tubular flower at its base. The bracts remain fresh-looking after the flower withers, often for several months. Many varieties and hybrids exist, with plants hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11, although they may survive winter damage in zone 9. Usually reproduced by rooting cuttings, bougainvilleas can also grow from seed.

Taking Stem Cuttings

Because you get an exact duplicate of the parent plant, rooting a cutting is a way to get the bougainvillea color and growth form you want. Time propagation during the summer, when branches are still growing at the tip but beginning to harden partway down the stem. First, clean a pruning shears with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol to prevent spreading disease. Then take a 6- to 8-inch-long tip cutting that’s showing some bark formation at the base. Remove all but two or three leaves at the cutting’s tip.

  • One of the reasons bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp.)
  • The bracts remain fresh-looking after the flower withers, often for several months.

Rooting Stem Cuttings

To stimulate stem tissues to form roots, dip the bare end of the cutting into rooting hormone, making sure it contacts the cut end and the places leaves were torn away. Tap off any extra hormone powder. Then stick the cutting into a 2-inch pot that’s been filled with a moistened rooting mix of half peat and half perlite. Place the cutting in bright indirect light within a plastic bag. Keep the rooting medium moist and wait for new leaves to form, indicating that the cutting has rooted.

Layering Stems

Another way to get a stem to root is to layer the stem while it’s still on the plant. In spring, locate a stem close to the ground that’s showing new growth. Bend it to the ground, wound the stem with a sharp, clean knife and coat the wound with rooting hormone. Bury the wounded area under the soil, holding it down with a piece of bent wire or with a rock. Wait until new roots form and then cut off the stem between the rooted area and the mother plant, transplanting the new cutting to its new garden location. Bougainvilleas are sensitive to root disturbance, so avoid damaging the roots.

  • To stimulate stem tissues to form roots, dip the bare end of the cutting into rooting hormone, making sure it contacts the cut end and the places leaves were torn away.

Hybridizing Bougainvilleas

One of the ways to get new bougainvillea varieties is to hybridize existing species and varieties by cross-pollinating them to get seed. This recombines genetic material, taking one set of chromosomes from the pollen-bearing male parent and one set from the female parent, which bears the seeds.

Pollinating Bougainvillea

To transfer pollen, select a male parent that has a freshly opened flower and pick a flower. Split the floral tube open and locate the stalked stamens inside the flower, each with a pollen-bearing anther at its end. Collect some of the pollen on a cotton swab. After choosing a female parent, tear open the upper part of a flower to locate the female reproductive organ called the pistil, which has a blunt tip and is shorter than the stamens. Touch the tip with the pollen-coated swab. Mark the pollinated flower and wait for the 1/2-inch-long fruit to form at the flower base.

  • One of the ways to get new bougainvillea varieties is to hybridize existing species and varieties by cross-pollinating them to get seed.
  • After choosing a female parent, tear open the upper part of a flower to locate the female reproductive organ called the pistil, which has a blunt tip and is shorter than the stamens.

Growing From Seed

Once the bougainvillea fruit is dry and hard, collect the seeds. Fill a 4-inch pot with a soil-less mix containing perlite. Use a pot with drainage holes. Seeds don’t need pretreatment, so scatter them evenly on the medium’s surface. Cover the seeds with about 1/4 inch of the mix, tamp it down and water the pot until water comes through the drainage holes. Put the pot in bright indirect light and keep the soil moist. After the seeds germinate and have several sets of true leaves, transfer each to a 4-inch pot filled with the soil-less mix, disturbing the roots as little as possible during transplanting and watering seedlings well.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Bougainvillea is a beautiful tropical perennial that is hardy in USDA zones 9b through 11. Bougainvillea can come as a bush, tree, or vine that produces large amounts of stunning flowers in a slew of colors. But how do you go about propagating bougainvillea seeds and cuttings? Keep reading to learn more about bougainvillea propagation methods, including growing bougainvillea from a cutting and seeds.

How to Propagate Bougainvillea Plants

Bougainvillea plants are commonly propagated by cuttings but seed growing is possible too.

Propagation of Bougainvillea Cuttings

The easiest of bougainvillea propagation methods is to grow it from cuttings. It can be done at any time of the year. To take a cutting from your bougainvillea, look for softwood. This is a part of the plant that isn’t brand new, but isn’t established and overly woody, either.

Cut a length of softwood that is 4 to 5 inches (10-13 cm.) long and has 4 to 6 nodes on it. Nodes are the spots on the branch that either have sprouted smaller branches or contain buds that will sprout soon. If you want, you can dip the end of the cutting in root hormone.

Remove any leaves from the cutting and insert it upright in a mix of one part perlite and one part peat. Sink it one or two inches (2.5-5 cm.) into the growing medium. Keep the pot very warm. Water and spray your cutting every now and again, but don’t let it get overly wet.

In a few months it should take root and start to grow into a new plant.

Propagating Bougainvillea Seeds

Propagating bougainvillea seeds is less common, but still a decent way to go about the propagation of bougainvillea. In the autumn, your bougainvillea might form seed pods inside the tiny white flower in its center.

Harvest and dry these pods – there should be very small seeds inside. You can plant your seeds at any time of year, as long as they’re kept warm. Be patient, as germination may take a month or longer.

With its showy drifts of flower bracts in shades ranging from hot pink to fiery orange, bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp_._) adds brilliant color to landscaping in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11. It is among the easiest ornamental plants to grow from cuttings at home. However, you must propagate your bougainvillea cuttings at the right time of year to help ensure a successful outcome.

Timing Matters

Bougainvillea cuttings taken in mid-spring root most reliably. Choose stems that are 6 inches in length.) with some green, leafy growth at the tip and semi-mature wood at the base. Look for stems that bend but don’t easily break. Avoid stems that are entirely green from tip to base because they are too tender and will rot before they root.

Prep for Success

Clean, sanitary tools are vital to successful cuttings, even for easy-rooting species such as bougainvillea. Gather a pair of pruning shears, a rooting mix made of half perlite and half potting soil.), rooting hormone powder and a 4-inch plastic pot for each bougainvillea cutting you hope to root. Wash the pruning shear blades and pots with hot, soapy water; rinse them and wipe them dry with a clean paper towel to remove any harmful bacteria and viruses. Fill each pot with the rooting mix and moisten it thoroughly just before gathering the cuttings, so you can pot them as soon as possible.

Always choose pots with multiple drainage holes at the bottom to let excess moisture escape from the pot.

Make the Cut

Morning is the best time to gather and start bougainvillea stems. Measure out a 6-inch segment of stem from the tip of a healthy bougainvillea stem with tender growth at the tip and semi-mature wood at the base. Snip the stem with the pruning shears at a 45-degree angle just below a set of leaves. Non-blooming stems are best, but you can also pinch off any flowers. Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem, as well as half of the leaves from the tip to limit moisture loss.


Bougainvillea stems have long, sharp thorns, so wear thick gloves to protect your hands when gathering cuttings.

Start Them Right

Bougainvillea cuttings need filtered light, minimal moisture and temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit.) to root. Measure out a few tablespoons of rooting hormone powder and place it on a clean paper plate or bowl. Thoroughly coat the leafless bottom half of the cutting in the rooting hormone powder; then discard the unused portion. Bury the bottom half of the cutting in the pot of moistened soil mix and press the soil against the stem to increase contact. Cover the pots with a large plastic bag. Place the pots in bright, filtered light with protection from midday sun.

Place the pots on top of a propagation mat set to 75 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure successful rooting.

Rooting Tips

Bougainvillea roots in roughly four to eight weeks.) if provided with the right care. Water the cuttings only when the condensation inside the bag fully evaporates. New root growth is often visible at the drainage holes on the bottom of the pot, but it’s not always obvious. One way to check for roots is to gently tug on the base of the bougainvillea cutting. If it resists the tugging, it has successfully rooted.

Growing Bougainvillea

A rooted bougainvillea cutting should be grown in a pot under nursery conditions for at least one year before planting it in the garden. Keep it under partial shade during the hottest part of the day and water it thoroughly only when the soil has completely dried out. Bougainvillea is a heavy feeder, and it performs best when provided with regular feedings of water-soluble general purpose fertilizer applied at half-strength during the growing season. Slowly acclimate cutting-propagated bougainvillea trees to direct sun before planting them in a permanent location with full sun exposure and fast-draining soil.

Bougainvillea thrive in 5- to 10-gallon clay pots as an alternative to growing them in the ground.

Nothing adds drama like a briliantly colored bougainvillea vine climbing up a wall or over an arbor. Here’s how to plant and grow this tropical favorite.

Related To:

Bougainvillea is a vibrant, blooming vine that climbs on trellises at seaside resorts and desert retreats from San Diego to Miami. If you need a tough, tropical with oceans of color that can stand up to heat and drought, bougainvillea’s your plant.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Bougainvillea ‘ Barbara Karst’ features magenta blooms and climbs to 40 feet.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Bwipavadee

Bougainvillea ‘ Barbara Karst’ features magenta blooms and climbs to 40 feet.

Bougainvillea is tough as nails, fast-growing, and puts on a spectacular show of color year-round. These vines are flowering machines that look great climbing a wall, sprawling as a groundcover on hillsides, or pruned and grown in containers. Here’s what you need to know about growing bougainvillea.

Bougainvillea 101

Bougainvillea is native to Central and South America and commonly cultivated in South Florida, Arizona, South Texas and Southern California. Established vines can withstand a light frost, but you’ll need to bring them indoors for the winter in places where the temperatures drop below 25 degrees.

/> Valuable Vines

18 Vines to Grow in Your Garden 18 Photos

Vines such as bougainvillea can add privacy to your porch or romance to an arbor. The right vine makes any garden special.

Bougainvillea vines are fast growers and have stiff stems with thorns covered in heart-shaped leaves. Their vines can grow up to 40 feet tall with support. Low-growing, shrubby varieties only get a few feet tall and can be grown in containers.

Bougainvillea blooms come in purple, red, orange, white, pink and yellow. But those blooms actually aren’t blooms at all. The paper-like structures are a modified leaf called a bract that hides bougainvillea’s true flowers: small, trumpet-shaped blooms of white and yellow.

Botanical Name: Bougainvillea
Common Name: Bougainvillea
Bloom Time: Year-round
Hardiness Zones: Perennial in Zones 9 to 11 and can be grown as an annual in colder areas

Planting Bougainvillea

  • Bougainvillea needs lots of sun. Plant one in a shady spot and you won’t get the riot of blooms — the whole point of planting bougainvillea. You’ll get vines and thorns. It needs at least six hours of sun per day.

Caring for Bougainvillea

  • Prune your plant throughout the year, but especially in the late winter before the new growth cycle. For best bloom, trim all branches back to 20 feet or less. Bougainvillea blooms on new growth, so you can prune after each bloom cycle.

Training Bougainvillea

Taller growing bougainvilleas need support or they’ll be groundcover. Since they are twining vines and don’t have tendrils to attach themselves to walls, you’ll need to tie them up. They can be trained on a trellis, over an arbor, on a fence, or on a structure. Use strong ties and tie them well, because bougainvillea branches can be heavy.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Pink and Purple Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea can be trained to grow on a trellises, over an arbor or on a fence.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo Photography

Rob Cardillo Photography

Bougainvillea can be trained to grow on a trellises, over an arbor or on a fence.

The shorter, shrubbier types can be trimmed into hedges or topiary. Some people even train them as bonsai plants.

Growing Bougainvillea in Pots

If you aren’t lucky enough to live in a place where it never freezes but you still want to grow bougainvillea, there’s good news: Bougainvillea does great in containers. The vine actually blooms more when its roots are slightly crowded, so putting bougainvillea in a pot turns it into a flowering machine. When winter’s chill arrives, bring your potted bougainvillea indoors and put it by a sunny window until warmth returns. Here’s what you need to know about growing bougainvillea in pots.

How to propagate bougainvillea

'Rose' Bougainvillea

Sunvillea ‘Rose’ grows only about 4 to 8 inches high and 3 to 6 inches wide — really small for a bougainvillea.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Sunvillea

Image courtesy of Sunvillea

Sunvillea ‘Rose’ grows only about 4 to 8 inches high and 3 to 6 inches wide — really small for a bougainvillea.

  • Choose one of the shrubby, shorter varieties so it won’t overwhelm the container. Some good choices include ‘Vera Deep Purple,’ ‘Singapore Pink,’ ‘Crimson Jewel’ or ‘La Jolla.’

Pro Tip: Bougainvillea looks beautiful trailing out of a hanging basket.

Pro Tip: Bougainvillea prefers infrequent deep waterings to regular shallow waterings. Dump water on the plant until it runs out the holes in the bottom of the pot.

Pests and Diseases

Bougainvillea is relatively disease- and pest-free, but sometimes it’s vulnerable to the following:

Recommended Bougainvillea Varieties

‘Afterglow’ is a heavy bloomer with yellow-orange blossoms.

‘Barbara Karst’ is a popular selection and a vigorous grower with large clusters of magenta blooms all summer and fall. Climbs to 40 feet.

‘California Gold’ is one of the best performing yellow bougainvilleas. Climbs to 30 feet.

‘Imperial Delight’ has pink and white blooms in the summer and is one of the more cold-hardy varieties, hardy grown to Zone 9.

‘James Walker’ has red-purple blooms and blooms year-round in frost free zones.

‘Moneth’ or Purple Queen has deep purple blooms and can grow 15 feet tall if supported, 1-1/2 feet tall when grown as a groundcover.

‘Sundown Orange’ has bracts that begin deep orange, mature to salmon and fade to coral. Climbs 20 feet and can stand high heat.

‘Bengal Orange’ has pink-orange blooms and grows just 1.5 feet tall, or 6 to 8 feet wide if grown as a ground cover.

‘Rosenka’ has golden pink blooms and gets 1 to 2 feet tall and3 to 4 feet wide.

‘Singapore White’ or Miss Alice has white blooms and grows 2 to 3 feet tall. It’s a thornless semi-dwarf that’s tolerant of high heat and humidity.

‘Helen Johnson’ is a true dwarf bougainvillea, a hardy little shrub that stays under 3 feet and has hot pink blooms.

‘Pixie’, another true dwarf, grows in tufts of thick branches and is more shrub than vine. It stays under 3 feet and blooms in pink. Imported from the Philippines, it’s often trained as a bonsai.

How to propagate bougainvilleaYou can’t say enough about growing bougainvillea plants. This attractive flowering vine has many uses in the garden and container grown bougainvillea can be achieved as well in areas with little space. Learn more about how to grow a bougainvillea vine and find tips for bougainvillea care in the articles that follow.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Bougainvillea Is A Different Color: Why Did My Bougainvillea Turn Colors

A color changing bougainvillea in your garden may be a neat trick, but what does this mean, and can you do anything about it? Learn more here.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Mini Bougainvillea Care: How To Grow A Dwarf Bougainvillea Plant

If you love bougainvillea but don’t want a huge, out-of-control vine rambling amok, try growing miniature or dwarf bougainvilleas. What’s a mini bougainvillea? There are several varieties that, with pruning, can be grown as a low growing shrub. Learn more here.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Creating Bougainvillea Bonsai Plants: How To Make A Bougainvillea Bonsai Tree

Meet bonsai bougainvillea plants, bite-sized versions of this mighty vine that you can keep in your living room. Can you make a bonsai out of bougainvillea? You can. Click here for info on how to make a bougainvillea bonsai and tips on bonsai bougainvillea care.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Bougainvillea Pruning: When Should I Prune A Bougainvillea

Whether grown as an indoor or outdoor tropical vine, pruning a bougainvillea may seem like a daunting task, especially if you have the more common thorny types. Click on the article that follows to learn how to prune bougainvillea.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Bougainvillea Winter Care: What To Do With A Bougainvillea In Winter

In warm regions, bougainvillea blooms almost year around and thrives outdoors. However, northern gardeners will have a bit more work to keep this plant alive and happy during winter. This article will help with tips on providing good bougainvillea winter care.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Bougainvillea Care – How To Grow A Bougainvillea In The Garden

Growing bougainvillea in gardens requires some effort, but many think that these tropical and subtropical woody vines are worth it. Click this article for information about how to grow a bougainvillea plant in the garden landscape.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Propagation Of Bougainvillea – Learn How To Propagate Bougainvillea Plants

How do you go about propagating bougainvillea seeds and cuttings? Click on the following article to learn more about bougainvillea propagation methods, including growing bougainvillea from a cutting and seeds.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Bougainvillea Blooms Are Falling Off: Reasons For Bougainvillea Flower Drop

If your bougainvillea blooms are falling off, the odds are that the plant is not getting one of these critical elements: sun and water. Blossoms also suffer from frost. Learn more details about why flowers drop off bougainvillea plants in this article.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Bougainvillea Not Blooming: How To Get Bougainvillea To Flower

Bougainvilleas are beautiful, wild things that can produce a flurry of breathtaking blooms or a season of crushing disappointment. It?s up to you if your bougainvillea will bloom this coming season, but we can show you the path to success here.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Potted Bougainvillea Plants: Tips For Growing Bougainvillea In Containers

Bougainvillea is a hardy tropical vine that grows in areas where winter temperatures remain warm. If you don’t have growing space or live in a suitable climate, you can plant bougainvillea in a pot. This article will help.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Trimming Bougainvilleas: When Is The Best Time To Prune Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea plants are a lovely perennial vine. Learn how to prune a bougainvillea as part of its vertical training and to help increase the impact of this tropical plant. This article will help.

How to propagate bougainvillea

Bougainvillea Plant Pests: Learn More About Bougainvillea Loopers

Many bougainvillea owners may find themselves at a loss when suddenly their healthy plant looks as though a mysterious night time intruder has eaten away at all the leaves. Learn what it may be and how to fix here.

How to propagate bougainvillea

In hanging baskets or containers, as a climbing vine, wall cover, or shaped into a tree, the bougainvillea is a popular favorite visible in nearly every city, town, or rural hamlet across the country. However, the showy blossoms that make this plant a crowd favorite only develop on new growth. Propagation by cuttings will allow you to keep an adequate supply of new plants to maintain the vibrant look you love, even in climates less favorable to this tropical plant.

Step 1 – Prepare Bougainvillea Cuttings

Cuttings for propagation should be five to nine nodes in length. Semi-ripe cuttings, sometimes called semi-hardwood, are the best choice for rooting, but in warmer climates, with nights usually above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll need to select softwood cuttings from new growth. If the nighttime temperatures are lower due to a colder climate, hardwood cuttings are a better choice. Remove the leaves and blossoms once you have selected your cutting. Your piece needs to devote itself fully to root development, so it cannot support much else in the mean time, including foliage.

Step 2 – Plant the Cuttings

Treat the end of your cutting with rooting hormone, and place it in a moistened growing media. A quality commercial potting soil, peat and perlite mixture, or other soil-less medium in a three-inch biodegradable pot will do. Bougainvilleas like a slightly acidic mixture with a pH of 5.5 to 6.0. They are quite intolerant of excessive moisture as well, so good drainage is essential.

Seal the potted cutting inside a Ziploc bag, and place this “mini-greenhouse” in a sunny location. The application of bottom heat, particularly in cooler climates, stimulates growth. The cutting needs at least a couple of hours of strong light daily, but avoid allowing it to become too hot. The bag will contain the moisture from planting, keeping an ideal humid atmosphere around the growing plant.

Tip: Bougainvilleas require at least five hours of direct sunlight a day for optimal blooming. Keep your plants outside as long as possible through the warm seasons, with southern exposure.

Step 3 – Transplant Rooted Bougainvillea Cuttings

Bougainvilleas are slow growing, so it takes six to 12 weeks for the roots to be well-established. At that time, carefully cut open the bottom of the pot. The roots of bougainvilleas are quite fragile. To avoid damaging them, replant the cutting—pot and all—into a slightly larger container. Resist the urge to transplant until the pot is too crowded for watering, as bougainvilleas produce more blooms when their roots are crowded.

Many growers advocate the application of a broad-spectrum fungicide when transplanting, as this helps avoid the risk of root rot. Try to minimize the shock to the young plant by keeping it in the same lighting conditions and temperatures it has known thus far. Water it at the first sign of wilt. Gradually harden off the plant, allowing it to adapt to the conditions near its final destination.

Step 4 – Maintain Your Young Bougainvilleas

Bougainvilleas require little to bloom and look their best. Shape the bougainvillea by pinching the tips of branches. This will not affect blooming, but will encourage the growth of new side shoots from buds below the pinch.

Use a water-soluble balanced fertilizer, 20-20-20, every other week during the growing season. During a mild winter, feed only once every four to six weeks. Do not feed a dormant plant until new growth appears, and do not over-fertilize. With a minimum of effort, the bougainvillea will become the focal point of the home or garden.