Discovered and named after an 1 8th-century French navigator, Louis de Bougainville, this beautiful flowering plant belongs to a family of shrubs and scrambling climbers from tropical and sub-tropical parts of South America.

Bougainvillea was brought to Europe where it soon became very popular, and today it is thought of as a Southern European plant.

Where it grows outdoors it reaches great heights, but indoors it can be trained to a more bushy compact shape.

Flowers and flowering

The plant has thin, oval green leaves and woody stems with spiky hooks or thorns. Its attractive flowers consist of a thin white tubular centre surrounded by colourful bracts. Because the bracts are papery and thin, the plant is sometimes known as Paper Flower. In glowing shades of purple to dark pink, salmon, orange or white, the bracts appear in spring and summer and can last for several weeks. They grow in clusters of 15-20 flowers.Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea is a particularly rampant plant when it grows naturally outdoors. When cultivated as a house plant it is usually trained along a trellis or a wire hoop and cut back regularly to restrain its growth.

Bougainvillea glabra flowers when fairly young. Its bracts may be magenta, white or pink. B. buttiana comes in several attractive varieties, including ‘Mrs Butt’ (crimson), ‘Easter Parade’ (pink) and ‘Jamaica White’ (pure white). These hybrids are not such rapidly growing plants as B. glabra and are thus relatively easy to keep under control.

Small plants can be trained around hoops and grown in hot sunny windows.

Larger plants should be kept in a sun room or conservatory.

Through The Year

September—February When flowering stops move the plant to a cool but still bright position. The ideal temperature is 7-12°C (45– 54°F). If the temperature is too low the plant may lose its leaves (new leaves will grow in the spring to replace them). Water sparingly, allowing the potting mixture to dry out between waterings. Do not feed the plant during its rest period.


Repot your plant and trim it back if necessary. Remember that it will flower better if the roots are kept crowded and almost pot-bound. If you do repot, use a soil-based potting mixture and add coarse sand to ensure good drainage. Cut back straggly growth to the first pair of leaves from the main shoot. Long main shoots should be cut back to about 5cm (2in).


When the first clusters of flowering buds appear, move the plant to a sunny position and leave it there for the whole flowering period. It can be placed on a patio or balcony as long as the night temperatures do not d rop below 15°C (59°F). Water the plant moderately, allowing a little drying out between waterings, and feed every fortnight.

Pests And Diseases

Leaves turn yellow and fall, and the flowers may also fall. This is due to overwatering or lack of drainage.

Treatment: Let the potting mixture dry out between waterings and add drainage material.

Sticky and malformed leaves indicate aphids.

Yellowing leaves Treatment: Spray with a pyrethrum-based insecticide every week for 3 weeks to ensure eradication of insects.

Lack of flowers is due to low light.

Treatment: Move the plant to a bright, warm place.


This plant needs extra care and the right position to make it bloom year after year. Ideally it needs a sunroom or greenhouse to thrive.

  • Potting: Use a soil-based potting mixture to repot in spring. Make sure there is adequate extra coarse sand to make the mixture well-draining. Large plants should be top-dressed only.
  • Water moderately in summer, allowing a little drying out between waterings. In autumn gradually reduce amount and frequency of watering until, in winter, the mixture is just kept barely moist.
  • Feeding: In spring when active growth begins apply a standard liquid fertilizer every fortnight. Stop feeding when flowering finishes.


  • Light: This plant can never get too much sun in summer. A position in a south-facing window is best. It needs several hours of direct sun to encourage flowering. In winter keep it in a bright but cooler place.
  • Temperature: In summer your plant thrives in high temperatures, but in winter it should be in a cool place at 7-12°C (46-54°F).

Buying Tips

  • Buy in spring from larger garden centres or nurseries. You may have to order it from a specialist grower.
  • Buy strong-growing plants with plenty of flower buds and healthy green leaves.
  • Your plant will live for a long time if planted in a greenhouse or sunroom. Indoors, plants are often discarded after 4-5 years as they get woody and produce fewer flowers.

Grow the delightful climbing plant Bougainvillea in a sunny window, or train it to grow across a conservatory wall. Wherever it grows it will hold memories of sunny Mediterranean holidays.

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