Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The Potted Gardener takes part in various affiliate programs. This means that purchases through our links may result in a commission for us.

Sharing is caring!

Ah, bougainvillea! Is there any other plant that captures the essence of a vibrant, tropical paradise quite like it? With its lush, cascading clusters of vivid blooms, bougainvillea has an unmatched ability to transform any space into a tropical getaway, right in your backyard—or even on your balcony. And the best part? This dazzling diva is not as high-maintenance as she looks. 

You heard it right. While bougainvillea might seem like a plant that requires the conditions of a tropical rainforest to thrive, it’s surprisingly adaptable and more than happy to call a humble pot its home. Yes, container gardening with bougainvillea isn’t just possible; it’s actually a match made in horticultural heaven.

So, whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a green-thumb-in-training, stick around. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about successfully growing bougainvillea in pots. From selecting the perfect variety and pot to mastering the watering schedule and troubleshooting common problems, we’ve got you covered. 

What is Bougainvillea?

Originating from South America, bougainvillea was discovered during the French admiral Louis Antoine de Bougainville’s voyage of exploration in the 1760s. This vibrant plant quickly captured imaginations and made its way across the world, brightening landscapes from Asia to Africa, and yes, even to the porches and patios of North America. 

Its hardiness and adaptability make it a favorite among gardeners in various climates—yes, even those far removed from the tropical conditions where bougainvillea originally thrived.

Popular Traditional Species

While there are many species and varieties to choose from, some of the most popular traditional species for pot cultivation include:

– ‘Vera Deep Purple’ with its sultry, dark purple blooms

– ‘Singapore Pink,’ a soft and romantic variety

– ‘Crimson Jewel,’ whose name says it all

– ‘La Jolla,’ a vivid and versatile favorite.

Do Bougainvilleas Grow Well in Pots?

If you’re pondering the suitability of bougainvilleas for container gardening, there’s good news for you. These beauties are not just well-suited for pots; they absolutely thrive in them. Thanks to their adaptability and somewhat compact root systems, bougainvilleas in pots can offer the same—if not better—blooms than their soil-anchored siblings. 

Bougainvillea is best suited for USDA hardiness zones 9-11. In these zones, the weather is warm enough for the plant to survive year-round outdoors. If you live in a colder zone, it’s still possible to grow bougainvillea, but you’ll need to bring it indoors or take other protective measures during the winter months to prevent frost damage.

Bougainvillea Dwarf Varieties For Containers

If you’re dealing with limited space or simply prefer a plant that’s easier to manage, dwarf bougainvillea varieties could be just what you’re looking for.

Rosenka: This dwarf variety produces pink/salmon blooms and reaches dimensions of 2′ x 4′.

Oo-La-La: With its eye-catching magenta-red flowers, this compact variety grows to 2′ x 6′.

Torch Glow: Known for its reddish-pink blooms, this particular dwarf grows to 2′ x 7′.

Blueberry Ice: This versatile dwarf is perfect for pots and ground cover, boasting variegated foliage and growing 2-3′ tall by 5-6′ wide.

Raspberry Ice: Similar to Blueberry Ice, this dwarf variety offers a raspberry pink hue.

Golden Jackpot: This variety features purple blooms contrasted by chartreuse foliage and grows to a moderate size of 5′ x 8′.

Bambino: This one comes with red-purple flowers and grows to a balanced 4′ x 4′.

Helen Johnson: Rounding out our list, this variety offers magenta-pink flowers and grows to a tidy 3′ x 3′.

Choosing the Right Pot Or Hanging Baskets For Bougainvillea

The pot you pick is more than a decorative afterthought; it’s a crucial element that can significantly impact your bougainvillea’s health and blooming potential.

Size Considerations

When it comes to bougainvillea, size definitely matters—but maybe not in the way you’d think. A pot that’s too large can actually backfire. 

Here’s the deal: bougainvillea loves a little stress. A pot that’s proportional to the plant slightly restricts the roots, promoting that stress-induced, bloom-boosting magic.

On the flip side, if the pot is too large, your plant might channel its energy into growing roots rather than those fabulous flowers. 

For smaller, dwarf varieties, choose a pot that’s around 12 to 16 inches in diameter. For more traditional, larger varieties, a pot of 18 to 22 inches should suffice. This is not just how you make your potted bougainvillea bushy, but it’s also key to keeping those blooms coming.

Material Options

Pots come in a variety of materials—ceramic, terra cotta, plastic, and even fabric. While each has its pros and cons, the key is to ensure good drainage. Bougainvillea, as you’ll soon discover, likes it dry. 

Hanging Baskets

Ah, the charm of hanging baskets! If you’re considering dwarf varieties like B. Blueberry Ice or Raspberry Ice, a hanging basket could be a fantastic choice. Not only does it add a vertical dimension to your garden, but it also allows for excellent drainage—a win-win for your bougainvillea.


Speaking of drainage, let’s emphasize it one more time: Your pot must have good drainage holes. Standing water is a big no-no for bougainvillea. It increases the risk of root rot and fungal diseases, both of which are kryptonite for this otherwise resilient plant.

Whether you opt for a classic ceramic pot or a trendy hanging basket, the aim is to create a conducive environment for your bougainvillea to flourish. Remember, the perfect pot will strike a balance between size and drainage, setting the stage for a spectacular bloom season.

Selecting the Right Soil For Bougainvillea

Now that you’ve found the perfect pot, it’s time to turn our attention to the soil. While bougainvillea is forgiving and adaptable, it’s still crucial to set the stage for optimum growth and endless blooms. Let’s get down and dirty (pun intended!) with soil types, drainage, and why compost is your bougainvillea’s best friend.

Soil type is pivotal for any plant, and bougainvillea is no exception. Your aim should be a well-draining, slightly acidic to neutral soil. If you’re wondering how to keep your bougainvillea blooming in pots, the answer lies partially in your soil choice. 

A lighter, looser soil mix will facilitate good drainage, which is crucial given bougainvillea’s preference for drier conditions. More drainage equals less risk of root rot and fungal diseases, which in turn means a happier, blooming bougainvillea.

Best Soil For Bougainvillea In Pots

If you’d prefer to buy a soil mix instead of making your own here are some suggestions:

1. Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix

2. FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil

3. Espoma Organic Cactus Mix

4. Black Gold Cactus Mix

5. Pro-Mix Premium Cactus Mix

A soil’s drainage capability and pH levels can make or break your bougainvillea’s growth. Ideally, you should aim for a soil with good drainage and a pH level ranging from 6.0 to 6.5. 

Some gardeners recommend a cactus or succulent mix, which inherently offers great drainage. If the soil isn’t well-draining, consider adding sand or perlite to the mix. Both will enhance the soil’s drainage capabilities. 

Importance of Compost

Here’s where we talk about the nutrient side of things. While bougainvillea doesn’t crave synthetic fertilizers, it absolutely loves compost. 

A 3-inch layer of compost added in the spring is often sufficient for the entire growing season. Compost enriches the soil, aids in moisture retention, and provides a slow-release form of nutrients that your bougainvillea will thank you for.

Remember, you don’t fertilize a bougainvillea; you feed the soil around it. And in doing so, you’re answering that elusive question of how to keep your potted bougainvillea bushy and blooming. 

How To Plant A Bougainvillea In A Pot

Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for: planting your bougainvillea in its new home. Armed with the right pot and the perfect soil, you’re just a few steps away from kickstarting your bougainvillea’s life in grand style. Let’s go through the essentials of planting and the initial care your potted bougainvillea will need.

Planting Process

1. Preparation: Place a layer of coco coir, perilte or small stones at the bottom of your pot for additional drainage. This step is especially crucial if your pot is deep.

2. Soil and Compost: Fill the pot partially with your prepared soil mix. Add a layer of compost to enrich the base where your plant will sit.

3. Positioning: Gently remove your bougainvillea from its nursery pot and place it in the new pot. Try not to disturb the root ball too much. The top of the root ball should be just below the rim of the pot.

4. Filling and Tamping: Fill the remaining space with soil, tamping down lightly to eliminate air pockets but not so much that you compress the soil.

5. Watering: Give it a good, deep watering initially, but remember that bougainvilleas prefer to be on the dry side. If you’re getting regular rain once the plant is established, you won’t need to water it much. In essence, this is how you should prune your potted bougainvillea: less is often more.

Adding Support: The Right Time for a Trellis

If you’ve chosen a taller variety that needs support, now is the time to add that trellis. Inserting it later could damage the thin, shallow roots of the plant. Use strong ties to attach the bougainvillea to the trellis, as its branches can get quite heavy.

Initial Feeding and Watering

Bougainvillea in pots are heavy feeders. Use a water-soluble plant food mixed at half strength every two weeks during the blooming season. Remember, bougainvillea loves dry conditions, so try to avoid the temptation of frequent watering. A deep watering every three to four weeks is generally sufficient.

Potted Bougainvillea Care

Your bougainvillea is in its pot, and you’ve given it the best start possible. Now, let’s ensure it stays vibrant and full of life for years to come. Ongoing care involves watering, feeding, and a few special considerations that pertain particularly to container gardening.

Watering: Less is More

As mentioned earlier, bougainvilleas thrive when kept on the drier side. A good, deep watering every three or four weeks is generally all it needs, especially if you’re in an area that receives regular rainfall. Overwatering can lead to fungal diseases and root rot, so resist the urge to water too often.

Feeding: Compost and Careful Fertilizing

Though this hardy plant doesn’t demand fertilizers, it benefits from soil enriched with compost. If you feel the need to fertilize, opt for a palm and hibiscus food, or use a water-soluble plant food mixed at half strength every two weeks during the blooming season. 

Training Your Bougainvillea

Remember that taller bougainvilleas will need support, as they are twining vines. Use strong ties to secure them to your trellis or other support structure. These plants can become quite heavy, so make sure your support is robust.

Making Your Potted Bougainvillea Bushy

Wondering how to make your potted bougainvillea bushy? Regular pinching and pruning can do wonders. Bougainvilleas respond well to pinching; you should pinch back the soft tips of young plant stems to encourage branching. This practice is known as “pinching,” and it’s usually done on the tips of new growth.

Pruning and When to Pinch

Should you prune your potted bougainvillea? Absolutely. Pruning helps to keep the plant manageable and encourages more blooms. The best time to prune is after the blooming cycle is over. Pinching should be done on the tips of new growth to encourage bushiness. 

Overwintering Bougainvillea In Pots

For those living in cooler climates, the change of seasons brings up an important question: “How do I protect my potted bougainvillea during the winter?” Bougainvilleas are tropical plants that don’t fare well in colder temperatures, but there’s still hope. With proper care, you can help your potted bougainvillea survive the winter.

The most straightforward way to protect your bougainvillea from cold is to bring it indoors. Find a sunny spot inside your home where the plant can receive at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. Reduce watering during this period, but don’t let the soil go completely dry.

If you have a greenhouse that stays above 30°F, this can also be an excellent option. However, keep an eye on humidity levels and make sure your plant still gets plenty of light.

Another option is to store your potted bougainvillea in an unheated garage. Water it sparingly during this time, and whenever possible, move it outside during the day to capture some sunlight. 

During winter, your bougainvillea’s growth will slow down, so there’s no need for regular feeding. If you had been using a diluted liquid fertilizer during the blooming season, it’s time to pause until spring.

Being indoors can make your bougainvillea more susceptible to pests like aphids or spider mites. Regularly inspect the leaves and stems, treating as needed with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

By taking these steps, you’ll give your bougainvillea the best chance to make it through the winter unscathed, ready to burst into a profusion of color come spring. 

Looking After Bougainvillea: Common Questions and Troubleshooting

Why Isn’t My Bougainvillea Blooming?

If your potted bougainvillea isn’t putting on the floral show you’d hoped for, check its water and fertilizer regimen. Remember, bougainvillea blooms best when it’s a bit stressed. So, cut back on watering and ensure the pot size slightly restricts the roots; this can often kick-start the blooming process.

How to Deal with Pests and Diseases

Bougainvilleas are relatively hardy, but they can be susceptible to aphids, scale, and mealybugs. Use insecticidal soap or neem oil for mild infestations. For fungal diseases brought on by overwatering, you may need to repot the plant in fresh, well-draining soil and ensure better drainage going forward.

Can I Grow Bougainvillea in a Hanging Basket?

Absolutely. Especially some of the dwarf varieties like ‘Rosenka’ or ‘Oo-La-La’ are well-suited for hanging baskets. Just ensure the basket has excellent drainage and is not too large; a basket proportional to the plant size will help induce stress that encourages blooming.

Can Bougainvillea Survive Winter?

Bougainvilleas are tropical plants that don’t handle cold well. They can withstand one or two nights of a light freeze but are likely to die in colder conditions. If your area experiences winters below 30°F, consider bringing your potted bougainvillea indoors or providing some form of protection.

How Often Should I Repot?

Bougainvilleas generally don’t need frequent repotting. In fact, they prefer to be a bit root-bound. Only consider repotting if you see signs of nutritional deficiency or if the plant has outgrown its current pot.

Final Thoughts: Is Bougainvillea Better in Pots or in the Ground?

As we wrap up, you might be asking yourself: Is bougainvillea better suited for ground planting or does it truly shine in pots? Well, the answer largely depends on your specific needs and circumstances.

Bougainvillea thrives in both settings, but pots offer a level of control and versatility that ground planting may not. In pots, you can move the plant for optimal sunlight, easily bring it indoors during harsh winters, and even control its size and shape more effectively. Plus, container gardening allows you to keep these tropical beauties in less-than-tropical climates, giving you the ability to overwinter them with ease.

In the ground, bougainvillea will naturally grow larger and potentially produce more blooms, but you’ll lack the ability to protect it from extreme temperatures or easily manage its size and shape. Also, it’s worth mentioning that potted bougainvilleas can be just as vibrant and prolific in flowering when given proper care.

Whether dealing with cold snaps, looking for the perfect soil mix, or even training your bougainvillea to climb a trellis, this guide should have equipped you with the tools to succeed. From selecting the right pot size to understanding the nuances of overwintering, we’ve covered all the bases. 

So, with this knowledge, why not go ahead and choose a striking bougainvillea variety? Whether in a pot or in the ground, your bougainvillea is bound to bring a vibrant tropical flair wherever it grows.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *