Bougainvillea are an immensely showy, floriferous and hardy plant. Virtually pest-free and disease resistant, it rewards its owner with an abundance of color and vitality when it is well looked after.

Rid Common Pests & Diseases from your Bougainvillea

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A part of the bougainvillea’s appeal is that they are relatively disease and pest-free plants. It is NOT common for your bougainvillea to be affected by these pests and diseases if you follow simple rules for bougainvillea plant care, and fertilize with Bougain® which contains a significant amount of micro-nutrients – vital for healthy, blooming bougainvillea. Visit this page which contains most (but not all) common pests/diseases that may affect your bougainvillea.

  • Aphids (Greenfly, Blackfly, or Plant Lice)
  • Caterpillars (Bougainvillea Looper)
  • Leaf Miners (Moths, Flies, Beetles, Wasps)
  • Scale Insects (Parasites, Mealybugs)
  • Snails & Slugs
  • Mites (Spider Mites)
  • Thrips
  • Whitefly
  • Common Diseases
  • Deficiency Signs

On the rare occurrences that your bougainvillea experiences pest problems or disease, always try the least toxic method of pest control as your first step. If you use chemical pesticides to control insect pests, you will also kill natural predators. If you choose a chemical control, follow directions and guidelines closely and always wear protective clothing and safety gear including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, neoprene gloves, goggles and a respirator. Chemical pesticides are not recommended for use inside the home.

Bougainvillea History

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A native to coastal Brazil, the bougainvillea was discovered in 1768 in Rio de Janeiro by French naturalist Dr. Philibert Commerçon (also sometimes spelled Commerson). The plant is named after his close friend and ship's admiral Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, who commanded the ship La Boudeuse that sailed around the world between 1766-1769, and in which Commerçon was a passenger.

Twenty years after Commerçon's discovery, it was first published as 'Buginvillea' in Genera Plantarium by A.L. de Jusseau in 1789. The genus was subsequently split in several ways until it was finally corrected to 'Bougainvillea' in the Index Kewensis in the 1930s. Originally, B. spectabilis and B. glabra were hardly differentiated until the mid 1980s when botanists recognized them to be totally distinct species. In early 19th century, these two species were the first to be introduced into Europe, and soon, nurseries in France and England did a thriving trade providing specimens to Australia and other faraway countries. Meanwhile, Kew Gardens distributed plants it had propagated to British colonies throughout the world. Soon thereafter, an important event in the history of bougainvillea took place with the discovery of a crimson bougainvillea in Cartagena, a Spanish port in the Mediterranean, by Mrs. R.V. Butt. Originally thought to be a distinct species, it was named B. buttiana in her honour. However, it was later discovered to be a natural hybrid of a variety of B. glabra and possibly B. peruviana - a "local pink bougainvillea" from Peru. Natural hybrids were soon found to be common occurrences all over the world. For instance, around the 1930s, when the three species were grown together, many hybrid crosses were created almost spontaneously in East Africa, India, the Canary Islands, Australia, North America, and the Philippines.

Scientific classification

Kingdom - Plantae
Division - Magnoliophyta
Class - Magnoliopsida
Order - Caryophyllales
Family - Nyctaginaceae
Genus - Bougainvillea
Species - Bougainvillea spectabilis
Bougainvillea glabra
Bougainvillea peruviana
Cultivar (or variety)

Note about Species: Many of today's bougainvillea are the result of interbreeding among only three out of the eighteen South American species recognized by botanists.

Note about Cultivars: Currently, there are over 300 varieties of bougainvillea around the world. Because many of the hybrids have been crossed over several generations, it's difficult to identify their respective origins. Natural mutations seem to occur spontaneously throughout the world; wherever large numbers of plants are being produced, bud-sports will occur. This had led to multiple names for the same cultivar (or variety) and has added to the confusion over the names of bougainvillea cultivars.

Bougainvillea Cultivation and Uses

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Bougainvilleas are popular ornamental plants in most areas with warm climates, including Indonesia, Aruba, the Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, Singapore, the Mediterranean region, the Caribbean, Mexico, South Africa, Kuwait,and the United States in Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, South Carolina, and southern Texas.

Numerous cultivars and hybrids have been selected, including nearly thornless shrubs. Some Bougainvillea cultivars are sterile, and are propagated from cuttings.

Bougainvillea are rapid growing and flower all year in warm climates, especially when pinched or pruned. They grow best in moist fertile soil. Bloom cycles are typically four to six weeks. Bougainvillea grow best in very bright full sun and with frequent fertilization, but the plant requires little water to flower. As indoor houseplants in temperate regions, they can be kept small by bonsai techniques. If overwatered, Bougainvillea will not flower and may lose leaves or wilt, or even die from root decay.

When should bougainvillea be repotted, and with what?

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Repotting Bougainvillea

A bougainvillea blooms best when pot-bound. So, do not be tempted to repot unless you must. I have found that it is best to leave the bougainvillea plant in its original container until the roots have replaced all of the soil and you can't keep the plant well watered.

Soil suitable for Bougainvillea

Bougainvilleas 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. It is important to select a growing medium that drains well but that will also help keep plants from drying out between waterings. Keeping containers moist yet well drained is the most important key to successful bougainvillea culture in containers.

Field soils are generally unsatisfactory for growing bougainvillea in containers. This is primarily because soils do not provide the aeration, drainage and water holding capacity required. To improve this situation several "soil-less" growing media have been developed.

The best growing mixture is one that is soil-less. Soil-less media are free of any disease pathogens, insect pests, and weed seeds. They are also generally lightweight and porous, allowing for a well-drained yet moisture-retentive mix. Premixed growing media are available from garden centers. However, be careful not to use peat or peatlite mixes alone. By themselves, these media tend to become compacted, too lightweight, and hard to wet. My greatest problem with peat/peatlite mixes is when the soil dries completely, the rootball will pull away from the side of the pot, and it is almost impossible to completely wet the soil again -- the water simply runs down the side of the container and drains out the bottom. If your plant dries out and you use this type of mix, to re-wet it, let the pot sit in a pail of water until the soil ball is completely wet.

Mix Your Own Soil

You can create your own blend of soil mix by using peat moss, vermiculite or perlite, sterile potting soil or composted soil mix, and coarse builder's sand. Note: Ph of the soil is very important. If you mix your own soil, then you should consider the following: Bougainvillea plant prefer a pH in the 6.0 to 6.5 range.

Some commercially prepared growing mixtures have an added wetting agent which is a great help when it comes to planting and watering. You may also consider adding water-absorbing polymers or "gel" that absorbs and retains up to 400 times its weight in water. Polymers are nontoxic and last for a number of years before breaking down in the environment.
Here is the mix I used in my nursery for bougainvillea:
  • 70% Horticultural peat moss
  • 20% Pine Bark (old bark) - In North Florida, pine bark is a cheap and readily available ingredient.
  • 10% River Sand.
The amount of lime added was always based on soil testing and it varies.

A commonly used soil-less mixture:
  • 1 part garden soil (not clay)
  • 1 part washed builder's sand, perlite, or pumice 
  • 1 part horticultural peat moss 
  • 1 quart steamed bonemeal per bushel (8 gallons) of mixture 
  • 1 pint dolomite lime per bushel of soil mix

Mix all ingredients thoroughly by shoveling them from one pile to another at least three times. Pulverize any large lumps or clods as you mix. When thoroughly mixed add sufficient water to moisten the mixture and store in a sheltered spot until you are ready to use it. A garbage can, wastebasket, or large bucket makes a handy storage container.

This general potting mixture provides a suitable growth medium for most container plants, including vegetables, bedding plants, geraniums, begonias, fuchsias, and ivies. But, for bougainvillea I found that the 70%peat, 20%pine bark and 10%sand with the amount of dolomite lime always depending upon soil testing -- however, you should be able to use the above mixture with excellent results for your bougainvillea.

Before using your mix to repot plants, be sure it is damp. Totally dry soil mixture is difficult to handle and may damage tender roots before the plant is watered.

Table 1. Commonly used soil-less mixtures.

Volume Ratio Components
2:1 Peat, Perlite
2:1:1 Peat, Perlite, Vermiculite
3:1:1 Peat, Perlite, Vermiculite
2:1:1 Peat, Bark, Sand
2:1:1 Peat, Bark, Perlite
3:1:1 Peat, Bark, Sand

Bougainvillea Fertilizer

| Posted on 7:03 AM | Posted in

BOUGAIN® is quickly becoming the favorite plant food among bougainvillea enthusiasts.  Not only is it formulated to dramatically increase blooms, it addresses the bougainvillea’s Achilles heel - their thin and brittle root system.  It is our pleasure to introduce BOUGAIN®, the only bougainvillea-specific fertilizer on the market today.  Ten years of research and testing led to perfecting our patented specialty food that dramatically increases blooms, strengthens roots, increases color vibrancy in both foliage and bracts, and produces an all-over healthy bougainvillea.