A riot of brilliant color almost year-round describes the beautiful bougainvillea plant or bush. Bougainvilleas love full sun, so thrive in Hawaii, as is evident by the many multicolored displays almost everywhere in the islands.

Bougainvillea is actually native to the coast of Brazil, discovered by the French botanist Philibert Commerson in the 1760s. He named it for his friend, Captain Louis A. de Bougainville, who was an explorer from Canada. They can be grown in many climates, outdoors in tropical areas, or indoors where it’s less warm.

Bougainvilleas are fast-growing thorny plants that are sometimes used as ‘security plants.’ They have spiny, cascading stems that end with colorful ‘bracts’ of red, orange, pink or purple above small white flowers. Because of their thorns and spiky twigs, the plants can create vibrant barriers along property edges, or around other areas you don’t want people traffic. However, don’t plant them too close to swimming pools or parks and playgrounds where bare skin could get scratched and irritated by its sap.

How Do I Grow Bougainvillea?

Soil & Water

Bougainvillea will thrive in almost any soil as long as it is well-drained and fertile. In containers, the plants like their roots crowded for good flowering. Bougainvilleas are salt tolerant, also, so can thrive near the ocean if protected from the wind.

A healthy bougainvillea in a container will drink a lot of water during warm periods, and less when it’s cooler. Inspect your plants regularly, and learn when they are close to wilting. Then give a good, thorough soaking just before the wilt stage. Once established, the plants require little water. If overwatered, bougainvilleas will not flower and may lose leaves or even die from root decay.


Bougainvillea plants grow best with small amounts of nutrients constantly available. Be careful not to over-fertilize. Use a high-phosphorus fertilizer with additional iron and magnesium. Slow or timed release fertilizers are acceptable.


For best results put your bougainvilleas in full sun. If you want good blooming give them at least 5 hours a day of full sunlight. Don’t expect your bougainvillea to flower indoors, though. Even though the plant may thrive, any flowering indoors is a bonus.

Bougainvilleas are relatively pest-free plants, but may suffer from worms, snails and aphids.

Now that you know how easy they are to grow, why not try cultivating these showy plants around your home? Your neighbors will surely be impressed!

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