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Haha, trying saying that title 10 times fast!

I love Bougainvillea (pronounced “Boo-gun-v-ah”) plants, don’t you?

Miss Priss the Bougainvillea has had an adventurous life – she’s traveled across the country (most Bougainvilleas are grown in Florida¹), she lived for awhile at a cereal plant. Now she’s enjoying a relatively quiet life in my foyer. Here’s what she looked like when she first came home last winter:

What an unhappy Boug (and what an ugly photo and ugly blinds)! I thought she would love living at the cereal plant, but she didn’t, so I brought her home and took Miss Christi, another Bougainvillea, to the plant to live.

Here’s what she looks like now:

Muuuuuuuuch happier. So much more happy that it seems wrong to keep calling her Miss Priss. Not that that was ever a very good name for her. It was appropriate, but not particularly nice. Anyway.

As far as houseplants go, most people would tell you not to try and grow a Bougainvillea indoors. They say the plants won’t bloom inside and they won’t get enough light. I guess no one told my Mom’s Bougainvillea that, because look at her go:

She told me she kept hers outside all summer, and when she brought it in a few weeks ago, it exploded in color. I love those pink bracts and the tiny flowers within. Here’s a closer look:

If you’re interested in growing a Bougainvillea indoors, here are some guidelines:

How to Grow Bougainvillea as a Houseplant

1. Choose a container with good drainage. I prefer good old fashioned terra cotta for my Bougainvillea. Bougs hate it when their roots get too wet, so good drainage helps prevent root rot.

2. Use a semi-porous potting medium. You can use regular potting soil as long as it’s high quality and you keep an eye on moisture levels. You want a mixture that holds some water but doesn’t get soggy.

3. Keep your Bougainvillea rootbound. They really prefer to be crammed into a tiny pot for year after year. If you do decide to repot – for example, after it’s used all its soil and the roots are coming out the bottom of the container – then handle the roots very carefully, they are sensitive. Don’t trim the roots or shake them out. Instead, keep the root ball as undisturbed as you can, and repot into a container just one size bigger than the one before (so a plant in an 8″ container should go to a 10″, not a 12″ or 14″).

4. Give your Bougainvillea as much sun as possible. The hot south-facing window? Perfect for a Bougainvillea. The hotter, the better – these plants thrive in full sun, which is why they grow so well outdoors in places like Phoenix.²

5. Pinch back the ends of the stems to get the plant to bloom. Bougainvilleas bloom off new growth, so I like to prune the ends every few weeks.

6. Water regularly from spring to fall, slow down during winter months. Be sure not to let the soil get soggy or else the plant will be prone to root rot. Let the top few inches of soil become dry before you water again.

7. Fertilize regularly through the spring and summer. You can use a basic mix like Miracle Gro. I like to make sure I give Miss Priss a little fertilizer before and during her flowering periods, which are usually late fall, early winter.

Problems with Bougainvilleas:

Problem: Spindly growth. Cause: Not enough light and not enough pruning. Solution: Move to a brighter location, prune more often.

Problem: Loss of leaves. Cause: Most likely it’s a water issue, too much being more likely. But sometimes Bougs lose leaves in the winter as they go into a dormant period. They’ll be fine when spring rolls around again. Solution: Stick your finger in the dirt before you water so you can if the plant wants more water.

Problem: Spider Mites. Cause: Um, spider mites. Solution: Use a mixture of rubbing alcohol, water and a few drops of dish soap and spray the plant once a week for the next several weeks until the mites are gone. I’ve personally never had any trouble with bugs on my Bougs, which is one reason why I like them so much. But I would imagine that spider mites might be attracted to them. I haven’t ever seen a mealy bug or scale on Bougainvilleas. Thank goodness for that!

If you have a Bougainvillea at your home and you don’t like how it’s growing, shoot me an email with a photo and I’ll see what I can do to help.

I’m pretty Bougged out, aren’t you? Ok then, I’ll be back manana with a new Ask the Experts edition and a new plant puzzler. Speaking of the puzzler, you have until midnight tonight MST (that’s 2a.m. EST) to submit your best guess.


¹ I’m not positive she came from Florida or if Florida grows more Bougs than other states. I think they do. What I do know is that Florida dominates the google searches for Bougainvillea growers.

² Bougainvilleas do not grow well outdoors in Albuquerque, because it gets too cold here in the winter. I thought about putting Miss Priss outside for the summer, but I didn’t for several reasons. One, she’s in a big heavy bulky pot that would be a pain to move. Two, it’s way hotter here downtown than it is at my Mom’s in the mountains. If I had put her outside, she’d need daily watering because the sun is brutal here. Mom has much better temps for her plant than I do here, even though we’re only an hour apart. Also, I like where she is, and since I’m selfish and she can’t speak English, I won that debate pretty easily.

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About Me

Hi! My name is Liza. Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting! I'm a Midwestern gal now living in Arizona, after many years of living in and owning a plant care business in New Mexico.

Plants are living, breathing creatures, and if they're indoor plants, they are 100% dependent on human care. They cannot water themselves.

I can beautify your home, office, or patio with plants and flowers. I have 13 years of experience growing plants, and friendships.

Please let me know if you have questions or if you would like help with your plants or garden. You can reach me at lizatheplantlady (at) gmail (dot) com or follow me on Twitter, Lizawheeler7.

All photos are mine unless otherwise noted. All content is also entirely my hard work. If you'd like to use any content or photos, all you have to do is ask. If you take without asking, you are a thief. And thieves suck. So don't suck. We have a deal? Good.