Bright, Colorful Bougainvillea

When people picture the tropics, the beautiful bright, pink colors of Bougainvillea often comes to mind. Thankfully, you don’t have

When people picture the tropics, the beautiful bright, pink colors of Bougainvillea often comes to mind.


Thankfully, you don’t have to live in the tropics to enjoy Bougainvillea.  If you live in zones 9 through 11, you can grow this beautiful vine/shrub in your own garden.  In colder zones, you can grow it in a container and bring it inside for the winter OR you can grow it as an annual.

An interesting fact about Bougainvillea that many people do not know is that their flowers aren’t what you think they are.  In fact, they aren’t flowers at all.  The bright pink petals are actually called ‘brachts’.  So, where are the actual flowers?  Read on to find out….

This South American native comes in different colors and shapes.  It can be grown as a shrub….

Pink Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea can be trained as a vine, when given support….

Archway framed by Bougainvillea

It can even be trained as a hedge….

Bougainvillea comes in a variety of colors – pink, purple, orange, yellow and white with magenta being the most common color.

One of my favorite forms of Bougainvillea is called “Torch Glow” (below).  I planted a row of them in my father-in-law’s garden where they helped to break up the boring block wall….

"Torch Glow" Bougainvillea

All Bougainvillea are surprisingly easy to grow and their needs are minimal – full sun, well-drained soil and intermittent irrigation.

Bougainvillea thrive in full sun and are great to use in areas with reflected heat.  When planted in shade, they will grow and produce many leaves, but you will not see too many flowers.

They are not picky about soil.  Bougainvillea like to dry out between watering.  In fact, in abandoned homes with no supplemental water, Bougainvillea are often found to be thriving.  One of my Bougainvillea is planted in my side yard and is not connected to my irrigation system.  My husband throws a bucket of water on it once a month and it is doing fine.

In regards to fertilizer, less is better, if you use any at all. Personally, I have never fertilized my Bougainvillea and they do very well.  If you apply too much fertilizer, you will get a lot of green growth, but fewer flowers.

Bougainvillea are very tough plants, except when you first plant them.  Their roots don’t initially transplant well, especially when disturbed.  So take extra precautions when planting so that you disturb the roots as little as possible.  They grow quickly and once established, they can take severe pruning and will grow back quickly.


– Bougainvillea have thorns.

– They will suffer frost damage when temperatures dip below 32 degrees.  Prune off frost-damaged growth in spring.

– Do not plant anywhere near pools since they can be a bit messy.

So are you curious about the ‘real’ Bougainvillea flower?

Here they are….

Tiny, creamy white Bougainvillea flowers in the midst of brightly-colored brachts.

Yes, the tiny, cream-colored centers of the brachts are the actual Bougainvillea flowers.

Now you have a bit of interesting trivia to share with your friends 🙂

Learn more about growing your own Bougainvillea in this Birds & Blooms article.

Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. When she is not writing or helping other people with their gardens, you can find her growing fruits and vegetables, and planting flowering shrubs and maybe a cactus or two.