Do you love the beauty of bougainvillea? Many of us will agree that bougainvillea is beautiful, but many homeowners hesitate to grow them for a variety of reasons. The most common that I hear is that they get too big and as a result, too messy.
 
While both statements are certainly true, wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy the beauty of bougainvillea while minimizing its size and messiness?
 
 
Growing bougainvillea in pots limits their overall size, and with smaller shrubs, there is less mess. It also makes it easier to protect them from frost damage in winter by moving the container to a sheltered location, such as underneath a patio or covering them with a sheet.
 
 
Bougainvillea make excellent container plants. In fact, many gardeners who live in cold climates, only grow them in pots so that they can bring them indoors when frigid winter temperatures arrive. Earlier this year, I met a gardener in Austin, Texas who treats bougainvillea like an annual plant, planting a new one every year to replace the old one lost to winter cold.
 
 
Growing bougainvillea in pots is easy to do. Select a location in full sun where it will promote the most bloom. Bougainvillea is one of the few flowering plants that can handle the intense heat and reflected sun in west-facing exposures. 
 
 
Provide support for them to grow upward if desired. You can also grow bougainvillea as more of a compact shrub form if you wish, and eliminate the support.
Water deeply and allow the top 2 inches to dry out before watering again. Bougainvillea does best when the soil is allowed to dry out between watering.
 
 
Apply a slow-release fertilizer in spring, after the danger of frost is passed and reapply every three months, with the last application occurring in early September.
 
Growing bougainvillea in pots keeps them small enough to make it feasible to cover them when freezing temperatures occur.  
 
So, would you consider growing bougainvillea in pots?  I’d love to hear whether or not you would and the reasons why.
 

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Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

19 replies
  1. JayNee
    JayNee says:

    I've had such bad experiences with bougainvillea, I don't know if I'd put them in a pot. The thorns on them can be ferocious, plus the debris. I've had such a negative attitude toward them for a long time. I may have to re-think the pot idea. My Mom recently moved to the area, and she thinks the bougainvillea are beautiful. Visually they are pretty, so I guess I need to see them through new eyes.

    Reply
  2. trav4adventures
    trav4adventures says:

    I love bougainvillas and I have 3 of them along our front fence. Yes, you have to trim them, but they aren't any worse than our acacias or mesquites! I'm actually thinking about planting two more along our front fence.
    Cheryl Ann

    Reply
  3. Kendra Titus
    Kendra Titus says:

    Do you actually have to bring them in during the winter (in cold regions)? I've also read that you can leave them outside to die back and they will grow back in spring. Is this only true of ones planted in the ground or will it work for potted bougainvillea as well? Also, how tall of a support trellis does a potted bougainvillea need? 🙂

    Reply
  4. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Hi Kendra,

    Great questions!

    Bougainvillea can die in cold zones – even the roots. As for the trellis – it depends on how high you want your bougainvillea to grow. I would aim for a 3 foot trellis personally.

    I hope this helps!

    Noelle

    Reply
    • Kendra Titus
      Kendra Titus says:

      Thanks! How cold do you think it would have to get to cause the roots in a large pot to die? I live in the high desert of CA and it can get down to 15 at night in the winter, but that's usually only a couple nights a year. It'll be in the 20s at night for a week or two a year. I might have to just bring them into the garage for a couple weeks when we get that low. I just bought a couple plumerias that are going to need to come in, too, so I guess it won't be much extra work 😉

      Reply
  5. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Hi Kendra,

    Great questions!

    Bougainvillea can die in cold zones – even the roots. As for the trellis – it depends on how high you want your bougainvillea to grow. I would aim for a 3 foot trellis personally.

    I hope this helps!

    Noelle

    Reply
  6. Mama McGee
    Mama McGee says:

    Thanks so much for sharing. I've thought about doing this in some pots I have out front in our new house, but wasn't sure how they'd do. I like that they are more manageable in pots.

    Reply
  7. Denise
    Denise says:

    I hate Bougainvillea! My neighbor across the street has 7 plant along his perimeter wall and my front yard and doorstep are always filled with leaves from them. I wish they would die!

    Reply
    • arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
      arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

      Hi Denise,

      I feel your pain. That is a LOT of bougainvillea and I can only imagine how messy they make your landscape. Growing them in pots is a great option for those who love bougainvillea but want to minimize (not eliminate) the mess.

      Reply
  8. Lacey B
    Lacey B says:

    Love love love the quintessential classic look of bougainvillea against colorful desert or tropical houses!! I actually love big & messy but I notice when we travel to Cartagena or other tropical destinations that they are most popular in pots. I’m looking forward to planting some up against my house in large colorful pots!

    Reply
  9. J.R.
    J.R. says:

    I live in Ontario, Canada and grow mine in pots and bring them in just before frost or when temperatures get too cool. One time they bloomed inside in the winter and then went dormant and dropped their leaves which grew back in spring. Right now (mid-January) the 2 I have still have all their leaves and are growing like crazy. I had to trim off the long parts. And please note: when you prune, do not throw away the pieces. Put the cuttings in water and they should root, giving you more plants!
    They are so beautiful and easy to grow. I recommend them to everyone.

    Reply
  10. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    I just bought a bougainvillea from Home Depot. I want to transfer it to a pot and place it in my yard. Any tips on planting it – how deep into soil? Do I need rocks at the bottom? Also, what are the guidelines to follow when trimming bougainvillea? I have a brown thumb and have almost zero gardening experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    • arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
      arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

      Hi Jessica,

      Just plant it at the same level as the bougainvillea is in the nursery pot. You don’t need to add any rocks at the bottom – regular planting mix is sufficient.

      Prune bougainvillea as needed to your desired shape in spring and summer. In spring, once the danger of frost has passed, prune back to approximately 1 foot tall and wide. It will grow back quickly.

      Fertilize with Osmocote slow-release fertilizer in March, June, and September.

      I hope this helps!

      Reply

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