Bougainvillea is a very beautiful tropical plant that is a member of Nyctaginaceae family. You can hang the plant from a basket or even use it as a decorative climbing plant. There are a wide variety of Bougainvillea plants. For growing a Bougainvillea, you would need to use the right kind of fertilizer.
Every plant needs a special kind of fertilizer. If this is your first time growing a Bougainvillea, then you might be confused about which fertilizer to buy. The guide will focus on different important facts about growing a Bougainvillea. Along with that, you will also know about some of the best fertilizer for Bougainvillea.
Important Things to Know About a Bougainvillea Plant
There are two main growth cycles of a Bougainvillea plant. The first growth cycle is the vegetative one, which lasts for many weeks. During this time, the plant grows new stems and leaves. If the plant receives ample sunlight during this growth cycle, then they can form buds with time. However, if the plant is not exposed to enough sunlight, it will remain vegetative.
If this happens then, your Bougainvillea will not advance to the blooming stage. This can happen if you grow your Bougainvillea as an indoor plant or brought inside during the winters. The next growth cycle is the blooming period, during which there is no vegetative growth. Even if there is growth, the changes in it are very slim.
From the name, it is clear that during this period, flowers will bloom on the plant. However, the vibrancy of the blooms will depend on how healthy your plant is. The environment in which the plant is growing also plays a very important role. If sun exposure is good, then the bloom will also be very good.
A typical bougainvillea plant would require at least 4 to 5 hours of exposure to direct sunlight every day. This makes the plant very healthy, and the blooming period for such plants will go on for 3 to 4 weeks.
The natural habitat of a Bougainvillea plant is equatorial, which means that the length of days and nights are mostly equal. In areas such as Singapore, Kenya, Brazil, and others, the blooming season is all around the year. However, in North America, you will find the best blooms since the area is equatorial during the fall season or spring.
For the Northern States, it is hard for blooms to occur during the fall since the weather is very cold. However, many people house the plant in greenhouses where the temperature is warm and helps in the plant’s vibrant blooming. The flowering season of Bougainvillea will depend on the area you are residing in.
Most people do not know that Bougainvilleas may not always grow well in a hot climate despite the need for direct sunlight. In areas like South Florida, the flowering season is during October, a cooler month, and not during summer.
As you know, Bougainvillea is a tropical plant and must not be exposed to frost at any cost. Bougainvillea can grow fully only where they get an ample amount of sunlight. Five or more hours of direct sunlight is extremely necessary for a Bougainvillea plant to get vibrant blooms. If sunlight exposure is less than the estimated five hours, then the plant can have fewer blooms or even no blooms.
Indoor Bougainvillea also has limited blooms and stays mostly in the vegetative growth stage. For best results, Bougainvillea is best grown outdoors where the southern exposure is optimum. You can also keep the plant under a shade, but it must not restrict the needed hours of sunlight exposure.
The required light level of a Bougainvillea is either full sunlight or a minimum of 4000 F.C.
The soil mixture used for a Bougainvillea plant is very important since it contributes to the plant’s proper growth. Since the plants’ roots are very fine, soil that retains water is bad for the plant. You need to use a soil mixture that is well-drained. For best results, it is recommended to use a soil-less mixture.
A soul-less mixture will not have any disease pathogens, weed seeds, and insect pests. Moreover, this mixture will be extremely porous and lightweight, making the soil a mixture of well-drained and moisture-retentive. However, you should avoid using peatlite or peat mixtures alone since they are too lightweight and does not get wet easily.
One big problem with this mixture is that the soil can dry completely, and the roots can get pulled away. Once this happens, it becomes impossible to get the soil wet again. If you try to do it, the water will not stay in the container and dry again. To re-wet the mixture successfully, you need to place the pot in a water pail to ensure that the soil gets wet completely.
Containers for Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea needs to grow in a container where the soil can be held properly, and the drainage system is good. Some good containers are terra cotta, wire baskets, plastic pots, bushel baskets, and planter boxes. Any kind of basket that has a good drainage system can be used for growing the bougainvillea plant.
When choosing a container other than the drainage system, some things to remember are insulation, lightweight, and proper space. Make sure that the container is not cramped up and can hold an adequate amount of soil.
Tolerance to Frost
The frost tolerance of a bougainvillea plant will depend on maturity. When the temperature falls below 32F or even 40F, proper protection needs to be put in place. For mature plants, a little frost will make no difference. However, for young plants, the frost would be very deadly.
In case the plant is exposed to frost, you might find frost-burn on the leaves, which turns the edges black. This happens due to cold winds, and the plant can grow back again if kept in a favorable climate.
Protection during Winter
During frost, there are two protection methods that you can try. Both of these methods can help you get the desired results for winter protection. If your plant is healthy and mature, then they have a higher survival chance.
Protecting Indoor Bougainvillea during Winter
Bougainvillea growing in pots can be stored in garages, basements, or any low light place. When the plant is kept in such an area, it goes into dormancy and defoliates. The plants need to be watered one or two times a month during this state. During the spring, the plants will start growing again and can be shifted to a place with good light.
Another good option is to not forcefully make them go dormant and keep them indoors in an area that is south facing. During this time, the watering needs to be more frequent, like any other houseplant. However, the plant will not retain any color until spring.
If you want to move an outdoor bougainvillea indoors, then it could go to dormancy much faster due to the move. The digging up will affect the roots more than the weather. Try not to touch the roots while you are digging the plant.
When spring season comes, prune any stem that has been damaged or is dead. Provide them lots of light, water, and fertilizer to make them healthy again.
Protecting Outdoor Bougainvillea during Winter
Plants planted outside need to be covered or applied heat, or even watered to keep it protected. Cover the Bougainvillea completely and keep the soil surrounded by suitable thermal covers such as frost cloths or plastic sheets. You can drape the plants with holiday lights before wrapping the thermal covers for extra heat.
Make sure that the lights are not directly covered over the plants. Keep a protective layer between the lights and the plant. Covers should only be used when the weather is freezing, or there is frost. Water the plants properly during freezing weather so that they do not suffer from dehydration.
How Can Bougainvillea Be Fertilized?
Bougainvillea plants need fertilizer two times in one year. The first is during early spring, and the next is during midsummer. Use fertilizers that are slow-release and have a good NPK ratio. Scratch the surface of the soil using a trowel and water it thoroughly. You need to feed Bougainvilleas heavily for them to grow healthily.
Follow the feeding instructions of the fertilizer that you choose. Make sure that the fertilizer reaches the roots properly so that the essential nutrients seep into the roots. Keep the plant watered properly so that the nutrients can mix well.
When Can Bougainvillea Be Fertilized?
Keep them fed well during the two feeding seasons. Withhold the feeding during the winter since, during this time, the plants will become dormant. The two feeding seasons are spring and midsummer, during which the plants will need maximum attention.
What is The Best Fertilizer for Bougainvillea?
1. EarthPods Premium Hibiscus & Tropical Flower Plant Food
EarthPods Premium Hibiscus and Tropical plant food is an excellent fertilizer manufactured by Earthworm Technologies. This fertilizer is perfect for all kinds of tropical plants such as Bougainvillea, Lantana, Hibiscus, Jasmine, Plumeria, etc. The fertilizer can be used for both indoor and outdoor plants.
The color vibrancy, as well as root growth of the plants, is enhanced with this fertilizer. The best thing about this fertilizer is that you do not have to measure it. One packet of fertilizer can be used for a long time. It is an organic fertilizer, which means there are no harmful chemicals mixed, and it is very safe.
You will have to add the pod to the soil mixture and then add water, after which the nutrients will be released into the water slowly.
- Perfect for most tropical flowers
- Environment-friendly that makes it safe
- Some plants may be allergic to the fertilizer
2. Miracle-Gro 1-Pound 1360011 Water Soluble Bloom Booster Flower Food (10-52-10)
Another highly mentioned of the Miracle-Gro brand is the water-soluble bloom booster flower food. This is a quick-release fertilizer that will let you see the results within a very short time. This fast-feeding fertilizer is a very good choice for Bougainvilleas. It will help you in vibrant blooms during the growing season.
Like most products of the Miracle-Gro family, this fertilizer can also be used for indoor as well as outdoor plants. The plat food needs to be mixed in water for it to be ready for application. You can take one tablespoon of the food and mix it with one gallon of water. With an increase in the quantity of water, the quantity of plant food needs to be increased.
The solution can be applied after every seven or fourteen days.
- Helps in bigger blooms
- Brings vibrancy to the blooms
- Dissolves quickly
- Roots can get burned if instructions are not followed
3. Miracle-Gro Plant Food 3002210 Shake’ N Feed Rose and Bloom Plant Food
The Miracle-Gro Shake’ N Feed Rose and Bloom plant feed is another very well-known product of the brand. Known for its use of natural ingredients in making the fertilizer, the Miracle-Gro brand is used by professional gardeners. It is a very good organic fertilizer for plants such as Bougainvillea.
The mixture used enhances the growth and strength of your plant. It makes the color of the bloom more vibrant. Ingredients such as earthworm and kelp are used to make the fertilizer that helps in the nourishment of the microbes present in the soil. These microbes help in breaking down the natural nutrients present in the soil.
The application of the fertilizer is completely hassle-free. You can just open the seal of the container and pour the plant food into the soil evenly.
- The formula is a ready mixture
- Feeding time after every three months
- Easy application
- Needs water frequently
4. Dr. Earth All Purpose Fertilizer (5-5-5)
Dr. Earth All Purpose Fertilizer is another excellent option for Bougainvilleas. The ratio of the mixture is 5-5-5. This is an organic mixture and contains no chemicals, which makes it exceptionally safe for plants. The fertilizer helps make your soil stronger and provides it the necessary nutrients so that it enhances your plant’s growth.
There is no presence of chicken manure, biosolids, and GMO’s in the product. Even if you have pets in your house, you do not have to worry about them getting sick if exposed to the fertilizer accidentally. The fertilizer is a slow-release one that will work instantly but be effective for a long time.
For better effectiveness, you should follow the instructions given in the packaging of the fertilizer.
- Fertilizer is completely natural and organic
- Slow-release fertilizer that stays effective for a long time
- Safe for children and pets
- Results may take some time
5. Miracle-Gro Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food (24-8-16)
The Miracle-Gro water-soluble all-purpose plant food is a very highly recommended fertilizer for all kinds of plants. You can use the fertilizer on shrubs, houseplants, vegetables, trees, and flowers. After the fertilizer’s proper application, you will find your produce to be much better and bigger.
The fertilizer is available in the form of granules mixed into the soil to release the necessary nutrients. The mixture of Miracle-Gro contains 24-8-16 (12% of nitrogen; 8% of phosphorus; 16% of potassium). These granules are mixed with water and then applied to the plant base. After about ten days, you can see a significant change in the growth of the plants.
Miracle-Gro has a Garden Feeder that you can use to apply the fertilizer. You can also use a simple watering can if you want.
- Concentrated formula
- Can be fed every one or two weeks
- Not good for commercial gardens
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is Coffee Ground Beneficial For Bougainvillea?
Bougainvillea plants grow best in an acidic environment that has nitrogen. There is the presence of essential nutrients, including nitrogen in coffee grounds. This helps the soil to become acidic, which is very good for the plant.
You can use the coffee grounds that are left after you make your daily coffee. Add this during the spring and summer to enhance the growth. There is no accurate measurement for how much coffee ground can be used, and you have to leave it to your idea.
2. How Can Bougainvillea Be Rejuvenated?
During the winters, your Bougainvillea can get damaged. There will be dead branches that need to be pruned down. This needs to be done so that the living tissue surfaces again and the plant gets rejuvenated. If your plant is excessively damaged, it needs to be pruned right above ground level.
Without taking out the living tissue, the plant will not reach its rejuvenation process. However, this needs to be done when the winter is over, and the blooming season arrives.
3. Why Are Flowers Not Blooming On My Bougainvillea Plant?
If you see that your Bougainvillea has good vegetation but no blooms, then one major reason could be the abundance of nitrogen fertilizer in the soul. Though bougainvillea plants like nitrogen in their soil, too much of it could lead to no blooms on the plant.
When the nitrogen is in excess amount, there would be lots of green vegetation such as stems and leaves but no buds. Reducing the amount of fertilizer used can help you in this situation. Make sure you follow the feeding instructions for an equal amount of vegetation and blooms.
4. Can I Keep My Bougainvillea Plant Out In The Sun?
Yes, Bougainvillea can be kept out in the sun directly. In fact, they require more than five hours of direct sunlight to grow effectively. Do not keep the plant in a shaded area where there is no sunlight since this will restrict the blooms’ growth.
If you want to keep the plants in the shade, make sure they are in a partially shaded area. There should be proper exposure to sunlight, no matter where they are kept. This makes the plant colorful and vibrant. Sunlight is also important during winters so that they do not die off or become damaged.
5. Why Are The Leaves Of My Bougainvillea Plant Curl?
If you see that your bougainvillea plant’s leaves are beginning to curl, then the main reason could be exposure to harsh weather conditions. They are sunlight friendly and thrive in warm conditions. However, when they are kept in low temperatures, the plant starts getting affected.
One of the side effects of this is the loss of color and vibrancy, and curling of leaves. Keep your plant in direct sunlight when you see that your bougainvillea leaves are starting to curl. If you see that the leaves are losing their color and getting damaged, then it is better to let them be for the time being and prune them before the blooming season.
6. Should I Prune My Bougainvillea Plant?
Yes, pruning is important when the season changes. During winter, the parts that have dried need to be pruned. This will encourage newer growth and blooms. Pruning ensures that all of the plant’s dead parts are completely removed so that new parts can grow effectively.
7. How Often Should I Water My Bougainvillea Plant?
Bougainvillea can survive in drought conditions once it has been planted. It is better to go for deep watering rather than shallow watering. You can water the plants properly every two to three weeks. There is no need to frequently water the plants.
During the first few years, you can regularly water the plants. However, make sure that the roots do not rot due to over-watering. The drainage system where the plant is established should be proper, which will stop the root from rotting.
8. How Often Should I Water My Potted Bougainvillea Plant?
Similar to outdoor planting, potted Bougainvillea should also be watered regularly. This should be done once every week. However, you need to see that the soil has dried properly before you go on with the next watering session. If you water too much, then the roots will get damaged.
Potted plants should be given liquid fertilizer that is specially made for such flowering plants. During the winter, avoid watering the plants and let them rest. However, if your plants are exposed to adequate sunlight, then you can develop a watering pattern.
The right fertilizer for your Bougainvillea is very important for its growth and survival. There are different kinds of fertilizer, and you can choose them based on the ease of application and your need. If you are unsure of which one to choose, then you can take advice from an expert.
You must have proper knowledge of how to grow a Bougainvillea. The guide has answered some important questions that might arise in your mind during the process to help you with this. By following the necessary tips and opting for good fertilizer, you can have a full-grown Bougainvillea plant.
Taking care of the plant properly is of utmost importance. Buy the best fertilizer for Bougainvillea today and start the planting process!
James Fields is the founder of Gardener to Farmer. His passion for gardening goes back to his childhood days when he would visit his grandfather during the holidays and help him with the plants in the backyard. This has now translated to creating a dependable resource for gardening.