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Bugambilia: Easy Guide for In-Ground or Container Growing

Bugambilia: Easy Guide for In-Ground or Container Growing

When it comes to botany, South America is known for its abundance of natural wonders. Many common household and garden plants can be traced back to this botanical haven, including the popular Bugambilia plant.

What is bugambilia? Bugambilia is a member of the four o’clock family and grows mainly in South America. This perennial grows as vines, bushes, and trees. With abundant water, it can be evergreen, but some species may shed their leaves. Pink, red, magenta, or yellow flowers bloom throughout spring, summer, and fall.

Bugambilia is still a relatively obscure plant, so growing it in your garden will make it stand out. Read more to find out all you need to know about this ornamental South American plant.

Bugambilia at a Glance

Bugambilia goes by many names including bougainvillea. Currently, there are about 22 species under that botanical name. You can grow it either in the garden or in a container. Surprisingly, the plant is easy to grow and doesn’t require special conditions or extra care.

Bugambilia in English

Both bugambilia (Spanish) and bougainvillea (English) are acceptable names for the exotic South American plant. Some varieties of bugambilia have a unique name such as “paper flower,” which is an alternative name for Bougainvillea glabra because of its paper-thin bracts.

Bougainvillea Plant Appearance

The bougainvillea’s appearance changes according to its type. The shrubs are bushy and thorny. The vines are fast and aggressive climbers, so you’ll need to prune them regularly to keep them in shape and control their sprawling habits.

As for the trees, they’re usually a step up above shrubs and have a small stature. 

Bougainvillea is evergreen in the right conditions. If the plant gets water all year round, it will keep its lush foliage, but in its natural habitat, it will shed its leaves in the dry season.

Bougainvillea Size

The average size of the mature bougainvillea varies according to the growing conditions. If planted in the garden, the plant can grow between 15 and 40 feet tall and the same in width.

Bougainvilleas growing in containers have a more modest size. You can expect the plant to stay under 6 feet tall and the same in diameter, but you’ll need to trim off new shoots and vines regularly to keep its size manageable. 

Bougainvillea Colors

Bougainvillea is known for its bright colors. The evergreen foliage maintains its rich green shades all year round. As for the flowers, they come in a variety of colors including white, red, pink, magenta, and yellow among others.

Bougainvillea Grow Zones

Although bougainvillea can grow in cold regions such as Peru, it only thrives in Zones 9 to 11 in North America. It needs high temperatures, high humidity, and plenty of sunshine to grow and blossom. 

Bougainvillea Soil

As with many other plants, loamy soil is the best for this South American ornamental perennial. Amend the soil to improve its drainage.

Bougainvillea might like the soil to be evenly moist all the time, but it doesn’t like to sit in waterlogged soil. Add perlite or coarse sand and organic material to improve the aeration of the soil.

Bougainvillea Light Requirements

Full sun is an absolute requirement of the lush bougainvillea. Partial shade will stunt the growth of the plant and might even prevent flowering.

Plant it in a sunny spot facing south or west to benefit from the long hours of sun during the spring and summer.

Bougainvillea Watering

You’ll need to maintain evenly moist soil throughout the bloom season, which covers spring, summer, and fall. Regular but shallow watering is recommended.

Apply about 1 inch of water per week, and factor in the rainfall. In the winter, cut back on watering by about one-half. 

Fertilizing Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea spends a lot of energy on the bright blooms and on feeding the evergreen leaves. It thrives in rich soil. As a perennial plant, the nutrients in the soil will get depleted quickly.

Apply a weak liquid fertilizer once every 7 to 10 days during the three active seasons. Cut back fertilizing to once every 3 weeks in the winter.

Bougainvillea Blooms

The bougainvillea flowers are small, white, and plain, to put it mildly. There’s nothing exceptional about them. It’s the bracts that steal the show.

Bracts are morphed leaves around clusters of small flowers. The bracts are large and have bright colors. Some varieties have extra thin blooms that look like paper flowers.

Branch of a pink bougainvillea bursting with flowers.

Pruning Bougainvillea

Pruning regularly is key to maintaining the shape and size of the aggressive bougainvillea. During the growing season, pinch off the tip of the new growth to prevent them from growing any taller.

In bush varieties, this can make the bush fuller and thicker. In vines, it will keep them small and manageable.

In the late winter, take your pruning shears to the dead, crossing, and damaged branches. Cut the plant back into shape. Don’t worry about over-trimming it. Every lost branch, stem, or vine will be replaced with a new one in the spring.

Bougainvillea Varieties

Some notable bougainvillea varieties include:

  • Helen Johnson
  • Sunville Rose
  • Pink Pixie
  • Imperial Delight
  • Miss Alice
  • Barbara Karst
  • Orange King
  • James Walker

Is Bugambilia Perennial?

Bugambilia is a perennial plant that blooms year after year. As long as it’s growing in warm Zones and gets plenty of sunlight and water all year round, it will thrive.

How Long Do Bugambilia Live?

Bugambilia plants tend to live for about 50 years. Both the tree and bush varieties have a longer lifespan than the vines.

How Do You Keep Bougainvillea Blooming?

To keep bougainvillea blooming, ensure that it’s getting at least 8 hours of sunlight every day, and keep the soil evenly moist. Feed the plant with phosphorus-high mild fertilizer (find it here) once a week during the spring and summer.

Are Bugambilia Poisonous?

The leaves of bugambilia are not toxic, but the sap can be mildly toxic if consumed in large quantities, which is a remote possibility.

A more serious issue with these plants is their thorns. Those sharp thorns can cause a rash if they prick the skin. So watch out when pruning, watering, or coming in contact with the plant.

Are Bugambilia Flowers Edible?

The colorful bracts of the bugambilia are edible. You can cut them into salads, eat them fresh, or make tea.

Bugambilia Tea

Pick the fresh bugambilia bracts, wash them, and drop them into the kettle. Boil for 10 minutes, and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Add honey for taste, and serve hot.

Bugambilia Tea Side Effects

Don’t drink too much bugambilia tea. Limit your intake to one cup. Ingesting too much of the tea can cause vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.

Bougainvillea in Pots

A pretty bougainvillea covered in pink flowers in a container.

You can grow bougainvillea in pots. As long as the plant gets plenty of sunlight, water, and fertilizer, it will grow and blossom.

How To Care for Bougainvillea in Pots

Bougainvillea in pots doesn’t require any more work than if you grew it in the garden. Make sure to prune it regularly and trim new growth to maintain its shape and size. 

Best Soil for Bougainvillea in Pots

As long as the soil drains well, you won’t have a problem growing bougainvillea in a pot. Any good-quality potting soil will be sufficient, though I am partial to this moisture-control mix. Keep the soil pH levels between 5.5 and 6.5.

How Often To Water Bougainvillea in Pots

Water the plant regularly to keep the soil moist. In the winter when the plant goes dormant, cut back on watering to about once every 2 weeks. If the plant sheds its leaves in the cold months, then water it once every month until the weather warms.

Fertilizing Bougainvillea in Pots

With the limited nutrients in the soil in the pot, you’ll need to feed the plant regularly throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer at 50% strength once a week. In the winter, you only need to fertilize the evergreen plant once a month. If it’s a deciduous variety, you don’t have to fertilize it at all in the winter.

How To Prune Bougainvillea in Pots

Pinch off the tips of new growth, remove dead and damaged branches, and wait for the winter to give it a good trim. For potted bougainvilleas, don’t cut back too much as this might impact the blooms the next season.

Bougainvillea Indoors

Ensure that the temperature in the room doesn’t drop below 60℉ in the winter. Make sure the plant gets direct sunlight by moving the pot near an open window.

When the weather warms up, take the plants outside to enjoy the full sun and warm temperatures.


Bugamibilia is a perennial ornamental plant from South America. It has bright blooms that come in pink, magenta, red, and yellow. Watch out for the thorns on the plant as they can cause a rash.