Bougainvillea is one showy plant and is beloved for its show of colorful bracts. This details planting bougainvillea in pots, including the best soil mix, steps to take, aftercare, and a key thing to know.
Driving through Phoenix, I had to stop at a few nurseries before heading home to Tucson. Not a necessity but highly desired! I always visit Berridge’s and found just the one I wanted for the small space patio right off my kitchen.
Bougainvillea is quite a popular topic on this blog. I’ve done multiple posts and videos on all aspects of growing it. Or so I thought! Many of you are curious about bougainvilleas in containers, and how to plant them is a good place to start.
Planting Bougainvillea in Pots
Bougainvillea for Pots
Before you even think about growing this floriferous plant, ensure the spot it’s going in gets at least 5 to 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. Anything less and the bloom will be mediocre or non-existent. Bougainvilleas also love the heat.
Most bougainvilleas grow to be over 15′ tall. A large bougainvillea needs a large pot. Just know that the taller bigger your bougie gets, the larger the pot size it’ll need.
There are very few dwarf bougainvilleas, but there are ones you can easily keep under 5′ with regular pruning. Here are some of the lower-growing bougainvillea varieties:
- B. Blueberry Ice is well suited to growing in pots and as a ground cover. Not many bougainvilleas have variegated foliage, so this and the size had me at hello. It grows 2-3′ tall by 5-6′ wide, making it an excellent container plant for a small garden.
- Raspberry Ice is similar to the above but has raspberry pink flowers.
- Oo-La-La has magenta red flowers and grows to 2′ x 6′.
- Golden Jackpot has purple flowers with jazzy chartreuse foliage. It grows to 5′ x 8′.
- Rosenka has pink/salmon flowers and grows to 2′ x 4′.
- Bambino has red-purple flowers and grows to 4′ x 4′.
- Torch Glow has reddish pink flowers and grows to 2′ x 7′.
- Helen Johnson has magenta pink flowers and grows to 3′ x 3′.
Monrovia grows lots of bougainvillea plants. They now make online sales, so check their website for more details.
Type of Pot
I’ve seen bougainvilleas growing in all types of pots. The pot I’m using here measures 16″ wide by 22″ tall, so my beautiful bougie has plenty of room to grow. I bought the pot at Lowe’s but couldn’t find it for sale online. You might be able to find it in one of your local stores. I love plastic and resin pots because they’re much lighter and easier to move around.
It was brown, and I painted it blue/purple. My spray paint of choice is Rust-Oleum 2X Ultra Cover. It covers so well and can be used on many materials. I used a base of Gloss Deep Blue (2 coats) and did Grape Gloss and Gloss Purple accents. I let each coat dry and, for the final step, spray on two coats of the Semi-Gloss Clear to seal and protect.
Clay, terra cotta, and ceramic pots are fine for bougainvilleas. Just ensure the pot is large enough to give the roots plenty of room to grow.
Whatever pot you use, make sure it has drainage holes on the bottom so the excess water can flow out. This will help to prevent root rot.
Bougainvillea Pot Size
The type of bougainvillea and the size grow pot it’s in will determine the size of the decorative pot you’ll need. My Blueberry Ice Bougainvillea grows to 3′ tall x 5′ wide. I used a pot that was 16″ wide x 22″ tall.
Large bougainvilleas need large pots. Some bougainvilleas grow to be 20’+ high, so they’ll need a good-sized pot to house the root ball.
Bougainvilleas are tough plants but have a sensitive root system. They don’t like to be transplanted, so I ensure the pot it’s in will accommodate the plant for years.
When to Plant Bougainvillea
The growing season is the best time. Bougainvillea loves sun and heat, so do it during the warmer months. Depending on your climate zone, early spring, late spring, summer, or early fall are the best times.
It’s best to avoid planting in the intense summer heat in Tucson. I do it in spring or fall. In Santa Barbara, where I used to live, late winter through fall is fine.
Best Soil for Bougainvillea in Pots
The potting mix needs to be rich with excellent drainage. You want your bougainvillea to take the moisture it needs and drain all excess.
The blend is 3/4 good quality potting soil with 1/4 compost and DIY succulent & cactus mix. I also added a few handfuls of chunky pumice in the top 1/3 of the planter for more drainage.
For this, I used the following:
- Ocean Forest potting soil. I’m partial to Ocean Forest because of its high-quality ingredients. It’s a soilless mix enriched with lots of good stuff but drains well.
- Tank’s (a local company) compost.
- DIY succulent & cactus mix. Optional, but I feel it up the ante on the drainage factor. I make my own, but you can find three choices in our Amazon shop.
- Pumice. Again, optional. My pot is so deep this ensures good drainage and aeration.
- Worm compost. One of my favorite amendments.
How to Plant Bougainvillea in Pots
We all love that explosion of bougainvillea flowers, so it’s key to get the planting done properly.
It’s best to watch the video down below for this. I’ll give you a shortened pictorial step-by-step here.
This is all about Bougainvillea Care In Pots, including growing tips and things to consider to keep yours healthy and flowering away.
The Key Thing to Know When Planting Bougainvillea in Pots
Bougainvilleas can take full sun and heat without skipping a beat. However, they’re big babies when it comes to the root ball. Bougainvillea has sensitive roots and doesn’t like to have them messed with.
For best results, leave your bougainvillea in the grow pot when planting it. Put a few slits in the side and bottom of the pot, being careful not to slash too deeply into the rootball. I discovered this key point from a bougainvillea grower when I first learned about planting and caring for bougainvillea.
Planting Bougainvillea in Pots Video Guide
This method allows the roots to grow from the pot and protects the rootball. You want the soil level of the rootball to be even with the top of the soil you’re planting it into. This means you might have to cut the rim and some of the top of the grow pot off, as I did.
I always cut the pot’s rim off as needed because I think it looks much better with it gone. Whether you cut that off or not is up to you. It won’t hurt the plant, but I never want to see a plastic rim sticking out of a beautiful decorative pot.
Maybe you’ve taken one out of the pot, planted it, and it’s done just fine. It’s a crapshoot about whether a bougie will survive and one I’m unwilling to take.
I just wanted to share this one important thing to know when planting bougainvillea. After all, I want yours to thrive and give you a big show of bougainvillea blooms for many months!
Here we Answer The Most Popular Questions About Bougainvillea
Planting Bougainvillea in Pots FAQs
Bougainvilleas are tropical plants that grow outdoors year-round in warm climates. Depending on the climate zone, late winter, spring, summer, and early fall are the best times for planting bougainvillea in pots.
Here in Tucson, the temps can dip below 32F now and then in the winter. I planted my bougainvillea two months before that happened (in early fall), so my plant has plenty of time to settle in. I avoid planting in the hot summer months (105F) because neither the plant nor I wanted any part of that!
Of course! To have bougainvillea in pots grow successfully, it’s important to ensure they’re planted correctly and growing in a sunny, warm spot. Be sure to follow the steps and points given in this post.
There are many types of bougainvillea to choose from. I think any of the more compact varieties is a good choice. There are quite a few of them to choose from now. For me, these are much easier to plant and maintain in pots.
Many bougainvillea vines get 20’+, and although they will grow in pots, the container needs to be large to accommodate the plant as it grows. They also need a support system to grow on and are higher maintenance.
With care. If you planted your bougainvillea in the grow pot, a successful transplant will be more of a given. Bougies are tough regarding their sun, heat, and wind tolerance but don’t like having their roots disturbed. This is especially true of an established bougainvillea.
I’ve never transplanted one growing in the ground or a pot, so I can’t say firsthand. I can tell you that when I lived in Santa Barbara (they thrive on the coast of Southern California), a neighbor transplanted his 8′ Bougainvillea San Diego Red, and it died a few months later.
Plus, bougies prefer not to have their roots disturbed, so having one survive a transplanting isn’t a done deal. As I said, transplanting one is a crapshoot!
With proper care, your newly planted bougainvillea will grow successfully. Here’s what I did: I watered the mix thoroughly. Because the soil was dry when I planted it, and the temps were still warm (early fall), I watered it weekly. How often you water depends on the temperature.
After it’s established, I won’t need to water as often. If you live in a hot, sunny climate as I do, your bougainvillea in a pot will do best with regular water.
My bougainvillea in a pot here in Tucson will get watered more often than the one that grew in a pot in my backyard in Santa Barbara. My two bougainvilleas growing in the ground in SB rarely got any supplemental water, but they were very well established. You can see one in this pruning post and the photo right below.
For more on Bougainvillea, check out these helpful posts: Bougainvillea Care Plus Growing Tips and Things You Need To Know About Bougainvillea Plant Care.
This Bougainvillea Blueberry Ice in its blue pot will bring more color to my kitchen patio. Bougainvilleas are one plant that can take reflected sun and heat (with regular watering) here in the Tucson desert.
It grows next to and will grow into a colorful Lantana Dallas Red, which hummingbirds and butterflies love. A wonderful addition to my container garden and outdoor space!
Note: This post was originally published on 10/19/2019. It was updated & republished on 4/24/2023.
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I’m a life-long gardener who still to this day gets giddy at the thought of a trip to one of the local nurseries. Yes, I actually studied landscape and environmental horticulture and the practical experience I have garnered through the years has served me well. Childhood memories of chicken manure “tea” still float through my olfactory senses to this day. I have always been an organic gardener and always will be. From the Earth … To the Earth. I was born and raised in rural, bucolic Litchfield County, Connecticut and now joyfully live a few blocks from the ocean in beautiful Santa Barbara, California.
Thank you for the great information on planting bougainvillea in pots! I wish I would have seen it prior to removing it from it’s grow pot. A couple questions, do you think it best to plant in a pot without a drain hole despite it preferring to be well drained? Or is that why you had the plastic bottles to create a space for water to collect and evaporate? If a bougainvillea has failed to flower over a certain amount of time, when should one “throw in the towel?” My plant has not been happy but I will take some of your lessons and try again!
With appreciation for your knowledge sharing! 🙂
Nell Foster says
Hi Heidi – You’re welcome! Bougainvilleas need pots with drain holes. Because that bougainvillea only gets 4’x 4′ & the pot is so tall, I put in the plastic as filler. The roots won’t reach down that deep & it saves on soil. If your bougainvillea isn’t flowering there’s a reason so it’s hard to say. Hope that helps! Nell