Bonsai Bougainvillea Care

Bonsai bougainvillea care is very basic.   Lots of sun and not too much water.  Between waterings, allow the top of the soil to become dry to the touch 

Especially during the first stages of bonsai training, if you water it as much as many other bonsai, you could have problems. Soil should be coarse and fast draining, but still contain some organic matter.

If your style deserves a shallow container, this is a plant that does well in modest amounts of soil.

Root pruning every two-three years should be sufficient. Trim roots during the summer.  (In the tropics, you may prune roots any time of year.)  Full sun will keep the growth compact. 

Flowering Bougainvillea bonsai created by Mike SullivanBougainvillea bonsai by Mike Sullivan

"Bougie" Display Tip

Once your tree is potted, in full bloom and ready for display, remove some of the remaining green leaves. This will make the color appear even more grand and bountiful.

Instructions on fertilizing this plant vary greatly. Most growers agree to avoid high nitrogen content (first number in the list of three). Even numbers or a higher middle number are considered best.  Learn more about fertilizer here. 

Bonsai Bougainvillea prefer 'tight feet', almost root bound. After blooming is a good time to hard prune and/or restyle.

Defoliate the leaves at least once a year in the spring or summer to encourage smaller leaves and additional branching.

Bonsai Bougainvillea Care
includes Very Few Pests

Indoors and out aphids on new growth may be a minor problem. When grown outdoors, bonsai bougainvillea care is almost pest free -- other than one caterpillar that can be annoying.

Cascade bonsai by Robert Yarbrough

The "cabbage looperis small, green, active at night and a voracious feeder.  It rolls itself in a leaf and/or chews them. To eliminate this critter use an insecticidal soap or a spray with pyrethrin.

Safer Brand 5452 3-in-1 32-Ounce Ready-to-Use Garden Spray is a good option!

Although not a plant pest, there is also a dangerous-to humans-pathogen sometimes related to Bougainvillea

Please read this important article about 

Sporothrix schenckii fungus.

Bougainvillea Propagation

Bougainvillea grow from cuttings of any size!  (At the right time of year - nights must be warm.)

One of the most beautiful bonsai Bougainvillea I ever saw was about ten inches at the base and only 12-14 inches tall. I was shocked to learn it was a sawed off cutting from an old plant, being thrown out by a neighbor!

See severe, but not dangerous, styling example at bottom of this page.  Even when trying to encourage new roots, do not keep wet!

Pruning and Styles

Because this plant has alternate leaves, it is a good subject for directional pruning.

Bonsai bougainvillea care includes frequent trimming. You may trim foliage any time of year. Be cautious not to trim off bracts when foliage begins to turn color. (Watch for a rosy tinge to the leaves.)

What are Bracts?

"Bract - a leaf, often modified or reduced, which subtends a flower or inflorescence in its axil." --
"Flowering Trees of the World" -
Editor: V. H. Heywood

Yes, a bract is a leaf. Bougainvillea bonsai are a good example of just how conspicuously colorful these “leaves” can be!

In reality, Bougainvillea bonsai have no flower petals. Look closely at what you may have thought to be the flower; you will see where the colored bracts surround the white tubular flowers. (Poinsettia and dogwood are two other examples of plants with bracts.)

When styling a bonsai Bougainvillea, keep in mind all the exciting color it will eventually provide.  Form pads, canopies or long sweeping limbs to create special areas of fullness to allow this display.

All bonsai styles and sizes including shohin are possible with this exotic flowering bonsai subject.

Fast growing, abundant blooms, loves heat, tolerates cool, easy bonsai bougainvillea care, alternate leaves - what more could you ask for, for in a tropical bonsai?

This scraggly bougainvillea plant was found in a South Florida landscape nursery.  It was used in a bonsai demonstration in Ft. Myers, Florida.

It is not unusual to remove many or all old branches in the beginning.  Don't be afraid to cut.

To a novice, the initial results may seem a bit scary.  Flexible young branches will allow many new possibilities during the initial bonsai training process.

This is a "no fear" bonsai subject.  Creating a good skeleton is what it's all about.  In the long term, this stump will be a magnificent bonsai tree.

Where to Go From Here

Leave bonsai Bougainvillea care and see the main Bougainvillea page.

See other  flowering bonsai trees

Home Page

Bonsai Mary no longer publishes her Bonsai Banter blog, please enjoy these

 Back Issues

   Do you have a     phony bonsai?

   Free eBook     Click below: