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Bougainvillea Bonsai Trees

Bougainvillea bonsai - fast growing, abundant blooms, loves heat, tolerates cool, easy to care for, alternate leaves! What more could you ask from a tropical flowering bonsai tree?

Because Bougainvillea is a popular tropical plant in general, many nurseries and garden centers carry them.

There are many variations - shrubs, vines and even small trees.  They each have different growth patterns. Although most are armed with spines, some are less hazardous than others. Thorns can be an inch long or barely noticeable.  When pruning bonsai Bougainvillea be cautious!

To create a bonsai, it is not unusual to remove many of the original thick branches and restructure the design from new growth.

Bougainvillea bonsai by Bob YarbroughBougainvillea bonsai created by Robert Yarbrough

Let it sprout new branches, eliminating any new buds not necessary to the desired shape. The new growth is fast growing, easily shaped with wire and becomes woody very quickly.  Watch that the bonsai wire does not cut in.

Keep in mind, very young branches snap off easily at the point where they come off the trunk. Pay special attention to this when wiring.

“Pink Pixie” or “Hawaiian Torch”

Bougainvillea glabra 'pink pixie'  has a harder wood and is much less susceptible to rot than many varieties.  The new branches also seem to harden faster.  

This variety is a good one to start with a skeleton and build upon it.  Old specimen trunks of this variety can often be carved. This bonsai was started from a nursery plant by removing all except the first branch.

The nature of the 'Pixie' branches is to grow straight up. New branches should be wired as soon as possible to set them in the right direction.  Creating a bonsai with this variety will take some patience.  The results are worth it.

by Enrique Castano

As with any species, not every plant of that species makes a good bonsai.   Be cautious of very straight trunks with no nebari and too many heavy branches when purchasing bonsai or pre-bonsai.  With a little patience and discretion, you can find a 'bougie' with good bonsai potential.

Bougainvillea bonsaiAward winning Bougainvillea glabra by Erik Wigert (Florida, USA)

When grown in the landscape of warm climates, full sun and fast draining, rocky soil suits this plant. Especially during the first stages of bonsai training, full sun keeps the growth compact. If you've ever killed one of these tropical bonsai, too much water (and or poor soil) was more than likely the problem.

Excess water can cause yellowing, leaf-drop and root rot. Improper soil (not fast draining) is often the source of difficulties.

Semi-cascade style Bougainvillea Bonsai

Old Bougainvillea Bonsai

Old trees sometimes have hollow trunks, which add to the character of the tree.  These cavities must be maintained.  The soft wood of most Bougainvillea deteriorates quickly. 

Clean out any rotted, soft or pulpy areas. Then protect the exposed dead wood (without bark) with wood hardener.

Where to Go from Here

Another Bougainvillea page about pruning, propagation, pests and care.  

Read about the dangerous pathogen often associated with this plant.

More Flowering Bonsai

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