You often see bougainvilleas grown into large hedges or trained as a trellis in tropical climates. They love direct sunlight and plenty of warmth. They are fast growers and flower all year around. But not many people know, that they actually make wonderful and quite resilient houseplants.
The plant you see on the pictures is a bougainvillea I’ve had for years and maintained small, by having it root bound (which stuns the growth), and by trimming it. This is one of my most neglected houseplants and it’s shocking to me that it’s even still alive, let alone flowering consistently.
Bougainvillea ‘California Gold’ has beautiful rich golden-yellow bracts surrounding the tiny orange flowers in the center. This plant is almost always in bloom for me, but surprisingly, it flowers the heaviest in the winter. I grow it on an east facing window, where it gets several hours of direct light.
Bougainvilleas are native to eastern South America, and are extensively cultivated and hybridized. The flower bracts which are the main attraction, come in many different colors, most commonly in a bright magenta shade, but also lilac, orange, white and yellow. The foliage in some hybrids can be variegated.
I recommend drying the plant out between watering. It seems to like drying out fully, then getting soaked in water for a bit, and then left to drain. I have severely neglected and dried out this plant before, but it kept coming back, thankfully. I have also overwatered it before and it lost some leaves to that, but still survived.
The more the better! This plant can be grown in full sun, so south windows are the best for it. You can grow it on east or west windows, but make sure it’s getting at least a couple of hours of direct sunlight in order for it to flower. I have tried growing it on a north facing window with no direct light, and it survived, but it ceased to flower. I have yet to see how it does under grow lights.
So far I haven’t notices any preference to humidity. Given the plant’s native environment, I would assume it likes it hot and humid. Either way, this plant doesn’t seem to be bothered by dry air at all.
Soil Type and Fertilizer:
Slightly acidic, well draining, and rich soil. I like to mix peat moss, perlite, some regular potting soil and compost (I use either cow or chicken compost). Keeping the plant root bound should encourage more flowering, and should help keep the root system healthy. For fertilizer, I use a very diluted generic fertilizer, but lately, I’ve been just removing the top layer of the soil and replacing it with fresh compost and peat moss mix. It seems to work well for me.
You can propagate bougainvilleas though cuttings, though make sure they are longer cuttings, or air layering. You can also bend one of the stems, make a small cut on the bark, and “plant” it back in the soil. That way it can take its time to root, without loosing access to nutrients coming from the mother plant. This way you can propagate larger sized pieces of the plant.
Other Care Tips and Personal Observations:
Bougainvillea ‘California Gold’ is a gorgeous plant. The bright, beautiful, golden yellow flower bracts look like paper origami. The plant flowers while young, and can be shaped however you want. I think it would make a nice bonsai specimen too. So far, I have not had any pest problems on this plant. It seems resistant to pretty much everything that has plagued my collection so far.