Bougainvillea, triple flowers

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Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea) are popular tropical climbing shrubs of the family of the miraculous plants (Nyctaginaceae), which are cultivated in Central Europe exclusively as potted plants. They are also called triplet flowers. Their unusual botanical name is in honor of the French navigator and circumnavigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville, who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries.

All bougainvilleas are originally from a relatively small area that stretches along the Andes from Ecuador to Brazil. They grow there mainly in summer-dry forests, where they throw off their leaves at the onset of the dry season and then expel again. The horticultural assortment consists mainly of different varieties and hybrids of the bald trifolium (Bougainvillea glabra). Somewhat rarer in culture is Bougainvillea spectabilis. There are about 15 other species without horticultural significance.

Appearance and growth

The tropical climbing shrubs are so-called spreading climmers - they do not form any special climbing organs, but rather they rise with the help of long, slightly thorn shoots. With good care they bloom with small breaks throughout the summer in bright, bright colors of white, yellow orange over pink, pink and purple to blood red. Each inflorescence consists of three colored bracts, which enclose the creamy white tubular flowers.

Bougainvillea shoot with thorns

Bougainvilleas anchor themselves like climbing roses using their spined shoots on the climbing aid

The egg-shaped, tapering leaves disappear in summer almost completely under the lush flowers. The plants reach at the natural site and also in the Mediterranean as outdoor plants stately growth heights of well over five meters. In Central Europe, they are cultivated solely as potted plants because of their frost sensitivity. As such, they rarely reach a height higher than three meters.

Location and substrate

Bougainvillea need a warm and full sun, because even in partial shade they use significantly less flower buds. A rain-protected place on the terrace is ideal, but bougainvilleas can also be cultivated all year round in the bright, heated conservatory. They grow best in a structurally stable, permeable container plant substrate with sufficient mineral content. An admixture of clay gets the plants very well.

Bougainvillea 'Madame Clara Butt' (red) and 'Lady Mary Baring (yellow)

Bougainvillea 'Madame Clara Butt' (red) and 'Lady Mary Baring' (yellow)


Bougainvilleas have a high water and nutrient requirement. Place the pots in a coaster and pour on hot days in the morning and in the late afternoon. A regular water supply during the growing season is very important, because the climbing shrubs very quickly drop the leaves and stop growing in case of lack of water. This is a natural adaptation to their original habitat, the tropical dry forest with pronounced rainy and dry seasons. From spring to late summer bougainvilleas should also be supplied with a phosphate-rich flowering liquid fertilizer every two weeks at the latest.


Bougainvilleas prefer a permeable potting soil substrate with low humus content. The pot should be rather tight, as this promotes the flower approach - in too large vessels it happens that the plants only form leaves. Every two to three years is repotted in the spring after clearing out of the winter quarters.

To cut

If you do not cut driftwoods, you will see meter-long shoots with weak branches that only flower at the ends. Therefore, in the autumn before wintering or in spring, a strong pruning is recommended. The plants go through in a season several flowering phases, after which they should also be trimmed again and again easily. By regular pruning the plants can be easily kept to a height of one to two meters. So they come after a few years, when the leading drives are strong enough without climbing help. Also an education as Hochstämmchen is possible.

Cutting bougainvillea

Regular pruning with pruning shears keeps bougainvilleas compact and flowery


Bougainvillea tolerate no frost at all and must therefore be brought to winter quarters in the autumn in time. Ideal is a bright location with temperatures between 10 and 15 degrees. In the absence of light, the shrubs lose their foliage, but that's no problem - they reliably drive out again in the spring. Only water un-leaved plants so much that the soil does not dry out completely. The pot should not stand directly on a cold stone floor, but better on a wooden board or a Styrofoam plate.


The propagation is possible by cuttings, but for hobby gardeners hardly practicable, since you need a cultivation bed with floor heating and usually pass several months, until the first roots show. It is easier to store individual shoots in spring. You direct a shoot segment into a separate pot with composting soil and keep it evenly moist. A wound cut accelerates rooting.

Diseases and pests

Overall, bougainvilleas are pretty sturdy. In dry-hot climate and lack of water, however, they are occasionally attacked by spider mites. Especially in winter quarters also scale insects can occur.

Video Board: Three Colours on One Bougainvillea.

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