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Propagating Bougainvillea: A Guide for Vibrant Vines

Bougainvillea are striking and hearty tropical plants with unique, papery flowers that come in various vibrant colors. They’re especially great options for home growers in warm climates where few other flowering plants can thrive through hot summers.

Did you know you can take cuttings from a mature bougainvillea plant and turn them into new, self-sufficient plants in just a few months? The process of propagating bougainvillea is simple and easy, too!

Read on for simple steps to follow and answers to common questions about how to propagate bougainvillea.

propagating bougainvillea

How to Start Propagating Bougainvillea

How do you get started propagating bougainvillea? The very first step is to find a healthy, mature bougainvillea plant from which to take your cuttings.

Then, all you need to do is follow the four steps below!

Step 1: Select Stems to Propagate

Bougainvillea plants cuttings with white isolated background

First, carefully select which stems to cut from the mother plant.

Take your cuttings from a healthy portion of the bougainvillea with semi-ripe softwood. Avoid young, green stems as well as very hard, woody parts of the plant.

Your cutting should be about six inches long and have at least five nodes. Nodes are the spots on a branch where leaves, buds, or offshoots have formed.

When propagating bougainvillea, you should plan to take multiple cuttings. Starting several plants at once increases your odds of success since some of them may not take root.

Spring and summer are the best times to prune mature bougainvillea plants. This would be the ideal time to collect cuttings since the mother plant will benefit from being cut back during a season of rapid growth. But you can start propagating bougainvillea at any time of the year.

Step 2: Cut Stems Below Nodes

Next, cut your selected bougainvillea stems from the mother plant.

Work Safely

Start by donning a pair of gardening gloves to protect your hands from thorns and splinters. Wearing protective eyewear is also a good idea when pruning hard, woody plants.

Make the Cut

Using clean, sharp pruning shears, cut your selected stems below the leaf nodes. Create a cutting at least six inches in length.

Make your cut at a 45-degree angle to maximize the absorbent surface area. This will help it to take in more hydration and nutrition from the planting material once it is potted.

Step 3: Prepare the Cuttings

Now that you have your cuttings removed from the mother plant, it’s time to prep them for planting.

Trim and Clean the Cuttings

Start by removing all side shoots from your cutting. Then, remove the lower leaves. You can keep about four to six leaves at the top of the stem, but retaining any more than that may inhibit root growth.

You can also create a wound at the cut end of the stem to accelerate rooting even more. Do this by cutting away a thin layer of the bark, about half an inch long, on one side of the stem.

Apply Rooting Hormone (Optional)

When propagating bougainvillea, you can apply rooting hormone powder to the cuttings to give them an extra leg up. This is an optional step, but it will encourage faster root production and can also help cultivate a stronger, healthier plant.

Dip the base of the stem first into clean, room-temperature water and then into a container of rooting powder. Lightly tap off any clumps or excess before planting the cutting.

As an alternative to purchasing rooting hormone, you can experiment with creating your own homemade root-boosting solution at home. Natural products that can function similarly to rooting hormone include cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, or cooled coffee grounds.

Step 4: Plant the Cuttings

Finally, it’s time to plant your prepared bougainvillea cuttings!

Fill Your Container with Soil

Start by choosing a small container in which to plant each bougainvillea cutting. Give each cutting its own container. Crowding a single pot with multiple plants can impede root formation for all of them.

Then, fill the container with a well-draining potting medium. Indoor potting mix that contains a mixture of soil and perlite will work just fine. You could also add sand, peat, or organic compost to your soil of choice to improve its ability to retain moisture. Leave at least a quarter inch of room between the surface of the soil and the top of the container so that you can add water to it easily.

Plant the Cutting

Next, take your prepared bougainvillea cutting and insert the base of the stem about two inches below the surface of the soil. Position the stem upright but at a slight angle, and pack the soil around the base to firmly anchor it in place.

Water Thoroughly

Water your freshly planted bougainvillea cutting enough to moisten the soil throughout the container.

You want the planting material to be damp, not sodden. Too much moisture in the container can impede root growth or even cause your cutting to rot.

Cover with Plastic for a Greenhouse Effect

Propagating bougainvillea works best when the cutting is kept in a humid environment while it roots.

A simple, easy way to accomplish this is to create a mini greenhouse by covering the plant with plastic. Use a plastic bag to cover the entire plant and pot. Keep it completely enclosed by tying or zipping the bag closed or weighing down the bottom.

How to Care for Bougainvillea Propagations

Evergreen ornamental shrub or Bougainvillea tree (Latin - Bougainvillea)

Now that you’ve planted your cuttings, the next stage in propagating bougainvillea is to check in on the developing plants regularly. You’ll get the best results when they have just the right environment and resources for developing strong and healthy roots.

Keep reading to learn all about how to care for bougainvillea propagation, including how to tell when they’re ready to be transplanted.

Handle with Care

Once your bougainvillea cuttings have been planted, handle them carefully when you check on their growth and add water. Essentially, you want to leave the plant alone as much as possible while it’s growing.

Water Needed

Keep the soil damp but not wet. Always touch the soil to assess the moisture level before adding water. Only add small amounts of water at a time, preferably using a spray bottle to avoid accidental overwatering.

Light and Temperature Requirements

As a tropical plant, bougainvillea thrives in similar temperatures to those comfortable for most humans. A consistent room temperature between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for the space in which you store your developing plants.

Place your bougainvillea where it will receive indirect sunlight only. Keep away from air conditioning units, vents, direct heat, or drafty windows or doors.

Transplanting Rooted Cuttings

The last step for propagating bougainvillea is to transplant your new plant when its roots are full and strong enough.

How to Tell When Bougainvillea is Ready to Transplant

When your bougainvillea cutting has taken root, the stem will begin to grow new green foliage. For best results, give it time to develop at least five or more leaves or offshoots before transplanting.

This could take as little as four to ten weeks for some plants. Others may need three to six months to form roots strong enough to support new growth and survive a transplant.

The timing just depends upon a few factors that vary from plant to plant. The health of the mother plant and the particular soil conditions in which you plant the cuttings can affect their development rate.

How to Transplant Bougainvillea

When it’s time to transplant your young plants, start by removing their plastic coverings.

Then, begin to acclimate the bougainvillea to its new, brighter environment gradually over the course of two to three weeks. About every five days, move the rooting plants to a new placement with incrementally brighter sunlight. The young plants are delicate and need to be hardened off in order to survive outdoors.

Next, you can finally uproot your cutting and plant it in its new permanent home. Do this gently: tap on the small container in which it’s been rooting to loosen the soil. Then grip the base of the cutting with one hand and use the other to turn the pot upside-down into your palm.

Plant bougainvillea outdoors in spring or summer. This gives the plant time to get established before temperatures drop in fall and winter. Choose a container or plot of ground that is at least double the size of its existing roots.

Frequently Asked Questions About Propagating Bougainvillea

pink bougainvillea flower at a Sifnos island Greece

Keep reading for answers to some common questions about how to propagate bougainvillea plants successfully.

Why are my bougainvillea cuttings not rooting?

Propagating plants is not an exact science. It’s best to take multiple cuttings when you are propagating bougainvillea since some of them may simply not be viable.

If none of your attempts at propagating bougainvillea are successful, consider the environment where you are storing them while the roots develop. Any fluctuations in room temperature can disrupt the development of these sensitive young plants. Keeping bougainvillea cuttings consistently warm is imperative for healthy growth.

Can you grow bougainvillea in pots?

Yes, you can absolutely grow healthy, vibrant bougainvillea in containers! These plants need full sun placement to produce the best blooms, but it’s not essential to grow them in the ground.

Growing bougainvillea in pots can be ideal, actually, for cultivating plants with huge clusters of vibrant flowers. This is because limiting the root growth allows the plant to allocate more of its energy to the blooms.

Now You Know How to Propagate Bougainvillea

Now that you know all about propagating bougainvillea, all that’s left to do is get started growing your new plants!

And next, check out more of our plant propagating guides, starting with this great post on Propagating Pothos.