How to Grow Bougainvillea Indoors

Keep Your Plant Thriving in Every Season

bougainvillea plants on a bench

​The Spruce / Kara Riley

Bougainvillea is not your typical houseplant—in its natural state, it's a sprawling climber and shrub with formidable thorns, often found on the exterior of buildings (like climbing up a trellis or over a fence) or in gardens in subtropical-to-tropical climates. Best planted in the spring, bougainvillea is a quick grower, often adding more than 36 inches in length per year. It's known for its green foliage and vibrant pink, purple, and orange hues that most people assume are the plant's flowers—however, they're actually petal-like bracts that hide bougainvillea's true blooms, which are typically small white or yellow buds.

If you don't live in a warm enough climate to successfully grow bougainvillea outdoors year-round, you're in luck—the shrub is surprisingly easy to grow inside in containers or pots and can thrive and bloom indoors if the right conditions are maintained. Outdoor bougainvillea plants can be brought indoors for the winter using the care tips below.

Common name Bougainvillea, lesser bougainvillea, paper flower
Botanical name  Bougainvillea
Plant type Perennial, shrub 
Mature size 15–40 ft. tall, 15–40 ft. wide (outdoors); 2–6 ft. tall, 1–3 ft. wide (indoors)
Sun exposure Full
Soil type  Moist but well-drained
Soil pH  Acidic
Bloom time Spring, summer, fall
Flower color Pink, purple, red, yellow
Hardiness zones  9–11 (USDA)
Native area South America

Watch Now: How to Grow a Bougainvillea Indoors

Bougainvillea Care

Native to South America, bougainvillea was named in honor of Louis Antoine de Bougainville, a sailor and explorer during the late 1700s. Despite its showy nature, bougainvillea is not a particularly high-maintenance plant. The vine-y shrub typically blooms three times a year once established, often going dormant and losing its leaves, bracts, and flowers during the cooler winter months. It prospers best in tropical or semi-tropical environments, and will therefore require lots of water and sunlight whether planted indoors or outdoors.

Bougainvillea needs to be trimmed to maintain its shape, but too much aggressive pruning of new growth will reduce bloom color. The best approach is to prune in the fall after the growing season is complete so the plant will bloom from next season’s new growth.

overhead view of bouganvillea plant
The Spruce / Kara Riley
closeup of bougainvillea
The Spruce / Kara Riley 


Bougainvillea plants are lovers of sunlight and need full daily exposure to thrive. Another important note: The color saturation of your bougainvillea relates to how much sunlight it gets—more light equals brighter hues.


When it comes to soil, bougainvillea plants thrive in a moist but well-drained potting mix that's slightly acidic (between a 5.5 and 6.0 pH level). Top your mixture with compost to ensure a rich, nutritious soil, and opt for a pot with at least one drainage hole in the base to lower the risk of root rot.


Keep your plant evenly moist during the spring, summer, and fall months, and nearly dry in winter (bougainvillea blooms better with drier winter conditions). Water your bougainvillea to saturation, then let the first inch or so of soil dry out before watering again. Too much water can lead to overly-green growth and eventually root rot; too little, and the plant can wilt.

Temperature and Humidity

Bougainvillea is a relatively hardy plant, able to withstand a range of temperatures, from tropical highs of 80 degrees Fahrenheit and above, all the way down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the lowest temperature it can tolerate. Due to its tropical origins, humidity is helpful, too—spritzing the plant with water isn't necessary, but if your home is particularly dry a small humidifier near your bougainvillea can help.


Bougainvillea requires a lot of nutrition to produce blooms throughout the season, especially indoors (where almost all plants are less likely to bloom as frequently). For the best chance at a successfully full plant, feed your bougainvillea every seven to 10 days using a weak liquid fertilizer. There are several fertilizer blends specifically geared toward bougainvillea on the market, but one formulated for other tropical plants, like hibiscus, can work too.

Potting & Repotting

When choosing a vessel to plant your bougainvillea in, always opt for a larger size than you think you need. Bougainvillea spreads rapidly and, in suitable environments, will quickly grow into small trees or large shrubs several feet high. To keep things manageable in containers, control the plant's growth with yearly repotting and root pruning in the spring. Once the plant is large enough, aim to repot it every two years.

Moving Bougainvillea Outdoors for the Summer

Because this plant loves light, many growers choose to move their potted bougainvillea outdoors during the summer months to ensure it gets enough rays.

Can You Grow Bougainvillea Inside?

You can grow bougainvillea indoors. To make bougainvillea truly thrive indoors, maintain your home's indoor temperatures around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. During the winter months (or if choosing to keep your plant indoors full-time), opt for a sunny spot near a big window and consider rotating your plant throughout the house as the day progresses to give your bougainvillea enough indoor light. Bougainvillea is often a popular plant to prune into an indoor (or outdoor) bonsai tree.

Common Pests & Diseases

Outdoors, bougainvillea can experience a few pests, most notably the bougainvillea looper caterpillar, which feeds on the leaves of the plant. However, when indoors, you may want to keep an eye out for mealybugs, a common indoor pest. Mealybugs appear most often on the stems and leaves of a plant, identifiable by the fuzzy, white mass they create as they group together. Mealybugs feed off of new growth, eventually damaging the leaves and causing them to yellow and die. To rid your bougainvillea of mealybugs, treat it with neem oil weekly until they've died off.