Available in a variety of vibrant colors, Bougainvilleas are one of the few plants considered a shrub-like vine. In other words, they are vining plants that can also be trained as shrubs.
As a cousin of four o’clock, the Bougainvillea is native to South America, from where 250 different bougainvillea varieties stemmed.
This bright bloomer is highly versatile. They can not only grow but even thrive in pots and hanging baskets, as well as along walls, fences, and pergolas.
Wondering how to grow Bougainvillea on a wall, yourself? I’m about to walk you through 5 simple steps to help get you started.
Experts Tips Before You Begin
Bougainvillea is a hardy plant that will happily climb along a wall but only when they’re supported by the right environmental conditions. So before you buy one, consider the following:
- Will it thrive in your hardiness zone?
- Will you have to winter it over, indoors?
- Does your planting location offer enough sunlight?
- Is its mature size right for that spot?
If you’re confident that this dazzling climber is a good fit for your garden, let’s move on to how to create that “right” environment.
Position & Temperature
Having adapted to sun-drenched locations, your planting location will make all the difference in a Bougainvillea’s success.
With 5 hours of direct sunlight per day (preferably more), a healthy Bougainvillea will remain in bloom for 3-5 weeks. It can repeat this process several times per year.
The tropical Bougainvillea is a heat-lover, luxuriating in temperatures over 100°F/ 37°C. On the low side, temperatures should be above 60°F/15°C.
Soil pH And Nutrient Requirements
According to Clemson University, Bougainvillea thrives in soil with a pH at or just above 6.0. This will support optimal plant health and an unrestricted flow of nutrients.
If your pH is too high, elemental sulfur will help lower it. If it’s too low, agricultural limestone will increase it at a healthy rate.
When fertilizing Bougainvillea, opt for a 10-10-10 NPK ratio or similarly balanced feed. Fertilizing in spring will help to maintain nutritional access throughout the peak growing season.
Step 1: Decide On A Location & Prepare The Area
When choosing a location, bear in mind that Bougainvillea thrives in hot, dry conditions. Planting them in the ground near other flora that prefers moist soil won’t be a successful endeavor.
But you can, however, plant them in pots. This is especially advantageous if you live in a cold climate and need to bring them indoors in winter.
Bougainvilleas have thin roots, making well-draining soil absolutely essential. Poorly draining soil will result in root rot. Light and loamy soil work well for ground-planted and potted plants.
Step 2: Planting Bougainvillea
For both ground-planted and potted plants, dig a hole deep enough to keep the root ball level with the soil surface, leaving an inch or two on each side to stimulate root growth.
Carefully place the root ball in the hole. Bougainvillea roots are very sensitive and can easily experience shock.
Add some fertilizer granules around the root ball, then backfill without compressing the soil too firmly. Then, water the well. Double-check that your pots have enough drainage holes.
Best Time to Plant
Bougainvillea can grow to be healthy and robust plants when planted at the right time.
Planting too early or too late in the year will expose those sensitive roots to conditions they’re not ready to withstand. The best time to plant is in spring or early summer.
This will allow plants time to acclimate to their new home before less-than-ideal temperatures arrive.
Growing Bougainvillea In Containers Or In Ground
As mentioned, the Bougainvillea is highly versatile. They’ll thrive in the ground when planted in a warm, dry location that’s all their own.
If you’d like to grow them as a beautiful backdrop to other plants, growing them in pots can be equally successful.
Smaller, container-grown specimens will provide brilliant color along a walkway or around a pool. Being trailers, they can even be grown in hanging baskets.
Step 3: Training A Bougainvillea To Climb
Bougainvillea need support because they lack the means to attach themselves to surfaces, unlike plants like ivy and Virginia creeper.
Expanding vines will also need something to hold them in place in order to create that lush, flowing appearance. Otherwise, your Bougainvillea will just become a low-growing, tangled mass.
Training a Bougainvillea to span a fence, trellis, or wall is easy and will help cultivate a more attractive vining shrub with fuller branches, foliage, and flowers.
All you need to do is decide what you want to train your Bougainvillea to climb onto.
How To Train Bougainvillea
Whether your planting location is a fence, a wall, or a small pot trellis, training a Bougainvillea to grow along it is the same.
While the vines are quite flexible, they can still break. Especially if the plant is under-watered. Begin carefully weaving vines in and out of wires or wood slats after having sufficiently watered your bougainvillea.
As the vines grow longer, soft ties will gently secure them to the support structure.
Training Bougainvillea Up A Trellis
Square, rectangular, or following the curve of an entryway, the shape of your trellis is entirely up to you. You can also get creative with what you use to make your trellis:
- Pre-made wooden or metal trellises can be purchased
- Eye hooks and stainless steel wire galvanized wire, and even cattle fencing, can all be used as effecting materials
- DIY objects like long tree branches or old, wooden baby gates
- Discarded wooden window frames
Training Up A Fence
I recommend that you start with small plants. Trying to weave the vines of more mature plants through a trellis can be cumbersome. With many breaking and putting the plant in distress.
However, when young, Bougainvillea’s growth is faster. So keep an eye out for new, emerging shoots. Successful Bougainvillea training starts early and should happen often when new growth is still pliable and easily guided in the direction you want it to go.
Securing Bougainvillea To A Wall
Securing a Bougainvillea is two-fold. One, your trellis needs to be firmly affixed to the backing wall. Concrete screws are commonly used to wind wire onto or anchor other trellis options.
Trellises need to be a few inches away from the wall to allow Bougainvillea vines to easily grow through and protect the wall.
Two, new vines should be loosely tied to the trellis to allow for easy movement.
Step 4: Bougainvillea Plant Care
Once you’ve trained and secured your Bougainvillea, it’s time for some effective care. This will differ based on your hardiness zone.
In cold climates — zones 2 through 9 — Bougainvillea can be wintered over in a cool basement or insulated garage with occasional watering. This will help it survive its protected dormancy.
In zones 10 and 11, Bougainvillea will safely grow outside all year, often exhibiting more vigorous growth in the cooler months.
All plants need water to absorb and metabolize nutrients and maintain critical processes.
Yet, having evolved in a hot, arid environment, the Bougainvillea doesn’t require much. Overwatering can lead to a lack of colorful bracts, leaf drops, and root rot.
Water those in the ground deeply yet infrequently when the top 3-4” of soil feels dry. Potted plants will naturally need more water. But only when the top 2-3” of soil is dry.
Young plants need more nutrients than mature ones. Feed these every few months with a slow-release 1-1-1 or 2-1-2 NPK ratio in zones 10 and 11.
In all other zones, stop fertilizing your Bougainvillea in late summer. Fertilizing beyond this time could hurt your plant, as it can not process fertilizer while dormant.
Once your Bougainvillea has reached maturity (1-2 years), it will require less fertilizer, if any at all. This is especially true when grown in fertile soil.
Bougainvillea is a vigorous grower and needs regular trimming to promote abundant blooming and a tidy appearance.
According to the University of Florida, the best time to prune is just after blooming has finished. In zones 10 and 11, this could be done several times per year.
Wearing gloves will protect you from the thorns that grow along each vine. These help the plant securely adhere to your trellis. They also protect your skin from scratches and abrasions.
FAQ Bougainvillea Training
Final Thoughts On Growing Bougainvillea Up Wall
Bougainvillea is one of my absolute favorite climbers. Their color and form take me back to warm childhood moments.
As an adult, I’ve come to admire their resilience and prolonged vibrancy in often harsh climates. The versatility of these stunning shrubs allows you to grow them wherever you call home.