Is Bougainvillea Hard To Grow As A Bonsai?

We understand your desire to grow one of these stunning trees. We’ve seen many people ask if it’s hard to grow Bougainvillea as a bonsai. While we don’t think so, there are a few aspects to take into consideration.

Join us as we investigate if Bougainvillea bonsai trees are difficult to grow.

Is Bougainvillea Hard To Grow As A Bonsai

Here are the topics we’ll cover:

Here are the topics we’ll cover:

Is Bougainvillea Hard To Grow?

In general, the Bougainvillea isn’t hard to grow as a bonsai. In the right conditions with the proper care, it will flourish and generously provide you with bright bracts and brilliant blooms. With sufficient training and pruning, you’ll have your small tree set up in no time.

Your main concern is which species you have  and in which hardiness zone you’re in. Some of them only grow well in specific countries to which they are native. Others dislike extremely cold and hard temperatures. So, if you’re trying to develop your Bougainvillea bonsai in abnormal conditions, it will be difficult to keep them alive.

How Do You Start A Bougainvillea Bonsai?

If you’re getting ready to start a Bougainvillea bonsai, you might be stressed that you don’t know enough to keep it alive. We have a few pointers you can look at to ensure you give your tree a good beginning before you grow it into maturity.

Soil and Drainage

To begin, you need adequate soil so that it has a solid foundation to retain stability and collect the nutrients it needs. When you place new soil, it should already have the macro and micronutrients to maintain a healthy upper structure. For the most part, it needs nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, with trace elements of iron, magnesium, and calcium.

Another factor of the soil you need to look at is drainage. While the Bougainvillea loves a good bath for an hour, the roots don’t enjoy lying in the water. The liquid needs to drain quickly while the soil should retain some moisture.

Style and Shaping

When you start growing a Bougainvillea bonsai, you should decide on the style you want. It will determine how you will shape it over time, as planning is instrumental to the final design. If you want to cascade, you need to begin training it from a young age.

You can read our article on Bougainvillea tree shaping for more details.


During the time that your bonsai is still young, you’ll want to provide about four hours of direct sunlight every morning followed by dappled light. As your Bougainvillea tree grows, you can start giving it more day time, affording it some outdoor space.

Be careful with the initial transition. The leaves may burn or curl, so you’ll need to judge when is the right time to take it outside. We recommend keeping it inside with enough light for the first year, and then you can take it outside just before the next spring arrives when the frost breaks.


Finally, pay attention to the feeding. Should you have old soil or you’re passing into your second season, you need to supply the nutrients that the substrate now lacks. We recommend a balanced supply of NPK so that your bonsai can get all the minerals it needs.

You can also aim for a ratio where the nitrogen is higher for the first year or two. It will help boost foliage production, which makes it easier to grow your Bougainvillea bonsai. When you get to your third year and you’re ready for bracts and flowers, shift the focus to potassium and phosphorous.

Is Bougainvillea Hard To Grow As A Bonsai

How Long Does It Take To Make A Bougainvillea Bonsai?

In the wild, a Bougainvillea grows at a rate of 36 inches per year. While it may take years to normally develop a bonsai, it may only take you about 2 to 3 years to obtain a respectable size. From there, you should continue to prune and shape the foliage as it grows further. Mature Bougainvillea bonsais are usually between 7 to 10 years, which is when you’ll see a thick trunk with dense foliage. You don’t want to lose the style with overflowing leaves in that time.

How Can I Make My Bougainvillea Grow Faster?

The number one factor that plays a role in your Bougainvillea bonsai growing faster is sunlight. As long as an adult tree receives up to six hours of direct light daily, you’ll see massive development within a short amount of time. You may even see two spurts of growth in one year.

Of course, there are other elements you need to supplement sunlight with. You can just give it light and expect it to grow. The more light you provide, the more you have to water, fertilize, and increase humidity levels. You will also have to prune more to encourage more buds to form.

Tips and Tricks for Growing Bougainvillea Bonsais

To end this article, here’s a quick overview of what will make growing a Bougainvillea as a bonsai easier:

  • Four hours of sunlight in the beginning, and up to six by the third year
  • Hard pruning in winter and maintenance in spring
  • Control how much foliage you want every season
  • Reduce leaf size by constantly trimming
  • Plan your shape and style before you begin
  • Ensure there are enough nutrients in the soil
  • Water when the soil dries out, more regularly in spring and summer
  • Provide proper drainage
  • Encourage leaves with nitrogen and flowers with potassium

Is Bougainvillea Hard To Grow As A Bonsai

Final Thoughts

We hope we’ve shown you that it isn’t hard to grow a Bougainvillea as a bonsai. Sure, it needs all the right conditions and expertise, but we’re sure you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

Feel free to read our extensive guide on caring for Bougainvilleas.

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Shaun has two passions in life that combine into an extravagant show on Bonsai Alchemist. The one is for writing and the second bonsais. He’s been writing fantasy and horror novels since 2000, while also creating online content since 2015. He’s involved with writing for films and games. Finally, he’s also the owner of a book publishing company.

He received his first bonsai as a gift in 2009 and has been growing several species in his quiet home in South Africa. He prefers propagating new life instead of buying bonsais at the store. His son and daughter share his love for nature, while his wife stares on at her introverted hermit husband.


Shaun M Jooste


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