It was a gorgeous morning in Guatemala. I was about 12 years old and staying at my grandma’s house for the weekend. She lived in an old neighborhood in the capital city, and there was no space to have a yard. I was young and not really thinking about plants (yet). I simply wanted to spend time with my grandma.

My grandma woke up early that morning and I was really curious to investigate as to why. Little did I know, she was trimming and watering the bougainvilleas she had growing in a long rectangular gorgeous planter.

That memory is still one of the main reasons why bougainvilleas are my favorite flowers. During the last few years, I’ve learned tricks and tips that will keep this gorgeous and colorful plant vivid and I’m ready to share them!

Bougainvillea Plant

Coffee Grounds

The bougainvillea plant loves acidic soil and nitrogen. Coffee grounds provide super nutrients, with nitrogen being one of them. This makes the soil more acidic and helps the flowers to thrive!

If you are a coffee lover like me, don’t throw away the used coffee grounds. If you don’t drink coffee at all, go to your local Starbucks and ask for them. They will be happy to give you some.

I do believe the best time to add coffee grounds is during spring and summer. It will really spike the blossoms and help with the growth. I personally add 4 tablespoons for a 10″ plant.

Sun and Heat

As for most flowers, exposure to full sun is key, and bougainvilleas are no different. Give them the sun they need and you’ll have a colorful and happy plant! They would survive part shade, but won’t flower as much as they should.


Bougainvilleas are a bit drought tolerant and do not like to be over-watered. Usually when you over-water they will lose their flowers and the leaves will turn yellow and fall off.

Too wet: Simply stop watering and add some coffee grounds and it will come back.

Of course, they must receive the right amount of water. I’ve set up a drip system that activates 5 minutes, two to three times per week, depending on the season. Three days a week during summer, but please consider your climate. We get early fog in the central coast of California.

Train Your Bougainvillea Plant

Plan ahead. How would you like to have this plant? It can be a bush, a vine, or a shrub. It can be messy or super-trimmed. It can be shaped, rectangular, circular, shapeless. you name it!

We created a privacy wall with them. So I constantly wrap them in the wires to force the energy to focus on filling the empty spaces. I also cut back the crazy stems and control the height to my purpose, which forces the energy to focus in the center of the plant, instead of creating an unmanageable bush.

If you ever have the chance to visit the Santa Barbara Airport in California, there are some marvelous huge pots showing off colorful bougainvilleas, such a colonial look!

If you are interested in growing a bougainvillea bonsai, checkout Bonsai Empire.

Be Aware of the Thorns

My mom used to say, “Their beauty will distract you, and it will hurt!” I’ve bled sometimes, so she wasn’t kidding when she said it will hurt. I recommend getting good gloves, such as for cacti. This way, you know no thorn is going to mess with you!

Literally last weekend I was trimming my bougainvillea and I was super cautious and wore gloves. Guess what happened? Yes, you guessed right.

A gigantic thorn passed through the gloves and my skin, it was so accurate that it pinched my vein and bled a bit. It felt just like when you get a blood test at the laboratory and it hurt for a few days after. Beauty has its price!

Be Creative when Trimming Your Bougainvillea Plant

I love saving the best-looking cuttings to put in a vase or mason jar with water. It looks gorgeous! I also add some texture and trim a couple of other plants and put them together. My mother-in-law also says that when preparing arrangements you should always follow the rule 1-3-5 and different levels.

Bougainvillea cutting

Buy Good, Healthy Bougainvillea Plants

I love visiting the local nursery where they have different sizes of bougainvillea plants available based on your needs. I always choose to get the small to medium size and grow it from there. It makes more sense money-wise. Plus, it helps with my happiness and pride of knowing that I’ve grown that plant over the years.

If you want to buy online, below are some recommendations:

Etsy – This one is only $14 for a 4″ pot live plant. This store has 4.5 stars and 158 reviews. Always read the reviews and read how they received the plants.

Amazon – This one is very reasonably priced for a 4″ pot live plant. The store has 5 stars and 8 reviews.

Please leave comments and questions — thanks! and don’t forget to visit my Instagram account, Talking to My Plants.


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