Treat your garden to a Mediterranean space with these expert tips for growing bougainvillea in colder climates

Experts explain how to grow bougainvillea in warm or cold places – it can handle more than you'd think

(Image credit: Getty/ Paul Biris)

Bougainvilleas are stunning plants that many of us associate with hot climates and the color palette of a summer vacation – blue sea, whitewash walls, and the blazing pink of the plant made even more iconic by Mamma Mia!. They work perfectly as part of Mediterranean garden ideas

But did you know that it’s actually possible to grow healthy, happy bougainvilleas in just about any climate? With vacations still not on the cards for many of us, we need all the escapism we can get in our garden. Here are the top tips you need to get this beautiful South American plant to blossom in your garden, whatever the weather.

Growing bougainvilleas in containers

Bougainvillea growing in pots

(Image credit: Getty/Thang Tat Nguyen)

Bougainvilleas make for amazing container plants. You won’t get the same size or sprawl as you will from the shrubs planted straight into the ground, but there’s a very important advantage to planting them in pots: you will be able to grow them even if you live in a place with cold winters. 

Speaking on the Hallmark Channel, Shirley Bovshow advises taking bougainvilleas indoors during the winter months when temperatures drop below 40 degrees and keeping them in a room that’s no more than 60 to 75 degrees. ‘If you have that kind of temperature and a bright spot you can keep the color throughout the winter.’

Find more container gardening ideas in our gallery.

Do bougainvilleas need full sun?

Bougainvillea growing over a wall

(Image credit: Getty/ David C Tomlinson)

Yes. They need at least six hours of sunlight a day, much more than they need heat. They are one of those plants that love full sun. Bougainvilleas kept in a shady position will not produce the characteristic bright bracts they’re grown for (that’s right, the beautiful pink stuff is technically not flowers). In winter, bougainvillea can still continue producing new bracts even if the sun is not out – they just need bright, direct light. Charlie Clark of Westdale Nurseries confirms: ‘they need good light, and regular watering after they go dry.’

Should I prune container-grown bougainvillea?

Yes. While bougainvilleas planted into the ground can be allowed to climb and ramble pretty much as they please (like many of the other best climbing plants on our list), pruning pot-grown bougainvilleas will ensure they produce new growth with fresh colorful bracts. Prune yours in late winter, just before the new growing season begins. Bougainvillea flowers on new growth, so if yours is a bit out of control, don’t worry about giving it a good hard prune if needed. Charlie Clark also recommends regular pruning, ‘which then produces regular new growth and regular new flowers.’

So, treat yourself to a little botanical travel this summer wherever you live. 

Anna writes about interior design and gardening. Her work has appeared in Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, and many other publications. She is an experienced outdoor and indoor gardener and has a passion for growing roses and Japanese maples in her outside space.