Life,  Living in Thailand

How to Propagate a Bougainvillea Cutting

propagate bougainvillea from cuttings

Want to learn to propagate bougainvillea from cuttings? You’re in the right place! Contrary to what you may have heard, it is certainly possible to re root a bougainvillea in either soil or water; both methods are discussed here.   

Bougainvillea are my favorite plant—they add a big pop of color to any garden. At our house in Thailand, these beauties abound. If you’re wondering how to grow bougainvillea successfully from a cutting,this article is for you. 

I’ve learned a lot about how to nurture (and accidentally kill) bougainvillea over the years, and though they aren’t always the easiest plantfolk to deal with, in some ways they are extremely low maintenance. They love to drape themselves over awnings and roofs and can handle crazy hot temperatures and extreme droughts.

How to Root Bougainvillea Cuttings in Water

The easy and fast way propagate to bougainvillea from cuttings in water:

  1. The best time to take a bougainvillea cutting is either during or after flowering, and it’s best to wait for warm temperatures (20+ degrees C)
  2. Choose cuttings from hard wood areas of the plant rather than tender areas so that the stems don’t rot in water.
  3. Cut several 6-8 inch stalks using a clean (aka, disinfected with alcohol or a 10% bleach solution) and sharp pruner; cut near new growth/a root node and on an angle.
  4. Remove any existing leaves. This is because thee stalk needs to focus on developing roots, not on supporting existing areas of the plant.
  5. Place your bougainvillea cuttings in a small paper cup or glass container of water right away. Keep the cup away from direct sunlight, a small bit of filtered sunlight is ideal.
  6. Change the water every other day to keep it fresh. You will need to keep checking the water level daily and always remove debris that falls inside to reduce bacteria build-up.
  7. On the third day, add an iron solution to the water (enough that the water looks a bit red).
  8. Once you see roots developing, slowly begin to add the soil you plan to plant the bougainvillea in to the water, a small sprinkle per day.
  9. Bougainvillea hate having their roots disturbed, so when it is time to plant them fully in soil—when you see well developed roots—be very gentle.

How long will it take your bougainvillea roots to start developing? There is no hard and fast rule, but expect it to take around 14 days for roots to emerge. 

Pro tip: White nodes are good! See the image below? This is a bougainvillea stalk I’ve had in water for about 10 days. Finally, these little white nodes have started to appear. That’s when I do a happy dance! Roots will be popping out soon. 

bougainvillea root nodes forming

How to Root a Bougainvillea Cutting in Soil

taking a bougainvillea cutting

Rooting a bougainvillea cutting in soil is also fairly straightforward. All you need are some pruners, a suitable moistened growing medium and a bit of patience.

The Simplest Way to Make A New Bougainvillea Plant From A Cutting in Growing Medium:

  1. As mentioned above, the best time for bougainvillea propagation is during or after flowering, and when it’s warm out (20+ degrees C).

  2. Cut several 6-8 inch stalks using a clean and disinfected (try a 10% bleach solution, allow to dry fully after washing) pruner.

  3. Cut near existing notes and on an angle.

  4. Remove any leaves. You want the stalk to focus on developing roots, not on supporting existing areas of the plant.

  5. Treat the end of the cuttings with a rooting hormone.

  6. Place the bougainvillea cuttings in moistened growing media.

  7. Keep the pots moist and never let them dry out fully, but don’t overwater.

  8. Keep your cuttings in bright light but out of direct sunlight. Adding some bottom heat under your pots can be useful as well.

How long does it take to develop root in bougainvillea cuttings in soil?

Again, it’s hard to give you an exact timeframe, but within two weeks you should get some root development, and soon you’ll see tiny signs of new growth on the cutting. The little white dots you may see are a great sign that rooting is occurring.

Propagating bougainvillea without rooting hormone is also possible and I have done it many times myself. Simply follow the steps above, but skip number 5. The rooting will take about a week longer in this case.

I hope this has inspired you to get out there and make some new bougainvillea trees from cuttings. Be careful.. propagating bougainvillea can become addictive!

Once you have established trees, remember not to overwater them, that they despise being moved around, and that they love acidic soil.

I adore these beautiful plants and anyone who visits our house marvels at the healthy, lush flowering bougainvillea we have all around. In Canada, I keep my bougainvillea trees in pots and overwinter them inside.

Bougs give such a breezy tropical feel, wherever you are. Bougainvillea is a temperamental and sometimes sensitive little creature, but if you treat it right and follow the steps correctly, you can make a new bougainvillea tree without spending a fortune at the nursery.

Good luck and happy planting!  

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