Bougainvillea Won’t Bloom

July 15, 2008 | By | Comments (23)

Q: My bougainvillea vine was blooming when I bought it and has grown like a weed.  Someone told me not to water it too much so I’ve withheld water–still no blooms.  What kind of fertilizer should I use?  It gets some shade.

A: Will you feel better if I tell you that lots of people have the very same problem? No? OK, here are some suggestions.

1. Plant in full sun. The more sun your plant gets, the more blooms you’ll get. Bougainvillea will not bloom in shade.

2. Don’t water. This vine is well-adapted to arid climates where there are defined wet and dry seasons.

3. Go easy on nitrogen fertilizer or you’ll get all leaves and no blooms. Try feeding it once a month in summer with a tablespoon of Epsom salts dissolved in a gallon of water.

4. To get blooms, the vine needs to go dormant between September and February. Absolutely do not feed or water during this time.

5. Vines tend to bloom at times when nights are longer than days or the day-length is decreasing. Some selections are more day-length sensitive than others.

Good luck,


  1. Kelly

    Thanks Steve- I am going to try this method and follow it to a T!

    September 4, 2012 at 12:58 pm
  2. Steve Bender

    Here is a link that may help you:

    September 4, 2012 at 10:49 am
  3. Kelly

    I have almost zero plant/flower experience. I am currently living where bougainvilleas are big and beautiful. I will be moving back to the US (zone 4- freezing cold winters) and would like to take a few cuttings with me for sentimental reasons. i have poured over website after website online looking on how to grow cuttings. I have tried growing about 30 different cuttings and ALL have died. I did have success with about 1 plant in every cutting group (about 12 cutting each time) but they die soon after small buds open into leaves. Do you know what I’m doing wrong? I plant in a well draining medium, each cutting is roughly 6-8″ long, the top 2-3 leaves are left on, all others pruned off, pots with holes are put into giant ziploc bags and turned into mini hothouses that I open each night for oxygen. I did take some winter cuttings due to the time I have to move back to the US. Any/all suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

    September 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm
  4. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    The best thing to do right now is locate the points where the kudzu is attached to your bougainvillea and cut through the kudzu stems there. That will kill the kudzu from the cuts up. Repeat this as necessary. Once you get the kudzu off of the bougainvillea, spray the remaining kudzu according to label directions with Roundup.

    June 10, 2012 at 4:12 pm
  5. Jennifer

    I have a beautiful bouganvillea but kudzu has taken it over. How can I kill it without hurting my plant. It is a quite large bouganvillea probably 15-20 feet in diameter and 10 feet tall so trying to pull the vine off is useless. Thank you,

    June 9, 2012 at 11:18 am
  6. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Tara, if it doesn’t grow any leaves at all, it’s dead. Dig it up.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:12 pm
  7. tara

    I have had my bougainvillea for about 5 years, its planted in full sun, and I never water it. It only gets rain but I can’t control that. We planted it in the ground but kept the roots potted and just cut out the bottom of the pot we bought it in. It has never bloomed since we bought it, and doesn’t get green leaves. It just looks as if I am growing thorny vines. There are a bunch of bougainvilleas in my neighborhood and they look beautiful. Why won’t mine grow? It looks horrible and my husband wants to rip it up, but I still have hope we can fix it. Any advise?

    March 26, 2012 at 11:52 am
  8. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Don’t give up hope. Bougainvillea thrives in naturally arid places and actually blooms better when it has distinct wet and dry seasons. Scratch the bark of branches in question to see if there is any green underneath. If not, prune off those branches. Then water the vines. Hopefully, they’ll recover.

    September 3, 2011 at 7:00 am
  9. Susan

    we have a vacation home in Palm Desert. After being gone all summer, found sprinklers had not been working. Some vines look dead, brittle. Do I prune off the dead branches or wait to see if they regenerate?

    September 2, 2011 at 8:29 pm
  10. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Bougainvillea does not bloom year-round. It goes through a rest period after a heavy bloom. That doesn’t mean anything is wrong with it. Follow the directions above and you should see blooms again.

    June 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm
  11. Lilibeth

    OK. I bought my plant in march and was blooming.. i transfered it to a bigger pot and place it in full sun…not too much water and fertilize,..but still no bloom after the first ones when I bought it…Dont know what to do!!!help

    June 12, 2011 at 11:49 pm
  12. golf course fertilizer programs

    Bougainvillea blooms every May because during this time, the climate is hot. And the more it blooms when we apply fertilizer on it.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:34 am
  13. Dave Thomas

    My bouganvillia in a pot is
    blooming but the bracts are
    all green can anyone help please.

    April 24, 2010 at 4:11 am
  14. philippines flower

    Thanks for guiding me through this very informative blog.I find it good entries that would walk me through. Great post.

    February 25, 2010 at 12:10 am
  15. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    That’s possible, I guess. Unless some other condition has changed around it that I don’t know about, my advice is simple — treat it the way you did when it bloomed satisfactorily. Weather conditions may have played a role too, but since you can’t control them, there’s no point in worrying about that.

    January 18, 2010 at 8:44 am
  16. julie mcgowan

    my bougainvillea has always bloomed for the last 10 years but not this summer. I have never watered it. Could it be because I cut it back last winter?

    January 14, 2010 at 2:39 am
  17. vergie

    My husband gets ours to bloom by NOT letting me water. He withholds water until the leaves are wilted and it only gets water in between from rain. He does use miracle grow, also.

    September 10, 2008 at 9:40 am
  18. Grumpy

    Phyllis, as I said at the top of the page, lots of people have bougainvilleas that won’t bloom, so you have plenty of company. I think your plant may be getting too much water — weekly watering is too much. See if you can cut down on the water and then follow the other suggestions above. Grumpy

    August 23, 2008 at 9:17 am
  19. Phyllis Liles

    I read about the bougavillia tree not blooming and neither will mine. The leaves are green and beautiful. I have not fertilized, but it does get watered from the yard sprinkler once a week. It is growing like crazy. When should it be trimmed back and how radical? Also how do you make it go dorment?? It bloomed the first two years beautifully! What am I doing wrong? Please help me. Thank you, Phyllis

    August 21, 2008 at 7:40 pm
  20. Grumpy Gardener

    I see you are following direction #1. So far, so good. But you also need to follow directions #2-5 (see above). One of those directions tells you not to water plants in the ground. If they’re in pots, let the soil go dry between waterings. They won’t do well if you keep them wet all the time. Grumpy

    August 7, 2008 at 5:36 pm
  21. Carol

    I bought 4 bouganvillea plants in June. They are in full sun all day. I water them to keep the soil moist and fertilize but they do not bloom. One of these is a tree with the same results. Help?

    August 7, 2008 at 11:22 am
  22. Grumpy

    It just goes to show that, just like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, if you buy something and bring it home, you can name it anything you want. The Maryland mockorange was the true one, Philadelphus coronarius, a deciduous shrub with fragrant white flowers. The Florida version, Japanese pittosporum, is not the same plant by any stretch of imagination. Some bozo just decided to call it that because “pittosporum” sounds like a fungus and labeling it “mockorange” sells more plants. Grumpy

    July 28, 2008 at 8:44 pm
  23. ernie saxberg

    i lived in md. had a mock orange. now i live in florida and have a mock orange [pittsoporim] how do they do that,plant was from monrovia nursary…..the one in md. was not a pittsoporim

    July 28, 2008 at 1:55 pm

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