How to propagate bougainvillea – 2 expert methods to try

Fallen for this vibrantly colored climber? Check out these ways to create new vines without expense

Bougainvillea growing over wall
(Image credit: George Rose/Getty Images)

Bougainvilleas are such impactful and exotic vines that it’s no wonder you might want to propagate an existing plant, or that of a friend or neighbor. Even where winters are too severe for them, the possibility of container planting makes them a desirable choice.

The colorful climbing plants are evergreen and flower prolifically and once established they are not difficult to look after providing you get in the know about bougainvillea care and growing. And if enjoying these stars of the garden makes you want to make more, you can.

In this guide, we detail the two ways you could propagate bougainvillea to create extra plants with advice from gardening professionals. 

2 ways to propagate bougainvillea

orange flowering bougainvillea vine

(Image credit: Clive Nichols/Getty Images)

Taking plant cuttings is one of the methods by which you can propagate bougainvillea. ‘Cuttings, either semi-ripe cuttings or hardwood cuttings, are the more common way to propagate the plants,’ says H&G’s gardening expert Drew Swainston. ‘These can take several months to root, though you can speed up the process by providing a good amount of heat to the roots.’

The second method? Layering – an alternative you could try if you’re prepared to wait a little while. These are the details on both ways to propagate bougainvillea.

Drew Swainston
Drew Swainston

Drew qualified as a journalist before studying for a horticulture qualification, after which he worked as a professional gardener for several years, specializing in kitchen gardening. He’s now bringing his expertise and passion to Homes & Gardens as a member of our team.

Propagate bougainvillea by taking cuttings

Taking semi-ripe cuttings can be the most straightforward way to propagate bougainvillea. Doing so from your own plant is complication-free or you might be able to ask a friend or good neighbor if you can take cuttings from their vine if you have fallen for its charms. Take a cutting in summer and follow these steps. 

  1. Wearing gloves to avoid the vine’s thorns and using sharp, clean pruning shears, take a 4 to 6 inch cutting from a stem that’s hard at the bottom but has a soft tip. Put into a plastic bag.
  2. Prepare the cutting by first removing any side shoots.
  3. Cut away a thin piece of bark around ½ inch long on one side of the stem at its base to make a wound. This helps rooting.
  4. Remove lowest leaves and soft tips. Around four or five leaves should remain at the top of the stem.
  5. Dip the cut end of the stem into rooting hormone powder. Tap off excess.
  6. Insert into potting mix and water. Keep in a heated propagator or put a plastic bag over the top for a greenhouse effect and place somewhere warm and light but not in direct sunlight. Keep soil damp.
  7. Cuttings may take four to six weeks to root – or longer. Wait for a few leaves to develop and new growth, then remove from the propagator or take off the bag. Harden off for two or three weeks before planting.

When you use this method of propagation for a bougainvillea, be mindful that it’s worth taking several cuttings to increase the chances of success.

Propagate bougainvillea by layering

Layering is an alternative way to create new bougainvilleas from a plant already thriving in your yard. It’s a technique you should use in spring. This is what to do from garden writer Graham Rice.

  1. Identify the tip of a branch growing near soil level.
  2. Around 6 to 9 inches from the tip, clear weeds, if there are any, or any mulch where the shoot touches the ground.
  3. Remove soil until the lower part of the shoot touches the soil about 1 inch deep. Cover with soil and firm with your hand
  4. Place a large stone or brick over the buried shoot.
  5. Wait until fall when the shoot will have roots and there should be new growth at the tip.
  6. Follow the shoot from the tip back to just past the rooting point. Snip off. Dig up the rooted part and plant in the location selected for the new bougainvillea.


Can you grow bougainvillea from seeds?

It is possible to grow bougainvillea from seeds, although using cuttings is the more frequent propagation method. You’ll need to hunt for the seed pods on a mature plant in the fall. Bear in mind that the true flowers of a bougainvillea are small and white and the color comes from its bracts – locate the seed pods inside the flowers. Collect the pods and dry them. The seeds from the pods can be germinated in seed compost. They’ll need the warmth of a heated propagator or to be kept in plastic bags, and they may take a while to do so.

Bougainvillea make for impactful climbers and you may want to add an extra to your yard. ‘The main benefit of propagating bougainvillea through cuttings is money saving,’ says H&G’s Drew Swainston. ‘This represents a cheaper option of getting more plants than buying them from the garden center. While it can be a temperamental and longer way to get new plants, not only do you save money but you can also have the immense satisfaction of knowing that you propagated your own bougainvillea.’

For more bougainvillea information, see our guide on why is my bougainvillea not flowering.

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.