What is the meaning of the bougainvillea flower

What is the meaning of the bougainvillea flower?

Since the Victorian Era, the bougainvillea flower has meant passion and beauty evident in its bountiful vine flowers in bright red or pink colors.

It also symbolizes friendliness and is sometimes used to welcome visitors to Hawaii. It can take the place of orchids in garlands when the former has run out.

Besides beauty, passion, and amiability, the attractive evergreen vines uniquely stand for peace and free trade in other parts of the globe.

You can learn more about the bougainvilleas in this detailed guide. Here, we’ll tackle its meanings further and suitable gifting occasions, among others.

Basic Information about the Bougainvillea

Basic Information about the Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea belongs to the relatively small genus Bougainvillea. This genus comprises about 18 species of vines, shrubs, and dwarf trees of the Nyctaginaceae or simply, the four o’clock family.

It originated in different parts of South America—from Brazil in the east, Peru in the west, and Argentina in the south.

Many varieties grow thorns, but the most popular and cultivated are the ones with branched vines. These are commonly grown in gardens, greenhouses, or indoors.

Bougainvillea Plant Description

Bougainvillea Plant Description

In bougainvilleas, what you likely think of as papery, vibrant petals are actually called bracts. These are modified leaves, and in the middle of them grows tiny flowers.

Each species differ in characteristics, color, and size. For instance, the B. glabra or paperflower blooms throughout the year and is a large grower whose stem can reach a spread of 60 to 100 feet.

Speaking of stems, the large B. spectabilis develops a lot of short hairs on its stem, and its flowers last for a short time. Whereas, B. peruviana only has green hairless stems coupled with small, crinkled bracts.

The flower’s bract color varies across species too. The B. glabra is known for its magenta and purple bracts, while some like the Golden Glow bougainvillea gets lemon yellow bracts and the Mrs. Butt variety grows crimson bracts.

Bougainvillea Word Etymology

Bougainvillea Word Etymology

Bougainvillea is named after Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, a French explorer and admiral in the 18th century.

Philibert Commerson discovered the Nyctaginaceae family of shrubs and vines, including the bougainvillea flower, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He then named the said flower after his friend, Louis-Antoine.

Bougainvillea as the Official Flower

Bougainvillea as the Official Flower

Many countries, cities, and regions have chosen the sunny and beautiful bougainvillea to represent them, which goes to show that the flower is grown in many parts of the globe.

These include the US territory of Guam and the Caribbean nation of Grenada. 

Also, three out of hundreds of California cities use it as their floral symbol. These are San Clemente, Camarillo, and Laguna Niguel.

Furthermore, Malaysia and Taiwan have also adopted it as their official flower. They’re widely grown in these countries too.

Bougainvillea Flower Symbolism

Bougainvillea Flower Symbolism

As mentioned earlier, bougainvillea flowers can mean several things such as beauty, passion, peace, free trade, and welcome. 

Below, we’ll take a closer look at each one of them. This will help you understand how they obtained their particular meanings and symbolism.

A Symbol of Beauty and Passion

With fairy-tale-like vines, attractively hued bracts, and tiny white flowers, bougainvilleas have primarily been regarded as a symbol of beauty and passion.

Their bracts or modified leaves grow in a range of fascinating colors like pink, red, orange, white, and even tri-variegated ones.

Given this, bougainvilleas can add great beauty along with a pleasant, honey-citrus fragrance to your garden or indoor space.

In fact, many people decorate their porches and living rooms with these nice potted flowers, which can bloom and be appreciated throughout the year. 

And most of all, bougainvilleas are often crafted into mesmerizing bridal bouquets and table centerpieces during weddings to symbolize the wonderful and romantic relationship between the couple. Plus it has the potential to “wow” the guests!

A Symbol of Peace

This meaning probably comes from white bougainvilleas. That is since white has always been a beloved color signifying peace, elegance, modesty, honesty, and purity.

And if you have seen a display of white bougainvilleas, grand or small, you’ll understand why. They encourage elegant, dignified, and peaceful thoughts, emotions, and actions.

A Symbol of Free Trade

From South America, Europeans spread the paper-like flower to different countries through trade and commerce.

They brought it with them wherever they went—to the Caribbean countries, Africa, India, and Southeast Asia.

The flower arrived in Hawaii in 1827. They continue to grow there in leeward coastal areas where they happily get plenty of sun and shelter from the breeze.

Thus, free trade and colonial expansion are also attached to bougainvilleas.

A Symbol of Welcome

In Hawaii, bougainvilleas are regarded as a sign of welcome. It’s a cultural tradition in Hawaii to put a lei or floral garland around a visitor’s or celebrant’s neck.

The vibrant bracts can also be worn as a traditional headband called haku.

Bougainvillea Suitable Gifting Occasions

Bougainvillea Suitable Gifting Occasions

Bougainvilleas give you a ton of gift options with their colors.

  • For Dates and Anniversaries

As mentioned earlier, during the Victorian period, bougainvilleas symbolized passion. With this in mind, you can gift your partner a bouquet of these blooms on your special date or anniversary to express your love.

  • To Say, “I’m Sorry”

Because it’s also a perfect symbol of peace and forgiveness, this amazing tropical flower would also make for a sincere apology gift. If you recently had a marital spat with your spouse, they might appreciate these blooms.

  • Shop Decor

Although these climbing blossoms may not have any feng shui properties, we think these can add luck or at least a certain cheer to your shop. 

Hopefully, it promotes sales too. It’s also attributed to free trade, after all.

  • Welcoming Gift

If you’re throwing a housewarming party or welcoming a friend or relative to stay for a while, you can adorn your house, deck, or garden entrance with bougainvilleas to make them feel welcome and happy.

How to Care for Bougainvillea Flowers

How to Care for Bougainvillea Flowers

It’s not at all hard to take care of bougainvillea plants. These are the things you need to keep in mind for that.


Bougainvilleas need shaded sun for five to six hours every day. Intensely hot and bright sun can damage their blooms and hinder their normal growth.

You can keep them indoors and outdoors. If you own a small potted bougainvillea and you find that it isn’t getting ample sunlight, it would be better to transfer it outside.


Similar to its native habitat, the climbing plant loves to stay dry. As a rule of thumb, you can give it a deep watering every three to four weeks.

Excessively moist bougainvillea soil can cause it to have contagious fungal diseases and deadly root rot. So, make sure to water the plant only until it gets dry enough, and avoid splashing water on its leaves.


Ideally, the soil for this flower should be well-draining due to its lanky roots. A regular soil mixture should work fine for it.

Avoid using potting mixes with peat in them, as they tend to absorb and hold more water, making the soil too damp.


In terms of plant food, these flowering species require a lot in order to grow optimally. At best, you should use a diluted water-soluble fertilizer and apply it every once or twice a week.

If you’re using a slow-release fertilizer, you can feed your bougainvillea flower during spring and the middle of the summer.

Remember, however, to follow the instructions when doing so to ensure the plant is fed sufficiently and correctly.

Deadheading or Trimming

Most bougainvillea flowers, leaves, and branches can be trimmed and deadheaded a bit at any time of the year. But you should wait till the plant becomes dormant before performing major pruning works.


Repotting the bougainvillea must only be done during early spring or fall when they’re inactive.

Bear in mind that you can only repot the plant in early spring if its leaves haven’t sprouted yet. Otherwise, you have to wait until autumn to prevent disrupting it from naturally growing.

Repotting is similar to when planting it for the first time. For this, just get a new pot container, fill it up with healthy, well-draining soil, and secure the plant in it.


Here’s how you propagate a bougainvillea.

  1. Cut a 6 to 8-inch fragment off the mother plant. 
  2. Remove some of the leaves, and place the roots in rooting acid.
  3. Then, transfer the baby plant to a new pot filled with the right soil mix. 
  4. Cover the plant and pot with a plastic bag, and wait for the shoots and flowers to sprout.

The purpose of the plastic bag is to allow the plant to retain sufficient moisture for the growing process. You can expect the new plant to grow approximately six to eight weeks later.

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