Growing a Bougainvillea from Seeds
Planting bougainvillea seeds is sure way to add a vibrant splash of color to the home or garden. These tropical favorites are relatively easy to maintain. They can thrive for many years, becoming even more beautiful with age.
The greatest challenge in propagating bougainvilleas from seed is acquiring viable seed. Bougainvilleas grow and thrive across the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Yet it is difficult to establish and maintain the optimal conditions necessary for bougainvilleas to lay seed. Look for large, well-established plants as a source of seed. It is commonly believed only the species is propagated by the seed, and the hybrid bougainvilleas are sterile. The plants grown from seed may vary markedly from the parent plant in appearance. Check for the colorful bracts that surround the flowers. Watch for the bracts to dry. They take about a month to ripen. Inside the bract are three pods, each containing a seed. The seeds should be plump, and are usually brown. Gently remove the seed from the pod. Fresh seed will be released easily from the “hairs” holding it, older seed may be held a bit more tightly in the pods.
Preparing to Grow
The requirements for bougainvillea seed growth are quite similar to those of the mature plant. Bougainvilleas demand well draining soil. Any quality potting soil will suffice as a growing medium as long as it drains well and is slightly acidic. Select a container that does not narrow at the top. The roots of bougainvilleas and delicate, when the time comes for transplanting, the bougainvillea needs to be able to slide easily out of the old container. The pot does not need to be deep, but should hold enough of the growing medium to make frequent watering unnecessary. The seeds will need a good light source. A sunny windowsill or porch can do. If growing lights are to be used, make sure the light shines directly on the seeds. Ensure the heat from the lights is not too great. Bougainvillea seeds will enjoy some bottom warmth from a grow mat or appliance, but check to see they do not cook. If the surface is more than just slightly warm, relocate the container or raise it onto a baking rack or low feet. Adjust the light source as needed.
Planting the Seed
Sow the bougainvillea seeds on the surface of the soil, then gently “rake them in” to a depth not more than 2 to 3 times the thickness of the seeds. Water the seeds lightly.
One easy method for providing moisture without disturbing the seed is to plant in a shallow container that is 2 to 3 inches deep. Place the container in a larger tray filled with water. Leave the container to wick up the water until the soil is moistened. Then remove the planted container and allow it to drain thoroughly. Water again only when the soil is completely dry.
The bougainvillea seeds may show some early signs of growth. Be patient, though. Not all seeds will germinate at the same rate, even from the same parent plant. Seeds may take up to thirty days, but the results are worth the wait.