Bougainvillea soil

I recently acquired a small bougainvillea. Based on what is available online, it sounds like they prefer an acidic soil. Does anybody have any recommended mixtures for how best to grow these in the bay area? Right now I have been using 1:1:1 mixes of lava:pumice:akadama for most of my non-bougainvillea trees and 100% kanuma for my azaleas. This seems to be working well, but I’m not sure whether either of these would be great for bougainvilleas. Would you recommend adding kanuma to the soil mix? What about simply using my normal soil mix and adding azalea fertilizer? Or do people have any other recommendations? There are a couple places that mention Turface. Does anybody have experience using this in their soil mix?

Additionally, the weather here doesn’t seem great since it’s probably a little too cold during winter for these trees. Does anybody have recommendations on how to manage this? Would you bring them indoors during the winter? Or just let them stay outside year round and have them suffer a bit until it warms up?
“Soil should be acidic – this can be accomplished by adding in some azalea fertilizer.”

“One of the nursery workers told me that the most important thing is good drainage, and that a cactus/succulent soil would work well. Others have told me to use a more acidic soil like one for Azaleas. I’ve also seen people use a mix of standard potting soil and pearlite or volcanic rock.”

“I use a soil mix of 1/3 Lava Rock, 1/3 Turface, 1/3 sifted pine bark”
“A good soil blend is 50% potting mix with 25% small lava rock and 25% Turface.”

Thank you! Looking forward to hearing people’s thoughts.

I’ve seen them do well in 1:1:1 APL mixes so I know it’s a good option but I haven’t tried growing bougainvillea as bonsai so I don’t have direct experience with it.

As for winter care, they’re typically fine outdoors in anything save a good freeze. If you want to keep them looking better in winter, a greenhouse or sheltered patio is a good option.

The proper pH for bougainvilleas is 5.5 to 6.0 . The soil I use 1:1:1


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I’m from Miami Florida where bougainvillea is our azaelia. The most spectacular specimens I have ever seen, albeit not grown as bonsai, were actually even further south in the middle keys. These trees grew is super high light conditions and were all placed where the ground beneath them was white pea rock. Not in their pots per se, but there to reflect back up to the plants maximum light. THEY LOVE FULL SUN. I had a beauty that I rescued from a parking lot build out that I eventually killed with TOO MUCH WATERING. The lesson here is this is a tree that actually prefers a certain amount of neglect. You can kill them with kindness.
Honestly, I don’t suppose you’re going to have much luck in the bay area as it’s too cool and probably not sunny enough. I would suggest a fairly dry soil mix. Almost like what you’d use for succulents. And put them where they’ll get maximum sunlight all day if possible. Good luck. They are indeed beautiful bloomers. Did you know that it’s actually the leaves just below a tiny flower that give them their spectacular colors?

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