A Guide to Bougainvilleas Symbolism & Uses

A Guide to Bougainvilleas: Symbolism & Uses

Bougainvillea flowers, also called paper flowers, are known for their paper-like bracts. These are the colorful modified leaves that surround the tiny white flowers and are commonly mistaken for blooms.

Bougainvillea flowers do not only look lovely; they carry rich symbolism and a wide range of uses that make them a unique choice for gifting and decorating.

In this guide, we will discuss their origin, significance, meaning, and practical uses that add to their beauty.

How did the bougainvillea flower get its name?

How did the bougainvillea flower get its name

The bougainvillea flower was named after the French navy admiral Louis Antoine de Bougainville, who first encountered this bloom during his voyage to Rio de Janeiro in the 18th century.

What are the botanical origins of the bougainvillea flower?

What are the botanical origins of the bougainvillea flower

Bougainvillea flowers originated from South America and belong to the Bougainvillea genus of the Nyctaginaceae family, which comprises as many as 18 recognized species.

They are perennial, shrubby vines that have green and leathery foliage and can grow up to 40 feet tall. Their leaves have a papery texture, and they have tiny, white flowers that grow in clusters of three with a bract underneath. 

Bougainvillea bracts come in an array of colors, including red, pink, white, purple, and orange. 

Where do bougainvillea flowers grow?

Bougainvillea flowers easily grow in areas with warm to temperate climates and are very comfortable in coastal gardens.

Do bougainvillea flowers require a lot of maintenance?

Bougainvillea flowers are relatively low-maintenance plants. 

Just be sure to water them regularly around once or twice per week but not too much because that will result in fewer flowers. Prune them after the blooming season to keep them looking their best and encourage more blooms.

Do bougainvillea flowers need shade or sun?

The bougainvillea flower needs lots of sunlight. It’s a sun-loving plant that needs at least 6 hours of sun per day to bloom and grow at its best.

When do bougainvillea flowers bloom?

Bougainvillea flowers bloom from spring and all throughout the summer months.

What kind of soil do bougainvillea flowers prefer?

Bougainvillea flowers prefer rich, loamy, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH level ranging between 5.5 and 6.0.

When is the best time to plant bougainvillea flower seeds?

The best time to plant bougainvillea seeds is in the spring or early summer. This timeframe will allow the plant’s roots to establish themselves before the cold weather arrives.

What do bougainvillea flowers mean?

What do bougainvillea flowers mean

Bougainvillea flowers symbolize passion, beauty, and peace. Others also see them as a symbol of prosperity, protection, and spiritual connection.

They also symbolize perseverance and resilience since they can survive in challenging environments and flourish even in drought.

If someone dreams of bougainvillea flowers, it’s believed to mean that the person is about to go through a significant period of personal growth and transformation in life. This dream is associated with new beginnings, positive change, and a fresh start.

What do the colors of bougainvillea flowers mean?



Just like other white flowers, white bougainvilleas symbolize purity, humility, peace, elegance, and honesty. 

Recommended use: You can gift white bougainvillea flowers to someone you love to show that you’re thinking of them and love them. 

You may also give this flower to express admiration for someone you highly respect.



Red bougainvillea flowers represent love and passion.

Recommended use: These flowers are an excellent gift to a romantic partner. They can be an alternative to roses if you want to give your special someone something unique.

Gifting a deep red bougainvillea flower can convey how deeply in love you are with them.



Light pink flowers symbolize admiration, tenderness, confidence, fineness, and grace, while dark ones signify appreciation and thankfulness. 

Pink is also a color for lovers and can show passionate love.

Recommended use: Pink bougainvillea flowers can be a wonderful gift for Mother’s Day or a birthday. They can also be perfect gifts to someone you’re in a romantic relationship with.



Purple bougainvillea flowers symbolize aristocracy, dignity, refinement, faith, and success.

Recommended use: These flowers are an ideal choice to celebrate someone’s achievement like a graduation or promotion.



Yellow bougainvillea flowers symbolize clarity, new beginnings, and friendship.

Recommended use: These flowers are a perfect choice to gift to friends or someone to express your appreciation to them.



Orange bougainvillea flowers symbolize confidence, satisfaction, enthusiasm, desire, and a passion for life. They can also represent strong love and success.

Recommended use: Orange bougainvillea flowers are an excellent choice for celebrating a graduation or a new job and for expressing your deep affection for someone special.

What did bougainvillea flowers symbolize in various historical periods?

What did bougainvillea flowers symbolize in various historical periods
Historical PeriodSignificance and Symbolism
Victorian EraIn the Victorian era, it was believed that gifting bougainvillea to a romantic partner symbolized a desire to ignite the passion between you two.
Ancient GreeceIn Greek mythology, bougainvillea flowers were associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

Bougainvillea represented her beauty and was often used in her shrines and temples.

What are the cultural associations of bougainvillea flowers?

What are the cultural associations of bougainvillea flowers
CountrySignificance and Symbolism
AustraliaThe city of Darwin in Australia has been holding a bougainvillea festival for many years, and it’s now called the Darwin Festival.
United StatesThe bougainvillea is the state flower of Guam and is better known as the "Puti Tai Nobio" on the island, which means “It hurts to have no boyfriend.”
FijiThe island nation of Fiji celebrates a bougainvillea festival.
GrenadaBougainvillea is the national flower of Grenada. It’s featured on the national coat of arms and a lot of streets and streets have been named after it.
HawaiiThe bougainvillea flower is sometimes used in leis to welcome visitors.

What are the spiritual or religious meanings of bougainvillea flowers?

In Hinduism, bougainvillea flowers are associated with Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music, and all the creative arts. They are also frequently used in religious ceremonies like weddings.

What are the uses of bougainvillea flowers?

Bougainvillea flowers are not just beautiful. They also have practical uses when in cooking, medicine, and landscaping.

How can bougainvillea flowers be used in cooking?

How can bougainvillea flowers be used in cooking

The colorful bracts of bougainvillea are edible. Here’s how you can use bougainvillea in your kitchen:

  1. Salads: Bougainvillea flowers can be sprinkled on top of salads to add a burst of color and a delicate, subtle floral note. Their papery texture can be an interesting contrast to the crispness of salad greens.
  1. Garnish: Bougainvillea flowers can be used to decorate cakes, pastries, and other sweet creations to turn a simple dessert into a visually stunning masterpiece.

They can be used to garnish a variety of beverages, from cocktails to herbal teas. 

Their colorful petals add a visual flourish and delicate floral notes to the drinks. They can be used to decorate the rims of cocktail glasses, punches, or iced teas.

Can bougainvillea flowers be used for medicinal purposes?

Can bougainvillea flowers be used for medicinal purposes

Bougainvillea has long been used for its medicinal benefits. It has been used to treat various conditions, including cough, fever, and sore throat. 

It’s also used to treat stomach discomfort, reduce inflammation, and as an antiseptic. Aside from that, it has also been used to treat diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

How can bougainvillea flowers be used in gardening and landscaping?

How can bougainvillea flowers be used in gardening and landscaping
  1. Vibrant Hedges: Bougainvillea flowers can be used to form dense and visually arresting hedges. 

Whether lining the boundaries of your property or dividing different garden areas, bougainvillea hedges are an eye-catching and practical addition to your landscape.

  1. Graceful Archways: Bougainvillea flowers can be trained to form elegant arches and trellises to add a touch of romance and sophistication to your garden. 

When carefully pruned and guided, the vines of bougainvillea can create stunning walkways and entrances to provide shade and a burst of color.

  1. Container Gardening: Bougainvillea can be grown in large containers which makes them suitable for patios, balconies, and even indoor settings.
  1. Vertical Gardens: Bougainvillea’s climbing habit makes it an ideal choice for creating vertical gardens or green walls. 

By training the vines to grow upward on a trellis or wall, you can maximize your garden space and achieve a dramatic, cascading effect.

  1. Focal Points and Accents: Bougainvillea’s vivid and voluminous bracts make it an excellent choice for creating focal points or accents within your garden. 

Placing bougainvillea near outdoor seating areas or at the center of a garden bed can draw attention and create a dynamic focal point.