Bougainvillea

By Justyn Taylor

Tags: bougainvillea, bract, caring tips, climbers, coastal gardens, flowers, pruning, summer flowering plants, tropical plants

Botanical name: Bougainvillea

Common names: Bougainvillea

A little bit about Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea are scrambling shrubs that can become vigorous climbers. They’re known for their intensely coloured flowers which are actually a modified coloured leaf called a bract. A ring of bracts surrounds the tiny white tubular flowers clustering in the centre. While originally from South America you will come across Bougainvillea in Southern Europe (hello Greek Islands), South East Asia, India and the Pacific.

The petals of the Bougainvillea flower look like delicate paper in varied blazing shades of pink, red, orange, white, burgundy and purple. You’ll see the best flowering from spring and throughout the summer months. They are an evergreen plant in warm climates but deciduous in areas where there is a cold winter.

The ideal position for Bougainvillea

If unsupported, these plants will remain low or behave as ground covers, while if given support they will climb vigorously. There are now dwarf varieties (Bambino varieties) available that are great for pots or low hedges.

Bougainvillea are used in many ways including climbing on fences, walls and pergolas with brilliant pops of colour. When planting as a hedge or standard feature plant, they need regular pruning to retain the desired shape.

Bougainvillea is also a great option for coastal gardens.

Potential height: they can grow from 1 metre to 12 metres high.

Ensure to position Bougainvillea in full sun. The more sun the better and will even thrive in hot afternoon sun.

Bougainvilleas can be planted in the garden but keep in mind that they have a large root system. When planting in pots, use a potting mix for shrubs and go for a larger sized pot so that it will last you longer as roots will fill it out quickly. If you would like a smaller potted plant go with a Bambino variety and a smaller pot to ensure soil doesn’t remain wet. Bougainvilleas need good drainage as the roots will rot in constantly moist soil.

Caring tips

Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen. Bougainvillea prefer tough love so little feeding and watering is required once established. This ‘neglect’ is the best way to get the plant producing amazing flowers.

Bougainvillea only need occasional watering during winter months but regular watering during warmer months is beneficial to keep the roots cool.

To assist brighten the coloured bracts you can feed your plant with a phosphorous and potassium fertiliser in early spring before flowering.

Despite their blasé attitude toward watering and feeding, Bougainvillea are not for lazy gardeners either. If left completely unattended they will become a difficult to control mess. The best time to prune is in autumn, to clean off old flowers. You can also selectively prune to control growth during the flowering period by trimming back long water shoots as soon as you notice them about to take off. These water shoots tend to be very thorny and produce only a few flowers.

Pests and diseases to watch out for

There’s not too many pests to worry about with Bougainvillea. They can get aphids when putting on new fleshy growth so if you spot them try to spray off with the hose or give a light spray of pyrethrum on the infestation.

A bacterial leaf spot can also form in wet conditions but can be prevented by keeping foliage dry.

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Justyn Taylor

Justyn Taylor