Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea flowers

Colourful evergreen tropical climbers, often seen blooming everywhere in sunny foreign holiday resorts. Although much too tender to grow outside in the UK, they make excellent indoor plants for a frost-free conservatory.

Family: Nyctaginaceae (four o'clock family)
Botanical Name: Bougainvillea (boo-gan-vil-lee-a)
Common Name: Paper flower

Foliage: Semi-evergreen, simple ovate glossy leaves.

Flowers: The colour doesn't come from the tiny white flowers but from the leafy bracts that surround them. Borne over a long period, these vibrantly colourful bracts often cover most of the plant in summer.

Flowering Period: Summer into autumn.

Soil: Free draining, loam based compost.

Conditions: Bright but indirect sunlight. Grow in a south facing aspect, in a sheltered position.

Habit: Bushy, climber.

Type: Tender perennial.

Origin: South America.

Hardiness: Tender in the UK - protect from frost and cold weather.

Planting and Growing Bougainvillea

These tropical plants with thrive in well-drained fertile loam, so long as they are kept in bright (but not direct) sunlight for most of the day. Ideally they should be grown in sunny, humid conservatories or greenhouses, where conditions mimic their native subtropical habitat. If left to grow undisturbed they can become quite large providing a dramatic impact when in full bloom.

Bougainvillea can also be grown in large containers and placed outside on a sunny sheltered patio in summer. Make sure you take them back inside to over-winter in a bright cool area. The ambient temperature needs to be kept above 10°C . Lower temperatures can be fatal.

These plants can be difficult to grow and very expensive to buy, so make you have the right conditions to grow them before purchasing.

Taking Care of Bougainvillea

Water when necessary in summer, allowing the top few inches of soil to dry out between watering. Water that has been allowed to stand at room temperature for 24 hours is best. Water sparingly in winter and once dormant, keep on the dry side until they come back into growth. Ensure the compost has good drainage at all times and never allow the roots to become waterlogged. Repot or top-dress in spring.

Note: This climber is semi-evergreen, so it will naturally lose some of its leaves in winter.

To improve flowering, apply an all-purpose flowering plant food (slightly higher in phosphorus and potassium) every few weeks during the growing season, or use a slow release form.

Pruning

Deadhead regularly to extend the flowering period.

Give established plans a trim in early spring, by cutting back the lateral spurs.

Pests and Diseases

Generally disease free. Can be affected by whitefly, mealybug, aphid and red spider mite.

Propagating Bougainvillea

Take heel cuttings in summer and root in a propagator in a well drained loam.

Popular Varieties of Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea x buttiana (hybrid) is one of the most common forms in cultivation. Available in a range of colours, usually in shades of white, pink, red or purple. Cultivars include: 'Apple Blossom' white bracts tinged with pink, and 'Brilliance' in several shades of red.

Bougainvillea glabra is an evergreen form with thorny stems. The bracts are usually purple or sometimes pink.

Bougainvillea peruviana (Peru Buganvilla) has simple evergreen oval leaves. The bracts are usually magenta-rose or purple.

Bougainvillea spectabilis produces dense spiny growth and hairy leaves. The bracts are usually pink or red. Cultivar 'Vera Deep Purple' (PBR) has rich purple flowering bracts. For sale at Crocus.