Bougainvillea

This tropical native will need some room to grow.

Colorful Combinations

What many people think of as the blooms of bougainvillea aren't actually blooms at all. The showy paper-like structures are a modified leaf called a bract. These bracts hide the actual flowers inside, which are small and trumpet-shaped in whites and yellows. The showy bracts are typically found on new growth, with the showiest display following their winter dormancy. Normally, you'll see the best blooms following a dry winter. If you're using bougainvillea as an indoor houseplant, keep the plants mostly dry during winter.

Bougainvillea Care Must-Knows

Since bougainvilleas are tropical natives, make sure they get plenty of sun! Some varieties can handle part sun but won't perform as well as they could in full sun. In less than full sun, plants will be much more sparse and have a less spectacular flower show, if any at all. On the other hand, keeping your bougainvillea in full sun will keep your plant blooming.

If your plants are getting out of hand, pruning and maintenance are best done in the fall before a new growth cycle. You can also periodically trim rangy stems as needed throughout the year. If you haven't had a significant show of blooms recently, try giving your plant a drought period by withholding water. This can sometimes trick your plants into a dormancy period and trigger blooming. If you plant bougainvillea in the ground, make sure they have well-drained soil; they don't like to remain wet for too long.

Training Bougainvillea

When looking for a home for your bougainvillea, think about how you plan to train it. These vigorous-growing plants can quickly take over a wall or garden area, but they can be trained and maintained to fit the desired setting. Bougainvillea can also be used in containers and trained as a shrub or sprawling groundcover.

Because of bougainvillea's woody habit and vigorous growth, these plants lend themselves very well to being manipulated in various ways. The most common, especially in tropical areas where plants are hardy, is to allow these plants to climb walls and trellises. This is the simplest way to display the wonderful blooms of bougainvillea.

They can also be used in hanging baskets with minimal care. Because these plants don't have tendrils, they need some coaxing, but no training is necessary as a hanging basket plant. Bougainvillea also make fantastic topiaries. Since they're so fast-growing, it is easy to create tall topiary plants with minimal effort. On a smaller scale, bougainvillea can make stunning bonsai specimens. Creating a bougainvillea bonsai takes many years, but with relentless pruning, some unique bonsai can be made.

More Varieties of Bougainvillea

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Bougainvillea Overview

Description If you're looking for a tough tropical vine with lots of color, you've found it! Bougainvillea plants are tough as nails, which includes their nail-like thorns. These plants put on a spectacular show of color in spring on their fresh new growth. If you're thinking of planting a bougainvillea in your garden, be sure to allow plenty of room for it to spread and grow.
Genus Name Bougainvillea
Common Name Bougainvillea
Plant Type Vine
Light Sun
Height 8 to 20 feet
Width 10 to 40 feet
Flower Color Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Fall Bloom, Reblooming, Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Attracts Birds, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 11, 9
Propagation Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Drought Tolerant
02 of 05

'Barbara Karst' Bougainvillea

'Barbara Karst' Bougainvillea
Jeffrey Rycus

Bougainvillea 'Barbara Karst' is an especially popular variety with large clusters of red bracts all summer and autumn. Climbs to 40 feet.

Zones: 9-11

03 of 05

'California Gold' Bougainvillea

'California Gold' Bougainvillea
Denny Schrock

Bougainvillea 'California Gold' is one of the best-performing yellow-flowering bougainvillea varieties. It begins blooming at an early age and produces warm yellow bracts on and off through the year. It climbs to 30 feet.

Zones: 9-10

04 of 05

'Juanita Hattan' Bougainvillea

'Juanita Hattan' Bougainvillea
Denny Schrock

Bougainvillea 'Juanita Hatten' offers bold fuchsia-pink flowers in summer and green leaves dotted in gold. It climbs to 20 feet.

Zones: 9-10

05 of 05

'Sundown Orange' Bougainvillea

'Sundown Orange' Bougainvillea
Denny Schrock

Bougainvillea 'Sundown Orange' offers bracts that begin deep orange, fade to coral, and mature to salmon pink. It blooms in summer and climbs 20 feet tall.

Zones: 9-11

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