Bougainvillea or also known as the Paper Flower is a popular ornamental plant in many parts of the world. It was discovered by Louis De Bougainville in South America in 1768. It is a genus of plant belonging to the Nyctaginaceae family.
This plant is naturally a woody vine with hooked thorns but it can also be grown as a tree. The main attraction of this plant is the colourful bracts, the leaves that subtended the flowers. These are commonly mistaken as the flowers, but the flowers itself are creamy-white tubular structure surrounded by three or six bracts. The bracts come in many colours including red, purple and white. The name Paper Flower is derived from the thin and papery bracts.
Numerous varieties of Bougainvillea are available nowadays with names such as Bambino, Golden Ice, Solar Flare and Little Guy. Bougainvillea varieties are mostly produced by crossings and hybridizations among a small number of species such as Bougainvillea glabra and B. spectabilis.
Some Varieties of Bougainvillea
Variegated leaves with colourful bracts
Flowers are produced at the end of stems
The bracts change colour depending on sunlight
Variegated leaves with magenta bracts
Pink and white bracts
White bracts with green veins
A dwarf variety
Bougainvillea grows very well in the tropics where it is evergreen and flowers all year round. It is semi-deciduous and requires more attention when planted in colder climates compared to the tropics. The temperature should be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. However, Bougainvillea is also frost tolerant at temperature not less than 28 degrees. It may be a good idea to plant Bougainvillea in some form of container so that it is easier to move it indoors when it becomes very cold.
Optimal blooming can be achieved by exposing the plant to direct sunlight for at least five hours a day. Bougainvillea can also be induced to bloom by depriving it of water until the leaves wilt followed by watering the plant. Pruning can also increase blooming aside from controlling growth. In addition, the use of flowering fertilizer may also helps, but caution should be exercised because over-fertilization can result in excessive growth.
Bougainvillea should be watered daily, but make sure the soil is drained properly and remove anything that can block the flow of water because waterlogged soil can damage the roots.
Propagation can be done by root or branch cuttings, and the cuttings should be planted in shady environment. Propagation by seed is also possible; however cultivated plants rarely produced fruits.
Generally, Bougainvillea is fairly resistant to insect pests, but occasionally it might be attacked by caterpillars, aphids, and mites, among others. Use insecticide to get rid of these insects, or ask for help from experts.
Bougainvillea is suitable as hedges in gardens, partly because of its thorns that serve some security purposes. It can also be grown in container as well. When grown as a climber, it could it climb walls or trellis. In addition, Bougainvillea can be planted as ground cover. Because the branches are armed with thorns, one should be careful when maintaining this plant.