The Bold Brash and Beautiful Bougainvillea
How to grow Bougainvillea
One of the most stunning plants you can grow is the Bougainvillea. This fast growing plant can transform your garden from blah to wow in just a few months.
Here in our home in Brazil, we have many Bougainvillea growing. Some of these were here when we bought our home, others we have bought from garden centers and yet others were given to us.
Here in the tropics of Brazil, they thrive but that doesn't mean you have to move to enjoy this stunning plant. There are many varieties available which can be grown in pots and moved indoors if you live in an area where frost and cold winters are a problem.
During the morning, the butterflies, hummingbirds and other nectar loving birds and insects flock towards the Bougainvillea. It is worth mentioning, the colored part is not the flower. This is a bract which is a modified leaf. It lures the pollinators in to the tiny flower that the butterfly above has his proboscis in.
If you live in an area where the temperature doesn't drop below freezing, you may be able to grow bougainvillea. Even if your temperatures do drop, with adequate protection, you may still be able to grow some varieties.They are a hardy plant.
If you use a planter, these can be over-wintered inside in a heated conservatory or similar place.
The pruning you will be doing on this plant is determined by how you want them to grow. I have seen hedges that are made from Bougainvillea, round bushes and walls and fences covered with it.. It makes a brilliant display of color.
We are training ours to cover our barbed wire fence. They are wonderful plants to have as a coverage. They are either thick with dark green foliage or covered in beautiful flowers.
If you are trying to create a shape, or make it climb, you will need something for it to go up. A wall with a trellis attached is ideal. In the video below, you will see the woman in Santa Barbara has trained hers to climb over her garage. This requires tying to keep it in place. Be careful when doing this as Bougainvillea has thorns.They are also an excellent choice as a barrier or security fencing because of this. So when it comes time to prune, you will want to wear gauntlet style gardening gloves if you are going to be cutting it back hard, or tying into place.
Another tip, trim off all dead flowers or any nibbled leaves. Do this regularly to keep your plant at its best.
If you find the base is beginning to look sparse, pinch off leaves near the top with your fingers., this will encourage growth lower down the stalk.
History of Bougainvillea
I love knowing the history of plants. Plants that are not native to where we live often have an interesting history and the Bougainvillea is no exception.
It is believed that the plant was discovered by a Frenchwoman named Jeanne Baré . She arrived in Brazil, where she collected the specimen and is believed to be the first European to have seen it. She was only there because her lover, a French botanist by the name of Philibert Commerçon, cunningly brought her aboard the ship Étoile dressed as a man. Her lover suffered from a leg wound and much of the collecting of samples had to be completed by Miss Baré. Because of this voyage she was also the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.
So where did the name Bougainvillea come from? The captain of the ship was named Louis Antoine de Bougainvillea. ¹
Propagating bougainvillea is quite straightforward. I have included a video below that explains which part you should cut to get the best chance of rooting. There is also a powder which I have used as well to assist in the rapid development of the roots.
Once the plant has sufficient roots, I transplant it to a bag and I personally wait until the plant is at least 18" to plant into the ground. I have rambunctious dogs who don't seem to care about my flowers.
We have sandy soil where we live and the plants do well. For maximum flowering, allow the plant to dry out between watering. They perform best when they are stressed. We have had no problems with disease and only occasionally get caterpillars eating the leaves. We choose not to spray but manually remove those we see. The birds, wasps, spiders, and lizards get the rest.
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