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Bougainvillea often Misunderstood.

Updated on March 7, 2011
Bougainvillea glabra
Bougainvillea glabra | Source

An often misunderstood plant

The bougainvillea plant, a vine and evergreen, has such a great appeal to it. It can be planted in many areas. Gardeners enjoy this versatile plant on hillsides, patios, on a trellis or an arbor. People even use it to secure their homes.

Most designers and homeowners love the plant for its vibrant colors and the fact that it can be planted in so many zones. Plant in zones 5-6, 12-17, 19,21 and 22-24. If you do not have a SunsetGarden book get one. The zones come from this great publication. This plant can be misunderstood though. Many plant it in hot zones and expect it to survive without water. Uneducated gardeners would plant the bougainvillea in a hot area and not water it since it is drought tolerant. The plant must have water.

The plant originated in Brazil and was discovered by a French Admiral named Bougainvillea. So it does need water. The bougainvillea thrives in humid tropical zones but does survive in the arid desert. Desert climates though like Vegas do get cold. One landscaping company out here in Vegas lost 300 five gallon plants in 2008 and had to replace them. So the plant does not survive all hot areas.

The bougainvillea comes in numerous varieties. It features the following colors: gold, red, pink, yellow, lavender, white, and orange to name a few. The bougainvillea comes in single and double flowers.

Care and planting

The plant loves heat and direct full sun. Do not plant in the frost zones. The only way to plant in a frost zone is If you keep it in a container and bring it in during the winter. It can survive in this manner. If you hate getting stuck by thorns, do not plant this plant. In addition, Some people are actually allergic to its thorns. This plant will also attract many bees because of its numerous blooms.

Plant the bougainvillea in the spring after the first frost in good fertile soil. This evergreen plant enjoys plenty of water when first planted in the early spring until it blooms. Taper the water off when it does bloom. Make sure when transplanting the plant that you do not damage the root ball. Any damage could kill the plant. Support the vine with a stake or trellis. Fertilize the plant in the early spring and again once it starts blooming. Overwater and the plant will not bloom. The bougainvillea, is not a very good plant for pools because of the flowers shed and can be messy. The plant can be shaped and pruned.

Where to Plant

On hillsides certain varieties like Raspberry Ice bubble up on hills forming mounds. This variety has golden yellow leaves with red flowers. It does not need support. When grown on hillsides it becomes a focal point and can be grown in groups of three or single mounds. This plant does well in containers or from hanging baskets to accent a porch or patio. Most varieties of bougainvillea are like the San Diego Red, and need support like a trellis arbor for their trailing vines to cling to. Place this hardy climber on a wall and with its staunch thorns will keep any intruder at bay. One idea would be to plant the bougainvillea along a fence line alternating the bougainvillea with other shrubs using the plant as an accent plant.


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    • s.carver profile image

      s.carver 7 years ago from San Francisco

      These are one of my favorites!