Bouganivillea (Bougainvillea spp.) is a large, vigorous climber with vibrant flowers and thorny stems. Some species can climb more than 5m high, but there are also dwarf and compact forms such as ‘Raspberry Ice’ (which has red flowers and variegated leaves) and the Bambino Series that are easily maintained in small gardens or in containers. Check with your hardware or garden centre for varieties that suit your location.
Bougainvillea is native to South America but grown throughout the world. Plants flower for much of the year in warm climates but are summer to autumn flowering in cooler zones where they may also be deciduous.
The flowers are long-lived and are made up of a small non-descript white flower surrounded by colourful and papery bracts. Bougainvillea flowers can be red, pink, white, purple, orange or yellow. As well as stunning flower colour, there are also varieties with variegated foliage in shades or green and cream that give interest in the garden when not in colour.
They can be trained to grow against a wall, over an arch or across a pergola, but require yearly pruning to keep them under control. They can also be trained as standards or hedges. It is unwise to let bougainvilleas invade trees as they are very difficult to maintain.
Aspect Bougainvilleas need a bright, warm, sunny location with protection from strong winds when they are young. They will grow in part-shade but their flowers will be smaller and their leaves larger.
Plants are frost tender and need protection in frost-prone areas – for example grow against a warm north-facing masonry wall. In cold areas they may be deciduous (lose their leaves).
Soil These plants grow in a wide range of soils with reliable moisture but good drainage. Before planting add home-made compost and organic matter and/or Seasol Super Compost to the soil. The dwarf varieties of grown in large containers with a Premium potting mix such as Seasol Advanced Potting Mix.
Climate Although bougainvilleas are native to the subtropics, they tolerate all but the coldest climates and do very well in both coastal and inland zones. Check “Aspect” above for tips on growing bougainvilleas in a cooler climates.