Bougainvillea is a genus of flowering plants native to South America. The name comes from Louis Antoine de Bougainville, an admiral in the French Navy who discovered the plant in Brazil in 1768.
They are thorny, woody, vines growing anywhere from 1-12 meters tall, scrambling over other plants with their hooked thorns. The thorns are tipped with a black, waxy substance. They are evergreen where rainfall occurs all year, or deciduous if there is a dry season. The leaves are alternate, simple ovate-acuminate, 4-13 cm long and 2-6 cm broad. The actual flower of the plant is small and generally white, but each cluster of three flowers is surrounded by three or six bracts with the bright colors associated with the plant, including pink, magenta, purple, red, orange, white, or yellow.
Bougainvillea are relatively pest-free plants, but may suffer from worms and aphids. The larvae of some Lepidoptera species also use them as food plants, for example the Giant Leopard Moth.
Bougainvilleas are popular ornamental plants in most areas with warm climates. Numerous cultivars and hybrids have been selected, including nearly thornless shrubs. Some Bougainvillea cultivars are sterile, and are propagated from cuttings.
Bougainvillea are rapid growing and flower all year in warm climates, especially when pinched or pruned. They grow best in moist fertile soil. Bloom cycles are typically four to six weeks. Bougainvillea grow best in very bright full sun and with frequent fertilization, but the plant requires little water to flower. As indoor houseplants in temperate regions, they can be kept small by bonsai techniques. If overwatered, Bougainvillea will not flower and may lose leaves or wilt, or even die from root decay.
Bougainvillea flowers are tiny white flowers that usually appear in clusters surrounded by colorful papery bracts, hence the name paper flower. Single and double flower forms are available. The woody trunk tends to be twisted and the thin stem have sharp thorns and dark green leaves. Bougainvilleas can be easily grown as a hedge, an arch or a tree on the ground and in pots. Bougainvilleas available in a variety of species, is ideal for bonsai.
Planting Bougainvillea may be grown from root cuttings and branch cuttings. Cuttings can propagate plants easily. Cuttings should be planted in a shady area until they form roots. The shoots, a few inches in length, can be replanted in sandy soil with bottom heat and moisture. Half-ripened or old woodcuttings in six to twelve inch lengths may be rooted April to June. Bougainvillea does best in dry conditions. They need full sunlight, warm weather and well drained soil to flower well.
Bougainvillea will thrive in almost any soil as long as it is well-drained and fertile. Soils that work for other plants you grow will be fine for your bougainvillea.
Exposure: full sun, heat tolerant
Water: moderate user but drought tolerant; may need water 1-2 times per week in hottest part of year
Soil: adaptable, okay in rocky or sandy soil, amendments beneficial but not necessary
Propagation: vegetative cuttings, very easy
Maintenance: fairly high, bract cleanup, annual pruning of frost damage, training