Bougainvillea climber is a vigorous woody perennial that features abundant and spectacular flowering. This sentence says it all about this fantastic plant.
It produces flowers in a variety of colors including pink, purple, orange, red, yellow and white. It’s not actually flowers, but large, thin bracts that grow around a central cluster of true flowers that are small and white in color. Another of the qualities of this plant is that it can bloom for several months if it has the right conditions of sun and heat.
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Plant profileCommon name: Bougainvillea
Scientific name: Bougainvillea
Plant type: Climbers
Height: 3m - 8m
Spread: 3m - 8m
Season of interest: Spring, Summer
Sunlight: Full Sun
Soil: Loam, Sand
Moisture: Well drained
Garden type: Informal Garden, Patio & Container Garden
Planting type: Containers & Pots, Wall-side Borders
Bougainvillea is originally from Brazil. However, its beauty made it spread throughout the world, mainly in regions with hot climates such as the Mediterranean region.
This plant is very popular in other regions with a climate similar to the Mediterranean area such as California or some areas of Australia. It is in these areas that it grows best as the climate favors adaptation and development.
It loves full sun and prefers a southern orientation but can also be grown in a pot or as a small tree.
The name Bougainvillea has its origins in the late 18th century French naval admiral and explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville.
Bougainvillea does not tolerate frost and needs to be protected in the winter months, especially in the first years of life. In countries with severe winters it can only be grown outdoors during the summer.
By nature, bougainvillea need a lot of space to grow and can easily reach several feet in height. They are often sold trained around a stake or hoop.
If the climate is favorable, they are extremely vigorous plants and become very versatile. They can be grown as shrubs, hedges, against a wall or over arches or pergolas.
There are also small compact varieties of bougainvillea that grow to about a meter in height. They work well as shrubs or can even be grown in a hanging basket.
This plant is stunning and a very common presence in the warmest countries, climbing on the corners of houses.
How to plant and grow Bougainvillea climber
Plant bougainvillea in a location that is protected from frost in winter. Alternatively, you can grow them in a greenhouse that prevents temperatures from dropping below zero.
Bougainvilleas are not very picky about soil type. They prefer fertile, well-drained soils. Its roots do not tolerate soil with excess water.
Bougainvillea can tolerate low temperatures. Up to 2°C will be safe, but the ideal temperature during winter is between 7 and 10°C.
They will lose their leaves in these low temperature conditions between 2 and 10ºC. But in this case they should grow back when the temperature rises again.
During the winter, for safety, you can protect them with textiles suitable for plant protection.
Mulch around the plant every winter: Make sure the mulch does not remain in contact with the base of the trunk.
Pruning is essential for the success of your Bougainvillea. If you let it grow freely it will become a cluttered and possibly out of control plant.
The best time to prune bougainvillea is in late winter or early spring. During the growing season we can do maintenance pruning after each flowering flush. We should also tie the branches to their support regularly to keep their growth under control.
Since bougainvillea blooms on the growth produced the previous year, make sure you don’t remove too many stems. Start by cutting off any dead branches.
Then, reduce the branches, always cutting along the buds of the leaves. If the plant is too congested, remove entire branches by cutting close to the main stem. This will improve airflow and prevent bougainvillea diseases.
Be careful when pruning as the bougainvillea stems are thorny. The thorns are the feature that allows it to climb in its natural habitat.
Bougainvillea needs as much sun as possible. If you grow Bougainvillea in pots, these can be moved to spend the summer outdoors in the garden, in a sunny location.
During the winter they can be moved to a sheltered area which must be very bright.
We must adjust the watering and fertilization of the bougainvillea during the different phases of the year.
When temperatures start to rise in spring, we should gradually increase the watering frequency. Never allow bougainvillea roots to become soaked in water. Water only if necessary. It is better to do a less frequent good watering and let it dry a little, than to keep the roots of the plant always moist.
In summer, with warm temperatures, we can increase the frequency of watering, the bougainvillea should be growing vigorously at this time of year.
As we enter autumn, we must reduce the frequency of irrigation according to the decrease in growth and consequent decrease in water consumption.
During the winter, we should only do occasional watering if the weather is very dry. The soil should be kept only slightly moist.
Start fertilizing once a week from mid-spring to mid-autumn. Apply a nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer to encourage leaf growth.
Switch to a high-potassium fertilizer (such as tomato fertilizer) when the bracts are already developing. This will increase growth and intensify the color of the bracts.
How to plant bougainvillea in a pot
Yes, it is possible to grow these plants in pots. Bougainvilleas are usually sold in small pots. In order for them to grow well and flower, we must replant them in large pots.
The best time to do this is in spring when the danger of frost has passed. Use a good quality all-purpose potting soil.
Partially fill the container and place the plant so that the top of the compost is a few inches below the edge of the new pot. When filling around the roots, press the compost very gently. Water well so that the compost is in contact with the roots.
Place the pot in a sheltered spot for the first few weeks to allow the plant to establish. Then give it a sunny spot.