Bougainvilleas – So Bright & Bold
Did you know that the Bougainvillea shrub is named after the French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville who discovered this bright plant during his voyages in South America in 1768. Excerpt: One of the few plants making a splash at this time of the year are the beautiful Boungainvillea cultivars! From white to pale orange, bright pinks and deep magentas, many vibrant ones are available these days. In this blog, we learn more about growing these cheerful climbing Boungainvilleas, so bright and bold.
Interesting, the brightly coloured ‘petals’ are not petals of the flower at all, but instead are bracts that surround the inconspicuous little white-tipped flower inside! These bracts are what attracted old Louis to bring this plant back to Europe, and there are now more than 300 different coloured varieties available!
At Cape Contours Landscape Design, we often include them in our garden designs, especially useful for screening a wall or making a splash of colour through an inside window. They really are so bright and bold and they are hugely popular as ornamental plants. Great in pots too with a simple V-shaped trellis for support. They can add splashes of colour in areas where there is a lot of paving or not much other garden interest.
Bougainvilleas are in fact a thorny, climbing vine, and so ideally need cables, trellis or a pergola to scramble up. They hook themselves onto their own branches and the support with their long thorns and scramble quite quickly. The top of the vine can get quite heavy if it has outgrown its support trellis. In fact, your Bougainvillea can be heavily pruned back after the colourful bracts have all dropped.
The fallen bracts are beautiful when they dry and turn paler colours. These paler-coloured bracts look absolutely lovely when you add them into potpourri or use them as natural confetti at a wedding.
Boungainvillea ‘Magnifica’ is a pretty pink with dependable, evergreen leaves
Growing Bougainvillea is relatively easy, although they sometimes stubbornly refuse to flower once you get them home from the nursery! Ensure you plant yours in free draining soil and in full sun. Do not overwater them! This is the key to helping them flower. Overwatering causes a lot of bushy green leaf growth and very little flowering of the bracts.
They also like crowded roots, and it’s been suggested that you leave them in the plant pots and simply make a few holes in the sides and bottoms to allow the roots to grow through. This apparently also helps promote flowering.
Stunning variegated leaves of Bougainvillea Dauphine and its bright red flowers
Once your Bougainvillea has stopped producing its cheerfully coloured flowers, it is time for pruning. In fact, pruning them back hard after flowering will encourage new growth and flowering. Remove any suckers that have sprouted from the base of the plant during pruning to eliminate competition for nutrients. Fertilising in summer can be done at the same time as the rest of the garden on a 6-weekly basis.
Bougainvillea ‘Lilac Queen’ makes a great addition to a blue and purple colour scheme.
There are a lot of beautiful cultivars available here in the Cape at our retail and wholesale plant nurseries. Here is a short list of some of the cultivars you can find.
- ‘Bougainvillea ‘Brilliance’
- ‘Crimson Jewel’
- ‘David Lemmer’
- ‘Golden McLean’
- ‘Lilac Queen’,
- ‘Red Glory’
- ‘Temple Fire’
- ‘Vera Blakeman’