Bougainvilleas: the ultimate splash of summer colour

Through all the hail and dry weather my Bougainvilleas at home still have so many flowers that I cannot even see the leaves. Though I have to admit that I really don’t feed them as often as I should.  Bougainvilleas are one of those plants that continue to amaze me year after year, with their masses of flowers, toughness, and adaptability to harsh conditions. However, before I share a few simple tips on growing Bougainvilleas, here is one of my favourite plant fun-facts:

Believing it is a flower?

Bougainvilleas Flower

The tiny white flower is, in fact, the “true” flower

What we tend to think of as Bougainvillea flowers, are actually a modified leaf or colour bract. The true flowers are the small white parts inside these bracts. The colour of the bracts helps to attract pollinators to the true flowers. It is curious that it is not the flowers but the modified leaves that provide the abundance of colour we associate with Bougainvilleas.  Now let’s have a look at what your Bougainvillea will need to flourish…

Where to keep your Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea Hecker

There’s more than one way to paint a wall…

Bougainvilleas originate from the Americas. There they are found in areas ranging from arid to tropical.  Here on the Highveld, it is best to protect them somewhat until they are established. This will enable them to be more resilient to frost damage. Even if they do get hit by frost, just give them a pruning in spring and they will flourish again.

  • Try to keep your Bougainvillea in as much sun as possible. The more sun they receive, the more they will flower.
  • Bougainvilleas are perfect to plant up against a sunny perimeter wall or fence. The wall will help shelter your “Boug” from the elements until it toughens up while acting as an intruder deterrent with its sharp thorns.  Erecting a trellis will help your Bougainvillea climb faster.
  • Bougainvilleas are ideal in pots where you can trim them to create a more compact look or allow them to meander to their heart’s content. An advantage of growing Bougainvilleas in containers is that you can move them out of the cold during winter or into areas with more sun during the warmer months.

Taking care of Bougainvilleas

Bougainvilleas Hecker

Bougainvillea make excellent bonsai that flower readily

To me, Bougainvilleas are virtually maintenance free once they are established. However, be wary of overwatering them once established, as this can also affect flowering.  Here are some simple tips for getting the most from your Bougainvillea:

  • Water them thoroughly while allowing the soil to dry out in between watering sessions. Never water Bougainvillea if the soil is wet or moist.
  • Bougainvillea growers recommend stressing your Bougainvillea to get the best out of them with regards to flowering. As we get closer to summer water them less than you normally would.  This will result in superior flowering.
  • Feeding Bougainvillea regularly with a fertiliser for flowering plants will also promote better blooms.
  • Only prune them after flowering, as pruning before flowering can result in losing your flowers for the year.

Now that you know how easy it is to grow, add a splash of intense colour to your garden with beautiful Bougainvilleas.  Whether you keep them in pots, in the garden, or even as a Bonsai you will find it is one of those plants that delight you with masses of colour, year after year.

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