The Bold and the Beautiful Bougainvillea

Like the show, the bold and the beautiful bougainvillea is larger than life. It makes a statement wherever it grows - in a pot, as ground cover, or as a vigorous climber. It's a riot of colour that can transform your garden into a tropical paradise. That is, if you plant it in full sun in a hot climate - in well-drained soil.

But if you live in a cold climate, don't expect a bougainvillea to flourish. They struggle to survive in chilly climates.

Where it began

The journey of bougainvillea to our gardens began with its discovery almost 300 years ago in South America by a French botanist accompanying the explorer, Louis Antoine de Bougainville. The plant was named in honour of that intrepid explorer.

Bougainvillea is actually a vine, from the Nyctaginaceae plant family. Nyctaginaceae is pronounced niktajinaysa for those who'd like to know.

It grew from Brazil and west to Peru, and south to Southern Argentina. Now it grows in warm climate gardens around the world, where its vibrant finery takes pride of place.

Interesting facts

Bougainvilleas flower all year, but you'd be forgiven if you thought the flowers are the coloured parts. The flowers are actually small and white, in clusters of three.

The coloured parts are called bracts, and they have a paper-like texture. The bracts are pink, purple, red, magenta, orange, white and yellow and each cluster of flowers has three or six surrounding bracts.

Bougainvillea and your garden

Where would you like a showy, riot of colour climbing up a fence or a wall? Think Bougainvillea. How about some colourful ground cover. Think Bougainvillea. Perhaps a couple of pots with statement plants to give pops of colour. That's right. Think Bougainvillea.

Once you've planted your showy bougainvillea, water it well until it's established, avoiding the bracts and flowers. From then on, give it a deep watering every three to four weeks, avoiding shallow watering.

If you plant your bougainvillea in pots, choose pots that drain well. Bougainvilleas hate to have wet feet.

A word of caution

Bougainvilleas may look stunning and draw constant attention and admiration, but they have an arsenal of very nasty thorns. In fact, unlike thorns on roses, Bougainvillea's thorns seem to hide from view - and they contain a mildly toxic sap that can cause skin irritation. So be very careful to check for thorns when you touch or prune the plants.

Bougainvillea feeding tip

Bougainvilleas love acidic soil and nitrogen. Coffee grounds provide super nutrients, with nitrogen being one of them. This makes the soil more acidic and helps the flowers to thrive. So don't toss your coffee grounds in the bin. Put them around the base of your bougainvillea and watch it reward you with masses more flowers.

Bold and beautiful

So if your warm climate garden could do with a big, bold splash of colour, go for a big bold bougainvillea.

Find out how your garden could bloom.

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