If you thought that Bougainvillea were a climbing plant, you could be right, however they are also grown as standards as well as being used in bonsai. So they are versatile plants. They do require a warm climate, and are most widely grown in Florida, Texas, New Mexico, California Hawaii and Arizona with only a little interest further north.
In Florida they are a bit of a signature plant, grown on walls and trellises, looking a little more like trees than a climbing plant in the climate. Brilliant flowers and great green foliage they add color at every turn.
Grown for the masses of colorful flowers from fall through winter, Bougainvillea are a vigorous plant, fairly easy to grow once established and great for covering a wall or pergola in the right position.
In containers a standardised Bougainvillea works well, climbing types can also be grown this way, however look for the smaller growing cultivars for a more satisfactory outcome.
Bougainvillea are frost sensitive and this makes gardeners in cooler zones shy away.
You may not be able to grow the large plants that you see in the south, however the newer cultivars are smaller and easier to care for, you can even grow them hanging baskets.
Bougainvillea need sun to flower, and this is what makes them difficult to flower well in cooler climates. They will grow indoors, however in winter, they usually do not get enough sun to break them out of vegetative growth into the flowering cycle.
Even in the warmer climates the flowering period will differ, Bougainvillea will flower best in spring and in fall, they will flower in winter, but more prolific in the other two seasons.
- A well drained soil is essential, Bougainvillea have very fine hair like roots and these will rot in wet soils.
- They are also heavy feeders, and require regular applications of a balanced fertilizer from spring through to fall, this is especially true of container grown plants.
- Coastal conditions are not much of a problem, Bougainvillea are very salt tolerant.
You can both tip prune (pinch back) and hard prune Bougainvillea. In the warmer climates you can do this at any time of the year.
They do flower on new growth, so taking 1/3 to 2/3 off the plant will not hurt it.
With three species B. spectabilis, B.glabra and B.peruviana it is really the hybrids that we see offered for sale by nurseries today.