Bougainvillea is a tropical vine known for having bright colorful flowers. This versatile vine is quite a climber and can be used as a groundcover as well as in a hanging basket, on a trellis or even on a wall. The vine can grow from one foot to more than 40 feet tall and comes in a variety of colors including pink, magenta, purple, red, orange, white or yellow. There are up to 18 different species and the flower is native to South America and was classified in Brazil, by a French Botanist named Philibert Commerçon. Commerçon named it after a French naval admiral and explorer, Louis Antoine de Bougainville, who Commerçon was traveling with on a voyage.
I first remember seeing this plant in Florida and was attracted to it because of its bright colors. If you actually look at the plant, the flower is the small white blossom that is trumpet-shaped. It is found in a cluster of three and surrounded by the bright colorful bracts. The bright colorful bracts are almost like crepe paper. The vine part of the plant is woody and has thorns. The thorns are tipped with a black, waxy substance. Bougainvillea plants are evergreen where rainfall occurs all year, or deciduous if there is a dry season. The plant blooms from spring to fall.
Bougainvillea is considered an ornamental plant and is quite popular in warmer climates. The plant is frost sensitive. It needs to be in temperatures that remain above 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night and can withstand daytime temperatures higher than 100 degrees. The hardiness zones on this plant are zones 9 – 11. There are some varieties that can survive up to hardiness zone 8 as long as you use a thick layer of mulch in the winter. In this hardiness zone, the plant may die in the winter, but usually survives and will re-grow in the spring. This plant can also be grown indoors. Bougainvillea plants are fairly pest-free although there can be an issue with worms, aphids, and moths.
When first planting a bougainvillea it will benefit from regular watering to develop its root system. After the plant has established it is drought-tolerant and can withstand dry periods and summer heat. Do not overwater this plant once it is established as that will cause the plant to not flower and can also rot or destroy the plant's roots. The plant loves the sun and will have a better floral display if planted in full sun (4-5 hours a day). If planted in partial or full shade, the plant will grow but the flowering of this vine will be minimal.
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