Botanical name:  Bougainvillea spp

Common name:  Bougainvillea, Paper Flower

Bougainvillea, with all their dazzlingly colourful  billows of flowers are typical of the South American countries they stem from – think samba, carnivals, ladies in sequined costumes – you simply cannot ignore a bougainvillea!

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Not only are these vigorous climbers strikingly beautiful, they are also low maintenance and drought resistant and come in many varieties and colours to suit most needs. Bougainvillea can be trained up a trellis or gazebo or they can be left to scramble over a wall or cover an embankment, while the dwarf varieties will make a bold statement in a pot, tub or even a large hanging basket.  They can be grown as shapely bonsai and, because of their thorny nature, bougainvillea also make excellent, dense security screens and hedges.

Bougainvillea Fast Facts

Plant type: Climber

Planting: Full sun

Season: Evergreen

Hardiness: Semi-Hardy

Drought tolerance: High

Size: Depends on variety. Please refer to plant label

Growth rate: Fast

Growth Habit: Climbing and spreading

Flowers: Small white or cream flowers surrounded by colourful, papery bracts.

Flowering Season: Most of the year in several flowering cycles.

Fruit: Insignificant

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Plant your bougainvillea in full sun in a rich, loamy, well-draining soil.  If you are planting more than one plant, space them about 1.5m apart. Add a generous amount of compost to the soil when planting and spread a layer of compost as mulch around the plant. Top up throughout the year as needed.

Choose your planting site carefully as bougainvillea don’t like any root disturbance and don’t transplant very well.

Tall-growing varieties need to be trained up a trellis, wall or arbour.  They are strong, vigorous growers and the branches need to be securely tied with strong ties to the support of your choice.

Lower-growing varieties can be left as free-form shrubs and groundcovers or shaped into hedges and borders.

If you choose to grow your bougainvillea in containers, one of the dwarf varieties would be preferable.  Choose a suitable container that is large enough and make sure it has sufficient drainage holes. These plants will need to be watered more regularly than those in the open ground.

Water the newly planted climber regularly until established. Once settled, water your bougainvillea deeply every 3 weeks, instead of regular superficial watering. Monitor the need to water closely during the rainy season. Over-watering will result in a lot of new foliage, but no flowers.

Prune and shape your bougainvillea during late winter when they are not in flower and prune lightly again after each flowering cycle by removing spent flowers. Remove all water shoots from the base of the plant as they appear. Be careful when pruning to avoid injury from the rather robust thorns along the stems.

After pruning, feed the plants with an organic 5:1:5 or 8:1:5 fertiliser.  In mid-spring and every 2-3 months until mid-autumn, feed with an organic 3:1:5 to promote abundant flowering. Plants in containers should be fertilised once a month throughout their growth season.

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