Bougainvillea also known as Buganvilla, Bugambillia or Bougenville is an evergreen climber that blooms summer to autumn. It can grow between 3′ to 40′. They are relatively pest-free but have spikes and thorns.
It grows well outside in milder climates, in colder climates, it can grow in a greenhouse or in the house as potted plants. Bougainvillea is native to Eastern South America, Brazil, Peru, Argentina. It is part of the Nyctaginaceae family of plants.
Bougainvillea is deciduous in dryer climates and evergreen in rainy climates. The leaves are simple ovate and alternate. The flowers are very small and white but what is attractive is the colorful bracts that surround the tiny flowers.
Discovery and history of Bougainvillea:
Bougainvillea was first published by Philibert Commerçon (1727-1773) a French naturalist who among other things accompanied Louis Antoine de Bougainville on his voyage of circumnavigation during 1766-69. He created a botanical garden in his home city of Châtillon-les-Dombes. Later he moved to Paris and joined Bougainville in his voyage.
He traveled with his partner and nurse and botanist, Jeanne Baré who had to disguise herself as a man since women were not allowed on the voyage. In fact, it is believed that this plant was first observed by his partner. She is also known to be the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. On the return, he remained in Mauritius where he also died at age 45.
However, Bougainvillea was published twenty years later by Antoine Laurent de Jussieu (1748-1836) a French Botanist, in his Genera Plantarum.
However, it was not until the 1980s when Bougainvillea spectabilis and Bougainvillea glabra were differentiated as distinct species. And later a crimson species from Colombia was added as Bougainvillea buttiana. This plant is one of the species that seems to have a number of natural hybrids.
Bougainvillea flowers all year round in equatorial climates. but are seasonal in colder climates. Bougainvilleas grow well in dry soil with little water when they are established. Bougainvilleas like full sun and frequent fertilization.
Bougainvillea needs some sort of support indoors small pot trellises or outside a fence, trellis, or a tree. It is best to prune them after flowering in winter or early spring. You can cut branches halfway back after bracts are done to encourage more flowers. It responds well to hard pruning.
How to grow Bougainvillea outdoors in temperate zones:
If you live in a temperate zone then you can grow them outside. You see them in many gardens in places like Southern California. They make a wonderful display of colors on fences and walls. In colder climates grow them indoors. They do require a lot of light. Grow them in the sun. When planting, be careful not to disturb the roots. Bougainvillea tolerates poor soil. Plant them in well-drained soil. Fertilize them regularly. After they are established they do not require too much water.
Propagate Bougainvillea by semi-ripe cuttings in the summer, they usually root in about 4 weeks or hardwood cuttings in the winter. Also, propagation is possible through layering in late winter or early spring. Bougainvillea is disease-free, but watch out for whitefly, mealybug, aphids, and red spider mite. If Bougainvillea is not flowering, prune established plants and expose them to a cooler temperature to encourage flowering.