Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > July 2014 > BEAUTIFUL PAPERY-FLOWERED BOUGAINVILLEA


One of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen was at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania.  It was my first visit there, about 25 years ago, and I walked into one of the huge conservatories and looked up.  The glass ceiling was covered with pink bougainvillea, the sunlight flickering through the few spaces not filled with this glorious color.  Bougainvillea had been planted at the base of the pillars supporting the roof, and arching branches from each plant met and merged into this lovely pink dome.  On my next visit, I was sorry to see that the bougainvillea was gone, but the new display was wonderful, as are all of Longwood’s displays.

This woody vine from Brazil is named for the 18th century French explorer and scientist Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, who discovered the plant on his voyage to the Pacific Ocean.  It is a popular landscape plant in climates such as south Florida; but for us, it is a summer patio plant or, with enough sun, a houseplant.  Bougainvillea glabra and B. spectabilis, as well as their many cultivars, are the most commonly grown, and all have showy, brightly colored papery bracts (leaves that color up like those of the Poinsettia) surrounding tiny tubular white flowers.  Varietal colors include reds, pinks, salmon, peach, white, golden yellow, lavender, and fuchsia. 

Like many flowering plants, bougainvillea bloom best when pot-bound.  They also perform best when slightly stressed, so allow the soil to dry moderately, even to a slight droop stage.  Be sure to check the soil before watering—bougainvillea droop in the heat of mid-day, and may not be dry.  These plants also require regular fertilizing and lots and lots of sun.  Keep the vines pruned back to 1-2 feet in length, as hard pruning after flowering is the quickest way to bring them back into bloom.  When handling, watch out for the long spines which help the plant to climb.

Bougainvillea (boo-gan-vil-lee-a) will usually drop its flowers, and likely most of its leaves, when making the change from patio to interior space or with the shorter days of winter.  Placed in a sunny window, it will slowly leaf out again, and, with enough sun, go back into bloom.  Grow it in a hanging basket, on a trellis, or trained as a standard.  Bougainvillea is also a popular bonsai subject.  Thanks, Louis!  

Posted: 7/2/2014 by Margot | with 1 comment(s)
Filed under: TheGreatIndoors
<3 bougainvillea! what colors do you have available currently @ GBG?
7/2/2014 7:21:54 PM

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