Displaying prolific blooms in an array of colors, Bougainvillea is easily spotted all around the Bay Area. A member of the four o’clock family, it’s characterized by its tropical colored paper-like bracts. Growing into a shrub or trailing vine dependent on pruning, it makes a great fence cover, trellis climber or hedge. They can be a little fussy when transplanting but are well worth the effort! Here are our tips for a healthy and blooming bougie!
In 1768 when Admiral Louis de Bougainvillea began his long journey to the Pacific Ocean and discovered the vine that now bears his name, it was the botanical highlight of the voyage.
Through the ensuring years, this Brazilian beauty has assumed its rightful place as one of the most popular, spectacular and beautiful tropical plants. The modern day hybrids of Bougainvillea spectabilis (B. Brasiliensis) and B. glabra are among the most beautiful of flowering vines.
Bougainvillea can be grown in the Bay Area however, because they are semi-topical there are some guidelines prospective bougainvillea buyers should be aware of:
Where frost is expected, vines should be given a protected, warm wall or the warmest spot in the garden. If you can get your bougainvillea through the first couple of winters it will become established and more able to take some frost damage and still recover.
Bougainvillea roots don’t knit the soil together into a firm rootball in the container and are highly sensitive to disturbances. Transplanting, rough handling or knocking the rootball around can fatally injure the plant. To minimize disturbance when planting, cut out the bottom of the container and slit the sides from an inch below the top of the can to the bottom. After you have planted the vine, carefully pull the container up and out of the soil then water your bougainvillea in, with confidence.
Supply sturdy support such as a trellis, stake or arbor and keep long shoots tied up so they won’t whip in the wind or shred leaves against the sharp thorns along the stems. Protect from high winds.
These vines are heavy feeders and respond best to almost constant feeding with ½ strength water soluble fertilizer, e.g. Master Nursery Bud & Bloom 10-52-8. If you prefer a granular fertilizer, Master Nursery Rose & Flower 5-10-5 would be a good choice. With plentiful sunlight and constant feeding, these plants will bloom almost 10 months of the year.
These plants flower best under stress. Keep the plant slightly on the dry side, and allow the plant to become root bound.
Bougainvilleas are almost totally insect free. The occasional aphid can be hosed off with water.
GROWING IN CONTAINERS
Plants do best in large (18-24”) clay containers if grown outdoors (clay containers tend to stay drier, thus stressing the plant) or in large hanging baskets. The 10” basket is the commercial standard, but plants will do much better in 12” hanging baskets. Place the containers in full sun, or in a place where they will receive at least ½ day of full sun.
If your Bougainvillea is not blooming, it probably if not receiving enough sun or fertilizer. These plants thrive in the topics in areas of low rainfall and intense sun and heat. Any well-drained potting soil mix is suitable for growing Bougainvillea, we recommend Master Nursery Potting Mix. To each “5 gallon size” pot add ¼ cup of Osmocote slow release fertilizer. For 10-12” hanging baskets use 2 tablespoons.
Click here for the printer-friendly copy of our Bougainvillea care sheet.