For sheer garden drama, plant one of our favorites in a border, against a wall, or even in a pot on the patio
Bold bougainvilleas brighten summer gardens, patios and rooftops
By Fareeha Qayoom
f you are looking for a blaze of color in the summer months for your garden, one plant that comes immediately to mind is Bougainvillea. In full bloom, it is the peacock of the plant world and impossible to ignore. It’s one of the most versatile and show stopping plants available today.
They can be grown as a hanging basket plant, bonsai, tree, hedge, potted plant, individual landscape accent or on a trellis. The trick is getting them to stay in bloom for maximum impact. Bougainvilleas will flower nearly all year round in our climate. The right backdrop can help show off bougainvilleas’ vivid hues to the best advantage.
Bougainvilleas are named after the Frenchman Admiral Louis de Bougainville (1729-1811), who brought these tropical beauties back to France from their native Brazil. Modern-day hybrids of the species Bougainvillea Spectabilis and Bougainvillea Glabra produce masses of exotic blooms in a spectrum of fiery colors, from the traditional magenta to the purple and the true red, through to the gentler lilac shades to the lipstick pink to the surprising gold, yellow and orange to the brilliant white. The flowers themselves do not provide the color – they are tiny, almost insignificant, creamy yellow trumpets tucked inside the flamboyant leaf bracts.
The bracts’ tissue paper-like quality has led to the bougainvillea being commonly known as the paper flower. They grow on lengthy clambering boughs that are heavily armed with ferocious spines. The prices range from PKR 1200 at 14 inches to PKR 30,000 for imported varieties. Local varieties are available for PKR 200 or less. (Source: Nishat Nursery, Main Boulevard, Gulberg, Lahore.)
HOW TO GROW THEM
While they are vigorous evergreen climbing vines, bougainvilleas can also be grown in a fan shape, as a bush or even in hanging baskets, and they offer color that lasts for months. As temperatures fall, they become dormant and require warmth to awaken them. To keep them compact and in good shape, they need to be pruned after each flush of flowers. Although fairly hungry plants, bougainvilleas often produce a better strength of color when under stress – in slightly dry conditions or where root growth is restricted. For this reason they do well in terracotta pots, which tend to remain drier, and can be moved inside for the winter. However, copious amounts of bright sunlight are essential to ensure a prolonged show of colorful bracts. At least a half day’s sun is necessary for potted plants. Although they are both heat and drought tolerant, it’s not a good idea to let potted specimens dry out too much.
Bougainvillea may be grown from root cuttings and branch cuttings. Cuttings can propagate plants easily. Bougainvillea does best in dry conditions. They need full sunlight, light, warm weather and well drained soil to flower well.
There is no particular time that bougainvilleas need to be pruned, but the best recommendation is once it has finished flowering. They are a vigorous plant and can be cut back at any time. The more they are pruned the more new growth will be encouraged to shoot, and it is from this new growth that the new flowers will develop.
How to Keep Bougainvilleas Flowering
Bougainvilleas sport day-glow shades of red, purple and pink, white, yellow and orange, irresistible embellishments to any landscape. Some varieties feature eye-catching white-variegated leaves.
If your bougainvillea plant is a new purchase and you are transplanting it, cut off all the blooms so your plant can concentrate on its plant growth and adjustment instead of producing flowers.
Be prepared for your new plant to drop all its blooms or even appear totally dead. Water well and it will come back into life and full bloom in 4-6 weeks’ time.
Plan your planting for an area which receives at least five hours of direct sunlight a day. More is better. Less will result in little to no flowers at all.
Properly soil preparation is crucial, especially with a plant such as bougainvillea which is a heavy eater. Prepare the soil by plowing or tilling the soil and fertilize prior to planting. Proper soil preparation provides the basis for good root germination.
Bougainvillea requires lots of water. Keep them moist at all times.
Use a timed release fertilizer that is rich in phosphorus once your plants are established. Be sure it also contains iron and magnesium.
Keep spent blooms and dead branches snipped off.
Keep pests in check. Aphids, caterpillars and mites are common enemies of bougainvillea.
This article was originally published in print edition of Valuemag, issue 5, September 2008
Editor’s note: A funny story about this article – Aarzoo was assigned to do this story on Gardens originally – she couldn’t come up with a single viable angle for issue 5- finally, she gave up on the day of her deadline and told me she had nothing to report, so because as a managing editor it was my responsibility to deliver the magazine on time, I came up with the idea of this story in five minutes flat – sent my ace photographer over to the nearest garden nursery to check on current prices, looked through our archives of photos, got him to take some fresh photos of a few neighborhoods with this particular flower and voila – a story was born! All the technical info in the article – I pulled from specialized gardening websites available on the net – all photographed, write-up signed and delivered in one hour flat from start to finish. No one (readers or management) could tell later that this was a stop-gap arrangement and not an originally planned story! 😀 One of my finest ‘rabbit from hat’ moments…