Landscape Plants: Bougainvillea ‘Paperflowers’
Bougainvillea are popular ornamental plants in most areas with warm climates, always bursting with colourful flowers. They tend to flower all year round in equatorial regions. Elsewhere they are seasonal with bloom cycles typically 4-6 weeks.
Having such all year flowering Bougainvillea decorating your landscape design will make your garden look so beautiful you will never be able to get rid of guests who want to stay in your nice garden.
To cultivate Bougainvillea as all year blooming plant you need to make sure that the location can give intense sunlight. Bougainvillea is a sun lover and thrives in places that are hot and relatively dry.
Bougainvillea is a genus of thorny ornamental vines, bushes, and trees with colorful flower-like bracts near its flowers.
They are native plants of South America from Brazil west to Peru and south to south Argentina (Chubut province).
Different authors accept between four to eighteen species in the genus.
The vine species grow anywhere from 1 to 12m (3 to 40ft) tall, scrambling over other plants, with their spiky thorns. They are evergreen where rainfall occurs all year, or deciduous if there is a dry season. The actual flower of the plant is small and generally white, but each cluster of three flowers is surrounded by three or six bracts with bright colors associated with the plant including the white, pink, purple, magenta, red, burgundy, orange, or yellow.
Bougainvillea glabra is sometimes referred to as “paper flower” because the bracts are thin and papery, shimmering in bright sunshine. The fruit is a narrow five-lobed achene.
The first European to describe these plants was Philibert Commercon, a botanist accompanying French Navy admiral and explorer Louis Antonie de Bouganville during his voyage of circumnavigation and first published for him by Antoine Laurent de Jessieu in 1789. It possible that the first European to observe the plants (actually discovering them) was Jeanne Bare, Commercon’s lover and assistant who was an expert in botany, because she was not allowed on ship as a woman, she disguised as a man in order to make the journey (and thus became the first woman to circumnavigate the world).
Originally, B. Spectabilis and B. glabra were hardly differentiated until mid 1980s, when botanists recognized them as totally distinct species. In 19th century, these two species were first introduced into Europe and nurseries in France and England did a thriving trade providing specimens to Australia and other faraway countries. Kew Gardens distributed plants it had propagated to British colonies throughout the world. Nigeria is one of the places where it was so introduced. Soon after, there was the discovery of a crimson specimen in Cartagena, Colombia by a Mrs. R.B Butt. Originally thought to be a distinct species, it was named in her honor as B. buttiana. However it was later discovered to be a natural hybrid of a variety of B. glabra and possibly B. Peruviana – a “local pink bougainvillea” from Peru.
Natural hybrids were soon found to be common occurrences all over the world. For instance around 1930, when the three species were grown together, many hybrid crosses were created almost spontaneously in East Africa, India, Canary Island, Australia, North America and the Philippines. Many of today’s bougainvilleas are the result of interbreeding among only three out of the eighteen South American species recognized by botanists. Currently, there are over three hundred bougainvillea varieties around the world. Because many of the hybrids have been crossed several generations, it is difficult to identify their respective origins. Natural mutations seem to occur spontaneously throughout the world, wherever large numbers of plant are being produced, bud-sports will occur. This has led to multiple names for the same cultivar (or variety) and has led to confusion over the names of bougainvillea cultivars.
Cultivation and uses
In landscape it makes an excellent hot season plant, and its drought tolerance makes it ideal for warm climates year round. That is why in harsh dry harmattan season, it’s one of the few plants bursting and shimmering with colorful flowers.
Its high salt tolerance makes it a natural choice for color in coastal regions. If you are in a colder, wetter zone, you can still grow bougainvillea if you plant it in a pot and bring it indoors, so it’s not exposed to cold temperatures. Bougainvilleas do best when night temperature don’t drop below 60 F (16 C) and daytime don’t exceed 100 F (38 C)
It can be pruned into a standard, but is also grown along fence lines, on walls, in containers and hanging baskets, as an hedge, accent plant, or a rooftop and porch Its long arching thorny branches bear heart shaped leaves and masses of papery bracts in white, pink, purple, magneta, red, orange and yellow, many cultivars including double-flowered, variegated and double color on one plant, are available.
Bougainvillea grows best in dry soil in very bright sun with frequent fertilization. Choose a place with rich, well-drained soil.
Bougainvillea won’t do well in soil that retains too much water. So make sure the soil drains well. They need rich soil that is slightly acidic, with pH between 5.5 and 6.0
Add limestone to the soil to increase the pH or sulfur to decrease the pH as necessary.
If you are planting the bougainvillea in a pot, choose a soil mix with the appropriate pH level. If you are planting in a container, choose one with plenty drainage holes, since bougainvillea hate to have “wet feet”.
Water sparingly, bougainvillea plants, weaken with too much watering, ending up with all leaf growth in place of flowers.
Water enough to keep soil damp; but they require little water once established, and infact, will not flourish if over-watered.
Bougainvillea is easily propagated via tip cuttings.
Fertilizers: Be sure to fertilize with fertilizer high in phosphate at least once a year, at the beginning of raining season to help the season’s growth get underway. Don’t fertilize too frequently as it can cause the plant to grow quite vigorously so if its getting too large, cut back on fertilizer.
Pruning: bougainvillea plants are prolific growers and need good pruning to force blooming and retain a pretty shape.
Wear gloves and sleeze protectors when pruning bougainvillea. The sap of the Bougainvillea can cause serious skin rashes with some people similar to that from poison ivy (toxicodendron species).
Train the bougainvillea
Bougainvillea plants need support to cover a wall, fence, or other area. If you like the plant to grow in a certain vertical spot, you can hang rows of wire or string against the surface that you want covered. Tuck the bougainvillea branches behind theses guidance supports at regular intervals. Keep a close eye on growth and adjust as necessary until the bougainvillea starts covering the wall or other surface.
Bougainvillea is a very attractive species for Bonsai enthusiasts, due to their ease of training and their radiant flowering. They can be kept as indoor plants in temperate regions and kept small by bonsai techniques.
Bongainvillea are relatively pest free plants, but many suffer from worms, snails and aphids. The larvae of some Lepidoptera species also use them as food plants for example the giant leopard moth (Hypercompe Scribonia).
Avoid over watering, this can prevent flowering and at the worst can cause rot, decay and destruction of the plant.
Things you will need
Fertilizer high in phosphate.
The maintenance of these flowers will never make you dizzy. Its striking effect and unparallel beauty can be generated when these “paper flowers” reflect the sun light. It’s easy to see why they are a favorite all year flowering plant.