Bougainvillea 101

Bougainvillea is one of my favorite plants. They are drought tolerant and bloom almost all year round. The best part is that you can find bougainvillea in numerous colors of the spectrum from white to orange to pink to purple and red. 

While technically bougainvilleas are vines, they are self-supporting, meaning they can grow vertically without the support of a fence or trellis. Although, a trellis gives them a great structure to form them and let them rest. 

There are so many things to like about bougainvillea: its color, its low-maintenance other than leaf clean-up and optional hedging, and its versatility. This beauty has it all. It can pump up a tropical garden or a desert-scape depending on what its companion plants are! Additionally, it’s pretty evergreen, so you don’t have to worry about it looking pretty only a few weeks a year. And it grows in zones 9b to 11, perfect for tempered weather. 

This beautiful beast originally from Brazil and surrounding areas loves heat and sun, which means it needs at least 6 hours of light a day and does well with hot south-facing heat. If you live in a colder place, no need to worry; you can try planting it near a warm wall and it can thrive. The less sun it gets the leggier or more spaced out it will grow. 

It’s primarily an outdoor plant, but you could make it work indoors with full sun via a window and proper care. However, this is not very common.

Outdoors, bougainvillea can grow up to 30 feet tall, depending on the species most I see are between 10-15’. The shrub versions tend to grow in a mound 3-6’ tall and wide depending on the variety. 

This plant is extremely drought tolerant but does best with occasional watering. The way to do it is to make sure to give it a good soak and let it dry out. Also, make sure it has good drainage. You can keep the soil a little moist during spring, summer, and autumn, but make sure to leave it slightly dry during winter when it is cooler to avoid root rot.

Watch out for spider mites, scale aphids, whitefly, snails & slugs, and leafminers, as these are the most common pests. And oh yeah, the thorns. Because you know what they say, there is no rose without thorns!

Additionally, a fun fact about bougainvillea is that what carries the color in these are not the flower themselves but the bracts —or “false flowers”—, which can come in a wide variety of colors. This is great for designers like myself to play around with different hues in the garden.  The actual flowers are tiny and white 🙂 

Some of my favorite bougainvillea colors are the following:

Miami Pink bougainvillea (bright pink).

Miami Pink

Cran grow up to 20-30 feet

Orange Ice bougainvillea (light orange).

Rainbow gold

Will grow up to 15 feet tall

Mary Palmer's Enchantment bougainvillea (white).

Mary Palmer’s Enchantment

Will grow to be about 20 feet tall

Rainbow Gold bougainvillea (pink with a touch or orange).

Orange Ice

Will grow to 2-4 feet tall

Royal Purple bougainvillea (deep purple).

Royal Purple

Grows 6-15 feet high

California Gold bougainvillea (bright yellow).

California Gold

Can grow between 15-30 feet tall

Imperial Thai Delight bougainvillea (white with a touch of pink)

Imperial Thai Delight

Will grow to about 16 feet tall

San Diego Red bougainvillea (bright red).

San Diego Red

Will grow between 15-30 feet tall

Orange King bougainvillea (bright orange).

Orange King

Will grow up to 15-30 feet tall

James Walker bougainvillea (fuscia).

James Walker

It could grow up to 30 feet tall

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