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Beautiful Bougainvillea

Beautiful Bougainvillea

The riotously lurid Bougainvillea in all it’s colour forms says, no, yells extravagance!

Think tropical gardens, think Bougainvillea. Think colour, Bougies are your answer.

Today we have many forms to choose from, no longer being tied to old three colour mongrel forms bearing huge scimitar thorns that rip you into little pieces. Breeders have developed more modest growth forms and an array of colours numbering in the hundreds.

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Take the Red Dragon series with cascading forms like ‘White Cascade’, ‘Purple’ and ‘Lilac Cascade’, the stunning two toned ‘Zinnibar’ that displays terracotta brick red bracts fading to watermelon or the tiny ‘Tom Thumb’ and ‘Little Guy’ which grow to only one metre.

You can source almost any colour to match your paint scheme and in a range of suitable heights.


Modern Bougainvillea come in several height ranges, the true dwarf (‘Temple Fire’ with magenta bracts, Little guy’ with purple, ‘Solar Flare’ gold and ‘Tom Thumb’ lilac), the series growing to 3m (‘Scarlet Glory’, ‘Elizabeth’, ‘Rosenka’ etc etc) and larger to 6m (‘Gloucester Royal’, ‘Californian Gold’,  ‘Badgens Beauty’).

Way too many to list here!

Then there are the variegated forms providing contrasting foliage to bract colour.

All that being said about the vivid colours, Bougainvillea comes in some exquisitely delicate colours like the white suffused with pink  ‘Sakura’ or ‘Chitra’ that has unusual white, blotched pink bracts.


Bougainvillea are fast growing and flower on new growth. They will respond to warm weather and rainfall and put on lots of growth but don’t count on flowers (the tiny white/cream flowers are surrounded by the modified leaves called ‘bracts’). Modern Bougainvillea flower almost continuously; prune often to achieve bushy plants then let them put on growth on which the bracts form. Don’t be afraid to prune hard after flowering! 

Fertilise with a general fertiliser high in potash (K) for colour intensity.

Mites can affect growth; you will first notice crinkling of leaves and smaller fresh growth. These little pests are hard to see but easy to control. The best way is to use natural methods, spraying with wettable sulphur at the first sign of attack.  Mix to a paste then add water to achieve the required volume and spray all over, especially the underside of leaves. Chemical products are also available. You can also apply horticultural oil that suffocates the blighters. Healthy plants come from good growing conditions and healthy plants are better able to resist pests and diseases.

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Not content with your garden variety of Bougy? Try shaping to suit your flight of fancy.

Bougainvillea look great clipped hard against a fence or shaped into box hedges. Think vase forms on a sculptured reo bar arrangement or trained above a pergola. These are such adaptable plants!

Some of the best examples are seen growing in planter pots and clipped to millimetre precision.

Now, back to the thorns… no, there are no Bougainvillea without thorns! It’s in the plants DNA, the method evolved for climbing and part of the floral structure. The modern forms have much smaller thorns so it’s not the issue it once was. Select the right variety, clip frequently and the issue evaporates…