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Bougs in vogue! A gardener’s guide to the bright and beautiful Bougainvillea

Bougs in vogue! A gardener’s guide to the bright and beautiful Bougainvillea

Once considered a bit old school, the vivid and vivacious bougainvillea is making a massive comeback – and for good reason!

Drought tolerant, easy-going, and available in a huge number of vibrant
varieties, bougainvilleas are one of the most forgiving flowering plants out there. With the right placement, pruning and precautions, you’ll be well on your way to brilliant blooming bougs!

A sunny disposition! The best place to plant bougs

The key to a drop-dead gorgeous bougainvillea babe is all about getting the right amount of sunlight. Bougs are sun-loving plants which thrive in super sunlit locations. In fact, they are one of the few flowering plants that will thrive in all day sunshine. Search your garden for spots that have full sun (at least 6 hours a day) and plant your bougs there. The more sunlight they get, the more beautiful blooms they will produce. 

Not only can Bougainvilleas handle the heat – they perform super well under stress. They really dig dry conditions and will actually thrive from a bit of neglect once established. Bougs will pump out loads of blooms throughout the year providing they are placed in a warm sunny spot and can soak up the sunshine. Bougs will grow well in most Australian climates and are especially successful in tropical areas. They prefer a frost free climate but can bounce back from lighter frosts.

Soiling the deal! What soil is best for bougs? 

Before you put your boug babes into the dirt, you need to check if your soil is good to grow! Bougainvilleas need open, crumbly soil that’s not too acidic and not too alkaline. Bougs are happiest with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5 (which is slightly acidic). You can read more about correcting your soil's pH level here.

Bougs also don’t like their roots sitting in water for too long, so you want a free draining soil! Silty or loamy soils work best as they retain enough water to keep your bougs moist but not so much that it’ll drown their roots. You can dig deeper into soil types and how to correct them here.

From pot to trellis! With bougs, the sky’s the limit

Bougainvilleas are super versatile plants that can be used to brighten up a courtyard, create a stylish hedge, cover up ugly walls, adorn fences or decorate pergolas. They make for colourful hedging and tip-top topiary or can be popped into a hanging basket or a stylish pot to jazz up your balcony or patio. Honestly there are just so many ways you can use this plant. 

Creative climbers! Take your bougs to new heights

Bougainvillea are natural born climbers and love nothing better than spreading upwards and outwards. If you’re looking to grow your bougainvillea against a wall or fence, they’ll need a bit of assistance to climb. 

A great way to add some support is by hanging rows of wire, cage-like fencing or string against the surface you want to cover. Next plant your bougs in a line, about 20cm or so from the fence/surface and then simply tuck the branches behind or around your supports at regular intervals. The same goes for garden trellises! Before you know it, the vines will latch on and spread out, covering the surface in spectacular, boug brilliance. 

Hedge your bets! How to hedge bougainvilleas

If you’re looking for an ornate screening hedge to give you more privacy, then you can’t go past the bougainvillea. These dense flowering vines are perfect for creating solid screening, with dense foliage. If you want to create a nice dense screen of bougainvillea, you need to evenly space a number of bougs in a row. 

A good rule of thumb is to plant them at half of their adult width apart. So, if the plant grows to 4m wide, then plant them 2m apart. You can learn more about plant spacing here. If you’re not sure about how big your boug baby will grow, you can always refer back to our website. Each boug variety will have a spacing guide in its product description.

Pot it up! How to pot bougainvilleas

Bougs are great candidates for pots, container gardens or even hanging baskets. Make sure the pot you choose has lots of drainage and that you use a good quality, free draining potting mix. Don’t use a potting soil with high levels of peat moss as they retain moisture and can result in root rot.

Bougainvilleas are happy in relatively small containers (even if their roots are slightly restricted) but like all plants, once things get too cramped, it’s time to move your boug into a pot that’s one size larger. 

You can add some vertical supports to help your boug climb, or leave it without support to create a beautiful, sprawling mess. You can even clip and prune well established bougs to create gorgeous topiary.

The Red Dragon range of bougs are perfect for growing in pots and containers These bougs, including the Bougainvillea Summer and Bougainvillea Pretty Purple, have a uniquely compact growth pattern, which provides stunning dense foliage and blooms. If you want to have a hanging basket boug, you can’t go past the White Cascade


A prickly question! Do all bougainvilleas have thorns?

Probably not what you want to hear, but yes! Every boug, has it's thorns. But before you let that put you off, you need to know a bit more about them. Bougainvillea thorns help them get a grip on tree branches and other climbing surfaces so they can reach towards the sunlight. 

All bougainvillea varieties are different – some have small thorns, and some have large thorns. Today there are so many varieties forms to choose from, you are no longer limited to those with big ass thorns. Boug breeders have developed heaps of modern varieties which have modest spikes which won’t shred your hands. 

New varieties you say? Tell me more

Not only have boug breeders managed to reduce the size of thorns, they’ve also developed an array of different colours. While bougainvilleas were originally native to eastern South America and came in a small variety of colours (namely purples), there are now hundreds of boug colours out there. From pinks, purples and magentas, to oranges, yellows and whites, their spectacular flowers will bring a burst of colour to any garden. 

Looking for something that grows a little smaller? Bougainvilleas also come in a range of dwarf varieties. Some of our favourite dwarf bougs include: Little Guy, Temple Fire, Solar Flare PBR and Tom Thumb. Only growing to about 1m high, they are ideal for smaller gardens and neat hedging. 

Snippety snip! When and how to prune bougainvilleas

While bougs can be cut at any time, it’s best to do it at the end of a flowering period. With larger varieties you really don’t have to prune much, but if you do, just prune super lightly. By just tip pruning you will keep a nice thick blanket over your fence or create a denser screen or hedge. Smaller, more compact, dwarf varieties can be pruned a little deeper a few times a year to keep them nice and bushy. 

A little goes a long way! How often to water bougainvilleas

Bougs are drought tolerant plants and don’t like wet feet. That means that they enjoy deep watering every 3 to 4 weeks once they’re established. A good rule of thumb is to let at least the first 5cm of surface soil to dry out between waterings.

When bougs are initially planted and still young they will need more watering to help them grow up big and strong. In the first 2-3 weeks after planting, water your bougs every 1-2 days, then you can gradually ease off. When the weather is cooler or wetter you will need to adjust your watering schedule, so they don’t get too soggy.

Boost the blooms! How to encourage more flowering and growth

For bougainvilleas you want to use a slow-release fertiliser during the growing season. So, only once or twice a year! Make sure you check out the balance of NPK levels (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) beforehand. Too much N (Nitrogen) will produce more leaves and growth without many blooms. If it’s flowers you’re after, you need more (K) Potassium. Wanna really get those blooms popping? The secret is a sprinkle of potash

Bring on the Bougs!

Ready to liven up your garden with bougainvilleas? You can browse our full range of bougs here. Not sure where to start? Shop our Assorted Bougainvillea Packs for an array of bright boug babes or contact our plant nerds for some suggestions. We’re always happy to help!

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