GARDENING: Beautiful Bougainvillea tips

No matter if you drive north, south or west of Rockhampton at the moment, you will no doubt notice one of the best loved, longest flowering plants that is best suited to our region, and flowers from late winter/early spring through summer.

Over the last few weeks with my own travels I could not help but notice the beautiful displays in some of our western towns, like the entrance of Emerald and its many roadside displays.

Other town like Roma and Taroom also are just a mass of Bougainvillea colour at the moment, the colour displays must also help in towns’ tourist attraction.

This is particularly obvious when you see the large numbers of tourists that visit South Bank Gardens in Brisbane, and the award-winning Arbour that is made up of over 400 shaped steel columns, each covered with a train of vibrant magenta Bougainvillea plants.

The bougainvillea grows in the Amazon rainforest in South America, in countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela.

This week I received an e-mail asking if could recommend some very hardy lard Bougainvillea’s that could grow on a large embankment around a new home west of Rockhampton.

The following are some of my favourites.

Bougainvillea alba.
Bougainvillea alba.

Bougainvillea Alba is a vigorous, woody, evergreen climber with short thorns and deeper green leaves.

Bougainvillea Alba produces papery clusters of white bracts over the stems from summer to autumn, however it can flush flowers across the year.

It is best planted in full sun position with well-drained soil.

Bougainvillea Alba will make a colourful accent on walls or pergolas.

Bougainvillea California Gold.
Bougainvillea California Gold.

Bougainvillea California Gold is one of the best-performing yellow-flowering bougainvillea varieties.

It begins blooming at an early age and produces warm yellow bracts on and off through the year.

Bougainvillea Easter Parade.
Bougainvillea Easter Parade.

Bougainvillea Easter Parade is a hardy creeper with silvery pink medium-size bracts.

It is a strong grower and flowers most of the year.

It is best in the full sun, can be pruned to shape and is suitable for pergolas, banks and tubs.

Bougainvillea glabra.
Bougainvillea glabra.

Bougainvillea glabra is an evergreen vigorous climbing shrub with thorny stems.

This Bougainvillea has been grown in Central Queensland for almost a century.

Bougainvillea glabra produces clusters surrounded by colourful papery bracts of purple or magenta during the warmer months of the year.

Bougainvillea glabra will also make a very hardy hedge.

Bougainvillea Mrs Louis Waltham.
Bougainvillea Mrs Louis Waltham.

Bougainvillea Mrs Louis Waltham is a hardy creeper with a long flowering period in winter and summer.

It likes full sun and can be pruned or trimmed as desired.

Water frequently during summer.

Bougainvillea Mrs Butt.
Bougainvillea Mrs Butt.

Bougainvillea Mrs Butt is an evergreen climber that produces masses of medium sized, crimson bracts.

It is the ideal climbing plant for pergolas, fences, garages or any unsightly objects in your yard. Or it can be used a very colourful tub specimen.

Bougainvillea Mrs Butt prefers a warm, sunny position with well-drained soil.

Bougainvillea Raspberry Ice.
Bougainvillea Raspberry Ice.

Bougainvillea Raspberry Ice has a profusion of magenta-red blooms that contrast strikingly with variegated green and white foliage.

The flowers remain colourful for weeks and bloom almost all year long.

Though not a great climber, the Raspberry Ice is perfect for a garden feature, pot, or in a hanging basket.

Bougainvillea Singapore Pink.
Bougainvillea Singapore Pink.

Bougainvillea Singapore Pink is a compact grower with a bushy habit that can be easily shaped.

This variety displays beautiful clusters of very large, bright, lavender pink bracts.

Bougainvillea Snowcap is a fast growing semi-evergreen vine.

It produces large heads of pink/white bracts that usually flowers multiple times across the year.

Bougainvillea Tango.
Bougainvillea Tango.

Bougainvillea Tango is a vigorous, cascading and dense plant that produces young bracts that are orange, opening to clear orange and fading to light pink, giving a multi-coloured look.

It has a recurring flowering habit and has medium to strong thorns.

Bougainvillea Snow Cap.
Bougainvillea Snow Cap.

These South American shrubs, often climbers, have gaudy large bracts that almost hide the tiny white flowers.

Many people kill bougainvilleas with kindness and over-fertilising rather than neglect.

When you see them growing in areas such as Agnes Street in Rockhampton opposite the water reservoir, on a north-facing slope, and receiving no additional water other than natural rainfall, it makes you realise how hardy these plants truly are.

Bougainvilleas that are grown in rich soil and over-watered and over-fertilised will produce many leaves, but very few colourful bracts.

Bougainvillea can be grown in a variety of ways including as container specimens, hedges, standards and, as climbers.

Thorns are usually a problem, so always take care with placement and maintenance.

They are versatile, drought tolerant, and with regular pruning, make an ideal choice for our hot summer gardens.

You should always be careful of which variety you plant, as many are rampant climbers, which should be avoided in a small home garden.

The larger they are the longer the thorns! I would recommend pruning after flowering.

If you do have one of those rampant bougainvilleas, don’t be afraid to take a chainsaw to it and cut it to a foot off the ground, then you will be able to prune and shape it as it regrows. Bougainvilleas are virtually pest and disease free and I would suggest removing those long water shoots to keep the shrub or climber to the densest possible shape.

Did you know?

Bougainvillea was named after the French navigator, Louis de Bougainvillea, who discovered the vine that now bears his name: it was a botanical highlight of a voyage to Brazil in 1768.

The colourful displays produced by bougainvilleas are not by the flowers, but by the bracts that surround the flowers, which are small or non-existent in most flowers. These colourful bracts, developed over thousands of years, attract bees and butterflies to the tiny flowers, after which pollination results.

Important note

The bougainvillea root system is extremely fragile. The plant doesn’t like to be moved. Take extra caution when removing the plant from the pot before placing it in the ground.

Growing the best

One of the most common problems with Bougainvilleas is many gardeners kill Bougainvilleas with the kindness.

With plants grown in rich soil that is over-watered and over-fertilised.

Bougainvilleas grown in these positions tent to produce many leaves but very few colourful bracts.

I remember once being told by one of the early champion gardeners that his secret to prize-winning gardens, of which Bougainvilleas were a feature, was not to water his Bougainvilleas until their leaves had drooped for at least a day.

He was well known for wanting to know the exact day the judges would visit his garden, so that he could time his watering to extract the best flowering display.

Bougainvilleas are virtually pest and disease free, and I would suggest removing the long water shoots to keep the shrub or climber to the densest possible shape.