Originally from South America, bougainvillea also grows in our territory, generally in coastal areas and in the South. You can also grow this plant on the balcony of your home, protecting it from the cold and frosts of winter. In fact, this plant with a flamboyant flowering can also be grown in a pot: find out when it flowers and how to make it climb a support.

 

Bougainvillea , also called bougainvillea or bougainvillea , is a beautiful climbing plant  that you can use to cover fence walls or to form a splendid flowering hedge , but the good news is that you can also grow it in pots and keep it on the balcony. Its name was chosen in 1768, in honor of the French explorer and admiral Louis Antoine de Bougainville , who discovered this plant belonging to the Nyctaginaceae family in Brazil .

It is an evergreen plant that flowers offering the most gaudy colours , from pink to fuchsia , from magenta to purple , up to red and orange . There are more than 300 varieties , many of which were obtained through hybridization or spontaneous mutations. Coming from South America, you will be able to imagine that bougainvillea is a plant that is at ease in the sun, in a rather hot climate: for this reason, in winter you will have to take care of it more carefully to make it survive the low temperatures and you can do it with the advice that I will give you.

Bougainvillea

Varieties and species

The name bougainvillea indicates a genus of flowering plants belonging to the Nyctaginaceae family and native to South America and the tropical and subtropical areas of Brazil. Today you are more likely to hear of bougainvillea , a term that is generally used to refer to this plant, although to be precise, there are 18 species and hundreds of different varieties . Let’s try to see some of them:

  • Bougainvillea glabra : it is a species coming from Brazil and able to reach an important height, up to about 10 meters. Its colors vary from red to purple and its appearance is particularly luxuriant, with very bright leaves.
  • Bougainvillea aurantiaca : it is one of the least known species, also because it needs very hot temperatures to grow and cannot tolerate sudden changes in temperature. Its leaves are ocher yellow.
  • Bougainvillea x buttiana : fruit of the cross between Bougainvillea glabra  and Bougainvillea peruviana , this hybrid species is characterized by colors that can be very different from each other depending on the variety.
  • Bougainvillea spectabilis : another species of Brazilian origin, it has bracts (i.e. the leaves that accompany the flowers) colored an intense pink.
  • Bouiganvillea speciosa : the bracts of this species, which also comes from Brazil, have a color between pink and fuchsia and have a particular shape which resembles a heart .
  • Bougainvillea refulgens : in this species, yet another of Brazilian origin, the bracts are collected in pendulous panicles of purplish tones which create a splendid sight.

Within the same species of bougainvillea you can find plants with slightly different characteristics: to give you an example, the Bougainvillea glabra stands out in the Variegata variety with red flowers with white streaks, in the Crimson Lake characterized by carmine red flowers and in the Sanderiana with purple inflorescences.

Cultivation and care

As I told you, the climbing habit of bougainvillea makes it an ideal plant to climb pergolas or to create hedges, but there are certain varieties , especially shrubby ones, which are also suitable for growing in pots , therefore perfect for giving a of color to your balcony. Let’s see the most important tips for taking care of these plants.

When to plant it

The cultivation of bougainvillea can take place by seed , by transferring the seedling or by cutting, that is to say that through a small twig of about ten centimeters, you can start cultivating the bougainvillea in a pot.

Once you have identified the most suitable mother plant for this operation, remove a sprig and immediately place it in a vase with soil composed of a  mixture of sand and peat , well drained , and with a bottom composed of clay balls: this because bougainvillea fears stagnation , which usually leads to rotting of the roots.

At least 3 weeks are needed for the plant to develop roots and be transferred to a permanent location, in a larger pot or in the garden. The cutting , as well as the sowing or any transplanting, are all operations that must be done in spring , when the climatic conditions are more suitable to support the life cycle of this plant.

As I was telling you, the bougainvillea has a climbing habit, but to make it climb you will have to give it a little help, planting it near the structure on which it will grow and wrapping it around it, so that it continues to develop on the support.

Location and temperature

The best exposure for bougainvillea is in the sun. On the other hand, this plant is native to the tropical belt , characterized by a mild and warm climate . It therefore tolerates temperatures even above 40°C (in Italy the plant is widespread in the South and in coastal areas), while in winter it should be sheltered if temperatures tend to drop below 10°C and above all protected from the coldest winds .

Soil and fertilization

Bougainvillea requires fertile, well-drained , low-limestone soil with good humidity. As for the fertilizer, choose an organic product specially formulated for flowering plants with a good supply of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and microelements. The solution is to buy a liquid product in specialized shops and nurseries to be diluted in the water used for watering and to be administered every two or three weeks.

Watering

Although bougainvillea also tolerates long periods of drought well, periodic watering is essential for the correct development of the plant, especially in summer, when we are in the midst of its vegetative activity. Just be careful to avoid water stagnation which can cause rotting of the roots or asphyxiation of the plant. How to notice? Make sure the bougainvillea is flowering and doesn’t start shedding its leaves.

Flowering

The flowering of the bougainvillea is concentrated during the summer, but to see it in all its splendor you will have to expose the plant to the sun for at least 5 hours a day, given that, as we have seen, it is a genus of plants at ease in tropical climates, which struggle to flower if kept in the shade or exposed to cold winds .

The flowering of the bougainvillea offers bright colors.

Pruning

Precisely because of its summer flowering, the plant tends to be pruned at the end of winter, in February . In this way it is possible to thin out the foliage by eliminating the dry branches and favoring the growth of more vigorous branches and new leaves on the plant.

Bougainvillea suffers greatly from cold climates and, in particular, winter frosts.

If you grow bougainvillea in pots, make sure to eliminate the dry branches and trim the tips, in order to give it a regular shape; otherwise, if the plant is in full ground, therefore resting on a pergola or climber, you will have to cut the weaker or irregular branches for about a third of their length , with slightly oblique cuts with respect to the branches themselves.

Diseases and parasites

Hardy and resistant to parasites, bougainvillea fears the attack of aphids , parasites that feed by sucking the sap from plants, reducing growth. If the aphids then come to unleash the mosaic virus that causes spots and yellowing of the leaves, the plant risks no longer flowering and perishing. Not only. the presence of aphids determines the presence of honeydew , a sugary substance which attracts ants and can cause the formation of moulds.

The attack of the insects can be effectively countered by using a broad-spectrum insecticide , which can also be useful in the case of the presence of scale insects , other insects that feed on the sap of plants causing damage to its growth.

How to take care of it in winter

During the winter season you will have to follow some precautions to protect the bougainvillea from the cold , given that, as I explained to you, it is a climber native to the tropical belt and prefers exposure in full sun: it is therefore clear that in winter this beautiful plant may suffer from cold temperatures, especially if the thermometer column drops below 7 degrees. If you have grown bougainvillea in pots, for example, you will have to make sure that it is positioned in a place sheltered from the wind and you will do well to insert a layer of polystyrene that separates it from the ground, as protection from the cold of the soil. Also, mulch well, piling straw or dry leaves at the base of the plant will be a good way to help it retain the heat it needs.

Obviously the choice of pot cultivation is recommended for those who live in areas characterized by very cold winters, given that in this case the only way to protect it from low temperatures is to move it indoors . In any case, during the cold season you will have to minimize watering for outdoor bougainvilleas, since waterlogging can cause leaf fall or serious damage to the roots.

Expert opinion

Do you want a bougainvillea that climbs generously up a trellis in all its glory? Below are some precious tips from Stefano Pagano ,  gardener and gardening expert : ” Bougainvillea  is a plant that immediately brings to mind the sun, the sea and citrus fruits in general. In fact, not everyone knows that it is a plant that it should be treated like a lemon! Well yes. Place it in full sun and in the heat to make it grow in a flash. The secrets to seeing it quickly cling to a trellis and flower in a crackling manner are basically two: it is best to keep the soil at a fairly acidic pH (to do this, use specific soils for acidophilic plants or, alternatively, a soil for hydrangeas or azaleas, if you already have it at home) and fertilize it generously from May onwards , with ready-made liquid fertilizers. My advice is to dilute the product every 15 days in the water from the watering can.”