Bougainvilleas are indigenous to tropical and subtropical South America, and are among the world’s great flowering plants. They are scrambling climbers, with long curved thorns which help them to hook on to trees and reach up to the light. The true flowers are small and insignificant, but they’re surrounded by brilliantly coloured bracts which come in many shades of pink, lavender, purple, scarlet, red, yellow and gold. Don’t just think of bougainvilleas as rampant climbers. They can be controlled by pruning and grown in all sorts of situations, and they make excellent pot plants, as Don and his mate Aussie demonstrate.
Climate: Bougainvilleas do best in the tropics, Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and warm sheltered microclimates in Adelaide and Melbourne.
Bougainvillea expert Jan Iredell has bred and introduced a series of small bougainvilleas which grow to around 1.5m (5′) tall, and are particularly suitable for growing in pots. Varieties available in the Bambino range include:
‘Zuki’ – variegated foliage with purple/pink bracts
‘Bokay’ – soft golden orange, maturing to a mauvy pink
‘Pedro’ – strong reddish orange
‘Shaba‘ – orange fading to mauvy-purple
‘Majik’ – white blushing pinkish purple
‘Miski’ – grey/green foliage, bracts orange, fading to purplish pink
‘Krishna’ – weeping habit, iridescent mauve bracts
Care of Bougainvilleas in pots:
Bougainvilleas need plenty of sunlight. Prune immediately after flowering. Water well during periods of rapid growth, then gradually reduce watering to induce flowering. Top up the soil in the pot with compost every few months. Don recommends that you feed bougainvilleas with a liquid fertiliser followed in about six weeks by something like Manutec Bloom Booster, which promotes flowering.
‘Bambino’ bougainvilleas are available at your local garden centre, prices are about $7-$10 for 140mm (6″) pots, and $15-$18 for 200mm ( 8″) sized pots.
You’ll find Manutec Bloom Booster at supermarkets, hardware stores and nurseries, rrp $5.00 for a 500gm pack.
Refer to Jan Iredell’s books for full details about growing bougainvilleas:
The Bougainvillea Growers Handbook (Simon & Schuster, 1991, rrp $12.95) Growing Bougainvilleas (Simon & Schuster, 1994, rrp $19.95)