Bougainvillea: The Vine, The Shrub, The Hedge


The bougainvillea plant is known for its profuse, vivid blooms, its two-inch thorns, and its wild growth habit. It can serve as a space-filling shrub, a colorful hedge, or a wandering vine that spans a wall or covers a pergola.

The bougainvillea plant was named after French navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville. Gardeners around the world love bougainvillea for its vivid, profuse blooms and lovely deep green leaves. Technically a woody-stemmed vine, this plant can be utilized in a wide variety of ways around residential and commercial properties.

First, A Warning

Know before you buy: all bougainvillea plants have thorns. Big or small, thorns are thorns, and this plant boasts impressive two-inch spikes up and down its stems. Bougainvillea tends to grow in every direction unless regularly pruned—and pruning means dealing with piles of injury-inflicting clippings.

Bougainvillea thorns make the plant not always ideal for growing next to a pool or over an outdoor patio/kitchen area. Children and pets are especially vulnerable to getting poked.

Bougainvillea plants must be maintained. The longer they are left unpruned, the more unruly they become. Many a bougainvillea becomes an extensive re-claiming project after being neglected. Save yourself the hassle (and pain) of that project by pruning your bougainvillea regularly.

Planting Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea plants do not need to be planted in direct sunlight but doing so will result in more blooms. If that is not important, it is fine to install these plants in the shade. A hole as deep as the root ball and two to three times as wide will suffice. Backfill with soil that retains moisture well, as this plant needs water in the beginning phases of growth.

A hardy plant when established, bougainvillea only requires specific attention during the months after it is first planted. After that, water sparingly and only add fertilizer every few months, if at all. Once this plant takes root, there is almost no stopping it.

Pruning and Training

Bougainvillea is an extremely versatile plant. It is special because it can be trained to grow into any form. The nature of this plant is to grow vigorously in every direction. Train your bougainvillea by pruning away unwanted tendrils and leaving the plant portions you want.

Bougainvillea can be pruned to short heights and shaped into round shrubs. Like this, they create lush, full space-fillers in beds or gardens. As shaped shrubs, bougainvillea also sit happily lining sidewalks or driveways.

Bougainvillea can be grown to a larger size and pruned into a hedge. This hedge can be as tall, short, or wide as desired. Since bougainvillea blooms, as a colorful hedge it can be a nice change from the standard viburnum hedges found on so many Florida properties.

Bougainvillea can also be grown simply as a vine. Growing bougainvillea as a vine unlocks the potential to do freestyle gardenscaping. Supported and guided, bougainvillea vines can grow to form a grand archway over a garden path. Or they can weave over a pergola to create a luxurious outdoor seating area. They can also be trained to run up a wall and, given enough time, will spread out to completely cover the side of a building.

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