If you live in a temperate climate and want an (almost) year-round floral fiesta, then bougainvillea is the plant for you. Depending on the variety, it can be grown on a trellis or over an arbor, against a building or fence, in containers, as a hedge or ground cover, in tree form, and as a bonsai. I’m sharing care and growing tips for bougainvillea, a plant I have a lot of experience with.
Most varieties of bougainvillea grow 20 to 30 feet tall and wide with support. If grown as groundcover, they will be 1-1/2 to 2 feet tall and spread 8 to 10 feet wide. There are dwarf varieties which will generally grow to be 3-6 feet tall and wide.
Bougainvillea thrives in full sun. Some afternoon shade in extremely hot weather may be beneficial.
In zones 9-11, bougainvillea will bloom on and off all year. In colder zones, it will go dormant when brought in for winter and will bloom mainly in summer.
The true flowers on bougainvillea are quite small, usually white, and are surrounded by colorful bracts. The bracts are the real showstoppers and come in shades of red, purple, magenta, hot pink, light pink, orange, apricot and white. The bracts, often called “false flowers,” are what attract pollinators to the true flowers hidden within their brightly colored backdrop.