Nicknamed the ‘paper flower’ due to its thin and papery bracts, the Bougainvillea is a type of semi-evergreen creeper known for its bright blooms. The name is pronounced, boo-gun-vil-ee-uh.
The Bougainvillea’s papery bracts tend to come in threes and in colours such as red and pink. The leaves of the Bougainvillea are heart-shaped, whilst the plant often gains a twisted trunk as it grows older. Initially ragged, the Bougainvillea trunk becomes thicker with age.
The Bougainvillea in the wild is a common denizen of the Amazon rainforest in countries such as Brazil, where it lives amongst thick vegetation and in subtropical or tropical conditions. The Bougainvillea thrives in areas where the trees are close together and the plant can use these to access the sunlight, but is hampered when it cannot adequately drain water, such as in swamps.
Bougainvilleas can grow as long as they can reach the sunlight. A large amount of sunlight is fine as is a semi-shaded area, with the bougainvillea twisting in the direction of the sun as it grows. The Bougainvillea requires fertile soil to thrive. The growing medium of a Bougainvillea should be moist but also drained well as the plant does not like overly watered conditions.
A large number of Bougainvillea species exist, with as many as 300, including crossbreeds. These include the Barbara Karst, with its neon pink or red bracts, the Bougainvillea peruviana with its rose bracts and the Elizabeth Angus, which has purple bracts.
During the summer, Bougainvilleas need to be out in the sun, with regular watering and misting if the weather is sunny. During the autumn, these plants can be brought in again and should receive little watering after the foliage drop. A Bougainvillea should be handled carefully, especially around its roots; activities such as pruning should be carried out only occasionally to avoid disturbing the root system.
Did You Know?
Bougainvilleas have been adopted as the official flowers of various islands, cities and counties within countries. For example, the county of Ipoh in Malaysia and the island of Grenada both use the Bougainvillea as their flower.