November 13, 2012
Many gardeners love the tropical look a flowering bougainvillea has hanging on the patio or front porch. With a little care these plants can give many years of enjoyment. One of the most popular ways to grow bougainvillea in Mississippi is in a hanging basket. Bougainvillea grown in hanging baskets typically have long arching branches. But be careful as you handle the plants, because of the long and sharp thorns on the stems. The variegated leaves commonly are heart-shaped. The flowers are actually bracts, and are very thin and have a paper-like texture. In fact, sometimes bougainvillea is called the paper flower plant. The white tubular flowers surrounded by the bracts are very prominent features and can add colorful contrast. Best growth is achieved by full sun exposure. These plants are also heavy feeders, and will benefit from monthly applications of water soluble fertilizer. But the plants actually require very little irrigation, so be careful not to over water in between feedings. Bougainvillea bloom in response to length of day, typically when the days and nights are about equal. This usually corresponds to the spring and fall. This red bougainvillea sitting on and trailing down the white brick wall is stunning. The flowers are produced in cycles of about six weeks followed by a rest period. Bougainvillea can be pruned any time to keep the plant neat. Pruning after a flowering cycle will encourage branching, which leads to more flowers during the next bloom cycle. Bougainvillea should be brought inside once the temperatures start falling and placed in a window with high light. You may be rewarded with an indoor flowering cycle to brighten the winter months. I'm horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.