Table of Contents
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Types of bougainvillea
- 3 Planting bougainvillea
- 4 Growing bougainvillea
- 5 Diseases and pests
- 6 Bougainvillea uses
- 7 History
Bougainvillea (lat. Bougainvillea spectabilis Willd.) is a genus of thorny trees, bushes or vines that belongs to the family Nyctaginaceae. Although classified as a vine, it can also be grown as a tree or bush. It originates from Brazil, where it is still the most cultivated plant today, but over time it has spread to all countries of the world.
The plant can grow from 5 to 12 m (16.4 to 39.4 ft) in height, and some vine varieties can grow up to 25 m (82 ft). The stems of bougainvillea are woody with numerous thorns and their length depends on the habitat.
Bougainvillea leaves are dark green, hairy and smooth, up to 10 cm (3.91 in) in size. They are spirally arranged on a stem, opposite, simple and ovate-acuminate. The flower is small and white, surrounded by beautifully large, pink or purple bracts (Bougainvillea Glabra) which results in the attractive appearance of the plant. Other varieties can have yellow, orange, pink and red flowers.
Today's bougainvillea appearance was created by crossing 3 of 18 species that are native to South America. There are also different color cultivars whose appearance does not lag behind the beautiful appearance of the basic species. This is why there are more than 300 bougainvillea species in the world. Due to the crossing and interbreeding many hybrid species have changed color traits so it is difficult to determine which species they are originated from.
Bougainvillea blooms from spring (April) to late fall (November), but in order to ensure long flowering, it is necessary to perform regular pruning, otherwise, it will bloom shorter, from April to June. The peak of flowering will occur when the plant reaches 4 or 5 years.
The Latin name of the plant's genus - Bougainvillea comes from the French Navy admiral Louis Antoine de Bougainvillea, who brought the plant to Europe on his return home from his voyage of circumnavigation of the Earth. Thanks to him bougainvillea has been planted all over the world since the 18th century.
The Latin name of the species spectabilis means admirable, attractive. In foreign languages, it is also known as Ceboleiro (port.), Três-marias, Great bougainvillea (eng.), Primavera, Cansarina.
Types of bougainvillea
Bougainvillea can be distinguished by the shape of its leaves. There is a general opinion that the more elongated leaves are, the plant will bloom longer during the spring months. Pink bougainvillea is mostly planted in the coastal regions as they favor such a climate.
Bougainvillea spectabilis is adorned with large purple, pink or red egg-shaped bracts. The flowers are cream-colored, while the leaves are oval or rounded, covered with fine hairs along the very edge and on the underside. The stem is also covered with hairs and large thorns.
Its leaves are smooth, hairless, elliptical, and widest around the middle. The bracts are usually purple and triangular in shape. However, they can also appear in white and pink. The flowers are white or cream-colored, and the thorns are thin and short, slightly curved at the edge. If pruned properly, it will bloom several times a year, especially if it's planted in a container or a pot.
This evergreen vine is known for its green bark and short thorns. Its leaves are oval, hairless, thin and long. The bracts are slightly rounded and come in red, purple and pink color with accompanying yellow flowers. If properly maintained, it will bloom several times during its flowering season.
Although it is most often grown as a garden plant, bougainvillea can also be grown in pots or containers in the form of a hedge or a bush.
The recommended planting time of bougainvillea is in the spring or early summer months. If you are planting it from a seedling, we strongly recommend that you plant it during fall because in that case, the root will still have enough time to develop until winter.
Bougainvillea as a tree
If you live in a warm climate region, bougainvillea can be grown as a vine along fences and pergolas. In that case, it is necessary to provide some sort of support because if you don't support the plant, the bougainvillea will still grow, but will spread on the ground.
If you plant it as a vine, make sure that you leave at least 30 cm of space away from the ground. Bougainvillea will develop a broad and strong trunk that will later need enough space to grow. In addition, plant it slightly deeper at least 10 - 15 cm (3.9 - 5.9 in) deeper than it was planted in the pot or container.
Bougainvillea prefers outdoor conditions and although is able to easily withstand cold weather and lower air temperatures, it still needs proper maintenance and care in order to have a healthy plant.
Bougainvillea as a bush
Bougainvillea can also be grown as a bush and although, if planted this way, it will not need any support for growth, it will require regular pruning.
Planting bougainvillea in a pot
If you live in the continental area, it is recommended to plant bougainvillea in a pot or a container as some species cannot survive low temperatures and cold. It is recommended to plant a more resistant species that blooms with pinkish-purple flowers such as Bougainvillea Glabra Alexandra or Sandersiana.
With the arrival of winter (before the first frost), bring it indoors where it will be protected from cold weather. Place it in a bright place with temperatures 8 to 15°C (46.4 to 59°F) and reduce watering to once a month so that the roots do not dry out completely.
In the winter months, the plant will lose a few leaves which is normal as in the spring it will recover and continue to grow. With the temperature rising and the arrival of spring, take it outdoors, do pruning and fertilizing with a combined fertilizer. Since then, watering is needed more often.
The soil for planting bougainvillea must be light. Plant it in well-drained soil with an acidic pH value from 5.5 to 6. The plant is generally suitable for growing in the coastal area because it can withstand dry and salty soil.
Sunny areas are suitable for the growth and development of the plant, but it will also grow well in places with less or almost no shade. The ideal areas for planting bougainvillea are those where they will be half a day in the sun and half a day in the shade. Protect it from wind that can cause serious damage to the plant. It can withstand very high air temperatures, even those above 37°C (98.6°F).
Bougainvillea prefers daytime temperatures between 24 to 35°C (75.2 to 95°F) and night temperatures not less than 10°C (50°F). Also, keep in mind that some bougainvillea hybrids can tolerate slightly lower air temperatures than others.
If you live in the continental area it is recommended that you plant bougainvillea in a pot or a container, so that you can bring the plant indoors during the winter, while in the coastal regions you can plant it outdoors.
Bougainvillea is drought resistant but will grow, develop and bloom better if you provide enough water. Especially during flowering when the water needs are heightened. It is recommended that you water the plant in the morning. However, keep in mind that between watering, the substrate or soil should be completely dried. Abundant frequent watering can harm it as root can rot if moisture is too high. Reduce the amount of water during hibernation.
To ensure the proper development of the plant, it is necessary to ensure regular fertilization. It is recommended that you fertilize the plant once a month with a universal fertilizer, especially during spring and summer.
Maintenance and care
Bougainvillea grows rapidly, so the plant needs timely care and maintenance. Maintenance is easy, and the only thing you will need to pay attention to is pruning. In warm coastal areas, its leaves are green and perennial throughout the year, while in areas with lower temperatures, both leaves and flowers fall off.
Although bougainvillea grows outdoors in coastal climates, young plants still need to be protected during the winter months as stronger winters can harm them. During the summer, water it abundantly because it does not tolerate dry soil near the roots, but be careful not to exaggerate. This is especially important if the plant is grown in a pot or a container. Check the humidity because if the soil is too dry, the leaves and flowers may start to fall off, which will affect its health and appearance.
If you do not maintain and prune it regularly, old branches could cause great damage to the plant. Their intertwining and entanglement can lead to the development of pests and diseases.
Bougainvillea pruning should be done after the flowering period. Because they bloom for a long period of time time, you will need to maintain the plant until the beginning of winter. In this case, it is necessary to regularly prune new shoots.
Slightly stronger pruning should be done once a year in order to maintain the basic appearance of the plant and encourage growth, flowering and lushness of the plant. Before pruning, keep in mind to wear gloves to protect yourself from thorns. When pruning, it is important to know exactly what species of bougainvillea you have, because the method and time of pruning will depend on it.
Without pruning, the plant will not bloom to its maximum. At the end of winter or before the vegetation begins, the plant should be shaped so that ultimately only its main branches remain. All shoots that have sprouted along the main trunk must be removed as they deplete the plant. It is necessary to leave the branches that will form a canopy in the spring months, and bloom in summer.
During February, cut the plant by one third and remove unwanted branches, especially the old and the diseased ones as well as those that prevent the proper growth of the plant. Pruning should be done by leaving the main branches that form the basis of the plant, and all the sides should be shortened so that only 3-4 buds remain. Other species that bloom in the spring months and have biennial shoots should be pruned in the summer months, or after spring flowering.
Although most plants do not like to grow in a small and tight pot, bougainvillea will not have a problem with it. It will bloom even more intensely when planted in a pot. But when the roots start to sprout from the pot, it's the right time to transplant it into a larger pot.
Transplanting bougainvillea should be done from November to March. The substrate for growing bougainvillea in pots must consist of a higher content of peat, but be careful with it as its excessive amounts can lead to moisture retention in the root area which can lead to rot. It is recommended to put a little styrofoam on the bottom of the pot. Therefore, always make holes at the bottom of the container so that excess water can drain out of the container more easily.
Propagation of bougainvillea
Bougainvillea is most often propagated by green cuttings in the spring months. It can also be propagated by cuttings in early autumn months and semi-woody cuttings during the summer months.
When cuttings are taken from young plants, care should be taken as damage to the sensitive roots can easily occur. Cuttings are planted in pots that contain an equal amount of perlite and peat.
Bougainvillea can also be propagated by directly planting the branch in the ground. In that case, take a longer branch. After the plant develops root (after the first year of planting), cut off the branch that goes from the tree to the roots. This way you will get two plants that you can plant according to plan.
Diseases and pests
Although bougainvillea is resistant to most diseases and pests, it can sometimes be attacked by caterpillars and aphids. In this case, it is necessary to remove all damaged parts of the plant, and preferably pests so as not to spread further through the plant and cause any more damage. If pest attacks are severe, use plant protection products.
Bougainvillea can also be attacked by mold, especially if you do not keep it in a sufficiently airy place. Mold can be noticed by the appearance of white spots on the leaves.
Bougainvillea is most often planted to decorate yards and backyards or to control weeds. The flowers of the plant have a bitter taste, but are still edible and are often used to prepare cough teas, salads and various beverages.
The healing properties of the plant are still unknown and its medicinal properties are still being investigated.
The first European who described a bougainvillea was Philibert Commerçon, a botanist who accompanied French Navy Admiral Louis Antoine de Bougainville during his voyage around the world, and was first published by Antoine Laurent de Jussieu in 1789.
It is assumed that the first European to observe these plants was Jeanne Baré, Commerçon's mistress and assistant who was an expert in botany. Since she was not allowed to be on the ship because she was a woman, she disguised herself as a man to go on this journey (and thus became the first woman to travel the world).
Twenty years after Commerçon's description, it first became known (descriptively) to the public as "Buginvillæa" by A.L. de Jussieu's entry in the Genera Plantarum in 1789. The genus was subsequently inscribed in several ways until it was finally identified as "Bougainvillea" in Kewensis Index in 1930. Originally B. spectabilis and B. glabra were not identified until the mid-1980s when botanists classified them as special species.
In the early 19th century, these two species first arrived in Europe, and soon they were sold by nurseries in Britain, France, Australia and throughout the former colonies. Shortly afterward, a crimson specimen from Cartagena in Colombia, was added to the genus descriptions.
Originally considered a distinct species, it was firstly named B. buttiana in honor of the European who first discovered it. However, later studies classified it as a natural hybrid of B. glabra and possibly B. peruviana - a "local pink bougainvillea" from Peru. It soon became apparent that natural hybrids were common throughout the world.
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