Quick facts and care essentials
• Zones 12, 13, 15-17, 19, 22-28
• Full sun or partial shade
• Regular to moderate watering
• Climbs by: Scrambling; uses thorns as hooks
Covering walls and scrambling over hillsides, vivid bougainvillea is a much-loved vine for warmer zones. The bright color comes not from the true flowers, which are tiny and inconspicuous, but from the bracts surrounding them. Bloom reaches its peak in midsummer, but flowers may appear from spring through fall and even into winter. Stems are outfitted in rich deep green, 1- to 2-inch leaves and equipped with needlelike thorns; they have no real means of attachment (though the thorns do help them scramble through other plants), so you’ll need to tie them to the support you provide. The vines reach 15 to 30 feet.
Handle bougainvillea carefully while planting, since roots are fine and break easily. To plant, cut off the container’s bottom; then set plant and container in the planting hole. Slide the container up over the plant, filling in with soil as you go. (Don’t worry about damaging plants when you remove the container; they have pliable stems and little horizontal growth.)
Prune bougainvillea after the season’s first bloom flush to keep its size under control, cutting back any stems that are growing beyond your desired limits. Don’t be afraid to cut it to the shape you want.