Bougainvillea, named for a French navigator, is a native of South America and is grown out doors extensively in the warmer climates of the United States. It is a member of the Nyctaginaceae family with close relatives being the four o'clock and the sand verbena. Bougainvillea is an evergreen vine which is just as happy spreading horizontally or hanging downwards as it is climbing upwards and will makes itself at home in almost any situation as long as it is provided good drainage. Bougainvilleas are moderately difficult to care for, but they are also beautiful, fast growing and ideal for bonsai.
The colorful, papery "blooms" of the Bougainvillea are not flowers; they are bracts. The true flower is white, trumpet shaped and almost unnoticeable within the bracts. They flower most heavily in winter and early spring, but some varieties put forth scattered clusters all year. The colors are found in tones of purple, lavender, carmine, scarlet, red, pink, orange, yellow and white. Single and double flower forms are available. Double forms tend to carry their blooms near the end of the stems rather than distributing them evenly over the plant. Bougainvillea leaves are heart shaped and the bark is rather interesting and gnarly.
Being a tropical plant, Bougainvillea will thrive outdoors in warm weather, but they must be provided with winter protection. Bringing your Bougainvillea indoors during cold snaps and winter weather dipping below 30 degrees will ensure survival.
Bougainvillea love the sun, but be careful not to leave it in the intense heat of late afternoon summer sunlight. In the winter when sunlight is minimal try keeping it in a greenhouse setting, or in a window with southern full sun exposure. Bougainvillea will thrive outdoors in warmer climates and enjoy 6-8 hours of sun a day.
Bougainvillea Bonsai do not like to have wet feet. Overwatering will cause rot, fungal problems, insect susceptibility and death, so it is very important to water sparsely and ensure good soil drainage. Elevating the bonsai pot with pebbles will provide humidity and will ensure that you do not water log your Bougainvillea bonsai. Because Bougainvillea are tolerant to dryer conditions, they are suitable for individuals who travel or who are more likely to neglect watering their plants from time to time.
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