Bougainvillea take the heat with little watering

Bougainvillea take the heat with little watering

When I’m asked about the consummate flower for summer, I always think “bougainvillea.” The vibrant colors that you can find at our local garden centers are the first attraction. The other things that are fabulous about them is their heat tolerance and low need for watering.

They are native plants of South America from Brazil west to Peru and south to southern Argentina, according to Wikipedia. You might know them by other names such as buganvilla (Spain), bugambilia (Mexico), Napoleon (Honduras), veranera, trinitaria, Santa Rita or papelillo (Peru). If you judge the number of nicknames as a measure of popularity, you may also be interested that they are also lovingly called Primavera, Tres-Marias, Sempre-lustrosa, CEboleiro, Roseiro, Roseta, Riso, Pataguinha, Flor-de-Papel, and more. They are indeed loved by many.

The bougainvillea has an interesting history. The first European to describe these plants was a botanist named Philbert Commercon, who was traveling with Louis Antoine de Bougainville in the late 1700s. Bougainville was honored with the name. Through the next hundred years, little changed but the spelling, which changed often. In the early 19th century two species were introduced into Europe, and soon, nurseries in France and England did a thriving trade sending specimens to faraway countries.

Look for the vining species to spread its colorful blooms from 3 to 40 feet for you. They will even keep their leaves until the first frost unless left un-watered for too long in the heat of summer. The actual flower of the plant is small and usually white while the “bracts” are the clusters that treat us to the hot pinks, magenta, purple, red, orange, white or yellow pops of color.

Bougainvillea are popular the world over as ornamental plants. The warmer the climate, the larger and more outrageous the plants. Mexico has hotels with the trailing vines covered with bougainvillea flowers hanging down hundreds of feet over balconies to the courtyards below. The country of Switzerland has one city known for its Mediterranean climate, which is famous for its bouganvillea, Locarno.

There are more than 300 species of bougainvillea in the world today. Even botanists have a difficult time differentiating them. Some grow slowly and while some grow like weeds. They can be kept blooming with frequent fertilization and limited water once established. If you are in the mood to share your blooming bougainvillea, they can be propagated easily with tip cuttings.