Bougainvillea - Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea, named for a French navigator, is a native of South America
and is grown 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, it makes itself at home in almost any situation. It
can be grown as a hedge, groomed as a ground cover, pruned as an espalier,
trained as a tree or contained in a pot in a variety of shapes. Its trunk
tends to be gnarled. Bougainvillea is ideal for bonsai. Red, violet,
orange, yellow or white bracts which appear on the ends of new
Available in nurseries and from bonsai specialty
growers. A good source is from old gardens being redesigned and from trash
piles where a frustrated homeowner has thrown the thorny plant.
They flower most heavily in winter and early spring,
but some plants 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. The colorful, papery "blooms" are
not flowers; they are bracts. The true flower is white, trumpet shaped and
almost unnoticeable within the bracts. Bougainvilleas are available in a
variety of species, each having its unique characteristics.
Temperature: Being a
warm weather plant, they must be provided winter protection. They can
usually tolerate die back from a freeze, but will withhold blooms for
Watering: Sparse to
light watering and good drainage.
Feeding: Fertilize once
in the spring with a low nitrogen fertilizer and maybe once again in the
fall. The old established method of forcing flowers is to withhold water
to a point of causing severe stress to the plant. Research at the
University of Florida has found that plants flower best when given high
nitrogen fertilizers and short day lengths (15 hours of darkness within
ever 24 hour period).
Pruning and wiring: The
bougainvillea takes well to pruning; a useful attribute in styling bonsai.
Because bougainvillea generally blooms on new growth, each branch, as
blooms begin to fade, should be cut back to a point somewhat shorter than
the desired length. Seal all cuts to prevent rot. If rot is detected on a
collected specimen, cut it out completely.
Bougainvillea may be grown from air layers, root cuttings and branch
cuttings. Young shoots, a few inches in length, should be placed in sandy
soil with bottom heat and moisture. Half-ripened or old wood cuttings in
six to twelve inch lengths may be rooted April to June.
Repotting: Repot in
Spring. Do not prune the roots too severely.
Pests and Diseases:
Caterpillars, aphids, scale, greenfly and mineral deficiencies
(chlorosis). Care must be taken that fungus does not invade the tree;
reduced humidity and a preventive spraying of fungicide will help
Species used for bonsai:
- Bougainvillea brazilinensis: 'Pink Pixie'
- Bougainvillea buttiana 'Golden Glow' - Has bright
yellow bracts which fade to apricot.
- Bougainvillea buttiana 'Louis Wathen' - orange
- Bougainvillea buttiana 'Mrs. Butt': - crimson
- Bougainvillea buttiana 'Orange King'.
- Bougainvillea glabra: paper flower, lesser
bougainvillea - the most common species used for bonsai. It has shiny
green, slightly hairy leaves and magenta colored bracts.
- Bougainvillea glabra 'Magnifica' - rose pink
- Bougainvillea glabra 'Snow White' - white
- Bougainvillea peruviana - rosy pink bracts.
- Bougainvillea spectabilis - pink or mauve
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