Bougainvillea is a sprawling vine grown for its beautiful flower bracts in fuchsia, pink, orange, rose, white, or purple, depending upon the variety. Inside the center of each flower bract is a small white, waxy flower. This evergreen to semi-evergreen plant has bright green, heart-shaped foliage and reaches fifteen feet tall or more. Older vines produce more color than younger plants and bloom best when water stressed. The vine is thorny and the tips have a blackish, waxy substance. ‘Barbara Karst’ is a popular variety for the Southwest desert since it loves the heat. ‘Torch Glow’ has a different shape than the other varieties and its blossoms appear at the ends of stiff, erect stems. Use it as a warm season, color accent vine. Plant this vine to cascade over walls, banks, fences, trellises, arbors, and container rims. It can also be used as a cut flower or a security barrier. Plant the bougainvillea in tropical and Mediterranean gardens and around pools, ponds, and water features. It is native to South America from the coast of Brazil, west to Peru, and south to southern Argentina. There are two distinct species of this plant, Bougainvillea glabra and Bougainvillea spectabilis. B. glabra is a smaller plant with fewer thorns and grows more like a shrub. B. spectabilis is a faster-growing plant that is more sprawling, growing like a vine. There are many hybrids of these two species that show a wide variety in leaf forms and growth characteristics. It is sometimes called the paper flower since its bracts are very thin and papery.
Bougainvillea needs full sun with plenty of reflected heat. Locate on the south or west side of a building or house, as the plant prefers the hottest, sunniest spot in the landscape. Plant it in fertile, organic soils that are well-draining. This plant sprawls and needs training as it grows. Bougainvillea is frost-sensitive and suffers foliage damage at temperatures below thirty degrees Fahrenheit. However, it recovers quickly in the spring after pruning back any dead or damaged branches. It needs ample water when young, but is somewhat drought-tolerant when mature. If over-watered, this plant many not flower and the roots could decay. When transplanting, be very careful to avoid disturbing the root ball. The plant can go into shock and take a long time to recover if the roots are broken or pulled apart.