Gardening: Blooming Bougainvillea

By Andrea Pavee

In a previous post, I touched briefly on a garden staple, whose popularity is somewhat on the wane; the Bougainvillea.

In the 60s, 70s and 80s, these plants were in their heyday in Malaysia.

Every home had at least one potted plant gracing their gardens. In fact, my fond childhood memories are filled frolicking in gardens filled with them; whether potted, growing lush in planter boxes or alternatively, grounded with cascading blooms sporting a riot of colours.

Aeons ago, my grandmother, who was the family storyteller told me how the Bougainvillea came to be. In the course of prepping for this article, I decided to Google the origins of the plant and Nanie was spot on!

This evergreen plant actually hails from South America. On his travels, Louis Antoine de Bougainville, a French navigator, spotted the shrubs in Brazil which drew his fancy. He eventually brought them back to France. And the rest, as they say, is history.

My home used to sport orange and magenta blooms. When they first came, they were housed in separate pots. In time, I decided to ground them at the back. As they grew, their stems intertwined and I ended up with an orange/magenta tree whose boughs became home to squirrels and birds, even as the dogs enjoyed many a cool afternoon beneath their deep shade.

The Bougainvillea is a hardy plant and grows well from stem cuttings. A good length of cutting should be at least 1.5 feet long, with a modest amount of leaves on it.

The Bougainvillea loves the sun and is a fuss free plant.

If she is happy where she is planted, she will bloom and grow. In time, though,  it may be necessary to re-pot her. When her roots become too big for the pot, they can crack the pot right through, thus rendering it useless for future use.

Also, be careful when placing pots on the grass without either plates or feet. Roots can find a way out through the drainage holes at the base of the pot, and before long, your potted plant will be a tree, right under your nose!

Bougainvillea are easy to grow and beautiful to look at, however, there are two things which you need to take into consideration before committing to home these plants.

The first consideration is housekeeping.

Bougainvillea blooms are paper thin and wispy. Even a slight gust of wind can translate into a massive bloom fall. And those blooms go everywhere, both inside and outside your home. Unless you are prepared to keep sweeping up fallen blooms, this plant may not be the right fit for you.

The second consideration is a toss-up between safety and security.

Bougainvillea come with razor sharp thorns. This is possibly why many homemakers ring fence their boundary walls with these plants. If you have little ones, you would do well to keep them from brushing up against them. Those thorns are merciless!

P.S. You can plant differed coloured Bougainvillea blooms into a pot or the ground. When the plant blooms, you will enjoy a riot of colours in your garden. Mix and match colours to your heart’s liking. Contrasting colours stand out best. Imagine a magenta-white plant – a garden statement piece indeed!

Posted by Chayo, HomSkil Editor 1, 26 June 2021

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