Bougainvillea is a genus of vine-like shrubs native to South America. These vines are typically thorny (although there are thornless varieties) and range in size from 20 to 30 feet tall with an equal spread to tiny dwarfs that reach heights of 3 to 6 feet. These vines produce a spectacular show of color periodically through the year, but the showy blooms aren’t true flowers.
What appears to be flower petals are really colored bracts (much like the colored bracts of poinsettias) that surround three tiny flowers in the center.
Bract color ranges from shades of pink and purple to yellow, orange and white.
They are hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 through 11 and must be grown in containers in cooler regions.
Bougainvillea can be categorized by size making it easier to choose the appropriate variety for your landscape. Generally they are labeled as dwarf, semi-dwarf and giant bougainvillea.
Dwarf bougainvillea are ideal for small spaces or containers and typically reach a height and spread of 3 to 5 feet. They are easy to maintain and may be marketed as mini bougainvillea. Some can be pruned to more of a shrub than and ambling vine. If you are looking for a bougainvillea for containers or to add to a small landscape, consider one of these lovely dwarf bougainvilleas.
The ‘Helen Johnson’ bougainvillea reaches heights of 3 feet and produces a profusion of coppery bracts that mature to bright pink blooms with purple undertones. It prefers either full sun or light shade and grows best in acidic, well-drained soil. To keep ‘Helen Johnson’ in shape, prune lightly after blooming.
This dwarf bougainvillea produces brilliant pink or magenta bracts and continues to bloom throughout the summer. It reaches heights of 2 to 3 feet with a spread of 1 ½ to 2 feet. It has green foliage and is evergreen in frost free areas. It prefers full sun and requires only occasional supplemental watering. It is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 through 11.
To brighten a partially shaded area of your landscape, ‘Sunvillea Cream’ may be just the answer. It produces creamy white bracts and blooms from early spring through summer and grows to heights of 1 to 3 feet with a 2-foot spread. It pairs well with blues and bright pinks or can be used as a stand-alone specimen in planters. It id hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 through 11.
‘Pink Pixie’ produces an abundance of tightly packed pink blooms on yellow-green foliage. It reaches heights of 2 to 4 feet with a spread of 2 to 3 feet. It prefers full sun and relatively dry, well-drained soil. It attracts birds and butterflies and is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11.
Semi dwarf bougainvillea are ideal for locations with moderate amounts of space. They typically are well suited for growing in the soil as they may be too large for containers. If you are looking for a medium-sized bougainvillea for your landscape, consider one of these semi-dwarf varieties.
This showy bougainvillea produces white bracts that transform to a delicate pink as they mature creating the illusion of bicolored flowers. They produce the showiest display of color in the spring and early summer, but they do repeat blooming throughout the year. This variety can reach heights of 10 to 20 feet, but can be easily maintained to a size of 6 to 8 feet with light pruning. It prefers full sun and acidic, well-drained soil. It is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11.
‘Miss Alice’ produces large flowering bracts on a semi-dwarf, compact shrub. Foliage is medium green providing a nice contrast to the showy white blooms. This variety is considered thornless, although it may produce a few thorns. It blooms all summer and tolerates rain and high humidity. It reaches heights of 3 to 6 feet with an equal spread. It prefers full sun for 5 hours a day and thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 through 11.
Giant or Full-sized Bougainvillea
Giant or full-sized bougainvillea add color and interest to the landscape, but these massive vines need plenty of room to grow. If you are looking for a giant or full-sized bougainvillea for your yard, consider these varieties.
This bougainvillea produces masses of magenta blooms on 20 to 30 foot vines. It blooms throughout the year in frost free areas and is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. It prefers full sun and grows best in slightly acidic well, drained soil.
For a fiery display of color, try ‘Orange King’. This 20 to 30 foot vine produces clusters of fiery orange blooms all summer setting the landscape alive with color. It is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11 and prefers full sun. It grows best is moderately dry, well-drained soil.
‘James Walker’ produces reddish-purple blooms with a delicate white center and blooms nearly all year. It is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11 and reaches heights of 20 to 30 feet. It prefers full sun and grows best in moderately moist, well-drained soil.
Tips for Choosing a Bougainvillea
When choosing a bougainvillea for your landscape determine the amount of room you have for growing first, then choose one that will fit within the confines of your garden or landscape. Because there is no definitive guideline to determine if a bougainvillea is classified as dwarf, semi-dwarf or giant, you may find some discrepancy in labeling. Always read the label carefully to determine the size of the bougainvillea at maturity. Likewise, although most bougainvillea are hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, there may be some exceptions.
If you are unsure if the variety you are interested in growing will do well in your location, talk to the nursery attendant. Observing which varieties do well for neighbors and in community gardens will also give you a heads-up on which variety ir right for you.