Thursday 9 March 2023

Bougainvillea - swathes of colour in the Bahamas

One of the small pleasures of travelling to warm countries is spotting houseplants growing in the wild. Palms, delicate succulents, coleus, Ficus, growing freely on roadsides and in gardens. And, distinctively and flamboyantly, bougainvillea - 

Bougainvillea, star of tropical and sub-tropical zones around the world, is everywhere you look on Long Island, Bahamas, for example: growing wild, or as hedges, scrambling into trees, or carefully tended specimens in people's gardens. Its frothy hot pinks and reds contrast sharply with the blue seas and skies that hog the view otherwise -

Bougainvillea is native to south America, but was enthustiastically collected in the rly 19th century by plant hunters and spread all over the warmer climes of the world. In areas where conditions are to its liking - the Mediterranean, Caribbean, California, south-east Asia, Indian sub-continent and Australia, for example - it is easy to grow and responds well to pruning. It's drought-tolerant, salt-tolerant (so a good coastal plant), evergreen ... just don't let it get cold.

It's not remotely frost-hardy and will drop all its leaves below around 10 degrees Celsius, so for the UK it will need to be in a conservatory or a heated greenhouse, although it will grow on happy outside in summer.

Although renowned for its colourful flowers, the actual flowers are the small cream or white tubular centres - the surrounding 'petals' are really leaf bracts, in magenta, pink, red, orange, yellow or white, which make the bourgainvillea such a distinctive and showy plant.

'Bougainvillea-growing' would be a pre-requisite for any country I might emigrate to -