Books by Glenda Young

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bougainvillea as a houseplant


I adore Bougainvillea when I've seen it on holiday abroad.  It sprawls, it's wild, I've seen it growing along coast roads and beaches in all kinds of colours including orange and white.  My favourite colour is the deep cherry red. 

I'd always wondered about growing it at home, here in England but knew it would have to be kept indoors as it likes a lot of heat and there's no way it would stand a British winter outside. 

But, I was always put off trying to grow one in the house for two reasons.  The first was that I had no idea where to buy them from, apart from online, and buying plants online without seeing their condition is an idea I can't buy into.  The second reason I was put off having one at home is that everything I read about them suggested they'd be too difficult to grow. This is an exotic plant, after all.  It's foreign and clearly not for the likes of me with my tendency to cottage garden.

And then one day last summer I found bougainvillea for sale at £5 a pot in a local greengrocer.  I couldn't believe it.  There were about a dozen healthy plants, all with the beginnings of flowers (well, bracts) on them and I bought one, took it home, potted it up into something bigger and kept it indoors in a conservatory over the summer where it baked in the sun during the day.  It bloomed, it flowered (well, got more bracts) in the most gorgeous purple colour. 

Not knowing what to do with it over the winter, I chopped it right back and kept it in a corner of the living room, out of sight, out of mind. I expected it to die.  But for the cost of a fiver, even if it did die, it wouldn't have been the end of the world - but it would have been a shame.

In spring, I started watering it gently and green shoots started appearing on the plant.  As the weather warmed up and the light increased, the plant started sprouting new shoots, new leaves, and finally, new bracts which have coloured again.  The picture above was taken this week, as the bracts have started to turn purple once more. There's still more to come, it'll be even  more blooming gorgeous quite soon.

And so, if there is a point to this blog post about bougainvillea, it's this.  Let no-one tell you that this exotic plant is difficult to grow or to look after or to over-winter.  It's not. It couldn't be more easy.   I'm after another one now, in a different colour, and I plan to re-visit the greengrocer soon to see if she has any more plants this summer.
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I'm on twitter @flaming_nora

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