I have always loved bougainvillea (pronounced “boo gan vee ah”) from afar. The first one I ever saw in person was in San Francisco. It had climbed two stories, and was rambling all over a 2nd floor terrace. I was enchanted with that beautiful vine. So, when we moved to central Florida, I knew that was the first tropical plant I would buy, and it was. Sadly, our tiny yard does not have a great place for this flowering vine to climb and roam. It needs a fence or garden wall to tumble over and sprawl to its heart’s content. We don’t have that place.
With a heavy heart, I cut down my bougainvillea this week. I have loved it and fretted over it for 2-1/2 years. When in full bloom, people walking their dogs would stop by and ask about it, or comment on it. It was absolutely gorgeous each spring, and very pretty in the fall. The rest of the year, it was very high maintenance with frequent pruning required to prevent it from hanging out over our front walk, and constant spraying with insecticidal soap in a failing effort to rid it of those pesky caterpillars.
Bougainvillea grows rapidly here. Who am I kidding? Everything grows rapidly here. That can be a wonderful thing. It can also be a not so good thing. My bougainvillea was against the wall of our garage, which is parallel to the walk that leads to the front door of our home. Frequent pruning was required to keep the upper limbs from hanging out over that walk. I could walk under a lot of them, but most folks had to dodge the thorny branches of this prolific vine.
This fall, it has had only a few flowers because the caterpillars were eating the newest growth before it could mature. We’ve had a hotter than normal summer, so insecticidal oils that don’t wash off when it rains, melted off in the heat. We’ve also had a very rainy summer, so after each rain I had to spray insecticidal soap again, and again, and again.
And then, there were those thorns. Those huge thorns.
It all got to be too much trouble for this gardener.
The droppings of those caterpillars were all over our front walk, and had to be swept away daily, sometimes twice daily.
Here you see the tiny droppings on my day lilies. They are so small, they could have gotten in between our dog’s pads, or the soles of our shoes, and been tracked into the house. That presents a potential health threat. Those caterpillars had to go. Unfortunately, that meant the bougainvillea had to go, too.
Do You Know Which Part Is the Actual Flower?
Although the showy colorful bracts everyone loves are the most dramatic part, the tiny white blossom in the center is the actual flower. They’re like poinsettias in that way.
Each bract has 3 sections with a tiny flower emerging at its base.
Will I miss the show bougainvillea puts on each spring?
No, I can still enjoy them in other peoples’ gardens, such as this one a couple of miles from my home.
It’s kind of like being a grandparent. You get to enjoy the kids without having to be the primary caretaker.