I Cut Down My Beloved Bougainvillea

Hot Pink - full bloom - mlm c@

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.

On House - mlm c@

This photo was taken shortly after a severe pruning to remove it from the gutters, sofit, and roof. It had even wrapped around the downspout.

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.

More Caterpillar Damage - mlm c@

It was once taller than the house, and soon would have been lying on the roof. Not good.

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.

Thorns mlm c@

 It all got to be too much trouble for this gardener.

Caterpillar Feces - mlm c@

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?

Hot Pink - zoomed mlm c@

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.

Hot Pink - zoomed 2 mlm c@

Will I miss the show bougainvillea puts on each spring?

Purple - mlm c@

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.






15 responses to “I Cut Down My Beloved Bougainvillea

  1. Ok, my plant never really took off. Right now, in September, the leaves are yellow-ish green and I can’t remember the last time I had that nice bright pink color on them. Maybe they get too much water from the sprinklers? I have mine outside my front door against the house as well. They might do better up against the privacy wall out back maybe? I am about to give up on mine also….was thinking of mandevilla instead? No prickers, right? ugh…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Gina. Yellow leaves usually do mean too much water. Bougainvillea requires good drainage, so yours may do better against that wall, but in a raised bed. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, just some good soil on top of this worthless sand to raise it a bit higher than the rest of your yard. We’ve had so much rain lately, I can’t remember the last time we ran our sprinklers, but that could be a culprit, too, if you’ve been running yours.

      I love your privacy wall. If I had one, it would be covered with either bougainvillea or mandevilla. I plan to use mandevilla, and may plant more than one color so they can tumble over one another, similar to the way they did at the portico behind Starbucks for the smoking area. Mandevilla may be a good choice for you, too. Let me know what you do. I know it will be beautiful.


  2. We love our Mandevilla growing up our pergola columns and plN to add white ones to the current red, under planted with blue haze and alyssum. This week I had to cut everything back hard as we are going to be gone 3 weeks. Be interesting to see what ( if anything) makes it! No need to gamble if you garden!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Sue. I have the hot pink mandevilla on the side of our lanai, and on the back of the house. They are so much less trouble. I’m looking forward to adding other colors out front. Thanks so much for visiting, and for your comment.


  3. If a plant isn’t thriving so that it fights off pests and disease with ease, it’s not a happy plant. I can’t blame you a second for wanting to put that poor dear out of its misery. I am sorry it didn’t work for you, though, because I surely do understand the allure.

    The first time I saw, while visiting, a great, galloping fan of bougainvillea covering the front of a small stucco house in Santa Cruz, I wanted to pack up and move to California. It took two decades, but eventually I made it, and though I’ve been here nearly another two decades now, I still gawk shamelessly at every bougainvillea flaunting its colors. My wee granddaughters learn to say its name almost as soon as they can talk, and they know which part is the flower and which is the bract.

    You struck a deep chord in me with this one, Maria. I’m sorry yours didn’t make it, and so glad you can enjoy others in the neighborhood.


    • Kathryn Grace, here is the reply to your comment that I posted over 2 weeks ago. It posted it as if I were another person commenting on the blog instead of the blog’s author. My Google Chrome icon wouldn’t work, so I went through MozillaFirefox to get into WP. Every time I wanted to reply to a comment, I had to sign in again & again. Don’t know what’s up with that, but I sure am glad I finally got my Chrome icon fixed. The guys at the Geek Squad said the recent Google update probably didn’t agree with my computer. Anyway, here’s the reply you probably never received:

      “Thank you, Kathryn Grace, I am really sad about losing it, but I’ll get over it. There are plenty of them around here that I can enjoy seeing. I gawk at them, too — always have, always will. I’m impressed that your grands can say the name, and more so that they know the parts. You are training them well.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, dear Maria. I wonder if the Google update is why I’ve had so much trouble with my computer lately. I’m sorry for all your distress. At least, distress is what I’d have felt in your situation–so making an assumption there!

        Aren’t children amazing? They’re little sponges and learn from us, no matter what we’re doing or saying. Glad some of what they’re getting from me is a love of plants. Now if I could just always remember to control my, er, angst. : )

        Liked by 1 person

        • It was most definitely distressing. Are you still having problems? If so, I’ll send you a PM on FB to share what the computer guy told me to do. It worked wonders.
          About the children, they are so amazing, and fun. Unfortunately, ours live an 8-hour drive away, so we don’t see them often. They are little sponges, often more than we realize. I remember my daughter going to Savannah with her youth group during the time the azaleas were blooming — probably March or early April. She came home telling me how she had told others the names of the different azaleas and other plants. Her youth leader asked her how she knew all that, and then he got an earful about me and my love of gardening.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Oh so fun, that she could recognize and name the azalea varieties! Passing on a love of plants, the natural world and gardening is one of the finest things we can do for our children and grandchildren.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, it is. She lives in a condo now, and has only a flower pot on her tiny front porch. I’m working on getting her to grow some herbs or lettuces in that pot. Wish me luck.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Kathryn Grace, I am really sad about losing it, but I’ll get over it. There are plenty of them around here that I can enjoy seeing. I gawk at them, too — always have, always will. I’m impressed that your grands can say the name, and more so that they know the parts. You are training them well.


  5. I saw a gorgeous bougainvillea climbing to the second story on State Street in Santa Barbara. It was very impressive. It made me want one. Now that I’ve seen the thorns, I’m not so sure. Thanks for showing us this plant, thorns and all, so we can make an informed decision about whether to plant it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Barb. Sorry it has taken me so long to reply. As I told Kathryn Grace, my Google Chrome icon stopped working when Google did their update. It took quite a while to figure out what was going on.

      They are so very beautiful, although in her novels, Sue Grafton calls them gaudy. I’m told there is a type without thorns, but I have never seen it in a garden center, and no one I know has a thornless variety.


  6. I have labored over the same colored bougainvillea for 35 years. I have actually thought about an article and calling it, “One Plant to Avoid”. It needs monthly trimming to keep in check.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That would be a good name. I wish I had enough space to let it wander, but we wanted to downsize from a large yard. Too much maintenance. Those bougainvillea are beautiful, though. Well, except for when they’re eaten up by pests. Thanks for reading my blog.


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