Bougainvilleas are a genus of tropical vine with origins in South America. The paper-thin colorful petals are called bracts and inside the bracts, the tiny flower develops. In tropical climates the bougainvillea will be green all year with seasons of heavy blooming. In equatorial regions of the globe, the plant will bloom year round. In climates where there is a sustained period of dry weather, the plant will shed its leaves to reveal bare wood vines. Putting a label on bougainvillea varieties is difficult as one plant may have many names. But some of the more popular varieties can be found consistently under the same name.
San Diego Red
The San Diego Red is a bold climbing variety with large dark green leaves and abundant dark red bracts. This cold-hardy variety can be grown in USDA zones 9 to 11. A good climber and abundant grower, the San Diego Red can be pruned into a tree, trained to grow on a trellis or shaped into a nearly impassible thorny hedge.
This variety of bougainvillea has bracts that turn from bright red in the sun to a dark crimson with blue tones when viewed in the shade. The Barbara Karst starts blooming early in the plants development and blooms for a long period each summer. Plant this variety in an area that gets full sun for best growing results. This plant grows well in USDA plant hardiness zones 10a to 11.
Unlike most varieties of bougainvillea, Raspberry Ice has leaves that are green in the center and surrounded by a cream colored border, giving it a striking look even when it's not in bloom. Though not a great climber, the Raspberry Ice is perfect for a terrace pot or in a hanging basket. The bracts are a pretty magenta color that blooms continuously in tropical regions. Relatively cold hardy, this variety will grow in USDA growing zones 9 to 11.
The vigorous white blooms of this bougainvillea appear to cascade over walls or fences when the plant is in full production. The delicate white flowers bloom repeatedly throughout the season. Though not a cold-hardy variety, the Jamaica White will grow in USDA zones 10 and 11. It flowers best in tropical equatorial regions.
The Texas Dawn is a vigorous climber that can reach heights of 40 feet or more with a good support system. Cold hardy, this variety grows in USDA zones 9 to 11 and blooms from early summer into the late fall. The small petals bloom in large groups of bright pinks and purples. To keep this plant under control, frequent, heavy pruning is recommended.