The bougainvillea is a flowering evergreen plant native to the coast of Brazil. The plant is named after Louis de Bougainville, who was a French Canadian explorer. Bougainvillea is known for its vining stems that are covered with thorns. Most people think that the colorful parts of the plant are the flowers, but these vibrant papery pieces are actually bracts that surround the small, unremarkable flowers. Bougainvilleas have certain requirements that must be met in order for the plant to grow and produce blooms.
Plant your bougainvillea in quick-draining soil. Bougainvillea is a drought-resistant plant that cannot tolerate wet feet. Rich, water-retaining soil causes the bougainvillea's delicate root system to become waterlogged; this eventually leads to root rot. Sandy or sandy loam soil is ideal for the bougainvillea. If your soil is rich, mix in gardening sand at a ratio of 1:1 to provide an adequate drain rate.
Plant your bougainvillea. Ensure bougainvillea receives full sun, as it requires at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day. For best results, place the plant on the south or west side of the house in an area where it is not shaded by trees.
Water the bougainvillea. When the top 2 inches of soil are dry to the touch, water your bougainvillea, as it is resilient and drought tolerant, requiring very little water. The plant can survive on infrequent rains. If several weeks elapse between rains, water the roots thoroughly with a water hose. If the leaves appear droopy between rains or waterings, water again to perk the bougainvillea up.
Support your bougainvillea. The bougainvillea is a naturally vining plant that requires the use of trellises or posts in order to remain upright. If the bougainvillea is planted close to a house, push a trellis or series of bamboo poles into the soil between the house and the plant. The bougainvillea will gravitate toward and train itself up the poles.
Prune the bougainvillea regularly. Pruning maintains the plant's shape and keeps it from becoming unruly. Some gardeners trim the bougainvillea into a tree shape by removing branches from the bottom of the trunk. Others prefer to shape it as a flowering shrub. Whatever your preference, use gardening shears to shape your plant. Wear gloves while you work, to protect your hands from the thorns. When pruning, remove old, dead wood first. Remove thin, spindly branches and those that are covered with dead leaves. Finally, cut back branches that extend up or out beyond the shape that you want your bougainvillea to have.