A Guide to Various Colors of Bougainvillea Flowers and Bracts
There are approximately 14 species of bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp.), which are climbing woody vines native to South America. These vines are grown for their colorful blooms, which are not actually flowers, but rather modified, paper-like leaves called bracts.
There are many bougainvillea cultivars in a wide range of colors to choose from.
Types of Bougainvillea
Three species of bougainvillea are common in cultivation: Bougainvillea spectabilis, Bougainvillea glabra and Bougainvillea peruviana. All three are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 9 to 11.
According to the University of Florida IFAS Extension, Bougainvillea glabra, known commonly as the lesser bougainvillea, has fewer thorns than Bougainvillea spectabilis, called the greater bougainvillea. A number of hybrid bougainvillea cultivars also are on the market.
Most bougainvillea grow to lengths between 15 and 40 feet, depending on the species and cultivar. Dwarf cultivars can be used as ground cover. Most bougainvillea plants have thorns.
Some bougainvillea species are evergreen, while others are deciduous. Outside of their hardiness range, bougainvillea vines can be grown as annuals. They also can be planted in containers and overwintered indoors.
Colors of Bougainvillea
The true flowers of bougainvillea vines are discrete. They are about 1 inch wide and usually cream, pale yellow or white in color. They grow in clusters of one to three flowers, which are obscured by the three or six bracts, which are modified leaves that look like petals. It's the bracts that make these vines highly ornamental.
The bracts of bougainvillea vines come in many shades of white, red, orange, pink or purple, depending on the cultivar.
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Bi-Colored Bougainvillea Cultivars
You can also grow a bi-colored bougainvillea. For example, the bracts of the 'Surprise' cultivar are pink and white, while those of 'Afterglow' feature a combination of yellow and orange.
Growing Bougainvillea Vines
Bougainvillea can be grown in containers or hanging baskets. These vines flower best when they are grown in full sun and receive consistent moisture, though they can handle dry conditions. In fact, allowing the soil to dry out promotes more blooming than overwatering.
According to the Clemson Cooperative Extension, bougainvillea vines will produce more abundant flowers and bloom sooner when they are exposed to longer nights.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Bougainvillea (Group)
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Bougainvillea
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension: Growing Bougainvilleas
- NC State Extension: Bougainvillea spectabilis
- NC State Extension: Bougainvillea glabra
- University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service: Bougainvillea spp.
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Bougainvillea
- Gardenia.net: Bougainvillea x buttiana 'Afterglow'
Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.