Grow Bougainvillea For A Taste Of The Med At Home!

Nothing is as vivid as expansive drifts of vibrant bougainvilleas in eye-popping colours from yellow and orange to the more common purples and pinks. Though we can’t hope to match this in our cool climate, with a little care we can recreate a little bit of Mediterranean magic here at home, in the greenhouse, conservatory and even on the patio. In warm climates bougainvilleas grow as freely as brambles do here, flinging great arms of colour in all directions, covering the ground, scampering up walls and festooning slopes. Curiously, their colourful display is not provided by the flowers, which are small, tubular and creamy white, but their surrounding leaf bracts. If you buy a plant in bloom, use a general fertilizer, which will encourage more shoots to grow, rather than a high potash fertiliser. Frequently sold on small wooden trellises, they can also be kept as houseplants on a sunny windowsill but they’ll eventually be too big and their thorn stems can play havoc with net curtains! A plant in bloom can beplaced outside on a sunny patio where the bright bracts will give your garden a touch of the Mediterranean. In late winter and early spring they can be pruned in a similar way to a rose bush, cutting away dead stems, any that are badly placed and reducing the length of strong shoots. In a greenhouse or conservatory they may be attacked by scale insects or mealy bug which both suck the sap and secrete sticky honeydew, which is often the first sign that plants are infested. ‘Raspberry Ice’ Colourful even when not in flower, this brilliant plant has variegated green leaves with broad buttery margins and deep cerise bracts.