January 3, 2011

Beautiful Backlit Bougainvillea

Sunlight, flowers and warmer weather were waiting for us when we visited California over the holidays. Our kids were happy to see Grandma and Papa, and I enjoyed photographing some of the flowers.

These pictures are of Bougainvillea, a flowering vine that is commonly grown in California but never seen outside the greenhouse in Spokane. Since this plant is native to the mild parts of Brazil, it's only hardy in zones 9b and 10.

The showy flowers aren't really flowers at all, but papery bracts. Flowering happens best when the plant is a bit stressed, so gardeners have to be careful not to overwater.

Bougainvillea vines are almost as common as Agapanthus in California, and I wonder if some gardeners there tire of them. I didn't have time to get bored with them during the three years we lived in Silicon Valley.

Since this plant is relatively pest-free and drought tolerant once established, it's a great fit for California gardens. I won't be attempting to grow it as a houseplant, so please enjoy it for me if it grow in your climate!


  1. I love the color of the Bougainvillea...one of my favorite colors in fact. I was surprised to see the large thorns on this beauty.
    Wonderful photos VW.

  2. I love Bougainvillea and of course can not grow it here, but your title got me here to look at your beautiful images. I can always dream.

  3. I always love seeing it blooming when we are in California. I'd love to be able to grow it here too. Your pictures of the flowers are really pretty!

  4. That bougainvillea in sunlight looks so warm and inviting. I bet it was a nice change from Spokane in winter. So glad you got the sunshine in California and not the rains and floods. Happy New Year! -Jean

  5. One of the things I remember most about my time in Hawaii was the hillsides filled with colorful bougainvillea. I love your photos. I bet you enjoyed your time in sunny California. Happy New Year, VW. Hugs, Grace<3

  6. My brother in Phoenix has beautiful Bougainvillea in his garden...so wonderful. I discovered a huge one here in Oregon in a greenhouse, I will be sure to visit it again next year.

  7. What beautiful pictures! Make a lot of summer!
    I know very well the bougainvillea, where I come from is very common. In the garden I have two species, one in orange flower that border becomes pink, beautiful!
    Happy new Year!

  8. Beautiful. That was a nice way to start the year.

  9. Hi VW,

    Lovely photos, I've never seen/heard of Bougainvillia before but it would definitely be welcome in my garden right now!

  10. Some lovely pictures throughout this blog - i had a good look around at the year just gone by - and I like these bougainvilleas too - the sun catches them just right

  11. Just saw the picture you had showing your Otto Luyken Laurel bush damaged by a cold, snowy winter. Our bushes suffered the same fate this year....did your's ever recover? Not sure if we should be patient and wait it out, or pull them up and start over? Ours are completely brown with just a touch of dull green leaves at the center bottom of the bush. Help!

    1. Last winter we had severe damage to our OL laurels from the cold, but under the snow line the leaves were still green. I cut them back hard and they bounced back. However, they had more damage this winter - we dropped to -5 F. I noticed that the shrub I bought from Monrovia didn't have much damage, while the others from Home Depot/Lowes were very damaged. I was tired of the damage so I replaced the cheaper ones with Monrovia shrubs - I think they really do propagate from superior stock that are hardier than others of the same name.


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