Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Hot. Sexy. This next "vine" is a woody menace.  It's not a climber or a twiner....but it sure makes a nice barrier of thorns.  Of course, what would a Tucson garden be without bougainvillea?  By now, you should have trimmed this plant back, but if you didn't, don't stress.  This plant is utilized quite a bit in Tucson and around the desert southwest.  In Phoenix, it stays mostly green(though not this year with our extreme freezes) and lush(not jealous) while in Tucson, this plant does die back to the ground during winter.....but it always comes back with a vengeance:)  I love this plant and don't mind getting stuck with all the thorns and nasty branches because it adds so much flare to the garden that it deserves the right to be so nasty in nature.  It's a VERY drought tolerant plant.  Once this plant is established, I never water it.  It's very good for the water bill.  Plus there are two other reasons you should consider this "vine"(although for me it's more like a huge bush!).  1.  Security.  Put it in a place where you don't want people going like a window or side yard.  This plant WILL keep out transient beings.  2.  Place this plant on a trellis or patio overhang.  Remember a while back I wrote about wisteria and how it isn't a good plant for Tucson?  Instead of wisteria, think about using bougainvillea in this manner.  It needs pruning and training so always wear gloves. There is a post I wrote this past summer on "Shaping".  I use plastic clips and metal wiring to shape our bougainvillea on the property.  It's always a battle on my body, but the homeowners absolutely love this plant so I'll make them happy.  The hot pink/red/purple/salmon leaves all summer long makes people smile.  This plant is also the kind of "na na na boo boo" plant to all other gardeners in cold areas.  Gardeners like to show off here and say to their friends and family back home, "Look what we can grow here!":) Simply put, this plant has the power to transport you to a Mexican Riviera or tropical paradise with a drink in your hand. Okay....but here's the secret for your own beautiful bougainvillea.....

While this bougainvillea does fine in this spot, it needs constant attention and help staying in place.  It also doesn't get all the sun it needs; so it makes a nice evergreen bush with some color here and there.
Many gardeners HATE our western exposure here.  It's hellishly hot and only established cacti and other hot worthy plants can grow in these places.  The bougainvillea is one of these plants.  The more sun; the more color you'll get.  This plant wants the direct sun; needs the direct sun.  Plant this in the shade and it will be only a shadow of what it can do for your property.  Direct sun with 8+ hours of sun will make this plant EXTREMELY happy.  I have several areas where I utilize our bougainvillea.  This monster plant has risen to extreme heights to the 2nd levels of our buildings and frames the entrance ways. See above pic.  I have attached wall grips to keep the bougainvillea upright and in place. On our hot western parking lot, I have placed the less thorny and more upright bushy Bangkok Red Bougainvillea(or the Torch Bougainvillea).  This plant has a hot hot pink color to it and literally looks like an upright torch with the pink flowers adding the flames on top of the plant.  The only setback with this variety is that it is more frost sensitive, but it will grow back:)  Both plants can get VERY large so make sure you have enough room for them.

Bougainvillea Torch Glow can grow to be a 8-10 foot looking bush.  This plant is not "viny" in any way.(I've even seen it grow larger near a Tucson business off of Broadway!!)

One last thing before you go crazy with this fast growing vine/bush.  When put into the ground for the first time, it can be slow growing, but once established, it grows quickly back after winter is over.  Let me describe the "flowers" of this plant.  The hot pink/red/purple/salmon "flowers" are actually not flowers but bracts.  The actual flower is a tiny little group of white blossoms surrounded by the bracts. There you have it.....a great plant for Tucson!  Just wear gloves!!


  1. I had no idea about the "bracts" after all these years in Arizona!
    To answer your question: DBG saw me on Sunday...

  2. I love these thorny beauties and miss them now that I'm no longer in AZ. I'm a bit old-fashioned and still prefer Barbara Karst and San Diego Red to some of the newer colors which are now available.

  3. i love them as well. they add so much colour!
    ours have grown wild with all the sun here at this time of the year.. i'll be posting pictures on my blog soon.

  4. Just bought two big pots and needed suggestions and "how to's". Thank you for excellent information!
    Ahwatukee, AZ


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