Plantidote of the Day 2010-10-20
Common name: Bougainvillea
A Zone 10 staple, bougainvillea (boo-gun-VEE-ya) grows just about anywhere in this area, from oceanfront estates to apartment patios to freeway landscapes. Bougainvilleas are known for profuse blooms and gorgeous colors; the salmon-colored variety shown here is from the subtle side of the palette. Electric reds, purples and gold on the other end are practically neon in their intensity. To see a mature bougainvillea (6 to 10 or more feet tall and just as wide) in full bloom cascading over a wall is truly breathtaking. But, like poinsettias, the beauty is in the plant's bracts, not its flowers, which are the little spiky things growing in the centers.
Once established, bougainvillea requires almost no attention. It seems to thrive on sunlight and a little water. But don't even think about touching the roots! As sturdy as these plants are above ground, the root system is exactly the opposite. Moving a bougainvillea is very delicate work, so it's best to plant it in a place where it can be left undisturbed or keep it in a large pot.
Two downsides worth mentioning: One, the bracts, which bloom practically year round here, die very quickly when they're removed, so the branches can't be used as cut flowers, and they don't dry well, either. Two, in many varieties, the stems are equipped with some pretty fierce thorns. Fierce as in 1-2" long and sharp as needles. Consider yourself warned!
Readers, please send me (firstname.lastname@example.org) images and stories for the ongoing Plantidote of the Day series. In exchange, you'll win undying fame in the form of a hat tip! Plants growing in your garden, your house, or neighbor's yard, plants from the forest or farmers' market, plants you preserved, plants you prepared (wine; cider; tea; dried beans), plants you harvested (grains; chanterelles), plants you picked (flowers), plants you dried (herbs), plants you covet or hope to grow someday. Herbal remedies, propagation tips, new varieties, etc.. And if you can, include some solid detail about the plant, too -- a story, the genus and species, or where you got the seeds, or the recipe, or your grandmother gave it to you. Or challenge us with a “Name That Plant” mystery entry ... And please feel free to add corrections and additional information in the comments.
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