The popular Bougainvillea originated from South America, but these shrubs thrive throughout the world and can tolerate a wide variety of growing conditions. There are dozens of cultivars available, with different coloured flowers, a number of double varieties and some plants have variegated leaves.
Best known for its colourful display, the plants can have shades of white, pink, red, orange, lilac, purple and cerise flowers. There is even a cultivar that has pink and white flowers on the same plant!
These vigorous growers do best in warm, dry gardens in full sun and are semi-hardy to frost when young. Bougainvillea is a disorderly shrub that can grow up to 6 m high or more, with a similar spread. If left to its own devices, the shrub will spread low and wide, but with support it can be trained to grow against a fence or trellis. It will grow upright if pruned judiciously, forming a lovely hedge or small, ornamental tree. Semi-deciduous, the foliage can be different shades of green, ranging from bright green to an almost olive hue.
Flowering takes place through much of the year, depending on the cultivar. In addition, Bougainvillea has sharp thorns, which makes it an ideal specimen to plant against walls to deter people from climbing over. The plant does well in pots and is also a popular bonsai specimen.