We have planted three new bougainvilleas in our backyard on the island. Almost immediately, they started to take off. Hopefully they will form a giant bush in the corner.
The following is a semi-regular column on gardening in the Port Isabel-South Padre Press. Lots of good stuff on gardening in the RGV.
A question that we get asked frequently is about the care of Bougainvilleas. The Bougainvillea plants are very tough plants that grow similar to a vine. The limbs of the Bougainvillea are rigid and do not reach for a support to climb on like Mandevilla or Jasmine. Bougainvillea can be grown on a trellis, but you have to be the one to intertwine the long stems to the trellis. Most people like to let them grow freestyle which is up and eventually over. The problem with that is they can get huge. Another problem with freestyle growth is working around the plant (like mowing): the stickers will easily cut you.
In the Rio Grande Valley, the Bougainvilleas will bloom most of the year. The exception to this would be if they were exposed to the brunt of a cold north wind during the winter months. If they are exposed to that wind they will lose their leaves until spring. In many cases the plants on the southern exposure usually stay in bloom throughout the year and actually like the colder temperatures and shorter days.
As far as care goes with Bougainvilleas, they are tough and do quite well on their own, but given a little TLC, they can be spectacular. Good organic fertilizers will keep them blooming for a long period of time. Espoma Plant-Tone and Espoma Palm-Tree fertilizer work well on Bougainvilleas. Medina Hasta-Gro and the Lady Bug Flower Power are a good combination to keep them at their optimum. Some of the showiest plants I have seen are Bougainvilleas that have been pruned very hard and fed immediately after pruning. Do this on a six to eight week interval and these plants will bloom so heavy, you can hardly see the leaves.
Bougainvilleas do have their nemesis – the Bougainvillea Looper caterpillar. This caterpillar likes to hit the newest tender growth and blooms making them unsightly. This bug is easily controlled with Thurcide (BT) as a liquid or the Dipel Dust (Powdered BT). This needs to be reapplied after rain or overhead irrigation.