For sheer spectacle and exuberance, no flowering vines surpass bougainvilleas. Native to Central and South America, they're common in Florida, South Texas, and along the Gulf and south Atlantic coasts. And with the advent of low-growing, shrubby types that can be bought in full bloom and grown in containers, more Southerners can enjoy these plants than ever before. Established vines with- stand light frosts, but plan to take the plants indoors to a sunny window for the winter if you live where temperatures drop below 20F.
Bougainvillea's vibrant colors come not from its small, inconspicuous true flowers, but from the three large bracts that surround them. Heaviest bloom comes during the cooler months of spring and fall, when days and nights are nearly equal in length. Plants go dormant in summer. Both single- and double-flowering kinds are sold; double sorts can look messy, as they hold faded blooms for a long time.
These vines are fast, vigorous growers, reaching 1530 ft., depending on the selection. Stiff stems are armed with long, needlelike thorns and are moderately to densely clothed in medium green, 212-in., heart-shaped leaves. Bougainvilleas are superb trained against walls or on sturdy fences, trellises, or arbors. They have no means of attachment (though their thorns help them scramble through shrubs and trees), so you must tie stems to the support while the vine is young.
B hybrids The following are tall-growing vines unless otherwise noted. Most are hybrids produced from B. glabra and B. spectabilis (from Brazil) and B. peruviana (from Colombia and Peru).
'Afterglow'. Heavy bloomer with yellow-orange blossoms. Open growth, sparse foliage.
'Barbara Karst'. Bright red in sun, bluish crimson in shade; blooms young and for a long period. Vigorous growth. Fast comeback after frost. A popular selection.
'California Gold' ('Sunset'). Deep golden yellow. Blooms young.
'Camarillo Fiesta'. Hot pink to coral to gold blend.
'Cherry Blossom'. Double-flowered rose-pink, with centers of white to pale green.
'Crimson Jewel'. Vigorous, shrubby, sprawling plant. Good in containers, as shrub, or as sunny bank cover. Lower growth, better color than 'Temple Fire'. Heavy bloom, long season.
'Don Mario'. Large and vigorous vine with huge clusters of deep purple-red blooms.
'Jamaica White'. White bracts (sometimes tinged with pink) veined in light green. Blooms young. Moderately vigorous.
'James Walker'. Big, reddish purple bracts on a big vine.
'La Jolla'. Bright red bracts; compact, shrubby habit. Good shrub or container plant.
'Lavender Queen'. An improved B. spectabilis, with bigger bracts, heavier bloom.
'Manila Red'. Double, magenta-red blossoms are carried in heavy clusters.
'Mary Palmer's Enchantment'. Bracts are pure white. Quite vigorous, very large-growing vine.
'Mrs. Butt' ('Crimson Lake'). Old-fashioned type with good crimson color. Needs lots of heat for bloom. Moderately vigorous.
'Oo-La-La'. Vibrant magenta red. Compact, trailing form to 112 ft. tall, 68 ft. wide; good for hanging baskets. Blooms over a long season.
'Orange King'. Bronzy orange. Open growth. Needs long summer; won't take frost.
'Purple Queen'. Deep purple bracts; compact grower. Can reach 15 ft. with support; as a trailer, it grows 112 ft. tall, 68 ft. wide. Very popular.
'Raspberry Ice'. Shrubby, mounding, spreading. Leaves have golden yellow margins. Red-tinged new leaves; cherry-red bracts. Good hanging basket plant. One of the hardiest.
'Rosea'. Large, rose-red bracts on large vine.
'Rosenka'. Gold bracts age to pink. Can be held to shrub proportions if the occasional wild shoot is pruned out.
'San Diego Red' ('San Diego', 'Scarlett O'Hara'). One of the best, with large, deep green leaves that hold well in mild winters and deep red bracts over a long season. Vigorous, hardy, and high climbing. Can be trained to tree form by staking and pruning.
'Singapore Pink' ('Silhouette'). Bright pink. Shrubby and compact; can easily be kept to 34 ft. high and wide. Thornless.
'Singapore White'. White bloomer. Shrubby, compact plant; can be held to 34 ft. high and wide. Thornless.
'Tahitian Dawn'. Big vine with gold bracts aging to rosy purple.
'Temple Fire'. Shrublike growth to 4 ft. high, 6 ft. wide. Partially deciduous. Bronze-red.
'Texas Dawn'. Choice, vigorous plant. Purplish pink bracts form large sprays of color.
'Torch Glow'. An oddity: an erect, multistemmed plant to 6 ft. Needs no support. Reddish pink bracts grow close to the stems and are partially hidden by foliage.
'White Madonna'. Pure white bracts.
B. spectabilis (B. brasiliensis). Hardy and vigorous. Blooms well in cool summers. Purple bracts.