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Bougainvillea spectabilis

Bougainvillea spectabilis
paper flower
Bougainvillea spectabilis
Our gangly youngster

Common name paper flower
Family nyctaginaceae
Life cycle woody vine (Z9-11)
Flowers various colors
Size to 30'
Light sun
Cultural notes well drained soil

Tropical vine with small white flowers surrounded by colorful bracts; the cup of bracts looks like a bigger flower, and they come in a range of tantalizing colors, from white all the way to brick red, although magenta seems to be the most common. Ours is a coral pink. All the nurseries around here carry bougainvillea, so I figure it must be hardy in the Houston area.
Online sources only rate it hardy to zone 9, meaning that its top growth is killed by even a few degrees of frost – but it will regrow from the roots in our zone 8. Interestingly, nurseries also carry elaborately twisted standard specimens, and charge big bucks for them, so either they are deemed hardy or they are meant to be taken indoors for the heart of winter. We'll see for ourselves how ours performs through a few Houston winters. In its first winter, the leaves were damaged (but not all killed outright) by a series of mild overnight freezes in December. The one we got is planted near our backyard fence – I'll have to rig up some kind of trellising for it to hang onto so that it can strut its stuff vertically.
Bougainvilleas bloom best when shown a bit of neglect – a little drought stress, not too much fertilizer. When fertilizing, a product formulated for tropical plants is best, and don't go high on the phosphorus content, because that may inhibit flowering. The vines bloom on new growth.
Note that I'm not actually sure that our specimen is B. spectabilis – nurseries don't specify the species, so it may be some hybrid instead.

paper flower
Frost-damaged foliage, Dec 2017

This plant used to grow in our garden, but it slipped away...

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