The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, October 22, 2000
Garden Life

The beautiful bougainvillaea
By Satish Narula

CALL it a shrub, a climber, a pot plant, a good topiary plant, a bonsai plant, a screen plant or a tree — bougainvillaea fits all descriptions. The hardy nature of this plant endears it to one and all.

This plant finds favour with gardeners for many reasons. Some like it for its varied and attractive brackets, which are often mistaken for flowers, while others find it handy for display at places where daily care for plants is not possible (for watering etc). The plant is so hardy that it grows well even if it is neglected.

The flowers of bougainvillaea are tiny and inconspicuous but enclosed by very attractive brackets. A wide range of colours makes this plant popular. The plant is liked not only for its flowers but even the foliage in some of the varieties is variegated. Varieties like Thimma, Dr Rao, Archana, Vaisakha, Surekha have variegated foliage. Some varieties bear single ‘flowers’ while others have double ‘flowers’. There are also varieties that have two colours on the same plant.

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Brightly coloured brackets make bougainvillaea a popular plantIn North India, the plant blooms twice a year — from the end of November to the first fortnight of December and during March-April. There are certain varieties like Shubra and Partha that also bear flowers during the summers. The latter can be used for hedging purposes. In case you are looking for a dwarf shrub, Golden Glow is suitable. The common varieties like Partha, Mary Palmer etc are a good choice if you are looking for a tall shrub. The latter is also a good climber. Mahara and H.C. Buck are also suitable for this purpose. Not every Bougainvillaea variety grows well in a pot. For this Shubra, Mary Palmer, Wajid Ali Shah, and Thima are preferred. For bonsai lovers, varieties like Partha, Thima, Shubra and Mary Palmer are good.

Bougainvillaea is easy to propagate from hard wood cutting. This should be done during the monsoon or in January-February. You can plant the cuttings individually in polythene bags or in pots where a number of cuttings can be accommodated. They should be planted in sand. The pot should be kept in the shade and the sand should be kept moist. Two-thirds of the cutting should be buried in the sand. In some of the common varieties, however, propagation by cuttings is not very successful. These varieties are Thima, Mary Palmer and Mahara. In such cases the best course is air layering. This can be done during the months of August-September.

Bougainvillaea is suitable for all locations. It can be planted at places that you want to hide or screen. As it grows very fast, it covers the place within a matter of months. It can also be made to cover the backyard wall. Besides beautifying your home,its thorny branches also provide protection.

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This feature was published on September 24, 2000Top