Connecting Greater Phoenix gardeners with information that helps put xeriscape principles into action.

The Beastly, But Beautiful Bougainvillea

Beastly BougainvilleaOh, I know.  Springtime visitors to Phoenix gush over the beautiful bougainvillea.  Having come from Minnesota myself, I completely understand.  Escaping a frighteningly cold and monotonous  landscape can be a bit like making a prison break.  Landing in a warm and sunny wonderland with bursts of spring color?  Oooh!…ahhh!

But now, having lived in Phoenix for going on 15 years and wrestling with the beastly bougainvillea, I can honestly tell our spring visitors…the bastards ain’t all that! 

Except for a few weeks of the year when they look like this, they have come out on top in many a pruning contest.  And I currently have 9 to contend with.  But I’m picking them off, one by one.  Even though they do great in Phoenix xeriscapes and ARE absolutely stunning this time of year!

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Ocotillo + Bougainvillea: Pretty and Prickly in Phoenix

ocatilla_bougainvilleaNow here is an interesting xeriscape combination: Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) and Bougainvillea. This wall is not only more interesting by this planting, it is guaranteed to detract intruders. These two plants are nature’s own barbed wire.

These xeriscape plants are also a good choice for this narrow space because their growth pattern is tall and wide. And while Bougainvillea grows in any direction, it is easily trained by pruning limbs that go in unwanted directions.

To make this space more challenging, the wall happens to be south-facing. That means these plants are exposed to the hottest Phoenix sun year-round. But no matter, these two are up for the challenge. Both Ocotillo and Bougainvillea thrive in hot, dry areas.

Keep in mind, though, that Bougainvillea are messy. That means avoid planting near pools. My Bougainvillea are in areas of my garden where I never have to fuss about the pink flowers blowing around. They eventually decompose or my chicken, Luna, eats them. Plus, I never complain about added color in my garden. Pink flowers on the ground? Bonus!

So if you need a tall, pretty barrier on a wall that gets full Phoenix sun 365 days a year, plant this visually interesting xeriscape combination.

Making Peace with Bougainvillea: A Centerpiece

Yes, they are messy. Yes, they are mean (with their thorns). But I get my revenge by making Bougainvillea work for me. That is, I clip bunches of flowers (being careful to avoid the inch-long thorns) and put them in a vase for display on my tables, inside and out. They are a quick flash of color for when unexpected guests come.