Stunners in small packages make great garden addition
Summer is on the way, and so it's time to get some colour going that will thrive in the heat. Dwarf bougainvilleas are ideally suited to these conditions, especially the Bambino Bougs.
Bred in Brisbane, the first Bambino Bougs were released in 1997 after nearly 40 years of careful selection and breeding.
They up there with the best in terms of colourful, hardy, low-maintenance plants.
They can be used in garden beds, as a hedge, or even as a living fence because their thorns, though smaller than those on the big varieties, are still sharp enough to deter intruders.
There are more than 20 varieties available. Some have variegated leaves, and some have bi-coloured flowers. All are naturally compact in growth, getting to a maximum height of about 1.5-2 metres, but can be easily kept smaller than that with the occasional trim.
Of course, the actual flowers on a bougainvillea are usually white or cream, quite small and insignificant.
The flamboyant show comes from the bracts, which are in fact modified leaves.
But we tend to be a bit sloppy with the terminology when we talk about bougs.
Siggi has striking golden bracts, and Zuki has deep red blooms that contrast beautifully with the variegated foliage.
The new growth often has touches of pink on the leaves which then fade to white as they age.
Plant Bambino Bougs in well-drained soil in full sun. Don't skimp on soil preparation if planting them in the ground, and do use a premium potting mix if you are growing them in pots. Don't overwater, especially in winter. If you're growing them in pots, let them dry out between waterings and make sure water doesn't sit in the saucer.
Pruning is easy. Just remove the spent flower heads, and this will often encourage more blooms to form.
Feed a couple of times a year with a fertiliser that is high in potash to encourage blooms. If plants are not flowering, it is probably because they are not getting enough potash, or not getting enough direct sun, or both.