One of the most recognisable plants used in the Caribbean is the Bougainvillea sp., or “paper flower” as most people in this region commonly refer to it. The colourful portion or “paper” is not actually a flower, but a bract, which is a modified leaf or scale. The true flower is white, inconspicuous, and hidden inside the bract. Bougainvillea sp. has an enormous genus with 18 to 20 known species, and hundreds of different varieties.
This versatile plant has some of the best varietal options in the world of horticulture: big ones, small ones, standard tree forms, bonsais, compact shrubs, variegation, and pretty much every colour on the visible spectrum aside from blue.
Native to South America, Bougainvillea sp. is widely used as an ornamental in Caribbean landscapes and can be found on nearly every island in the region. Its wide range of forms and colours make it a desirable addition, and another great aspect is its fairly low-maintenance demeanour.
Once established, Bougainvillea sp doesn’t need much aside from occasional watering and some carefully planned pruning.
Pruning this plant can be tricky since the stems are covered in thorns that can be quite painful if touched the wrong way. However, the style of pruning is important because Bougainvillea sp. flowers only on new growth. If it is constantly pruned, one will never be able to enjoy the beauty of this plant in full bloom.
Bougainvillea sp. loves full sun, and is extremely pest resistant aside from iguanas who love to chomp on its leaves.
This plant is a wonderful addition to any landscape, and like all plants if cared for well, will bring continuous blooms for years to come.