The toughest part of this bright, climbing plant may be the pronunciation of its name! Most Americans would pronounce it “BOO-gan-VILL-yah” but most Spanish speakers would pronounce it “boo-gan-VEE-yah.” However you say it, it’s a great easy-to-care-for plant that provides bright cascades of color in a sunny winter windowsill.
Bougainvilleas can be pruned to fit large indoor hanging baskets or trellised indoors in pots. Like poinsettias, bougainvillea’s bright colors don’t come from flowers but from papery bracts of red, orange, yellow, pink, rose, purple, or white depending on variety. Their oval green leaves are also available in variegated forms.
They grow in cool temperatures (40ºF-70ºF) in winter and don’t mind the summer heat. Water only when the top inch of soil is dry and feed monthly with a balanced fertilizer — or apply a time-release fertilizer every 3 months.
Editor’s note: I have had two bougainvilleas growing in big pots in the passive solar “sun room” in our home for more than 20 years. They are now about 12-feet tall, always look great and cheer us up in winter.