Sometimes Bougainvilleas drop some or all of their bracts and leaves after they are moved or experience a change in temperature. Although this may look dramatic and you may be concerned that your new prized plant is behaving in this way it is quite normal and the plant will recover quickly and put on new growth and start to flower again soon after. If it does suddenly defoliate the important thing is not to overwater it. Keep the compost just damp and gradually increase the watering as the plant regrows. Once it is back in full growth you can commence feeding.

Originating from South America, the Bougainvillea is now widely cultivated across the world as an outdoor plant in warm climates, and is becoming increasingly popular as a conservatory plant in cooler areas. The original species have reddish purple bracts which encase small white flowers but modern hybrids have been bred with white, pink orange, sometimes double flowers, all capable of producing masses of colour over a long period, if the following cultivation requirements are adhered to.

Having the potential to grow to perhaps 20 feet, some pruning will be required in all but the largest conservatory. In the wild, they cling to trees with the aid of sharp spines on the stems. They therefore need tying to a support. Your plant will probably be tied to canes, which need to be removed. After planting (see below), carefully spread out and tie in the main stems to your support. Stop them by pinching out the growing tip when they reach the required height – this will then encourage the formation of flowering side shoots and a good coverage of flowers and foliage. In spring, shorten these side shoots back leaving 2 or 3 buds.

Plants can be placed in an existing border in a conservatory, or grown in large pots. If grown in the latter, they need a good quality compost. We suggest using John Innes no. 3 which is a loam based compost with some added horticultural grit. Each year in the spring pot on to the next size, increasing the diameter by 4-6 inches each time until you eventually pot into a large container. Do not pot Bougainvilleas up if they are dormant or any later than August as growth will start to slow as winter approaches. Established plants will benefit from feeding with a high potash feed such as tomato food during summer. They need full sun, but protection from hot midday sun in a conservatory is recommended (this goes for most other plants) unless there is very good ventilation.

During hot weather keep all windows and doors open as much as possible and damp the floor down each morning to increase humidity. If this is not practical stand a shallow tray of water near the plant and keep it topped up.

The temperature regime affects flowering – they prefer a cool spell in winter, 4 – 7 deg. C is ideal. Too much warmth during this period will inhibit flowering, but if the temperature falls close to freezing, the plant will survive, but take a long time to break into growth in spring, so delaying flowering.