Documenting Bougainvillea Growth

(and Sugar Studies)

August 23, 2018


This past spring I saw a gorgeous display of Bougainvilleas in hanging baskets at a local garden center. They so happened to be on sale so I "had" to buy one. This was one of the first times I had ever seen any in person after first hearing about them less than two years ago so I was especially excited, not only to own one but to be able to study it to recreate in sugar.


When I saw even larger hanging baskets and bush containers (Images 1-3) with white, varied white-pink, and other shades of wonderful Bougainvillea bracts, I had to stop myself from buying another one as I have a very small gardening space - Bougainvilleas can get quite large as could be seen on the ones on display.

Image 1: Beautiful hanging Bougainvillea baskets in various colors.

Image 2: Beautiful hanging Bougainvillea baskets in various colors - different angle.

Image 3: Variegated pink shade Bougainvillea.

I brought home a fuchsia-magenta hanging basket that I did not think of taking an image of as I did not think it  would "die" on me so soon. 

Turns out my Bougainvillea did not die, but rather all of the beautiful fuchsia-magenta bracts fell off. I am almost certain it was because I had my plant in the shade. I learned later that Bougainvilleas are full sun plants. 

I trimmed my Bougainvillea a good amount, bought it Bougainvillea food, and waited. I read that Bougainvilleas only bloom on new growth. ***Disclaimer: I am by no means a garden expert.***

My plant grew fairly rapidly, the branches vining out a good deal with a lot of new leaf growth but no Bougainvilleas ... until I saw the first signs of Bougainvillea buds a good weeks later (Images 4-6).

Image 4: tiny Bougainvillea bud  peering out between green foliage - it had just rained

Image 5: tiny Bougainvillea bud on branch

Image 6: a set of tiny Bougainvillea buds bunched together

I was excited to see this new growth and photographed it as often as I could. Not too long after the buds started to appeared, the bracts began to obtain their distinctive bright color (Images 7-8). 

Image 7: distinctive Bougainvillea bract growth

Image 8: distinctive Bougainvillea bract growth in bunches

Image 9: Bougainvillea bud growths - not too much color in bracts yet

Image 10: Bougainvillea bract growth with larger bracts at top. Larger bracts at top yet to obtain their distinctive bright color - but are a brighter color than the smaller and more green Bougainvillea buds.

One could also begin to distinguish more clearly what would eventually become the Bougainvillea flowers in the center of the three bracts (Images 11-12). The colorful Bougainvillea bracts are often mistaken for "petals". The actual flowers of this plant however, are the sets of three flowers in the center of the bracts.

I was eagerly waiting for a more grown Bougainvillea to appear to perhaps dissect one for my sugar - gumpaste studies. I waited to find a Bougainvillea with at least one fully bloomed flower in the center . Once I found at least one of these however, I found myself hesitant to cut any off for dissection as I waited so long for my Bougainvillea to bloom again and there were only a few blooms thus far. I did continue to take as many images as possible however as this did not "harm" my plant.

Once a few more grown Bougainvilleas appeared, I also began to pay attention to how they branched to form the bushy and compact growths. I also paid attention to the proportions of the center flowers, how far up the bracts the top edges of the flowers appeared at and so on. I wanted to not only recreate it in sugar but wanted to recreate a most realistic sugar - gumpaste version as possible.

Image 11: more clearly defined and brightly colored Bougainvillea bracts and the center flower buds

Image 12: brightly colored Bougainvillea growths