If you love bougainvillea but don’t want a huge, out-of-control vine rambling amok try growing miniature or dwarf bougainvilleas. What’s a mini bougainvillea? There are several varieties that are called dwarf bougainvillea that, with pruning, can be grown as a low growing shrub.
What is a Mini Bougainvillea?
Regular sized bougainvilleas are gorgeous drought tolerant vines that grow rather rapaciously and have wickedly sharp thorns. Miniature bougainvilleas also have thorns but they are much less worrisome because of their diminutive size.
Like its larger relative, dwarf bougainvillea can be grown in USDA zones 9 to 11, where it provides lovely pink or purple blooms year-round.
Bougainvillea Dwarf Varieties
The only true dwarf bougainvillea is the ‘Helen Johnson’ variety. This is a hardy little shrub that can be kept trimmed to about 3 feet (under a meter) in height. The blossoms of Helen Johnson are hot pink with a tinge of purple.
Other bougainvillea dwarf varieties are less miniature. They are Sunvilleas with colors running from a soft salmon pink to rose, white, creamy yellow, dark pink, and purple. The most common of these is ‘Pixie.’ It grows in tufts of thickly covered branches. It does have thorns, but is so covered by foliage that they are insignificant. The habit of this variety is definitely more of a bush rather than a vine. ‘Pixie’ can be trimmed to 2 to 4 feet (61 cm. to 1 m).
There is also a “miniature” variety called ‘Pink Pixie,’ but buyers beware, as this beauty is not a diminutive flower. Even when pruned, this variety will get to 4 to 6 feet (1-2 m.) in height, so it’s really more of a mid-size bougainvillea.
Mini Bougainvillea Care
Dwarf bougainvilleas are fairly salt tolerant, fast growing, and need full sun. They make excellent container plants, especially the Sunvillea varieties.
When planting them, amend the soil with composted manure and top soil or organic peat moss.
Bougainvillea is truly drought tolerant and blooms best when a bit on the dry side. If the soil is completely dry, water the plants deeply to saturate at the root zone and then allow the soil to dry before watering again.
Fertilize dwarf bougainvillea every other week between the spring and fall with a diluted mix of all purpose, water soluble fertilizer. Cut back to fertilizing once every four to six weeks in the winter.
Bougainvillea responds well to pruning and should be trimmed in the late summer or early spring to restrain its size. Prune just above a leaf. Pruning does decrease the number of blooms initially, but the plant rebounds rapidly. To make the plant bushier and fuller, pinch off the tender new tips after each flush of blooms, about every four to six weeks.
Keep an eye out for pests, especially bougainvillea loopers. Hand pick these pests at night or early in the morning. If aphids are a problem, spray the plant with insecticidal soap, coating both the bottoms and tops of the leaves. Repeat every four to seven days.