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Clay pot makes great home for heat-tolerant bougainvillea


It won’t be long before we are thinking about what plants can really make a splash in the very hot areas around the pool, the patio and yard.

It is traditional to fill those pots with the heat-tolerant offerings of summer annuals. While there are many choices that will work well, they need almost daily watering. There are other options that will provide color year after year with a minimum of fuss.

If you live in one of the many areas where attempting to have bougainvillea in your landscape is an unwelcome reality check that we don’t live in the tropics, here is the perfect way to enjoy bougainvillea and give them adequate winter protection. A sizable ceramic or clay pot makes a great home for these very small rooted vines or shrubs.

In their native environment, they scrape out a living in a thin layer of soil under which the much heavier roots of tropical trees compete for the soil area. While this characteristic makes this plant need careful transplanting, it also means that the plant can live in a good-sized pot and never be unhappy. There are so many luscious varieties these days, there is one to make each of us happy.

Here are a few combos that caught my attention.

Purple Queen bougainvillea is as dark and velvety as purple gets. Try pairing a tree form Purple Queen with low-water shrubs in a lavender and violet glazed tall vase container for balance. Excellent choices for the edging shrubs could be bright green and gold flowered Damiantia (Chrysactinia mexicana) or Golden Dyssodia (Thymophylla pentachaeta). If gold doesn’t work for you, ivory flowered Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) for a cool frothy edge or repeat the purple with one of the gorgeous hybrid purple verbena varieties available.

The best part of all these plants is that they share the low water use of the bougainvillea for a perfect pairing.

Another absolutely spectacular color of bougainvillea is Camarillo Fiesta. This starts out intensely deep salmon orange. As the bracts age, you can have four shades of sunset glowing on one plant.

Bougainvillea is not the only long-blooming, sun-loving, heat- desiring plant that could grace your pool or deck. The hummingbirds will be your best friends if you use a Firecracker Bush (Hamelia patens) or a Coral Fountains (Russelia equisetiformis) for a main plant.

While the Firecracker Bush is a nice round, tightly formed sphere, the Coral Fountains is a cascading plant that will easily grow all the way down the side of the container in the first season. There are so many choices of small tropical and subtropical shrubs and vines that you may never pull a plant out when the season is over again.

An important point: If you intend to keep a plant in a large container for its entire life, choose well. Start with a pot that is the largest you can handle even if the plants don’t quite fill it out in the beginning. Use a very high grade of potting soil, and fertilize regularly. If you use a water soluble brand like Miracle Gro or Super Bloom, fertilize weekly and make sure you use enough solution to wet the entire root ball (approximately 5 gallons per 5 or 6 cubic feet of soil). Or better yet, use an organic granular – a couple of handfuls sprinkled on the soil surface monthly will keep these plants growing and bright.

Cathy Bishop, co-owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, has more than 30 years of gardening experience. E-mail her at familyplus@tucsoncitizen.com.


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