Growing bougainvillea in Melbourne.

By James Wall

Today Gardenworld welcomed wholesale bougainvillea grower Peter Driessen who is also known as the Bougie Man. Here is a few questions I posed to him.

Are they deciduous?

Not naturally, but can be depending on the climate. During a cold winter in Melbourne they have been seen to lose 3 quarters of their leaves, but during some of those mild winters of the drought, they lost no leaves at all.

What are the biggest mistakes gardeners make with them?

They over water them. This causes wet feet. Lack of oxygen gets to the roots. They curl up their leaves and can die. Ideally, dig a 75cm square where you are going to plant and raise the area by 10cm. This will assist in drainage. Remember, roots will not develop further in damp conditions. This is why they grow very little in a wet winter.

How often do you you prune ?

Prune them hard. You can use a headge trimmer and then clean up with secatuers. Many of the new varieties might flower a few times per year and so the first prune might be after the first flush of flowers in spring.  Then you might prune again after flowering in summer, and again after flowering in Autumn. Other varieties like the red Scalett O’Hara only flower during 12 hour days in autumn and spring, missing the summer flush.

What other varieties are there?

Of course there is the old Magnifica trailii but we don’t sell that as it just gets too big and is quite overwhelming. This was one of the origianl varieties discovered in South America by the French back in about 1770. The varieties chosen today are much more manageable with good strong flowers.

The whites are not quite as strong, but the 2 best are White Cascade and Donyo.

Dwarf varieities grow very well in Queensland but Melbourne is a bit more borderline. You need to get good growth during the warmer periods and you may need to protect them in the first winter.

Any tips on growing in pots ?

Be careful using pots with only one hole (like terracotta). Makes sure to raise them off the ground with pot feet. Use scoria in the base of pot and cover with some flyscreen. This will stop the potting mix blending in with the scoria. Use a top quality potting mix with nice chunky pinebark, to ensure good drainage.

Peter’s dad started a nursery over 35 years ago and Peter was around for much of that as a kid. He has grown bougainvillea for about 20 years. It happened when they bought out an old nursery and amongst the plants were a couple of hundred bougs. After growing these and learning about them for a couple of years, they got hooked on these intriguing climbers. The crop takes about 7 months of the year, with a couple of months either side of that for preparation and sales. The best part is, Peter and his family get a month off every winter !

If you would like to see some of Peter’s stock, including some fabulous hanging baskets and some amazing standards (growing on sticks) – then get down to Gardenworld now.


  1. anney driessen says:

    Hi peter how are you going see you soon love sister

  2. katya says:

    Hi, I wonder if bougainvillea will grow as a climber in Riverina region, NSW?

  3. Rosalind Summers says:

    Hi I have a question for the “Bougie” man. I have a bougenvillia that is about 15 years old . It grows on a 120 cm by nearly 2 mts in length fence. But it has grown twice as high. It does not flower much any more. I have now cut it down to fence level and intend trim it back more. It has about 10 big stalks coming from the base. Will it flower up again? Do I have to remove those 10 stems? Would it be better to pull it all out and start again ? Hope you can help me. Thanks Rosalind Summers Millgrove.

  4. Brian Doyne says:

    When can I buy a bougainvillea suitable to grow in
    a large pot? I would like a plant that has yellow
    petal flowers.

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