10 Reasons Why I Love Bougainvilleas

A rationalization of a seemingly superfluous affinity for a very commonplace flower

I like flowers. I like them a lot. Unquestionably, my favorite flowers are bougainvilleas. It’s no secret that bougainvilleas come in many pinks, yet to my dismay, they often are confused with other varieties of flowers that happen to also share the color.

Can you identify them? Take this quiz and find out! Pick the letters that correspond to bougainvilleas, and answers are at the bottom. All pics are my own.

*Note: Not going to touch on genus history or ideal upkeep practices because that information is a monetized search away, but rather would like to elaborate on all that goes through my mind when I spot them, what they’ve taught me, and why I can’t get enough of them!

1. Power of the collective

I loved my middle school years, but even more, I cherished my walks back home from school. Late in the fall and leading up to summer I would amble by tens of bougainvillea plants, blooming without bounds, screaming all shades of pink from my left and right. I recall being so mesmerized by their beauty, their hues, that one day I meticulously planned to pick a single flower to admire as a colorful memory. Seconds after I did, I examined the petals in the center of my palm, feeling absolutely nothing but regret for picking them. The hue felt diluted, the petals felt weightless. 

A single flower rendered nowhere near the impact, the power, that the thousands of flowers did while pressed side by side without gap. The allure of bougainvilleas lies in the power of the collective, the deep commitment of togetherness these flowers have that lends to a larger goal of beautifying the landscape around them. And I love that!

2. You need not look far to find something that’s beautiful 

So many industries have burgeoned on the premise that the rarity of aesthetics makes them all the more admirable. But, availability is underrated! I can’t identify another flower as abundant in volume and beauty, as present in every nook and cranny, as the bougainvillea.

Growing up, I surmised that discovering a beautiful view demanded a prerequisite of traveling, and traveling far. Once I began regularly walking around and mentally mapping my neighborhood, I realized how untrue this was! The absolutely gorgeous bougainvilleas on every street bring me a lot of peace in reminding how exquisite every sight can be when I’m not looking for anything!

3. They’re far from perfect

Underneath their brilliant exteriors, bougainvilleas are bristled with thousands of thorns. Under those thorns, are painfully delicate roots. They’re terrible at retaining water, and are even worse at obeying imposed configurations. They touch you with their boundless presence, but retaliate when you touch them. If the thorns don’t make you bleed, the regret from plucking will.

Visually appealing but lacking no aroma whatsoever (if you see people sniffing bougainvilleas in pictures, they just are breathing in … plain… scentless…air), bougainvilleas are a constant reminder that you need not check every box to exist beautifully, and I love them so much for this!

4. Never need optimal conditions to thrive 

Often, life seems to be a series of moments that exist between interludes of determining the perfect or most optimal time to act. This is where I feel like we can learn a lot from bougainvilleas — their growth is inhibited by so few factors, that they waste no time waiting! No water? No problem. No attention? Hardly an issue. Planted near pests? Unbothered! 

Every time I question if upending a negative situation and growing from it is possible, I think of bougainvilleas. Their grandeur is unremitting, despite enduring difficult circumstances that to us remain unseen.

5. Versatility

There isn’t a surface a bougainvillea plant can’t conquer! Arches, buildings, trellises, columns, fences, walls, hanging baskets, the list goes on. As a kid, I loved the irreproducible shapes and sizes that bougainvillea plants took. 

For me, bougainvilleas were the pinnacle of authenticity, adaptability, and artistry. I loved reimagining their contours on surfaces, musing over the capacity of bougainvilleas to accentuate structures that people loved in the most versatile ways.

6. Let it be

A couple years ago, I got my very first bougainvillea plant. As with any prized possession, relationship, goal, dream, etc., I was eager to lather it with an inordinate amount of love and attention. I did it, and overdid it, and didn’t see a single flower for a year. Just when I had decided to redirect my attention, they started blooming, and profusely at that. I was in awe!

My asymmetric relationship with my bougainvilleas has strengthened in me virtues of patience and faith. As much as I want to artistically prune and constantly water them, letting them be and having faith in their spontaneous growth is the best I can do for them. 

7. Commitment to pink

Not only do bougainvilleas germinate from most verdant bunches of foliage, they are the most floriferous masses of pink! Fuchsia, rouge, strawberry, orchid, magenta, coral, deep-plum, rose, punch, hot pink, watermelon… the lustrous shades of pink this flower exhibits is marvelous. 

And while there are orange and white bougainvilleas (I’ve personally never seen these), their brand association with pink in every hue, shade, tint and tone is unparalleled, period. So epic.

8. Global 

The national flower of Guam, the bougainvillea is one of the most global treasures. Across cities, states, and countries, bougainvilleas have always been a source of comfort and constancy for me. Here are some places, renowned and not, that I’ve landmarked because of their bougainvilleas! (All pictures are my own).

9. They’re the loudest flower, yet one of the least heard

Among family, friends and acquaintances, I can count on a single hand the number of individuals who have acknowledged bougainvilleas by name when seeing them. For a genus this ubiquitous, it baffles my mind how disregarded they are! Recently I was in Amalfi (Italy), and the local tour guide was casting all kinds of descriptors at our group to delineate our rendezvous point. This picture was exactly our group’s perspective. 

“Meet where the red chairs are, the ones that are stacked. Right here near these folks who are standing. Under this wooden structure in the shade… or metal or whatever this material is. Or near this bike. With the white building in the background. Just anywhere in this area.” 

I nearly interjected. Surely people heed different things, but on the account of absolute volume, saturation in color, and ideal height of placement, the flowers here were such a missed opportunity!  When people question why I acknowledge bougainvilleas every time, this is why. Such vibrant bougainvilleas, if not art are grossly undervalued visual/geographic aids, and deserve recognition!

10. They can’t be gifted, they have to be experienced

Unlike roses or tulips or peonies or the hundreds of popular flower varieties you can purchase at your local florist, bougainvilleas aren’t transactional — and there’s a beautiful purity in that, one I absolutely adore. Beyond the initial expense required to purchase and plant them, bougainvilleas are neither gifted nor received, they are experienced. After all, because they wilt immediately, bougainvilleas are less than adequate as cut flowers.

The bougainvillea’s bold inability to be defined has circumvented our commodification of literally everything on this planet, enabling us as humans first (not consumers) to lead more colorful lives, despite neither investing in nor suitably appreciating it.

Sorry B, and thank you.

Quiz answers: well, you’re looking at her.