Landscape No-No’s: Wrong Plant, Wrong Place

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The ‘Torch Glow’ Bougainvillea Dilemma

In my last post, I showed you a photo of a “landscape no-no” and challenged you to guess what the problem was.

Were you able to guess what is wrong with this planting?

I gave a hint that the plant in the middle is ‘Torch Glow’ Bougainvillea.

Well, I am happy to report that most of you were right about the problem.

Torch Glow Bougainvillea as a small shrub in a narrow location

Size Matters: ‘Torch Glow’ Bougainvillea

You see, ‘Torch Glow’ Bougainvillea (or any bougainvillea) for that matter, is too large to be planted in such a small area.

Although this bougainvillea shrub is small now, it will soon grow very big…

Torch Glow Bougainvillea as a young plant

I planted the ‘Torch Glow’ Bougainvillea, above, in my father-in-law’s back garden. At the time I took this photo – it was less then 2 years old.

Personally, I like this variety of Bougainvillea – it has an unusual shape compared to other types of Bougainvillea and produces less litter. It does grow very fast and will soon outgrow a small area.  At maturity, it can reach heights of 8 feet and 4 feet wide.

So, back to the original planting in the first photo.  The problem that will soon occur is that the ‘Torch Glow’ Bougainvillea will grow wider and overhang the pathway to the entry.

Of course, at first, the homeowner will attempt to keep the Bougainvillea pruned back – but he would be fighting a losing battle.  This shrub grows too big.

Did I also mention that this particular plant has THORNS?

You never want to put any type of plant or tree that has thorns, next to an area where people walk.  No one likes to get stuck by a thorn.

bush Rosemary

The Rosemary Predicament

This homeowner also had another landscape problem directly across the pathway from the bougainvillea…

He has a bush Rosemary planted in a tiny area that was 3 inches wide.

As you can see, he was already busy pruning it to keep it from hanging over the pathway.

Soon, the base of the plant will become more woody with less leaves as it grows, which will make it very unattractive.

In addition, the small amount of soil, will affect the ultimate health of the rosemary as well. It might become difficult to irrigate with a tiny root space as well.

The Lesson Learned: Research and Plan

**So what is the lesson learned from this “landscape no-no”?

Take a few minutes to research the plants you select before you plant them (don’t always rely on your landscaper’s advice – check for yourself).  Make sure the plants will fit that particular area once they reach their mature size.

I hope this will help you to avoid a similar mistake in the future in your garden.


I am still patiently (not really) waiting to plant my fall vegetable garden.  We are buying compost and manure this weekend to replenish the existing soil in the gardens and I hope to have everything planted soon.

I promise to keep you updated 🙂

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
9 replies
  1. James Missier
    James Missier says:

    Not so much of a fan of bougainvilleas unless they are the varigated type where the leaves are also coloured.
    These have softer & subtle thorns that can be tolerated compared to the the originals.
    I guess the best is get those that cascade downward and plant them where they can trail.

  2. A Daughter of the King
    A Daughter of the King says:

    That Rosemary plant is such a trooper, struggling along in a 3 inch bed!

    Oh do tell what you are planting in your veggie garden. I'm snooping because my daughter and I will be planting a fall garden at her house soon. Our Spring/summer garden was a real flop, mostly because her chickens raided it…but now that the chickens are secured, I'm excited about fall planting. Funny, I've been gardening for over 30 years, but have very little experience with growing veggies.

  3. Arid
    Arid says:

    Love the Torch Glow bougainvillea! I can also attest to the fact they can grow much taller and wider than stated. My mother has a 15 year old plant that is at least 12' tall and 15-20' wide. A showstopper!

  4. richardwilkins
    richardwilkins says:

    I also experienced that one also to my last hired landscape contractor. This issue about putting a plant along the path way or placing it in an area that is not suitable for the plant to live. This thing must undergo in a proper landscape management so that we can avoid this kind of mistakes.

  5. Gary
    Gary says:

    I know this is an old post, but I’m wondering if torch glow can be grown in a pot? I live in Las Vegas NV and have a bare northwest corner in my yard that received full sun from about 11:00-4:00. Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you!

  6. says:

    Hello Gary,

    All bougainvillea should do very well in pots. However, you will want a large container that is at least 2-3 wide at the top and 2-3 feet tall. This enables enough soil for the shrub to grow while providing insulation from hot summer temperatures.

    I hope this helps!

  7. pam
    pam says:

    Hi, I’m wondering how big the glow torch was when you planted it in your father-in-laws yard. You said in the picture it is under 2 years old, was it a 5 gallon to start ? I have an 8ft by 4ft space, I’m wondering if I need one 5 gallon plant or 2 for the area.

  8. says:

    Hello Pam,

    It was planted from a 5-gallon. They grow at a fairly fast rate and for your space, one should be enough. It will take about 3 years to fill the space, but if you plant two, they will crowd into each other and you will have to do a lot of pruning. I hope this helps!

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