Plumeria

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CARING FOR YOUR PLUMERIA: Plumeria go into a natural dormant period, so it is easy to grow them in containers and bring them inside for winter storage. While dormant, Plumeria do not need to be watered at all.  There is an Evergreen Variety. Plumeria are very adaptable. They can be grown in containers, in the ground, or you can use the plunging method (sinking containers into the ground). During their growth season, your plant will require lots of sun, water and fertilizer to thrive. When your plumeria gets at least six hours of full sun per day, it will delight you with lots of sweet smelling, beautiful blooms. This plant feeds heavily and will grow and bloom vigorously if you give it plenty of its favorite fertilizer. Plumeria also love water, but they can’t stand to have wet roots. Be sure and plant your cutting in fast draining soil or make sure it has adequate drainage. Plumeria can grow up to 20 feet high and 20 feet in diameter… but you can control the size of your plant by the size of container you choose for it.

LIGHT: Plumerias love full sun! However, if your plant has been shaded for awhile, such as in the house, do not just plunk it down in the middle of yard. So if you just bought it, it’s been in a greenhouse shaded from full sun and protected from going much over 90*F — so please use caution when acclimating your plant to its new environment. Move it gradually so it can adjust to the strong rays of the sun to avoid ‘sunburn’. Stems that have been stored for the winter need this same gradual care. In order to bloom, your Plumeria will require a lot of sun. They prefer bright, airy spots like sunny greenhouses with good ventilation, or a front walkway that catches the early morning sun into the afternoon. If your succulents and cactus like the spot, so will your Plumeria.

If you would like to keep you plants growing even during the winter, consider growing with florescent lighting. The most important thing to remember with plumeria is that they don’t like ‘wet feet’, don’t let the soil become soggy. This has a lot to do with the makeup of the soil.

If you are just starting out with a cutting, plant the Plumeria in the soil and wet thoroughly, do not water again until you have 4 or five well formed leaves. You can mist the tips every couple of days if it is very warm and dry out. The same goes for a rooted Plumeria that you may have purchased, except for the fact that you can lightly water the plant once a week until a few well formed leaves begin to grow. After that, water and fertilize as needed. When the time comes for the plant to go dormant, these rules go out the window. The only time the plant should be completely dry is in the winter when it has entered this dormant period.

TEMPERATURE: Make sure they are kept at temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. Once established, they can tolerate occasional drops to around freezing for very short periods. Frost will kill the ends and cause a delay in your next bloom. Exposure to freezing temperatures longer than a few hours will kill your Plumeria. As for high temperatures, as long as they have good ventilation, they can do very well on very hot days. Plumeria need warmth, so if you live in a cool climate, you may want to grow them in a greenhouse or the best results. For peak growing day time temps should be in the 80s and 90s while nights should be in the mid 60s to 70s.  They are known to be acclimated to much hotter temperatures.

FERTILIZER: As mentioned before, Plumerias need a lot of food. Fertilization should be applied by liquid or time release methods or by spraying the leaves weekly with a mix of fertilizer. Don’t worry about adding soil mix that contains fertilizer such as Miracle Grow or other plant soil mixes or manure. These do not have the proper drainage needed and will become soggy and are slow to filter the water. Let your plant get its food through the water you give it. If you love to pamper your plant and wish to mix up your own batch of water/fertilizer mix, it is currently recommended that you use a high phosphorus (middle number) water soluble mix such as a ‘super bloom’ type fertilizer (10-50-10). In this way you can accurately measure the amount of fertilizer your plant gets each time you feed it. Feeding the plant every other week will promote healthy branching and most importantly, lots of new blooms. The secret to lots of blooms is lots of branching. Each tip on your Plumeria will produce a flower stock or ‘inflo’ which in turn causes that part of the plant to branch 3 or 4 times. Now each of those 3 or 4 branches will eventually flower and create multiple branches on each of those tips. The goal is to get your plant to flower (for the beautiful fragrant flowers) as much as possible which in turn creates many more flowering opportunities as the tree grows. A fertilizer high in phosphorous will greatly aid your plant in this flowering/branching process. If you are a busy person that does not have time to mix up your own batches of fertilizer or if you are afraid you will forget to feed it regularly, you can buy a time released, pellet type fertilizer that will feed your plant on a regular basis. Again, be sure to get a high middle number fertilizer. For those of you who really want to rev up the flower-ability of your Plumeria is to supplement the water/fertilizer feedings with a foliation fertilizer spray. Plants can make much better use of fertilizer sprayed directly on the leaves as opposed to being added to the soil. A mix of SNG, a 10-10-10 fertilizer and Coco Wet can a super booster to your growing periods. Once Spring and Summer have passed and September roll around it is time to stop the fertilizer feeding and prepare your plant for dormancy.

DORMANT PLUMERIAS: Once the falls arrives and the days shorten, your Plumeria will begin to go dormant. During this time flowering will cease and some if not all of the leaves on your tree will turn yellow and fall off. At this time you should gradually stop watering the plant until you no longer water it at all. During this time of dormancy, if winter temps will fall below freezing, you can bring your potted tree into the house or garage for storage until the next spring. Some people even take the Plumeria out of the soil, wash off the roots and hang it from the rafters or put it in the attic. Just be careful not to break off the roots. As you can see, the Plumeria is almost dead during this time. But once the temps begin to get back into the upper 50s at night and 70s during the day, you can bring your Plumeria back outside again (gradually moving from shade to sun) and its flower time again. This aspect of the Plumeria really makes it an easy plant to grow and take care of. Do not fertilize or water your plant from around September until it has put on 4 or 5 well formed leaves in the spring. Some people will give a light watering once a month during the winter.

SOIL: Plumerias require a soil that promotes good drainage. A good mix would be 1/3 crushed cinder, 1/3 perlite, and 1/3 bark compost or peat.

REPOTTING: After the first year or two, that 4 inch pot your Plumeria started in will be too small to sustain vigorous growth. A 6-8 inch or even larger pot will sustain your Plumeria for the next year ot two. Replant your Plumeria so the stem is at the same level as before. Sometimes you can skip the repotting and just top up your soil. To do this, remove some of the soil off the top of the pot and add fresh mix. You can alternate this with repotting. Pruning the fine roots each spring is beneficial to the plant. The fine roots from the year before will die during the winter. These old roots take a long time to decompose, and may clog your pot. If you prune the roots, you can put fresh soil around the larger roots for several years, keeping the same pot. Just fill the space the old fine roots took up with fresh soil. Be sure to monitor your root system. The key to a healthy Plumeria is a healthy root system. Once the root system has filled the pot, it is best to move up a pot size to allow your plant to expand. This will promote a healthy trunk which needs a growing root stock to promote its growth. Without a healthy, growing trunk it will be difficult for your plant to support its ever branching and growing top.

WINTER PROTECTION: Once the temperatures begin to fall into the 40s, bring your Plumeria indoors. Water them before you bring them in. You should not need to give them water very often, if at all, during the winter. Store the plants in an area with bright light. They can survive storage in a dark, cool place, but they will bloom better the next season if they spent the winter with warmth and light. You’ll see the growth will remain straighter and more compact if they continue to get bright light in the winter. If you have a greenhouse, keeping the plants at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Alternatively, you can store them inside by removing the plants from their pots, shaking off any loose soil and keeping them in a warm attic or closet. If you choose to remove the leaves, give them a couple of days for the latex to dry before storage. When the weather warms up in the spring, take them out and trim the roots before replanting. If you wish, plant them in pots and then submerge the pots in the ground for easy fall removal. This will also promote good growth during warm weather. Don’t forget to provide some shade from direct sun for a couple of weeks as they adjust to the outdoors. VOID if you have an evergreen as the do not go dormant.

PRUNING: You can prune Plumeria at any time using a sharp knife. Be sure to cut at an angle so the cut won’t hold any moisture. The plant will bleed latex sap, but it will stop in a day or so. If you dip the cut briefly in water, it can help it stop flowing. If you think the plant is getting too tall, prune it so the blooms will be at a better height. Your Plumeria will just grow more branches at the point at which you pruned it and this of course will promote even more blooms.

GROWING PLUMERIAS FROM CUTTINGS: Cuttings for propagation should be at least a foot in length. Allow them to dry in a ventilated area for up to a week or longer as needed. Basically the cut needs to scab up or dry. Choose a pot that is 4 inches wide and deep. To plant your cutting make a two inch deep hole in the soil. You can do this by sticking the cutting into the soil after you have filled the pot and wet the soil. Take the cutting back out and put some rooting hormone on the bottom of the cutting. Roots will develop from the bottom of the cutting, so don’t plant it much more than the 2 inches. You may want to pile a few rocks around the base of the cutting to help prop it up once it is planted. Make sure it is kept on the dry side (if watered at all). It will take about a month for your cutting to root. You will know it has rooted once you have 3 or 4 well formed leaves. It is important to provide a warm environment and bottom heat, it will root better. Just remember that each type of cutting will have its own growing characteristics and some will emerge quicker than others.

Once planted, if they are kept too moist the cuttings may begin to rot. Cuttings should not be watered until a few leaves have formed at the tip indicating a root system is forming. At that point water sparingly and slowly increase as the plant progresses. The hotter it is the more you can water. If it is winter or late fall and you can not provide a heat mat and strong indoor florescent lighting, it is recommended that you wait to plant your cutting in late spring. Cuttings can be stored in a cool dry place for many months. Just wrap them up in some news paper and pull them out when you are ready to go!

GROWING PLUMERIAS FROM SEEDS: Plumeria can be grown easily from seed, but the seedlings will not remain true to their variety. All named varieties are grown from cuttings from plants with excellent characteristics. A cutting will always be just like the parent. A seedling may have different characteristics from the parent. If you want to grow your own seed, just let the pods develop and ripen over several months. The pod will explode sending seeds everywhere, so you may want to tie a paper bag around it to catch all the seed. Each pod holds about 100 seeds. Plant the seeds in a 3-4 inch tray with bottom heat. Use a soil-less mix such as Pro-Mix as the growing medium. Plant the seeds about ¼ inch deep. Tamp them down firmly and water them gently. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they sprout. Don’t overwater. When they have grown at least two true leaves, transplant them to small pots. They will grow quickly and will bloom in about 2 to 3 years.

… and now, the condensed version…

GENERAL INFO: Their rich and memorable flagrance is known as ‘the scent of Hawaii’. The Dwarf Singapore Evergreen has a thick succulent round tipped leaf, and produces yellow throated white flowers. The leaf of deciduous Plumeria has a fine pointed tip that is meant to begin dropping off in the fall. When grown in the pot it can be forced into dormancy and stored away all winter long. The evergreen variety will keep its leaves all winter so leave it in a pot if its too cold to survive your winter season.

ROOTING: To enhance root growth use a rooting formula designed for soft wood cuttings, and plant the cut side down halfway in a small 4 inch pot. Moisten the soil, but until roots are developed, do not over water. Placing pot on warm cement ground will aid the rooting process.

REPOTTING: The more room the roots have the bigger the plant will become. Use a porous potting media so it can drain well. One part cinder to 3 parts potting soil evenly mixed, or an even combination of perlite, peat moss, and cinder.  By cutting the plant back, and increasing its pot size a little at a time it will not only be easier to bring in and as it gets older, but it will cause the trunk to grow thicker and the plant to become fuller with a lot more flower potential, and hopefully a forest of Plumeria with all your cuttings that can be planted into new Plumeria!

WATERING: They like to get real wet once well rooted, but then like to dry well.

LIGHT: The more sun you can provide it the more flowers it can produce. With the right lighting it can bloom indoors, but direct sun is preferred.

TEMPERATURE: It can survive if kept above frost levels, and is known to be able to tolerate up to 120 degrees F., but will do best between 60 and 90 degrees F.

FERTILIZER: During the Spring and Fall months a milder fertilizer product designed for flowering plants will suffice. In the summer Super Bloom made by Greenlight Company is one of many products that along with bright sun will help enhance its blooming cycle.

BLOOMS: Each flower stem, or inflorescent can produce up to 60 flowers, and in time it can produce hundreds of flowers a year.

NOTE: Please see the GENERAL PLANT CARE/PLEASE READ FIRST section, FIRST!!!  I encourage you to learn as much as you can about your plants. With more knowledge comes a higher probability of success. Good luck!

Please see Plumeria101.com for more information regarding identifying bugs that affect plumeria and pest control methods, etc.

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XMas ’08 bought four different plants and had them shipped. They were there the day after we got home. The Anthurium is now blooming and the others are happy and healthy. Would totally recommend plants from here! Mahalo! — Debbie S., Des Moines, WA