Plumeria rubra or ‘Frangipani’ are tropical shrubs native to the Americas and have been introduced to many other parts of the world where they have become a popular landscape plant. The most notable part of the plant are their fragrant flowers often used for ceremonial purposes.
Plumerias have a very unique look to them. They have thick stems lined with soft, gray bark that is kept bare due to their leaves and flowers growing only from the tops of each stem. Plumerias can grow up to 20ft high when planted in the ground and have an extensive roots system.
There are hundreds of different varieties of Plumerias that have been cultivated around the world with varying degrees of flower colors and leaf characteristics. Their two toned flowers can vary in color, but the most common are yellow, orange, pink and red. They are very fragrant and differ in scent based on the cultivar. The flowers are pollinated by the nocturnal sphinx moth that is attracted to the scent of the flowers.
Plumerias flower after the plant is about three years old in early summer to fall. After the last flowering in fall, the plant will drop its leaves and go dormant through winter.
Since Plumerias are tropical plants, they prefer a lot of sunshine and warm weather. If you live in a warm climate such as southern California or Florida, you can plant Plumerias right in the ground in the spring. Plumerias cannot survive in regions where the temperatures dip into the 40’s or lower. If you live in a colder region, plant your Plumerias in pots so they can be brought indoors until temperatures warm up in the spring.
When planting Plumerias in the ground, ensure you have fertile soil that is well draining. Non-fertile, sandy or clay-like soils should be amended with garden soil or compost to add nutrients and improve the structure of the soil. Plumerias like their soil to be on the acidic side. You can test the pH of your soil with a simple pH probe or send it off to a lab to be tested. If your soil is alkaline, a soil acidifier amendment can be added to the soil. It may be necessary to apply the soil acidifier each year in the spring if your soil pH goes over 7.0. Plumerias can’t take up nutrients if the soil pH is too high.
When planting Plumerias in pots, use a coarse, well draining soil designed for cacti to prevent too much moisture from building up in the pot. Apply a fresh layer of potting soil to the top of the pot each spring to add nutrients.
Place your Plumerias in a spot where they will get full sun to partial shade most of the day. The more sunshine the plants get, the more they will flower.
Plumerias take to being propagated by cuttings very well. Ensure you are taking cuttings when the plant is in its active growth stage in the spring and summer. You want the plant in an active growth stage because the cuttings will root faster and the plant you are taking the cuttings from will have time to produce new growth where the cuttings were taken before winter.
Plumeria cuttings can be taken anywhere along the stem of the plant and at any desired length. Be sure to wear gloves when making any cuts because Plumerias secrete a milky white sap that is toxic if ingested or if it gets in the eyes.
Tools You Will Need
Step 1: Find a spot anywhere on the stem you want to take the cuttings. The length of the cuttings is of preference.
Step 2: Make a cut at a 45° angle. This gives more space on the cutting to produce roots opposed to straight across. Ensure your pruners have been disinfected or washed with warm soap and water to kill bacteria that can enter the wound on your Plumeria.
Step 3: Keep the cutting in a shaded area for about a week until the end of the cutting has calloused over.
Step 4: Mix 2 parts perlite to 3 parts coarse potting soil. This mixture prevents the soil from accumulating too much moisture and allows the newly formed roots more space to spread out into.
Step 5: Fill clear plastic nursery pots with the perlite & soil mixture.
Step 5: Dip the tip of the cutting in a rooting hormone and stick directly in the perlite & potting soil mixture.
Step 6: Water the cutting into the soil to signal the roots to start forming. Ensure the soil is completely saturated.
Step 7: Wait for the soil to completely dry out before watering again. Too much moisture can cause the cutting to rot.
Step 8: Roots should begin to form in 60 to 90 days. The clear pots will allow you to see when the roots have formed.
Plumerias need to be watered regularly throughout the spring and summer to keep their foliage green and healthy. Underwatered Plumerias will develop dry leaf tips and margins and will eventually drop from the plant. When watering, heavily water until the water runs out the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot, then leave the soil to almost dry out before watering again. Doing so will ensure you are not over watering your Plumeria. Soils left waterlogged for long periods of time will cause the stems to rot out.
Plumerias go dormant in the winter when daylight hours are reduced. During these months, the plant will not take up moisture through their roots so watering should be eliminated until spring. When dormant, Plumerias will drop their leaves as a way to conserve water and energy through the winter months.
Plumerias need a high phosphorus fertilizer to promote flowering. Avoid fertilizing with high nitrogen fertilizers. Nitrogen promotes foliar growth and can create ‘leggy’, weak growth. Fertilizers higher in phosphorus designed for flowering plants will not only encourage Plumerias to flower, but will produce stronger growth. Fertilize regularly throughout the growing season and cease fertilizing in late fall and winter when the plant goes dormant.
Here are some highly recommended fertilizers:
The most common diseases that Plumerias can suffer from are fungal infections. Fungal spores suck the sap from leaves, leaving dead spots. Fungal spores can present themselves in different forms based on the type of fungus that is attacking the plant. Rust fungus looks like powdery, rust colored spots on the leaves and is often most prevalent on the bottom of the leaves. Powdery mildew looks like a fine layer of white powder on the tops of leaves.
At the first sign of a fungal infection on your Plumeria, spray down the entire plant, including the bottom of the leaves with a copper fungicide. Apply again in 7-10 days.
Plumerias can easily be infested by sucking insects such as mealybugs and mites. They feed on the leaf sap on the undersides of leaves, leaving white to brown spotting on the top sides of the leaves. These bugs are most prevalent during the spring and summer months. The best treatment is an insecticidal soap. Spray down the entire plant, including the bottom of the leaves and re-apply in 7-10 days.
If you have any more questions about how to grow Plumerias, we will be happy to assist you in a virtual telehealth appointment with one of our Plant Specialists. Please click on one of the options below to book an appointment.