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G R O W I N G

P L U M E R I A

Plumerias are hardy and beautiful tropicals. Plumeria, also known as Frangipani, or as the Hawaiian lei flower, is an exotic tropical that is easy to grow in the Houston area. It can be maintained as a shrub or small tree grown in a container on the patio or in the garden. Here are some growing tips provided by Barbara Randolph of the Plumeria Society of America.
 

  • WATERING -- Plumeria require at least a half day of full sun to produce blooms. Plants should be allowed to dry out between watering, but excessive dryness will result in foliage loss. On the other hand, the growing medium (soil) should not be kept soggy wet.
  • FEEDING -- A consistent feeding program will produce vigorous plants with large ostentatious clusters of flowers from May through November. Plumeria require fertilizer high in phosphorus (the middle number). Super Bloom is an excellent choice. To keep the plant compact, avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen. Feed the plant every other week, but discontinue feeding in September to allow new growth to harden prior to winter storage.
  • PESTS AND DISEASES -- Plumerias are resistant to insects and diseases. The rare attack of spider mites is easily controlled with an insecticidal soap (Safer Soap). And fungicide containing benomyl will effectively control black fungus or rust. An environmentally safe alternative is a bath of approximately 4 oz. of liquid Ivory soap in a gallon of water.
  • PROPAGATION -- Plumeria can be grown from seeds. Seed pods, or follicles, are produced in abundance in some species and many hybrids. Seed pods take about 8 months to mature. They are easily noticeable on the plants, are of smooth texture and brown to reddish-brown in color. There are two drawbacks to growing plants from seeds. First, growing seedlings will not guarantee color true to the parent plant; (but does offer the excitement of developing new varieties). Second, seedlings usually do not produce blooms for 3 to 4 years. The fastest way to get blooms, and the only way to guarantee a duplicate of the parent plant, is by cuttings which root easily when taken in the February to May time frame. . After making the cutting, allow the cutting to callous about 10 days before potting in well drained soil. When planting cuttings, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone and keep the planting soil moist. A potting medium of 75% top soil and 25% peat is satisfactory. If the planted cutting is kept in soil that is too wet, rotting may occur. So be attentive of the moisture content of the cutting's potting soil.
  • WINTERIZING -- Plumeria are very sensitive to frost and must be moved to a garage or storage shed when temperatures fall below 40 degrees F. They require no water or light during winter storage. Maintain the storage area above 40 degrees and the plants will rest until spring. The leaves fall from the plant during winter dormancy and they closely resemble a defoliated tree limb or a stick. Move them outdoors after the danger of frost and resume the regular watering procedure outlined above. A good time to take cuttings is when the plants are removed from winter storage. After being moved outdoors, both the cuttings and the parent plants soon resume their normal life cycle. Some plumeria aficionados who have as many as a 100 plants have solved their winter storage problem by removing the plants from their containers, shaking the soil off the roots, and wrapping them in burlap or newspaper for storage. This storage method has been found to be successful; however, it delays flowering in the spring, and therefore has not gained wide acceptance.

If you find plumeria to be too cumbersome to store or safely maintain over winter due to their relatively large size,  try any of the three dwarf cultivars of plumeria that are in cultivation including Dwarf Sinapore Pink, Dwarf Singpore White,  which we are growing with much success.  The other is Dwarf Singpore Deciduous.  They are so small, they can be over-wintered in our small greenhouse without growth disruption.   Due to their relatively slow growth,  the dwarf cultivars generally are fairly expensive.

Pictured to the left is the  Dwarf Singapore White

 and right, Dwarf Singpore Pink in bloom in  8" pots 

 

 

This creative photo taken by Paula Furtwangler shows the amazing diversity and beauty of Plumeria blooms.