Caring for your Plumeria / Frangipani
Plumeria, also known as Frangipani or Hawaiian lei flower, is an exotic tropical plant that is easy to grow. It can be easily maintained as a small tree grown in a container on the patio or in the garden.
Plumeria love sun, the more the better. Plumeria requires at least 6 to 8 hours of sun to produce blooms. Plumeria will not produce bloom stems (inflorescence) without adequate sun exposure. Full sun (sunup to sundown) is BEST. Mature plants bloom from May through November, depending on where you live and the length of your growing season.
Plumeria can be grown in containers, in the ground, or containers sunk in the ground. During the months of active growth, ample sun, food, and water are essential. Healthy plumeria will grow vigorously and bloom regularly and profusely when they receive at least 6 hours of full sun per day and an ample amount of the proper fertilizers.
Plumeria lovesf lots of water, but can’t tolerate wet feet, so they must be planted in highly organic fast draining soil or in beds with adequate drainage. Clay, gumbo, and silt are examples of poor draining soils; avoid these at all costs. Plumeria love water but they need to dry out between watering. Plumeria can withstand extended periods of being dry. Small pots may need to be watered daily, while Large pots or those in the ground may not need it as often, whatever works best for you. They get used to the conditions they find themselves in. If in doubt, dryer is better than wetter. Never use a saucer under your plants. Purchase a moisture meter and check your plants often until you get to know their water needs in your yard.
Insects & Disease
Plumerias have very few problems. Spider Mites, White Flies, Mealy Bugs and Scale will attack plants left too dry and/or in too much shade. Spray with liquid dishwashing soap (Dawn, Sunlight, etc.) at 1-2 tablespoons/gallon or chemicals suggested for these insects. Plumeria occasionally get a “rust” fungus on the leaves in the fall, but it is rarely very harmful because the plants start to lose their leaves about the same time. “Rust” is always the result of not enough air circulation combined with too much moisture on the leaves.
Growing and Storage
The way you care for your plumeria depends on the season of the year. Bring your plants out of storage in the spring, watch them grow and bloom in the summer, prepare for dormancy and storage in the fall, and store them for the winter. Plants may be left outside if there is no damage of frost or freeze. If your nighttime temps are below 40°F you should protect you plumeria from frost.
When the nighttime temperatures begin to remain above 55°F, plumeria can be brought out of winter storage and encouraged out of dormancy. Due to conditions of storage, some root loss and desiccation of branches is expected, this is no cause for alarm. This is the time to feed, water, top dress, and/or repot. Since the plant is dormant, it will be minimally disturbed by repotting and root pruning as necessary.
Repotting and root pruning are optional and are performed as with any other container grown plant. Top dress by scraping off the loose soil and dead roots from the first couple centimeters of soil. Replace the removed soil with a mixture of compost and/or well-composted cow manure.
This is a great time to give you plumeria a jump-start by soaking the root ball or drenching in a mixture of Vitazyme and Carl Pool’s Root Activator.
Feed and water thoroughly using a fertilizer such as a granular slow release fertilizer with micronutrients such as Excalibur 11-11-13 or drench with a water-soluble fertilizer such as Bioblast.
Place the plant in a warm and sunny location. Some people like to sink the container into the ground, but be sure it is in a raised and well-drained area such as a rose bed. This promotes more vigorous growth, provides support, and prevents it from blowing over. Plumeria tips are fragile and easily snapped off when the plant blows over.
Spring is the best time for propagating plumeria. Cutting are easiest to root and will provide plenty of time for the roots to be established before dormancy in the Fall.
For plumeria, summer has arrived once a lush growth of leaves has developed. Many will bloom before developing leaves, others will not. Once the leaf growth has developed, the summer regimen of care can be followed.
As mentioned before plumerias are heavy feeders. However, in order to discourage excessive stem elongation and to promote flowering, balanced fertilizers such as Excalibur 11-11-13 with micronutrients are, once again, recommended. Carl Pool’s BR-61 are excellent choices to use early in the season as a foliar feed. (Caution, overuse of a high phosphorus fertilizer such as Super Bloom or Carl Pool’s BR-61 can cause damage to you plumeria and the environment) Keep a plumeria healthy by feeding once or twice a month with Bioblast, and watering as necessary. The recommended slow release fertilizer Excalibur can be mixed directly in the top inch of the soil and then watered in. Excalibur IV will last 6 months and Excalibur IX will last 9 months.
During exceptionally hot periods, plants in above ground containers may need thorough watering as often as every other day. Drooping leaves can indicate a thirsty plant. As with all plants, check the soil before watering, if its dry for the first several inches, water thoroughly. Certain varieties of plumeria find some areas of hot climate excessive for nominal blossom production. If this appears to be a problem, move the plant into a “shifting shade” location for better flower production and keeping quality.
As the days begin to grow shorter during August and September, some lower leaf yellowing and drop is normal. Some varieties will attempt a fall bloom cycle, if you are lucky and the weather cooperates, plumeria can still be blooming into November and December! But watch out, an early frost can damage or kill the plant.
For plumeria, fall begins once the nighttime temperature frequently begins to drop below 55°F. Studies have concluded that plumeria stops growing or slow dramatically when the average ambient temperature drops below 65°F. And the length of daylight shortens. Stop feeding about a month before Fall and reduce water to encourage the plant to go into its natural dormant period.
Some growers think that feeding after mid-August may contribute to the black tip fungus problem, however, this has not been proven. It is difficult to predict the weather and therefore it’s difficult to give a date by which your plumeria should be safely stored for the winter. By all means, if temperatures are expected to fall into the lower 30°sF, the plants should be protected. Most varieties can be damaged or killed by temperatures in the low 30°sF for even a few hours.
Basically, DON’T LET THEM FREEZE OR BE EXPOSED TO FROST. Plumeria goes dormant in winter and may be stored in a garage, closet, greenhouse, etc. They need no water or sunlight during this period — typically when night temps are consistently below 50 degrees. This will vary in different parts of the country. They may be stored in their pots (best) or bare-rooted for plants which are dug out of the ground.
During the winter plumeria require very little care. In fact, winter care could be considered winter storage.
Before storage, the plumeria should be defoliated. The best way to do this is to cut each and every leaf off the plant at a point about 1/2″ from the stem. If you don’t defoliate, the leaves will yellow and fall off during storage providing a good environment for pests and fungus (as well as make a mess).
It is also a good idea to spray for insects before putting you plumeria in storage.
Store the plumeria in a cool to warm, dry, and ventilated area such as a garage, storage shed, or your living room. Do not allow the roots to come in contact with concrete. Concrete will such moisture from the roots. Do not allow the tip to touch the outside walls. Temperatures should not be allowed to fall below 35°F in the storage area. During exceptionally cold periods, for example below 25°F outside, a small supplemental heater may be required for plants stored in unheated sheds. A cool greenhouse is not recommended for plumeria storage because it will tend to be too damp and thus promote black tip fungus and other fungus problems.
Some people suggest not watering plumeria at all for the entire winter, but probably a small monthly drink or fine misting does more good than harm, especially if the branches are getting desiccated and the plant is in a warm dry location.
Since a defoliated plumeria takes up considerably less space than one in full leaf, they can frequently be stacked two and three high in the storage area.