Plumeria plants are most commonly known for their gorgeous flowers, making them a star in floral leis. Their beautiful blossoms are exquisitely fragrant and an important staple in many facets of Hawaiian culture. Surprisingly, the plants themselves are small tropical trees and not the flowering plant most people think they are. Being a tropical plant/tree, plumeria need conditions mimicking tropical/subtropical climates to flourish: full sun, well-drained acidic soil, and protection from the cold.
Originating from Mexico and South America, plumeria have spread to all tropical areas across the world adorning landscapes and windowsills with their beauty. They are so common in Hawaii they are thought by man – natives and tourists alike – to be indigenous to the region.
One benefit to many home gardeners is they grow well in potted containers. This is great news for anyone not living in a tropical or sub-tropical environment, making it possible to grow the fragrant plants in almost all climates! You can grow them inside the house, in pots, or move them between an outside location in the warmer summer months and then bring them inside where they are protected during the cold of the winter.
If you’d like to try your hand at growing your own flower whether in a potted container inside or in the ground outside, here are some great tips on how to care for your plant!
Plumeria Plant Care: 6 Quick Tips For A Healthy Plant
Sunlight Needs — Tropical plants need a lot of sun to grow well, and plumeria is certainly no exception to this. While tropical plants can grow in low light conditions they will do best when planted in a full sun location. A full sun location is classified as a spot that receives more than 6 hours of direct sunlight during the day; the sunlight requirement can be broken up into different times, i.e. morning and late afternoon.
Tropical plants won’t complain about 8 – 10 hours of full sun, so plant in the brightest location in your yard if possible. If you are growing plumeria inside, make sure to set in a southern of western exposure window.
Soil Requirements – Plumeria are used to tropical soils that receive a lot of rainfall and are slightly acidic because of the natural weathering processes they undergo. It’s recommended to grow plumeria plants in soils with a pH between 6.4 and 6.8.
If your soils are more neutral, or even alkaline, it will be necessary to acidify the soil slightly to get plants to thrive. Along with like acidic soils, plumeria also prefer soils that are high in organic matter and drain quickly when watered to keep their roots from being water-logged.
Watering – During their active growing season, plumeria like a lot of water but don’t tolerate being overwatered. Water them deeply when irrigating and then allow the soil to dry out considerably before the next watering. To gauge if the soil is dry enough, stick your finger about 1” down to check for soil moisture.
If it’s dry, water; if it’s still damp, don’t. Constant over watering of the plants will cause the stem to rot, killing the entire plumeria plant. Stop watering plants when the nighttime temperatures drop before 65 degrees as the plants begin their dormant period at this temperature and no longer need water to survive.
Protected Location – Due to their tropical origin, plumeria do not like cold temperatures. If you live in a hardiness zone that has tougher winters its best to grow them as container plants and bring them indoor during the cold season. Or you can plant them in the ground and dig them in the fall before the temps drop too drastically.
Once the ambient nighttime temperatures drop below 55 degrees it’s best to protect them and bring them inside. Plants can then be returned outside in the spring when the temperatures begin to rebound and nighttime temps climb up in the 50’s.
Fertilizer Applications – Pretty flowers come at a high price! Because of the gorgeous, showy blossoms on plumeria plants and their dark green foliage, they are heavy feeders and require more fertilizer during the growing season than the average plant. When the plant is actively growing it’s best to apply a plumeria specific fertilizer 1-2 times a month at the recommended rate.
Be careful to not use a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer as it promotes foliage growth. Instead look for a phosphorus-heavy formula that will promote blossom development and flowering. Correct, adequate, fertilizer applications may be one of the most important aspects of growing gorgeous plumeria.
Pruning — Another one of the key maintenance items to keeping your plumeria plants looking nice and full of blooms, is to prune them regularly. Over time if left to grow without any care plants will become tall and leggy. Pruning keeps plants more compact and fuller, with more blossoms.
It’s best to prune plants just after they have finished blooming, but well before they go into dormancy for the winter months as pruning will encourage new growth and decrease blossom production.
If the tree has gotten tall and lanky, remove the top branches using clean, sharp pruning scissors or a pruning saw making sure cuts are made at an angle that allows water to drain away from the cut tissue. Dead or diseased tissue can be removed at any time during the year to improve the health of the plant.
Using sharp pruners or a saw, cut just below the problem area, removing it entirely. If you have made the cut into healthy branch tissue it will begin to ooze clean, white sap from the site.
Plumeria plants are known for their gorgeous, exquisitely fragranced blossoms and are found all throughout tropical cultures. They are a staple in the traditional Hawaiian culture, finding themselves often as a prominent flower in leis. Even though they are a tropical plant by origin they are actually fairly easy to grow in a variety of climates when their needs are met and do well even in potted containers. When provided with ample sunlight, slightly acidic well-drain soil, enough water, fertilizer, protection from the cold, and proper pruning they will flourish!
Please share your plumeria plant care tips in the comments below.