This is one of my all time favorite plants. And, they are surprisingly easy to grow.
Plumerias are a genus of flowering trees in the dogbane family. They are native to tropical America from Brazil to Mexico and the Caribbean. Growing in tropical ground, they can get to be upwards of 30 feet tall. They bloom from spring through fall in beautiful colors like white, yellow, pink, and red and variations of those colors.
Plumerias have a dozen other names, like: Tipanier in Tahiti; Dok champa in Laos; Jepun in Bali; Pumeli or Melia in Hawaii; Sacuanjoche in Nicaragua; and Graveyard Tree in the Caribbean Islands. And, they are close cousins to hemp, periwinkle, oleander, natal plum, milkweed, star jasmine, mandevilla, plus about 400 more flowering plants.
Bonus! you don’t have to live in the tropics to grow plumerias. While the plants are fairly tolerant of both salt and windy conditions, they’re not tolerant of cold and could die in temperatures below 40°. They do, however, lend themselves easily to be grown in containers. Or once all chance of cold temps are done, plant them in the ground. Of course, if you do this, you will have to dig it up come chilly weather. And, that works pretty well too. Once dug up, hang top down in a protected area – then replant again in the spring.
Myself, I just keep mine in pots until they get too big for me to manage, then I take cuttings and plant them in the ground and tell them to hunker down and hold on. Depends on our winter – sometimes it works, sometimes not.
So, planting in ground or pot – they are happiest in a well-draining soil in a place that gets a minimum of 6 hours of sun. During the growing season plumerias like regular watering although they don’t like “wet feet” and are prone to root rot. They also are heavy feeders. Fertilize monthly with a high phosphate (phosphorus) fertilizer, like 10-30-10 to encourage blooms. Giving them too much nitrogen will result in beautiful foliage growth but fewer flowers.
In areas where the weather turns chilly, most plumerias will go dormant come November or so. Stop fertilizing at the end of the growing season (here that would be September/early October) and reduce watering. By early winter they should not need any water – just protected until the next spring.
They are easily propagated by either seed or stick. So, if you want a “clone”, cut a branch off your plumeria. Let it dry out for a few days then dip the end in a growth hormone and plant in a pot filled with a coarse soil mixture of regular potting soil with pumice, poultry grit or perlite added. Growing from seed is a little more challenging and the resulting plant may not have the same flower as the “mother”. And, you’ll have the wait a minimum of 3-5 years before you’re likely to see any blooms.
These little guys are not yet a year old
And this big one is about five. I’ve
pretty much told it now is the time
to bloom or else!
to bloom or else!
What else – how about some useless information –
1. They won’t burn except in extreme (over 500°) temperatures
2. In some cultures the leaves are used as poultices for bruises and ulcers and the latex is used as a liniment for rheumatism
3. It’s used in love spells
4. Ghosts may live in the trees with white flowers.