The Basics for Growing and Flowering Plumerias

Plumerias are a good choice for landscaping Southern California’s frost free yards. Our climate is ideal for them:  Warm bright sun and good flow of fresh air.  Plumerias have a small shallow root system and are ideal plants along driveways, walkways or swimming pools.

Aquiring Plumerias:  Your best choice is to procure potted, rooted, named cultivars from a reputable Plumeria grower or nursery.  It is wise to see the blooming parent plant then you can rest assured that plant you are buying will produce the blossoms you want.  Some suppliers sell and will ship cuttings or rooted cuttings.  The rooted cuttings are normally “gang rooted” and will only have a limited root system when you receive it.  The rooted cutting will normally have a higher survival rate over a cutting.  Then there is the friend/neighbor/grumpy old man down the street system, where they are willing to give you cuttings.  Never take cuttings from someone’s yard without their permission.   New plants are easy to start from cuttings.  Plumerias cutting have better chance of rooting and surviving if the cutting is taken between late February and late July.  A large percentage of the healthy robust cuttings will bloom the first year if the cuttings were taken early in the year.  Cuttings must be placed in a cool dry place and allowed to cure for 5 to 10 days before planting. 

Never purchase plumerias from those vendors at the Fair or the ones in the little plastic bags at the Hawaiian Airport or downtown Tourist shops if you want a quality plant.   There is a “slim to 0” chance that they will root and survive.  There is even a lesser chance, that if they bloom, they will be the color displayed on your package.

Planting:   Your best choice would be to plant your new rooted plant or cutting in the ground.  Plumerias also make a good container specimen if you live in an apartment or have filled your yard with cement and a swimming pool.   Plumeiras require good drainage and must never be planted in a wet soggy place.  Raised flower beds or on a mound is best.  Choose a warm place in full sum.  Reflected heat from a wall, cement slab, or swimming pool are good.   Commercial cactus mix is an excellent planting medium.  If you choose to mix your own, the following is a good choice:

  •           3 gallons commercial planter mix,
  •           1 gallon each: orchid bark, ¼ inch pumice, sand, and
  •           2 cups of one of the following: Chicken guano, or steer manure.

Watering:  Water moderately.  Stop watering when plants go dormant and do not water again until leaves start to appear in the spring. If they are planted in a well-drained place and you do not have a sprinkler head spraying on them, the winter rains should not be too much for your Plumerias.  A water wand is good to check your soil to be sure the root section is not wet or too dry.  Over watering and planting too deep kills more Plumeria plants that all other causes combined.

Fertilizing:   Do not fertilize, new planted cuttings, or established plants until they come out of dormancy and there is a good showing of healthy leaves at least 2 inches long.  Plumerias are heavy feeders and you will be rewarded if you establish and follow through with a good consistent fertilizing program starting early in the spring and continue through the blooming season.  Start with a good balanced fertilizer such as 15-15-15.  In April switch to 6-20-20 with micronutrients.  When buds start to form start adding triple super phosphate, 0-40-0 to your fertilizer program.  For the last feeding of the year, approximately October, feed with 6-20-20.

Bud Guillot