Fragrant Plumeria - The Sensation of Summer!
Have you ever wondered what those gorgeous flowers used in making traditional Hawaiian leis are? Those highly-fragrant beauties are the blossoms of the Plumeria plant, and just like no summer should ever be without beach days and barbecues, Plumeria are an absolute must-have in the summer garden!
Why Every Garden Needs Plumeria
When it comes to why your garden needs Plumeria, the answer is simple: Plumeria, also called Frangipani, are fast-growing, free-blooming, tropical trees with brilliant flowers and the most extraordinary fragrance. The heavenly aroma from their vibrant blooms floating through a summer evening breeze is enough on its own!
While Plumeria is native to the Caribbean Islands and the mainland of Central America, many visitors to Hawaii assume it belongs to the isles due to its incredible naturalization. The massive 25-40' tall trees were first introduced in Hawaii in 1860 and thrive in the tropical climes. They produce breathtaking blooms in shades of yellow, white, orange, salmon pink, and red, often with two or more colors on the same, simple five-petaled flower. While some emit a jasmine or rose-like scent, others produce a peachy or citrusy or Gardenia-like aroma.
How to Grow Plumeria in the Garden
Despite their ornate appearance, growing Plumeria isn't complicated in the least. These stunners are quite undemanding and easy to grow in the home garden. They make ideal patio plants, typically forming a small tree about 5-15' tall. Plumeria form an intricate lattice of branches that end with a whorl of 20" long, glossy green leaves - a lush frame for the radiant clusters of fragrant blooms.
Plumeria perform their best in full sun, though they will tolerate some shade, and despite their tropical disposition, Plumeria do not fancy a great deal of water in the soil. They're exceptionally drought-tolerant, and their natural habitat is in sandy soil, which is why the key to keeping your Plumeria happy is not to overwater. When in doubt, either don't water at all or simply mist the leaves to give them the humidity they crave without bogging the roots with excess water.
How to Grow Plumeria in Containers
While those in frost-free climates can grow Plumeria trees in the ground outdoors, those in colder regions just have to get a bit more creative to enjoy these fragrant blooms all summer long. Plumeria will happily grow in containers and naturally modify their size to match their growing space.
When planting your Plumeria in a container, the first step is to decide what type you'd like to use. If you're using a decorative pot on a deck or patio, be sure to choose one with some weight so that as your Plumeria grows taller, it can be supported without toppling over. Another fantastic choice is a thin, plastic pot with excellent drainage that can be buried in your garden's soil. This option allows you to enjoy a Plumeria tree in your garden bed while still having the flexibility to bring indoors over the winter.
Finally, you must select the appropriate soil for your Plumeria - these bountiful trees need fast-draining soil rather than the well-drained type most plants require. You can use cactus and citrus tree potting mix or simply combine 1/3 potting soil (not a water-saving formula) and 2/3 perlite.
How to Water Your Plumeria Plant
Because Plumeria are native to climates with both rainy and dry seasons, they grow lush and full during rain and are dormant, dropping their leaves during drought. They naturally thrive in sandy soil, so frequent rain zips through without ever water-logging the roots. However, when planted in fast-draining soil in the garden, your Plumeria will appreciate deep watering once a week or so, instead of more frequent and lighter watering. You can also mist the leaves between watering the soil, but be careful not to overwater as this will cause your Plumeria to rot and die.
When the leaves begin to droop due to cooler temperatures, that's a sign it's time to stop watering and let the soil go completely dry. Don't water the soil while your Plumeria is dormant as it will likely lead to rot. You heard right - this means your Plumeria may go 4-5 months without water, and it will be totally fine!
Feeding and Fertilizing Your Plumeria Plant
As with many other flowering plants, Plumeria require a fair amount of phosphorous to encourage good blooming. When choosing a fertilizer, the N-P-K numbers stand for nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, respectively. An abundance of nitrogen will result in a very tall plumeria plant that can become leggy, and because Plumeria bloom only at the tips of the branches, you'll want a lot of branching without a great deal of height. Therefore, it's best to choose a fertilizer with low nitrogen and high phosphorous.
For the best growth and blooming of your Plumeria, we recommend fertilizer with a "bloom boosting" formula and N-P-K ratios like these:
- Hawaiian Bud and Bloom 5-50-17
- Schultz Bloom Plus 10-54-10
- Green Light Super Bloom 12-55-6
Overwintering Your Plumeria Plant
When temperatures start to dip below 60-degrees Fahrenheit regularly, your Plumeria will react by dropping all of its leaves and going dormant. This is the perfect time to move it indoors, protect it from freezing, and stop watering entirely.
Throughout the cold months, check your Plumeria monthly to ensure the trunk is still plump and healthy. If the trunk is more green or brown than usual, don't panic - slight color changes are expected during this time. However, if you see vertical wrinkles that stretch in the direction of the plant's growth, this is an indication you should water. If you notice that the trunk and branches appear as they were when you brought it indoors, continue to leave the soil dry for another month.
Regardless of where you live, you can always bring a taste of the tropics with a gorgeous Plumeria plant! If you're ready to welcome one of these colorful beauties into your garden, shop our well-rooted Plumeria plants now! You can thank us later for a summer filled with fabulous, fragrant flowers.
- Rachel Bortles