Growth Habits - Dwarf, Compact, Medium and Tall Plumeria

Plumeria Growth Habits

Plumeria seem to have a fairly well defined growth habit, but will sometimes exhibit peculiar behavior. Nearly every generally accepted rule of plumeria culture will from time to time be proven incorrect. For example: plumeria require full sun to bloom (what about the one in the garage in full bloom during the winter?); plumeria need to bloom in order to branch (What about this one with over 30 tips that’s only bloomed three times!)


Almost any part of a plumeria tree can be propagated by cutting, see How to Grow Plumeria from a Cutting for a procedure that will usually produce successful results. Though there are other ways to propagate plumeria; the plant whose habit we are describing was usually begun from a cutting, no matter how large or small.

The plumeria branch tip is where new growth including leaves and flowers occur. The branch and its tip are interesting since the tip is usually the same diameter as the rest of the branch. The young branch and its tip more closely resemble a broomstick than a young tree branch. The young branch and its tip are of a soft, but brittle, herbaceous material, full of the white milky latex plumeria sap. As new leaves are grown, the branch extends by adding tissue to the end of the tip. When an inflorescence (flower bud or stalk) is produced the tip divides into one or more new tips that continue to grow with as much vigor as the original tip. The new tips usually grow at a predictable angle with respect to the original branch tip. This is how a plumeria branches. Obviously, if it only divides into one new tip no branching has occurred. The normal branching habit, or average number of new tips produced, is typically two or three. This process continues indefinitely with each tip branching on the average once every year or two. The length of tip growth per year is based on factors including: variety, growing conditions, and nutrition. Typically as a plumeria grows the new branches will become shorter. Once a particular bit of plumeria branch has dropped its leaves, it will never replace them as new leaves are always produced by new growth at the tip of the branch.


The plumeria's annual growth cycle has evolved to accommodate a dormant period to coincide with months of drought in the arid tropical regions of Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean Islands where it is indigenous. This corresponds to the Winter season in the Northern Hemisphere and permits storing the plant indoors, out of light, out of sight, and out of mind when outdoor weather conditions are likely to include frost or freezing temperatures. While dormant, the plumeria requires no care and most varieties will loose all of their leaves.As the sun's intensity and temperatures increase during the spring, plumeria begin to break dormancy by producing leaves and an inflorescence on many tips. Many plumeria will be in full bloom before the spring rains and before producing a single leaf!


Active growth occurs after spring rains as long as temperature and sunlight requirements are met. Most vegetative growth occurs under these conditions. This includes revitalization or regeneration of a desiccated root system, new leaf growth, and stem and branch elongation. Many varieties will continue to bloom and initiate new inflorescence during the vegetative period. Most varieties will set seed pods during this period as well.


As fall approaches, drought, less sunlight, and cooler temperatures all contribute to plumeria entering its dormant period. Many lower leaves will turn yellow and drop, flowering will be significantly reduced or stop altogether, and overall plant growth will dramatically slow or come to a stop. The fully dormant plumeria’s requirements are few: temperatures above freezing and conditions on the dry side. Dormancy lasts from one to five months depending on environmental factors.


The difference between Dwarf, Compact, Medium and Tall Plants. This measurements used are give you a comparison between the typical growing habits  growing in similar region under similar conditions. Different environmental conditions could cause the growing habits to vary, but the comparisons should be similar between each of the following growing habits should be the same.

The following will give you an idea of the different sizes of the plants when we ship based on the growing habits. The sizes will vary depending on the cultivar and the length of time it has to grows before it is sold.

Dwarf (up to 6" per year) Plumeria with a dwarf growing habit, typically grow up to 6" per year. This depends on nutrients, water, care and of course your location. Dwarf plumeria typically are 6" to 10" from the soil line when shipped.

Compact (6"-12" per year)  Plumeria with a compact growing habit, typically grow up to 6" to 12" per year. This depends on nutrients, water, care and of course your location. Plumeria with a compact growing habit typically are 12" to 18" from the soil line when shipped.

Medium (12"-24" per yr)  Plumeria with a medium growing habit, typically grow up to 12" to 24" per year. This depends on nutrients, water, care and of course your location. Plumeria with a medium or average growing habit typically are 16" to 22" from the soil line when shipped.

Tall (more than 24" per yr)  Plumeria with a tall growing habit, typically grow more than 24" per year. This depends on nutrients, water, care and of course your location. Plumeria with a tall or average growing habit typically are 18" to 26" from the soil line when shipped.

Other growing habits to consider:

    • Vigor:  (fast-growing, average-growing, slow-growing)
    • Tree Shape: (circular, v-shape, goblet, horizontal, vertical, sprawling)
    • Branching: (poor, good, excellent)
    • Root system: (weak, strong, typical)


The use of cuttings is typically the preferred by enthusiast and commercial-propagation method because it is fast and easy. Cuttings will produce an exact reproduction of the donor plumeria. Some prefer rooting a cutting allowing it to establish it's own roots, while others prefer to join a cutting to an already mature root system called root stock by using a method called grafting. 

A Plumeria Cutting is the tip of a branch cut from a donor plumeria, usually about 8"-12" long depending on the length of the donor plumeria tips and it's growing habit. Cuttings do not have roots, but they need to be allowed to callus. Callusing allows the cutting to form a tissue that will allow roots to grow. Florida Colors Nursery sells fresh cuttings to experienced growers by special request ONLY.
Cuttings made specifically for grafting are called scion and are 6"-10" long depending on the donor plumeria. A plumeria cutting will eventually have to be rooted or grafted for it to survive.

Cuttings need time to grow a sufficient root system to last them through their winter dormancy. The later in the growing season the harder it is to be successful rooting a cutting. 

A Plumeria Callused Cutting is a cutting that Florida Colors Nursery has allowed a callus to form and then placed in a rooting tube the get the rooting process started. The callused cutting is about 8"-12" long depending on the length of the donor plumeria tips and it's growing habit. Florida Colors Nursery sells callused cuttings in the Spring and Summer months.

A Rooted Plumeria is a plumeria cutting that has grow its own root system. Under good rooting conditions plumeria cuttings will form roots in 6-8 weeks or may take many months in cool climates. When you see 3 or 4 full leaves it will most likely have roots. Rooted plants should be allowed to grow roots for at least 3 months prior to winter dormancy. Attempting to root over the winter requires experience and sometimes additional equipment to help keep the rooting warm enough to form roots. Roots will grow best from 65 F - 85 F degree soils.

A Grafted Plumeria is a plumeria cutting (typically called scion when used for grafting) that has been grafted to an existing root system (called root stock). After grafted, you should see leaves growing within 2 weeks, an indication the the graft took. It takes about 6 to 8 weeks after grafting before we feel it is ready to ship. Grafted plants are grafted to root systems approximately 18 to 24 months old. The mature root system gives the cutting a head start and usually blooms sooner.

Some helpful links:

 Shop for grafted plumeria in stock  -  Shop for rooted plumeria in stock  -  Shop for callused plumeria cuttings in stock (seasonal)
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