How to take care of your Plumeria / Frangipani
Plumeria, also known as Frangipani or Hawaiian lei flower, is an exotic tropical plant that is easy to grow. It can be easily maintained as a small tree grown in a container on the patio or in the garden. Plumeria require at least 6 to 8 hours of sun to produce blooms. Mature plants bloom from May through November, depending on where you live and the length of your growing season.
Plumerias love sun, the more the better. Six to Eight hours of full blazing sun is necessary for best blooming. Plumerias will not produce bloom stems (inflorescences) without adequate sun exposure. Full sun (sunup to sundown) is BEST.
Plumeria need water, but can withstand extended periods of being dry. Small pots may need to be watered daily, while Large pots or those in the ground may not need it as often. They get used to the conditions they find themselves in. If in doubt, drier is better than wetter. Never use a saucer under your plants. Purchase a moisture meter and check your plants often until you get to know their water needs in your yard. Plumeria love water but they need to dry out between watering.
Time released fertilizers are now available that deliver fertilizer over 6-9 months, which may be applied one or twice a year depending on your growing season. You may feed your plumerias with a balanced fertilizer with micronutrients, such as Excalibur 11-11-13 or similar. A consistent feeding program with a even number fertilizer will produce vigorous plants with large showy clusters of flowers. Foliar feeding helps with bloom production and may be used every 2-3 weeks from Spring through September. Stop fertilizing your plants about 45 days before your dormancy period starts. Avoid fertilizers high in Nitrogen (the first number) to maintain compact growth. High Nitrogen fertilizers will cause tall lanky growth and less flowers.
INSECTS & DISEASE
Plumerias have very few problems. Spider Mites, White Flies, Mealy Bugs and Scale will attack plants left too dry and/or in too much shade. Spray with liquid dishwashing soap (Dawn, Sunlight, etc.) at 1-2 tablespoons/gallon or chemicals suggested for these insects. Plumerias occasionally get a "rust" fungus on the leaves in the fall, but it is rarely very harmful because the plants start to lose their leaves about the same time. "Rust" is always the result of not enough air circulation combined with too much moisture on the leaves.
Basically, DON'T LET THEM FREEZE OR BE EXPOSED TO FROST. Plumeria go dormant in winter, and may be stored in a garage, closet, green-house, etc. They need no water or sunlight during this period — typically when night temps are consistently below 50 degrees. This will vary in different parts of the country. They may be stored in their pots (best) or bare-rooted for plants which are dug out of the ground.
Plumeria Care Regimen
I would like to share our vision of the best Plumeria care regimen for all plumeria growers. I hope the following helps you with your goals and plans for the year.
The goal is to know what, when and why, so you can improve every year by giving your plumeria the best growing conditions. Making a plan and documenting all adjustments will allow you to look back and hopefully determine where you can make improvements.
At the beginning of each season, we examine what we did last year and try to determine how we can improve our methods and products. The following is an outline for our Plumeria Care Regimen at Florida Colors Nursery. Please keep in mind your growing environment and how it differs from our Zone 10B in South Florida. The start of your plan should correspond to when you are past the threat of a frost or freeze. You should also make a plan to protect your plumeria from cold weather, just in case you get caught.
Before your spring growing season
When: At the beginning of your growing season or before you modify your soil or add nutrients.
What: I highly suggest getting a Soil Test to determine what nutrients your soil has or doesn't have. The more you know about your soil and environment the better decisions you can make about caring for your plumeria.
How: Your local agriculture office or local nursery can perform soil tests. There are also commercial companies and self-test kits available.
Why: The soil test will indicate what nutrients are present and if they are locked up. A too high or too low pH will make it difficult or impossible for your Plumeria to absorb nutrients efficiently.
Removing damaged branches and roots
When: Before putting them out for spring.
What: Start by checking your plumeria for signs of insects, branch or root rot, soft branches, bent branches or broken branches.
How: Cut all damaged branches until you see all white when possible. Trim roots until you see white or green.
Why: Remove dead, damaged and diseased branches and roots to help prevent insect & decay organisms from entering the plumeria. Eliminate crossing branches to prevent damage caused by their rubbing against each other.
Checking and Spraying tips for insects
When: Before putting them out for spring from storage or as leaves and blooms start to grow
Greenhouses & pots, you should have been controlling pest all winter. But it is still a good idea to treat before taking out. I suggest you spray two weeks before taking them out and again right after taking out for Spring.
In the ground, I suggest you start spraying as soon as you see the leaves emerging. (Do not spray in direct sunlight or on dehydrated plants)
What: Suggest - Summit Year-Round Spray Oil
How: Spray or mist to cover the entire plant.
Why: By treating with Year-Round Spray Oil or similar you kill the insects and eggs. Giving your plants a good healthy start. Horticultural oil controls insects without synthetic chemicals. Mites including Rust Mite / Spider Mite (also eggs), Scales including Black Scale, California Red Scale, Whitefly and Blackfly (also eggs), Sooty Mold.
Plumeria waking up from Dormancy
When: As soon as you see the sign of your plumeria waking up and if the weather allows.
What: Soak your plumeria roots with a mixture of water, root activator (Carl Pools Root Activator) and a bio stimulate (Vitazyme) to help give them a kick-start.
What we suggest: A mixture of Vitazyme and Carl Pool’s Root Activator.
How: Soak your bare rooted plants for about 1 hour. Soak your potted plants from bottom up or drench. Drench you're in ground plants with 1 to 2 gals.
Why: A bio stimulate (Vitazyme) helps the overall health of the plants and the root activator (Carl Pool Root Activator) give the roots a kick-start with what they need to wake up and start growing.
Watering - Water heavy for the first two days and water heavy every other day for the first week. After that water as needed.
Re-potting or adding soil
When: In the Spring or when they outgrow their pots or when they need additional soil.
What: An excellent well-balanced and well-draining soil. I prefer to use soils without fertilizers and a good decomposed natural mulch without additives.
What we suggest: A good soil mixture is 1/3 Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss, 1/3 Coir and 1/3 Perlite (horticultural grade). Or potting soil with a little extra Perlite added or a similar soil mix.
How: The goal is to provide new soil to add back washed away nutrients to the roots. Gently shake off as much of the old soil as possible and fill in with fresh soil. Water in well and add more soil as needed. For re-potting we add decomposed natural mulch, 1”-2” in the bottom and 1”-2” on top of pots depending on the pot size. This adds some organic matter as it decomposes and helps keep the weeds out and moisture in.
Why: Fresh soil provides aeration, retains moisture and adds back nutrients that were washed out or used up by the plants. Over time, the organic materials that the soil mix is made will break down and decompose to the point where you will lose the drainage and aeration properties that are inherent in container media. When that happens, discard the old soil to the compost pile or to the garden and refill the container with fresh soil mix.
Mulching - Use decomposed mulch to add nutrients and organic matter. The mulch on the top also helps keep weeds down and helps retain moisture. In the ground, cover the ground with natural mulch partially decomposed up to 12” deep each year. If you use fresh mulch, the decomposition will rob your plants of nitrogen.
Watering – Always water well for the next two or three days.
Fertilizing – Granular
When: At the beginning of the growing season
What: Use a balanced granular slow-release fertilizer with micronutrients.
What we suggest: Excalibur VI (6-month NPK of 11-11-14) and IX (9-month NPK 11-11-13) with micronutrients designed specifically for Plumeria or similar fertilizer. For an Extra BOOST we suggest Excalibur BOOST (2-3 month NPK 10-12-14) with micronutrients designed for use in early Spring as plants are waking up, when transplanting, after Grafting, when your plumeria are stressed and it works great on seedlings when first transplanted into pots.
How: Mix in with the soil, usually in the top 1”- 2” and water well.
Why: Granular fertilizer is designed to feed your plumeria from the roots. Healthy roots ultimately produce healthy plants. We have found that a balanced NPK fertilizer with micronutrients produces very healthy growth, promotes blooming, bloom size, and seed production. It is imperative not to add any fertilizer high in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, or anything else unless you know your plumeria needs it.
NOTE: Check the pH of your soil and water! Improper pH level can prevent plants from absorbing nutrients.
Foliage Fertilizing – Throughout the growing season
When: From every two weeks to every month.
What: A Balanced fertilizer with micro-nutrients.
What we suggest: Bioblast with micro-nutrients and an NPK of 7-7-7. We also spray with Vitazyme every time we spray.
How: Foliage feeding in the early morning or late evening, avoid applying in hot sunshine.
Why: Foliage feeding is used to get the nutrients to the leaves and branches faster, but doesn't last as long as granular fertilizers. Used to improve the overall health from the top down and give the leaves and blooms a quick shot of nutrients during stressful times.