Plumeria Fertilization & Nutrition


Plumeria Fertilization & Nutrition

Plumeria fertilization is the term used when supplying elements to the environment around the plumeria. Nutrition refers to the plumeria needs and uses of the basic chemical elements.

Plumeria produces its food using energy from the sun, water and carbon dioxide. It’s essential for plumeria to receive at least six hours of direct sunlight every day for them to produce blooms. Three to four hours is not enough. Bright, indirect sunlight also counts but contributes significantly less energy to the plant than direct sunlight. Sugars and carbohydrates are combined with nutrients to produce protein, enzymes, vitamins and other elements essential to plumeria growth. Plumeria use photosynthesis to convert light energy into chemical energy stored in carbohydrate molecules, such as sugars synthesized from carbon dioxide and water.

All plumeria require nutrients to survive and grow. Plumeria takes nutrients from the air, the soil and the water. The quantity of nutrients available to the plumeria is affected by substrate quality and water quality.

Nutrients are taken up by fine root hairs, not by large roots. Larger roots are used to support the tree and for storage of water and other plumeria food. Even the largest of trees have many small, fine root hairs to absorb the nutrients and water they need. When the pH changes, the number of nutrients available may also change. Root hairs also excrete liquids that affect the acidity of the soil (pH).

Substrate pH is a measure of the acidity and alkalinity in soils. pH levels range from 0 to 14, with 7.0 being neutral. pH levels below 7.0 are acidic, and pH levels above 7.0 are alkaline. The optimal pH range for most plumeria is between 6.5 and 7.0; however, many plumerias have adapted to thrive at pH values outside this range. Because pH levels control many chemical processes that take place in the substrate, individually, plant nutrient availability, it’s vital to maintain proper levels for your plumeria to reach their full bloom potential.

What Nutrients does Plumeria need?

A plumeria’s growth and survival depend on sixteen chemical elements. Non-Mineral and mineral make up the two main groups of elements.  

Non-Mineral Nutrients

  • Non-Mineral Nutrients - Hydrogen (H), Oxygen (O), & Carbon (C).
  • They are in the air and the water. 
  • In a process called photosynthesis, (making things with light) plumeria change carbon dioxide by using the energy from the sun and water into starches and sugars. Starches and sugars are the plumeria's food. 
  • Plumeria obtains carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen from the surrounding air and water. Plumeria growers very little to control how much of these nutrients a plumeria uses.

Mineral Nutrients

The thirteen (13) mineral nutrients found in the soil are dissolved in water and absorbed through a plant's roots. There are not always enough of these nutrients in soils for a plant to grow healthy, causing many plumeria growers and gardeners use fertilizers to add nutrients to the soil.

There are two groups of nutrients: macronutrients, required in large quantities and micronutrients, needed in small amounts. Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are the big three, together comprise over 75% of the mineral nutrients found in Plumeria. Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg) and Sulphur (S) are also macronutrients. The micronutrients are Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Zinc (Zn), Copper (Cu), Boron (B) and Chlorine (Ci).

Soil analyses can explain what’s in the soil and show what’s locked up, preventing the Plumeria from using it.

Fertilizer and Nutrient balance

Balanced Fertilizer can be confusing because different people use the word “balance” differently when writing about nutrient management. To me, a “balanced diet” for plumeria means a fertilizer or combination of fertilizers and soil amendments that provides nitrogen, phosphate, potash, and micronutrients in the ratios that the plumeria needs.

Plumeria needs a ‘balanced diet.’ They need all thirteen (13) nutrients to remain healthy. If one is missing, the Plumeria will not grow well. Poor plumeria nutrition causes plumeria to grow slowly, and susceptible to diseases.

The symptoms of nutrient deficiencies are often confused with those of too much or not enough shade or water. Shade, water, and nutrients affect plumeria growth and interact to produce a healthy plumeria. A plumeria that grows in full light with abundant moisture and receives all the 13 nutrients will increase healthy green leaves and provide lots of blooms. Together, water, sun, and nutrients must be monitored and adjusted to produce quality blooms.

Identifying the signs of a missing nutrient or nutrients take time and attention to what your plumeria looks like when healthy, but you can learn to do so, and some of the signs are common. A good practice is to carefully monitor the leaves of your plumeria for symptoms of nutrient deficiency and correct them with better soil, adding organic matter or with fertilizers.

Types of Fertilizers

Inorganic fertilizers mined from the soil or produced during complicated chemical reactions. You should always read the fertilizer labels for contents and apply what the plumeria need without wasting resources. Fertilizers contain only nutrients; they are not used to combat plumeria diseases or insects. Inorganic fertilizers do not improve the soils physical properties, whereas organic material such as compost does. Inorganic fertilizers are also expensive and sometimes hard to find in the stores. You should carefully consider the cost and benefit of buying these products.

Fertilizers are commonly related to by adding numbers to their names such as “11-11-13”, or “6-12-6”. They are representing the percentages of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) in the fertilizer — 11% N, 11% P, 13% K. In this case, 34% of the mixture is made up of N-P-K, and the rest is inactive material typically coating to extend the application rate or material used to spread the fertilizer evenly. Some fertilizers will also contain small amounts of Micronutrients. Urea contained only Nitrogen (N) and labeled as “46-0-0”. Urea is strong and can burn the roots and leaves.

Granular fertilizers can be mixed into the potting mix, into the irrigation water or be applied to mature plumeria on or in the soil. It’s better to mix the fertilizer directly into the potting mix before planting, thus allowing the roots to avoid or seek the nutrients as they need it. You should always read the label and follow the suggested rates for your plants. It’s better to add too little than too much. Experimenting with different strengths on newly rooted plumeria or young seedlings is always a good idea. Plumeria typically responds within two weeks.

When dissolving granular fertilizers, use warm water and be sure to dissolve completely. If a fertilizer does not dissolve thoroughly, It may be better to apply in granular form. Leaves can easily be damaged if your fertilizer is too strong for foliage feeding. Young plumeria may not need full strength, and you should be extremely cautious when applying.

Foliar fertilizers get the nutrients to the plumeria branches and leaves quickly. Foliar fertilizers are specially formulated to apply directly on the leaves and to be absorbed by the leaves, not by the roots. When plumeria are acutely deficient in nutrients, foliar fertilizers often help produce greener leaves. Some foliar fertilizers only contain the micronutrients, since usually assumed that the macronutrients are available in the substrate. However, some such as Hasta Gro contain both micronutrients N-P-K. Often an adhering agent or spreader-sticker. A spreader-sticker is a special kind of chemical you can add to your spray mixture. The purpose of a spreader-sticker is to increase the adhesion of fertilizers and fungicides to plant surfaces and to obtain better coverage.

Because foliar fertilizers are expensive, and they are not designed to encourage strong root growth, it is best to use them as a supplement to a granular solution for Plumeria.

Does my plumeria need a lot of phosphorus to produce more blossoms? 

No, the amount needed and effect of phosphorus on a plumeria’s metabolism misunderstood and often misstated.

Plants need at least sixteen (16) mineral nutrients for healthy plant growth and the three nutrients needed in the largest amounts are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).

Nitrogen is essential for leaf growth and energy production, phosphorus is vital for the storage and transfer of energy, and potassium is critical for many aspects of metabolism.

Nitrogen is water soluble, that which is not used by plants may leach from the soil into the ground. Phosphorus tightly bounds to soil particles and remains in place unless used by the plant. The excess can get washed into drains and waterways. Potassium binds to soil less tightly than phosphorus and potassium excesses are not usually harmful.

Some believe that Plumeria needs large amounts of phosphorus for root growth and bloom production. Some often recommend adding a cup of bone meal or other preparations high in phosphorus when planting plumeria.

Horticulturists have stated there is no evidence suggesting plants need excessive phosphorus for any reason as it relates to plant function. Excess phosphorus does not have a beneficial effect on blooming or healthy roots of plumeria in general, and too much appears to be harmful.

No doubt all plants need phosphorus for normal function. Phosphorus fertilizers are added yearly by commercial growers, mainly for annuals, by tilling it into the soil but only in amounts required for that growing season. If just added to the top of the soil, it would remain in place for years.

Typically, USDA soil tests will show adequate or more often excessive amounts of phosphorus. The excess of phosphorus has been proven to cause several undesirable effects. It interferes with a plant’s absorption of iron, manganese, and zinc, resulting in yellowing of leaves and poor health of the plant.

Excessive phosphorus may also interfere with the growth of beneficial fungi, called mycorrhizae. These fungi are generally present on most plumeria roots and assist the plant in absorbing water and nutrients. Without these fungi, plants must work harder than they would otherwise.

Before using high phosphorus fertilizers or bone meal, have a soil test done. If there is no phosphorus needed, do not use high phosphorus fertilizers because it may be detrimental to your plants. If phosphorus gets washed into the waterways, it could result in pollution.