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Watering Your Plumeria

Not enough water or too much water is a common reason that plumeria are unhealthy, wilt, and die. It’s not always easy, even for expert gardeners, to get watering right. To avoid or minimize the problems associated with under watering, know the signs of plants getting too little or too much water.

Over Watering

 Summer is the most critical time of they year to care for your plumeria. Watching for signs of heat stress, insects. but proper watering tops the list.

 Yellow leaves are normal to a point, plumeria put on new leaves and shed the old ones at the bottom. But if you see more than normal, you should first check your soil for too much or too little water. 

At one time or another we all over water our plumeria or you may live in a heavy rainfall area and had flooding problems. Over watering, prolonged heavy rainfall or flooding can cause our soil to become saturated. But, water logged soil is caused more often by poor drainage.

Anaerobic Soil

Over watering your soil causes your soil to be waterlogged preventing the plumeria roots from getting needed oxygen.  

Saturated soils with poor drainage can quickly become anaerobic, making the plumeria susceptible to diseases like root rot. When plumeria roots sit in excess water for too long, they start to rot or decay. As the roots deteriorate, they can’t take up water, so the plumeria wilts and the leaves turn yellow from the bottom up.  

When too much water is around the roots, it can cause the beneficial microorganisms and soil life that live in your soil and keep your plumeria healthy have drowned or at best case, their numbers have greatly reduced. If this is the case, the potting mix or soil may smell ‘sour’ or anaerobic. Oxygen normally fills the gaps in between the soil crumb structure and all organisms and plumerias need air to live.  When plumeria roots start to decay, you may notice this unpleasant smell and leaves turning yellow. 

If your plumeria show these tell-tale signs of over watering, there is a problem with the soil:

  • Your plumeria is wilting, yellowing and dropping leaves
  • Your plumeria is looking unwell all of a sudden
  • Your plumeria is being attacked by pests or disease
  • Worms are coming up to the surface in great numbers (they are trying to save themselves from drowning)
  • Sometimes you might notice a scum or residue on the surface of the soil  

Here are some suggestions to help you from over watering your plumeria:

  • Adding coarse mulch material to the bottom of the pot will also help drainage
  • Mix your soil with 33% Perlite
  • Use pots with many drain holes
  • Add more drain holes in your pot
  • Locate your pots in well-drained areas
  • Or plant in the ground, when possible  

If the pot or container feels heavy and the plumeria is still wilting, the excess water may not be getting away fast enough. If you have already drilled enough holes, you may need to actually remove your plumeria from the pot to save it.  Spread out a number of sheets of newspaper in a tray.  Lay the pot on its side and gently slide out the plumeria’s root ball. 

Allow the root ball to dry on the newspapers for about 12 hours or more, then using clean sharp scissors, trim off any dark-colored (brown rather than white) or slimy roots.  When you are finished, re-pot the plumeria in a clean container with some fresh potting mix as already outlined.  

Using Coarse Material in your pot:

We have found that putting an inch of two of coarse, decomposing mulch in the bottom of the pot helps with drainage and plumeria health.  

Most books and websites on container gardening recommend the addition of coarse material such gravel, sand, pebbles, pottery shards or polystyrene pieces to the bottom of pots to improve drainage, scientific studies have consistently demonstrated quite the opposite is true.  According to one scientist, Dr Chalker-Scott, Extension Horticulturalist and Associate Professor at the Washington State University:

“Nearly 100 years ago, soil scientists demonstrated that water does not move easily from layers of finer textured materials to layers of coarser textured materials.  Since then, similar studies have produced the same results.  The coarser the underlying material, the more difficult it is for the water to move across the material’s face.  Gravitational water will not move from a fine soil texture into a coarser material until the finer soil is saturated.  Since the stated goal for using coarse material in the bottoms of containers is to “keep soil from getting water logged,” it is ironic that adding this material will induce the very state it is intended to prevent.”  

Resist the Urge to Over water:

Resist the urge to water your plumeria without checking to see if they actually need water – it can actually make things worse!  Water logging and compaction can create ideal conditions for diseases such as phytopthora and other fungal attacks.  

Potted plumeria that have been inundated with water will also have likely leached out much of the plumeria food or fertilizer that was in the pot previously.  You will need to replace this food source with some more organic fertilizer to ensure your plumeria has the energy it needs to regain its health.  

If you notice discolored or yellowing leaves, this is often a sign your plumeria is crying out to be fed. This is because it is missing essential minerals!  A slow release, powdered or pelleted fertilizer and compost can help restore the nutrients.

Under Watering Plumeria

The ultimate risk of too little water for a plant is death. Like animals, plants need water to function to thrive, and to live. Some of the most important reasons plants need water include:

  • Maintaining rigidity and the ability to stay upright
  • Engaging in photosynthesis to create energy and food
  • Moving nutrients from the soil up the stem
  • Excess leaf drop
  • Excess bud drop
  • Flowers fading out quicker than normal.

Several factors determine how much you need to water plumeria, including the plumeria size, the climate, soil conditions, weather, and location.

Signs a Plumeria May Have Too Little Water

It may take some trial and error to figure out how much to water your plumeria. As you work out the right amount and frequency of watering, use these clues to determine if you are under watering:

  • Wilting. This is the classic sign of an under watered plant. Too little water causes a plant to lose turgor, the rigidity in cells and tissues. There are some diseases that can trigger wilting, but the easiest and most likely explanation is under watering.
  • Dry soil. If the soil around a plant is dry, it may need more water. Exceptions to this are some succulents, like cacti, which don’t need much water because they can store it so well.
  • Dry, dead leaf tips. When a plant doesn’t get enough water, the tips and edges of leaves dry out and turn brown. Ultimately, entire leaves will brown and die.
  • Slow growth. If you are chronically under watering a plant, but still giving it enough water to survive, growth will be slower than normal or expected. New growth, such as leaves, may be small.

If you suspect signs your plumeria are under watered, you can confirm it by watering them. They should revive, and if they do not, there could be another issue, such as a viral infection or fungal disease.

Yellow leaves are normal to a point, plumeria put on new leaves and shed the old ones at the bottom. But if you see more than normal, you should first check your soil for too much or too little water.