plumeria flowers

How To Grow Plumeria | Plumeria Growing Tips

Have you ever seen a Plumeria tree or bush before? Chances are you definitely have, even if you don’t know it. Plumeria, which also go by the names Nosegay and Frangipani, are the flowers used in traditional Hawai’ian leis, a type of floral garland. This plant is a fragrant, beautiful tropical flower that, if you’re lucky enough to live in its growing zone, you should try growing yourself! The white flowers stand out beautifully against the deep, evergreen leaves.

Growing Plumeria

Growing Plumeria is very easy if you’re in the right climate, but it helps to know everything there is to know about Plumeria before you get started. These are the basics:

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  • Latin name: Plumeria alba
  • Other names: White frangipani, Nosegay
  • Plant type: Tree, shrub
  • Evergreen: Sometimes
  • Native to: Central America, South America, Caribbean
  • Invasiveness: No
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Water: Regularly
  • Soil: Slightly acidic, well draining soil
  • Hardiness zone: 10-12
  • Spacing: 10-20 feet
  • Plant height: About 20 feet
  • Bloom period: Early summer to fall
  • Container friendly: Mixed
  • Fertilizer: 10-50-10
  • Toxicity: Not edible, but not toxic
  • Deer resistant: Anecdotally yes
  • Pest resistant: Yes

Plumeria is a tropical shrub that can be grown in hardiness zones 10, 11, and 12. It can be evergreen or deciduous depending on the type of Plumeria you’re growing. It’s native to Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, growing well in tropical zones from Mexico to Venezuela. It requires full sun, regular watering, and soil that is well draining and slightly acidic. It is not considered invasive.

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These shrubs can get fairly large, up to about 20 feet, so it’s best to space them 10-20 feet apart from one another. Plumeria erupts in beautiful flowers beginning in early Summer and on through Fall. They can be grown in a container, but this possibly limits their growth and development. During Summer and Fall, a 10-50-10 bloom enhancing fertilizer may be used.

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Plumeria is bitter in flavor but is not known to be toxic. Don’t eat it! Anecdotally, some say that this shrub is deer resistant. It is generally pest resistant.

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Water

Plumeria is a tropical plant accustomed to heat, humidity, and rain. For this reason, it’s best not to let your Plumeria go without water for too long, especially when it’s getting established. If you are growing it outside of a tropical zone, watering becomes much more important. In native climates, this shrub needs little extra water and is a favorite in parks and cemeteries.

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Sunlight

Your Plumeria will grow best if grown in full sun – an area that receives 6 hours of sunlight per day. When growing in a container, you can move your shrub around to try different sunny spots and see which your Plumeria likes best.

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Soil

Your Plumeria will grow best in well draining soil that’s slightly acidic but often won’t be too picky – just ensure that it is well draining soil. While your shrub will need a good amount of water, it won’t thrive if it’s waterlogged. If growing in a container, ensure proper drainage.

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Fertilizing

Plumeria doesn’t generally need fertilizer but you can enhance it’s Summer to Fall bloom period by administering a 10-50-10 bloom enhancing fertilizer. This is optional if your shrub is in the ground but vital if you’re growing it in a container.

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Invasiveness

Plumeria is not considered invasive, but if planting it outside of its native range, you should plant with care. Any non-native plant has the potential to cause problems for the environment in which it is planted.

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Growing Plumeria in containers

Plumeria only grows well outdoors in warm, tropical conditions. If you are in a zone colder than hardiness zone 10, you will need to grow your shrub in a container that you can bring indoors in the winter. In containers, a cactus soil mix or potting soil with lots of perlite are ideal.

Care & tips

Growing this shrub is pretty simple overall. It’s a no-fuss plant as long as it’s not getting waterlogged and not exposed to cold temperatures. It’s resistant to most pests and as long as it’s cared for properly, it’ll thrive under your care.

Common problems

Plumeria planted outdoors don’t have many issues, but indoor or greenhouse-grown plants can develop issues. Whiteflies, spider mites, and mealy bugs are all known to plague this shrub when it is not grown outside. Most of these problems can be solved with an insecticidal soap or moving the plant fully outdoors.

Propagating Plumeria

Plumeria can be propagated from cuttings during Spring and Summer. Do not attempt to take a cutting during Fall and Winter. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Locate a healthy branch that has a solid brown color. Cut a branch approximately 12 to 18 inches in length using a properly sterilized, very sharp cutting tool.
  2. Apply powdered sulfur to the open cut on your Plumeria to prevent fungal infection and sap leakage.
  3. Places your cutting in a pot filled with damp coconut coir. Be careful that the coir is not soaking wet. Allow to sit for two weeks.
  4. After two weeks, transplant the cutting into a pot 1-2 inches deep and water thoroughly. You may want to stake your cutting to ensure that it doesn’t fall over.
  5. Keep your potted cutting in a warm place with lots of indirect sunlight and good airflow. A partially covered patio in the summertime is a great place to set your cutting.
  6. Don’t water your cutting again until you see new leaves beginning to grow. If new leaves grow, your attempt at propagation was likely successful.

Uses for Plumeria

Plumeria’s uses are strictly aesthetic. They are typically used in Hawai’ian leis, which are a type of floral garland, and for their overall appearance. In tropical areas, this shrub is commonly grown in public parks and cemeteries, where their deep green foliage and bright, beautiful flowers provide a scenic backdrop.

History of Plumeria

This shrub has a long, rich history dating back centuries. The Mayan people of Central America believed that Plumeria was associated with deities that represent fertility and life. They believed that the flowers were connected to female sexuality.

The flowers of this shrub are significant to Pacific Islanders as well, being used in making floral garlands called Leis in Hawai’i, New Zealand, Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga, and the Cook Islands.

In Bengali culture, the white flowers of the Plumeria are associated with death and are common in cemeteries and in funerals. Similarly, in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the flowers of this shrub are associated with cemeteries and the ghosts of passed people.

In India, Plumeria rubra is used to create the famous Nag Champa incense, combining it with sandalwood to produce the iconic, rich odor.

Whether the shrub holds spiritual significance to you or not, it is a lovely plant and flower to have in your garden and will serve as a great addition to your yard. Enjoy! 

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Thomas Nelson
Environmental Advocate
Thomas is an environmental advocate currently residing in the Pacific Northwest. In his spare time, he enjoys experiencing the outdoors, raising chickens and ducks, and reading about current environmental issues. Despite slight colorblindness, his favorite color is green.
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