Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How do I care for my plumeria?

Plumerias are members of the Dogbane family and are native to Tropical America. Commonly called the "Frangipani" and the "Hawaiian Lei flower", they grow as shrubs or small trees and can be kept in containers on the patio or in the garden, and brought indoors for the winter.

In order to flower well, Plumerias require at least a half-day of direct sun, but perform best in full sun. Keep the soil evenly moist during the summer growing season, but allow some drying to occur in between thorough waterings. Avoid soggy conditions at all times, as this could lead to root rot. On the other hand, excessive dryness will result in yellow leaves and foliage loss.

A regular fertilization program with a formulation high in phosphorus (the middle number) will produce vigorous plants with large clusters of flowers that generally appear from early summer into fall. "Blossom booster" fertilizers give excellent results. Avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen, which tend to produce leggy plants with few blooms. Feed every other week during the growing season, but discontinue in late summer to allow the new growth to harden off prior to winter.

Plumerias are very sensitive to frost and should be moved inside when night temperatures fall below 40 degrees F. If conditions indoors allow for continued growth, provide water on a regular basis, but only after the soil becomes moderately dry. If conditions are less than ideal, allow the plant to go dormant for the remainder of winter. Place it in a storage area where the temperature remains just above 40 degrees F. During this time, plumerias require no water or light. All the leaves will be shed and the plant will resemble a defoliated tree limb or a stick, and will rest until spring. Move outdoors only after all danger of frost is past and night temperatures stay above 50 degrees. Gradually resume a regular watering and feeding schedule as new growth occurs. Some growers remove their plants from the pot, shake the soil off the roots, and wrap them in burlap or newspaper for storage in a cool, dark place. This storage method also works, but flowering is often delayed and results may not be entirely satisfactory.

Plumerias are fairly resistant to insects and diseases, though spider mites will sometimes infest buds and new growth, especially indoors when conditions are hot and the humidity is low. Spider mites can be controlled with forceful sprays of cool water that are strong enough to knock them from the plant. If need be, low toxicity sprays such as insecticidal soap solutions, and highly refined spray oils are also effective.

Propagation can be done from seeds and cuttings. However, seed-grown plants do not produce blooms for 3 to 4 years and are likely to differ in flower color and habit from the parent plant. Cuttings made from 6 to 8-inch long stem tips root easily when taken as the plants are removed from winter storage. Allow the cutting to callous for about 10 days before potting in a well-drained mix. Dip the cut end in a rooting hormone and keep the rooting media moist, never wet. Provide bottom heat to maintain a soil temperature above 70 degrees F. Young plants may be shy bloomers, so be patient for a few years until the cutting matures.