Plumeria, a large shrub or small tree native to tropical and subtropical Americas, produces the large, fragrant, pinwheel-shaped flowers commonly used to make Hawaiian leis or floral garlands. Plumeria blooms in early summer to late fall, with flowers appearing in shades of red, pink, white and yellow. The plant's leathery leaves, thick stems and textured bark also add a dramatic, ornamental flair to the garden. In the United States, gardeners grow plumeria in containers to make transport indoors easier, as it cannot tolerate cold temperatures.
Site and Soil
Plumeria plant thrives in a location that receives full sunlight. The plant can survive in partial shade, though a reduction in flowering may occur. A suitable growing medium consists of three parts all-purpose potting soil amended with one part small organic compost. Plumeria benefits from spending warm spring and summer weather outdoors, and late fall and winter indoors.
The plant grows best at 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit during spring, summer and fall, with nighttime temperatures slightly cooler than daily temperatures. In winter, during the plant's resting period, temperatures around 50 to 55 F at all times yield the best results. Temperatures below 40 F may result in cold damage and leaf drop.
Plumeria requires about 1 to 2 inches of water a week. The plant should not receive more than this, however, because of its susceptibility to root rot. During winter, the plant requires less frequent watering, about 1 inch every 10 days, and the soil should be allowed to dry out slightly between applications. Standing water should never accumulate around the plant's roots at any time, or rotting may occur.
An application of fertilizer twice a month during the active growing season promotes abundant flowering and rapid growth. A high phosphorous 5-10-5 NPK fertilizer maximizes the size and color of flowers. A slightly moist growing medium prevents the roots from burning during the application. For the best results, most gardeners feed plumeria just after watering.
Plumeria generally doesn't require heavy pruning. Pruning overgrown or damaged limbs during the early spring does not inhibit growth, however. Pinching off dead flowers at their point of origin during the blooming season encourages the formation of additional flowers and helps the plant conserve nutrients.