Native to the tropical and subtropical American regions, the easy growing plumeria has been naturalized in most parts of Asia. There are about ten varieties, and a few more cultivars in this genus that comprise mainly of deciduous shrubs and trees. A plumeria is also known as frangipani and can be either grown as a shrub or a small tree. It has been named in honor of the seventeenth-century French botanist Charles Plumier.
A plumeria does not grow more than 30 feet in height. Left to its own growth pattern, it grows upright, branching from the top, and spreads out into broad, rounded canopy. The plumeria plant's height, size, compactness, spread, foliage, and flower color depends upon which species have you planted. Its leaves are bright green, elongated, and ovate with pointed or blunted tips. They are deeply veined, about ten inches long and three inches wide. Except for a few odd species, most of them are deciduous that shed all leaves in winter and spring with new leaf buds in spring. It's the colorful vibrant and fragrant tropical plumeria flowers that has caught the attention of landscapers. The fragrant flowers grow in clusters and, although the flowers don't hold for long, they have plenty of buds blooming continuously, together. The flowers bloom from April through November. The flowers appear to be very delicate, with the five petals overlapping each other only from the base. Although not winter hardy, with good care, one will be able to ensure a good bloom and bright foliage.
Care to be Taken
Plumeria can be grown in the ground as well as in containers. In most cold regions, it is preferable to grow them in containers as they cannot withstand too much cold. When the temperatures drop below 40 degrees, one can shift them indoors until the sun shines abundantly. They can be propagated by seeds or cuttings, although a cutting is more favored because they can grow and flower faster as compared to seed propagation. The best time to start a cutting or seeds propagation is spring. Use a well pruned branch, about 12 to 18 inches long, dip it in a rooting solution (they will do just as well without any rooting hormone too), and plant it in the ground. Transplant when it roots.
Plumeria is an outside plant, though they are grown indoors, they would prefer to be outside to do well. Minimum six hours of direct sunlight is essential for their growth. So, choose a sunny spot. They are very adaptable ornamental plants. Although they like plenty of water, they do not like soil that is too wet or high in water retention. So, use water draining soil that contains a good mix of sand, perlite, and peat. Experienced gardeners recommend the use of soil similar to the one used for cactus growing. Plant your plumeria and water it well. Water frequently for the first couple of months, that's all they need to be well established. From then on, wait for the top soil to dry, and then water.
Feeding them well will result in lots of branches, and since all blooms sprout on them, it probably means, more the branches more the flowers. Feed the plant 2-3 times in a year to promote healthy branching. To encourage more branches, a feed of high nitrogen fertilizer in spring, and for plenty of blooms switch to a high phosphorous fertilizer from early May through the end of August. Plumeria enter a natural dormancy period between November to February. In this period, stop fertilizing completely and reduce watering too. A dry spell does no harm to them. Their winter care depends on where they are growing. If they are growing in a container, move them indoors, and if in the ground, mulching around trees will be enough.
Pruning is done in winters, when the tree has shed all leaves. For a young plant, pruning can be done to develop a small tree with low structured branching. Heavy pruning may help to alter the shape of the tree, but it will reduce the number of blooms. While pruning wear gloves, as the tree exudes a poisonous milky sap, known to cause a skin rash. The sap makes no difference to the tree, so pruning should not be a problem. Pruning ensures more branches at the point it was pruned from, meaning, even more blooms next season.
The plumeria is vulnerable to being infected with a fungus like rust or black sooty mold, and gets infested with the long-horned borer, thrips, mites, scale insects, spiraling whiteflies, mealybugs, etc, which can be gotten rid off with a little care that involves pruning and a regular spray of germicide. This plant is not fussy, and does not really demand constant attention, but gives in return a profusion of beautiful blooms.