Growing Plumeria from cuttings
Growing Frangipani from seeds or cuttings
Plumeria (common names: Plumeria, Frangipani, Pomelia, Champa / Chafa, Yas / Yasmin). More names are associated to Plumeria based on culture and location on the globe.
Plumeria is a tropical plant, a genus of flowering plants in the Apocynaceae family, originating from the Caribbean / Central America.
Plumeria genus name is named after the botanist Charles Plumier who in the 17th century documented this plant in his travels.
The name Frangipani is named after Italian Marquis Frangipani from the 16th-century who developed a Plumeria perfume.
Plumeria fragrant flowers are used in the manufacture of perfume, for medical and for ritual purposes.
Plumeria flowers are being used for wedding bouquet and flower necklaces that are most famous in the Polynesian Islands / Hawaii.
Plumeria loves heat and humidity and will grow well in hot and even very hot places.
Plumeria (depends on species) is sensitive to cold below 7 degrees Celsius (45 F.), frost and excess of water (roots will rot).
Growing Plumeria in a permeable soil will prevent roots rotting. Plumeria tree survives well without water, it will not develop well and bloom though, but will survive. It is also resistant to salty air and water near the coast line and will survived strong winds due to its flexible branches.
Plumeria blooms several times a season, there are hundreds of varieties of different colors and scents.
Flower scent is increased at night to attract moths for the purposes of pollination. Plumeria does not have a nectar and this is its way to encourage pollination.
There are hundreds of varieties, wild species and hybrids made by growers over the years resulting a huge variety of colors and scents. Plumeria flowers grow in clusters, flower usually has five petals but it is not uncommon to find anomalies with more petals, up to ten.
The tree branches are split into 2 (dichotomy) or 3 (trichotomy) and this is how the tree grows and gets its volume.
Singular branches are found in the tree edges, before it splits.
Mature tree can reach a height 6-8 meters (20-26 Ft.) with circular structure, stem diameter can reach to about 30 cm. (12”)
Plumeria is fully deciduous tree. In the winter most of its leaves fall and it enters into dormant phase until early spring. During its dormancy there is no need for irrigation.
Plumeria grows well and loves environment of full direct sunlight or nearly full sunlight.
2. How to grow Plumeria? Plumeria can be grown in several ways:
A. Purchasing a young tree in a pot from nurseries where you can find different species, sizes and prices.
B. Grow Plumeria from seeds. For those seeking a challenging and enjoyable experience from the start, this way is recommended.
Mature Plumeria tree produces seed pods. When the pod maturated and opens up, you can collect its seeds and germinate them.
A seedling started from a seed will usually bloom after three years or more.
It takes three more blooming cycles to determine the true tree/flower specie.
C. Growing from cuttings
A cutting is a branch taken from a mature tree, rooted and planted in a pot / soil.
Cutting growing is faster than growing from seeds and it is almost the only way to assure the new tree (= second generation) will be with the same flower color to the tree the cutting was taken from (=mother tree, first generation).
With seeds growing this is not guaranteed and in many cases the outcome will be with a different flower colors.
A tree grown from cuttings will usually bloom in the first or second year after planting, depending on the species, time of the year the cutting was taken and rooted and its growth conditions.
This short guide focuses on growing Plumeria from cuttings and it is based on my personal experience and knowledge.
I grow Plumeria in the Sharon area, Israel (coordinates: 32.178195,34.90761).
I grow Plumeria as a hobby. All pictures of this guide were taken by me.
I decided to share my knowledge on the subject, hoping to see more of these beautiful trees in public and private gardens and balconies all around.
Plumeria growing requires almost no financial resources, it requires though a lot of patience and perseverance.
Plant growth is a slow process performed over a long time so I encourage you to enter this adventure only if you have patience and curiosity over time.
The pleasure of success in growing Plumeria is great, its spectacular results speak for themselves.
3. Pruning cuttings
A cutting is a branch pruned from a mother tree which is rooted, grow leaves and flowers and eventually becomes a new tree.
Plumeria cutting branch takes a form of a non-pruned side single straight or a multiple tip branch end (dual or triple)
and a pruned side on the other end (where it was attached to the mother tree).
Best time of the year to prune cuttings is in late winter or during spring till mid. summer.
Cuttings length should be at least 30 cm. (12”) long. A length of 40-60 cm (16-24”) is preferred and will allow later ‘repair’ if cutting end will rot.
You can grow a shorter length cutting but success rate is lower as the length of the cutting is smaller.
Pruning should be made in a uniform, sharp 90 degrees to allow root growth along its full circumference.
It is better to use a pruning saw than shears as it does not crush / crack the cutting.
Best cuttings are taken from a mature tree. Visit the tree you want to take the cuttings from and get to know its flowers before pruning (best time to visit the tree is in late spring / summer).
Pruning should be made close to the base of the branch without causing damage to the main branch the cutting is taken from.
Pruning so will prevent the main branch to grow new branch in this area. If you want new branch to grow from this point, the pruning should be made at least 15cm. (6“) away from the main branch.
After pruning, it is recommended to clean and disinfect the cutting area with alcohol, especially clean the cut edge.
It is also advised to disinfect the pruning tool prior of using it.
Immediately after pruning, the cut end will drip white latex (toxic), absorb it with a paper towel and apply a rooting hormone, preferably one with an anti-fungi agent.
It is important to note that although using a rooting hormone has positive impact, many growers do not use it at all and take the natural way, that is, without any additives.
Label the cuttings for monitoring / cataloguing. You can do so by using a special tag and/or write directly on the cuttings.
Cuttings taken in the winter are gray-green, fairly uniform and its ends will be without leaves. (deciduous tree). Cuttings taken in the summer will have bright green edges (this is the part that grew last season) and it will have leaves / flowers.
4. Leaves and flowers spikes removal
After pruning the cuttings from the tree remove (with hand shears) all leaves and flower spikes except for the very small leaves at the tip of the cutting. Leaves and flower spikes inhibit root growth.
Cut leaves and flower spikes 1-2 cm (0.5-1”) from the cutting, this will reduce latex drip.
Rest of stems and spikes will dry in a week or so and fall without latex secretion.
5. Drying and callusing of cutting end.
Let the cutting edge dry and callus in a ventilated, shady and humid place for about a week or two.
The more humid environment, the better callus result we get with less separation of wood rings.
After the edge was callused you can plant the cutting for a root growth, or store it up to 2-3 months.
The cutting area should be dry and fully callused with no signs of decay / fungus.
You can air dry the cutting for this process and you may seal the end immediately with wax.
Melt a bar of wax and dip the end of the cutting to coat it or drip wax from a lit candle to receive full coverage (be careful with fire).
Waxing the end has better results. Watch it while storing so wax coating will not fall out.
For long storage you can wrap the cuttings with newspaper and store it in a shady place.
If cuttings will shrink during long period storage, it will returns to its normal shape after planting.
Another proven method to callus Plumeria cuttings is by wrapping the cut end with a wrap / stretch foil / film
found in the kitchen or packaging supplies (e.g. Saran wrap and alike) and tighten it with an electric insulation tape or any other tape / rubber band. Wrapping is done immediately after cutting and cleaning of the cut.
Some growers dip the cut end in rooting hormone before wrapping it and others do not and let the flowing sap work as a natural sealant.
After 1-2 weeks, the seal can be removed and you’ll get a very healthy and ready to root cut end.
6. First plant for roots growing.
When cutting end is dry and callused it can be plant for roots growing. Required temperature is above 15.5 degrees Celsius. (60 F.) Heat is the key to success here.
Cuttings can be planted in a soil pot (without compost), but it is better to plant it in Perlite only. Soil plant has more chances of getting rot. Recommended planting depth is up to 5-7 Cm. (2-3”).
You can plant the cutting in a transparent recycled water bottle with drainage holes. First flood the Perlite with water, let the water drain and then plant. The use of a transparent container allows easy root growth observation and reuse of the container.
If rooting hormone (powder) is required, add it prior of planting, wet the tip cutting in water and then apply the rooting hormone.
Established roots usually develop within 45-90 days, depending on the species, weather condition and other factors.
Cuttings can be grown at this stage in the shade or in direct sunlight. No watering is needed during root growth, but occasionally water spraying is recommended for creating moist atmosphere.
You can check the rooting progress after about 45 days, and if required fix rotten cutting by re-cutting the rotten end, dry and re-plant in Perlite.
Tip: To stabilize a cutting in the container, support stick can be used or adding 3 Tuff stones to stabilize the cutting.
Another very easy method for first rooting is called Bag Rooting.
As the name implies, it involves using a small ~10x20cm.(~4×8”) or alike polybag filled with a mixture of 50% Perlite and 50% Coir (=fibres extracted from the husk of coconut).
The mixture is soaked with water without excess and tampered lightly before fitting the cuttings into it.
The bag is tighten with an electric insulation tape or any other tape and stored for growing. If growing roots in cold weather, you can use a heating mat to help the process.
After 45-90 days or more depends on species, roots will fill the bag and this is the time to replant the cutting.
Advantages of the Bag Rooting method:
• Space saving. You can store the cuttings vertically or horizontally.
• Bag is transparent so you can easily watch roots progress.
• Mixture is wet and gives the cutting its necessary water supply. If needed, add water with a large syringe.
• A sealed bag avoids dehydration of the mixture.
• Mixture does not contain soil thus reducing the risk of rot.
7. Transplant in a pot / soil.
When established roots have grown and are seen through container shell or filling the bag, you can transplant it to pot / soil.
Prefer a pot of 10 liters (2.5 gallon) or bigger.
Composition of soil: Garden soil mixture + 1/3 compost + Perlite about 15-20%.
You can add on top a thin layer of tuff/gravel or mulch.
If you plant in a soil, make sure it is permeable and add compost as necessary.
If planted in soil, plant trees at least 3m (10 Ft.) away from one to another to allow full growth.
Water your Plumeria once a week and fertilize in the summer at least once a month.
Note that to transfer the cutting without breaking its delicate roots, a Perlite root planting is easier to handle.
8. Pests and pesticides
Like any other plant, Plumeria has its typical pests, most common in my place and which I encountered during growth are:
8.1. Spider Mites
A miniature spider attacking Plumeria leaves in thousands, sucking chlorophyll, causing the leaves to turn to silver like color.
The attack usually takes place towards the end of Summer and due to under-watering and dust conditions.
Care: wash the leaves thorough on both sides and irrigate on time . See below for pest control.
8.2. Rhodometra sacraria
Caterpillar of a moth belonging to the family of Geometridae. It eats Plumeria leaves (especially of seedlings) very rapidly. Hard to see and camouflages well, but when touching the eaten area, it stands up and look like a miniature stem.
Care: manually collect the caterpillars, transferring them to a better world or for those who are interested, raise them until butterflies will develop out of it.
There are many high cost pesticides in the market. Instead of using aggressive, poisonous and unfriendly to the environment pesticides, you can use a simple, inexpensive and effective home-made pesticide that proves to perform well on mites and other Plumeria pests.
Formula to produce 1 liter / 1 Gallon solution of home-made pesticide:
(*) Neem oil is extracted from the fruits / seeds of Azadirachta Indic tree and acts as a repellent, among other things.
Preparation and Use:
Add the ingredients to 1 Liter / 1 Gallon of water, mix well and spray a fine mist over the leaves on both sides.
Preventative spraying can be done once a week or two and you are guaranteed a have pests free Plumeria.
Tip: Because oil floats in water, it is recommended to shake well the solution in sprayer before each use.
Prior of performing the pesticide spraying, wash the leaves and irrigate your Plumeria as needed.
9. Notes and tips
9.1 Seasons / times of the year in Israel + growing places:
Bud start: Beginning of April
Bloom start: Beginning / Mid. May
Recommended pruning: End of winter while tree is dormant,
Best places to grow Plumeria in Israel:
Anywhere where temperatures does not drop below 7°C (45 F.) and with no frost. You may grow Plumeria in colder areas as long as you transfer it to a greenhouse / wormer place during the Autumn and Winter. Many do so and plant their Plumerias in pots to allow easy seasonal re-location.
Plastic tags has limited lifetime and it tends to dry and break up mainly because of sun radiation.
For this reason many growers use metal tags (Aluminium mainly) which lasts for many years.
Metal tags are not cheap to purchase and you can make it by yourself by using recycled beverage cans.
Creating recycled metal tags is easy, just follow the steps ahead:
• Remove the can top and bottom covers with a sharp knife to get a cylinder. (Be very careful)
• Cut the cylinder along its large side with scissors. Cut it in a straight line (use the can’s printing as a guide).
• Straighten the opened cylinder by rolling it in opposite direction.
• Mark and cut the sheet to tags of your preferred dimensions. Use a knife or scissors.
• Trim the tag edges with scissors or with a special paper corner punch.
• Open 2 holes for the wire. Use a special hand punch or use a standard paper holes punch.
• To write on the tag, use a ballpoint pen or any ball head small metal rod, press hard while writing.
• Use a metal wire (e.g. plated copper) with 0.5mm-24 gauge or thicker to tie the tag to your Plumeria.
Make sure the loop you make will allow future branch growth.
Close the ends with a crimp wire end ferrule to get a professional loop closure.
9.3 Rooting hormone:
There are few rooting hormones in the market that comes in a form of gel or powder.
Most of them will have 1-Naphthylacetic acid as their active ingredient.
It is advised to use a compound that has anti-fungus additive. (usually Thiram = tetramethyl thiuram disulphide)
To boost bloom, fertilize with Phosphorus rich fertilizer such as 10-50-10. Mid value is important and needs to be high.
Fertilizer formula # represents N-P-K (=Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium)
If you can’t get that fertilizer, use the very common 20-20-20 fertilizer.
Growers also add Epsom salt (=Magnesium Sulphate) to their Plumerias fertilizing.
1 tablespoon per gallon (14.8 gr. per 3.78 Lit.) of water is recommended for a monthly use.
Perlite for gardening is used as an additive to garden soil mixture or as bedding for growing plants.
These white flakes, few millimeters in diameter, lightweight and water absorption capability allow control of water supply to the roots.
Perlite is a natural mineral product. Perlite is an amorphous volcanic glass that after high temperature heating of ~900 degrees Celsius (1652 F.) swells to about 20 times in volume and loses water stored in it.
This process created lightweight Perlite flakes used in agriculture. Color of Flakes is gray to white with high capacity of water absorption and slow release.
Perlite has many uses in industry, construction and agriculture.
You can acquire Perlite in nurseries, especially those who specialize in Hydroponic growing.
Perlite is sold per volume unit.
Since Plumeria is sensitive to water excess, Perlite is an important soil additive that allows better storage and release of water per roots require.
1. Buy only real Perlite, not Polystyrene flakes that does not absorb water.
2. Buying a large bag of Perlite has better cost per volume ratio comparing to a small volume purchase.
9.6 Creating a transparent container for roots growing:
Using a recycled 1.5/2 liter transparent bottle of mineral water for example is handy, easy to prepare and saves space as you can gather many bottles in a relatively small space.
Using transparent bottle will allow root progress observation without removing of the cutting.
How to prepare:
1. Cut a bottle with scissors / sharp knife along its neck where it starts to narrower.
2. Punch 6 or more ~5mm (0.2”) diameter holes in the bottom of the bottle for drainage. Use a driller or a very hot nail/pin to puncture the bottom surface of the bottle.
Growing Plumeria from cutting is quite a simple task which brings joy, fantastic view and scent and all this in a relative low cost.
Following a Plumeria growth along seasons changing is fascinating and taking care of it is challenging, intriguing and enjoyable process for the whole family.
Plumeria can grow in any pot or garden and almost anywhere.
If you’ll stick to this growing process, rest assure you’ll enjoy beautiful results in a few months.
I wish you enjoyable growing process, marvellous bloom with great scent and pleasure.
Comments, remarks and updates are welcome.
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