Well July is finally here and the summer heat will not let up for at least several more months so I want to stay on my theme of plants that work well in this dry weather. This week I have decided to talk about my favorite plant, the plumeria. Plumerias could be your answer to finding a plant that will flourish in our summer heat and once the plants are established they even do well during drought conditions. Many of us have areas in the garden that get full sun and little water. These conditions may not work well for some plants but for the plumeria, these conditions are ideal. That is why I love plumerias.
I was introduced to the Plumeria’s over twenty five years ago from a customer of mine whom had one growing in her garden. When I saw the tropical plant I commented to her on how lovely the blossoms smelled. She told me that these were the blossoms that the locals in Hawaiiused to make the Hawaiian Leis. She told me they came in many colors and fragrances and that she was able to take a cutting home to Florida and decided to plant it in her garden. She also told me about how easy the plant was to grow and that it preferred to be in the full sun. Then she asked if I would like a piece of her plant to start. Of course, I said yes. She then broke a piece off her plant and took the leaves off and told me to wait about five days then just “stick it in the ground”. Well, I followed her instructions and within a month or two my plant was growing. I was hooked!
Since I started my nursery I have been fortunate to name over twenty five cultivars of plumerias which I have propagated myself. This took many years of growing and thousands of tries but I managed to produce some very pretty varieties. I also have chosen some of the best varieties of plumerias I have found over the years and sell them in my nursery, ABC Tropical Plant Nursery, Inc. Most of these additional cultivars were chosen for their blooming, branching, fragrance, and color. I am particularly partial to the tri-color varieties we carry. The tri- color varieties have three colors on each of the petals as shown in some of the photographs I have included. My enthusiasm to grow and propagate this plant continues. I am constantly looking for new or improved varieties to share with others (there are over 1000). If you want a carefree plant that loves dry areas of the garden and our hot sun then this is the plant for you.
Plumerias can work in any garden. Pick out a sunny spot that is well drained and plant your plumeria at the same height it is in the pot. There is no need to improve the soil around your new plant. Water in your new planting to settle the roots and if the new plant is very tall you may need to stake the plant. Fertilize your new plumeria with Osmacote or another fertilizer containing phosphorous. I like to fertilize every two months with light applications. Even when plumerias go dormant in the winter, I like to apply small amounts of fertilizer to keep the root system growing. Most plumerias will grow to a height of six to eight feet tall in central Florida. Plants that are in protected areas can reach heights of over ten feet. Once your plant is established there is little you will need to do but enjoy the show.
Please remember that plumerias will drop their leaves in the winter. This is a natural process so do not be alarmed. If you live in an area that gets prolonged freezes, you will need to protect them. I like to plant my plumerias in groups or along with other plants of equal size will help to protect them. Ornamental bananas or dwarf bananas seem to help protect the plants by providing a blanket of leaves during cold weather. Bananas also give you contrast of leaf textures which adds to that tropical effect in the garden. Once springtime comes along your plants will start the year by going into bloom then producing their leaves. Plumerias leaves will grow up to two feet long and six inches wide adding that tropical look to your garden.
The blossoms of plumerias come in various shapes, sizes, and scents. Some blossoms get five to six inches across while others may only grow two inches across. All plumerias are fragrant and each has its own distinctive smell. Some plumerias smell like citrus, some smell like gardenias, and others have cinnamon odors. Once the bloom stalk starts to form the individual flowers will open several at a time. The larger the plant the larger the blossoms and the more flower stalks will be produced. Most of the registered cultivars of plumerias will produce at least fifteen to fifty blooms on each bloom stalk.
Plumerias bloom on new growth so you will want to feed your plumeria a good fertilizer containing phosphorus. I like to use Osmacote fertilizer every two months with the numbers 15-15-15. This gives the plant the nutrients it needs slowly over time. As the bloom stalk grows the plant initiates branching at the flower stalk. Normally three branches are initiated as the bloom stalk grows. Some plumerias will produce over one hundred blossoms on a single bloom stalk. As the flowers fade or are picked for use in the home, the branches continue to develop. This growth forms the main structure of the plant and as the stalks continue to grow additional bloom stalks form on each of the branches. Plumerias with many branches can have a flower stalk on each one and bloom continuously through the year.
If you live along the beach and you were wondering if plumerias are right for you then I will say yes, this is your plant. Plumerias are resistant to salt and will actually grow directly on the beach. In Kona in Hawaii, plumerias are grown in chiseled out lava rock so I am sure they will grow well wherever you have sun. With their eight to ten month bloom season plumerias can be a centerpiece for any garden.
I hope your will enjoy growing plumerias as much as I have over the years. I f you want to see some pretty colors stop by my nursery and look around. As always, remember, without plants, we would not be here.