Plumerias – By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening”

Plumerias have always been one of my most favorite plants to grow in the landscape. Because of their tolerance to heat and their tropical look, Plumerias can be an attractive addition to any garden. Most of my plants are already in full bloom and some are strikingly beautiful. This week I want to share with you some information about the where the Plumeria came from, the growing habits of these marvelous plants, and I will even show you some photos of some of my favorite colors which you may be interested in adding to your landscape.
Some people may recognize the Plumeria by its common name the Frangipani. The name Frangipani came from an Italian Nobleman, Marquis Frangipani, whom invented a perfume in the 16th century derived from the flowers of the Plumeria. This perfume was used at that time to scent gloves. Because gloves were a sign of status and worn regularly, scented gloves were even more desirable. Several companies that develop perfumes today have created their own scents including the well-known brands of Ormande Jane and Chantecaillel. However, the name Plumeria is attributed to Charles Plumier, a 17th century botanist who described several of these tropical species.
I believe the vast interest in the Plumeria came about because of these plants fragrant blossoms but also by the ease of growing and caring for this plant. Brown thumb plants make homeowners happy because there is little you have to do to root and grow the Plumeria in the landscape. Plumerias can work in any garden. Just pick out a sunny spot that is well drained and plant your Plumeria cutting or rooted specimen directly into the ground. 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. Many homeowners that currently have a Plumeria growing in their yard are happy to share a cutting or if you are looking for something special, maybe a specific color or fragrance, then stop by a local nursery specializing in the Plumeria such as ABC Tropical Plant Nursery in Largo, Florida and choose a color to fit your garden.
Most hybrid Plumerias are grown from cuttings from named cultivar plants. Cuttings ensure you will be able to grow the exact plant that the cutting was taken from. Some Nursery’s sell seedling Plumerias which are grown from the seed produced on older plants. Seedling plants will produce a Plumeria but will not produce a copy of the plant they have been harvested from. Most seedling plants produce less attractive, leggy plants that are inferior to the mother plant. This is not to say that you do not have the possibility of producing a beautiful plant, but from my experience, most seedling plants are not worth the trouble. There are too many beautiful colors available to waste your time growing from seed to be disappointed with a plant that may only produce one flower or a plant that is too leggy.
I have personally grown over one thousand Plumeria plants from seed and although I have produced over twenty named varieties, the other nine hundred and eighty were thrown into the garbage bin after four years of care. Most of the plants I discarded were plants that only produced one or two blossoms which were normally white and showed little promise of ever producing the vibrant colors of which there are many to choose from. Because Plumerias are so easy to grow you should pick out the flower colors that best fit your personal taste and use them to enhance your landscape.
Plumerias come in several types and sizes. There are bush varieties such as the Bridal Bouquet, Dwarf varieties like the Singapore Pink or Whites, and there are the full sized Plumerias like the ones pictured above which come in multiples of colors and fragrances. You can even choose whether you want the common deciduous varieties or possibly the evergreen varieties. There are even Plumerias that have been recently introduced that have variegated foliage which adds another dimension to this plant. With all of these attributes to choose from I am sure one of these types will fit your landscape.
Plumerias can work in any garden. If you plan on a small variety or you wish to grow them in a pot, then there are several choices for you. I prefer the dwarf varieties if you want a small plant. But, if you want to grow one of the bigger varieties then just pick out a sunny spot in the yard that is well drained and plant your Plumeria at the same height it was in the container. 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 over three feet tall or has multiple branches, you may need to stake the plant.
Remember, Plumerias like to be treated like a cactus so direct sun is best. You will have to water occasionally while the plant is acclimating itself to the new environment but this does not take long. 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. On 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.
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 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 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.
I hope your will enjoy growing plumerias as much as I have over the years. If you want to see some pretty colors stop by my nursery and look around. As always, remember, without plants, we would not be here.

12 thoughts on “Plumerias – By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening”

  1. chuck weddel says:

    My wife would love to have a potted plumeria in Monroe, LA.
    How cold can the plumeria take?
    We would plan to mov it inside to protect it during cold times.

    I would like to pick a couple of them up next saturday or sunday at FSU

    1. Mark Govan says:

      I must have missed your question but I still hope you stopped by to talk at the plant show. Yes, they will grow in LA all summer. When the first frosts hit the area you will have to bring the plants inside to protect them. While the plant is inside keep them on the dry side. Treat them like a cactus that goes dormant in the winter. I hope you are currently growing your new plumerias! Good Luck!

      1. Corinne Ibbitson says:

        Something is tummy leaves brown…curling under… what should I spray on them?

        1. Mark Govan says:

          If this is happening on your plumerias, then you will need to use a product called Thiomyl. Apply this product every 30 days.

  2. Delores says:

    Love your Sunday AM radio show. Where is your gardening center located?

    1. Mark Govan says:

      Hi Delores, My nursery is located in Largo at the Corner of 66th Street and Ulmerton Rd. right next to Walgreens. 13275 66th St. N. Our ph# is 727-546-8787. Our Website is http://www.abc-pestcontrol.com

  3. Mary Patterson says:

    Need to get rid of ants !!!! Help

    1. Mark Govan says:

      One of the most frequent calls made to our company revolves around ants infesting the home. Some people describe these invaders in many different ways, “they are everywhere,” “there is a trail of them walking right up the counter,” and “these ants are driving me crazy.” In this article, I will go over several of the most common ants we see in the home, the ways to collect and properly identify them, and the control measure homeowners can take to alleviate their problems. Let us get started!
      Ants affect humans by contaminating food, nesting in walls and voids, and sometimes can even sting the homeowner, including children and pets. Although some people confuse ants with termites, you can easily identify them by their three distinct body parts, the head, thorax, and abdomen. Termites only have two body parts. Ants also live in colonies which can be very large because some have multiple queens laying eggs constantly. When the ant colony gets too big, they divide or swarm.
      Swarming happens when colonies grow too large for the queen to maintain control of the workers. This is when my company receives frantic calls from homeowners seeing thousands of flying ants emerging from the walls. Another way these colonies divide is through a process called “budding.” Budding occurs when one or more queens leave the colony with a mass of workers seeking a new home. Sometimes, budding is initiated by a homeowner who sprays products like “Raid” over a trail of ants. Ants can recognize that they are being killed and may divide their colony into two or more. Killing foraging ants quickly is one of the primary reasons you may see multiple colonies in a structure.
      The preferred way to control most ant problems is to identify the ants you have and eliminate any conditions, which may be giving the ants’ access to the structure. Next, you must apply the proper products necessary to alleviate the problem. Finally, you must give the materials applied time to work without disturbing the ants feeding habits. That is the hard part! What kind of ants do you have?
      The most common ant I hear about is called the Sugar Ant. Unfortunately, the true Sugar ant, Camponotus consobrinus does not live in Florida; rather they are endemic to Australia. This fact does not stop homeowners from calling the ants they see, sugar ants. Regrettably, this is not the case. Most of the ants we see in our homes are Pharaoh ants, Crazy ants, Acrobat ants, Argentine ants, Ghost ants, and Odorous house ants. All of these home infesting ants have specific dietary requirements and food preferences. If you know what type of ant you have, then you will be able to select the right product to control them.
      Collecting a sample of ants for identification is easy. Find a small jar and remove the lid. Bait the center of the lid with a little jelly and peanut butter and place it near where you are seeing the ants. When the ants start to feed on the bait, pick up the lid and put it back on the jar. You can also use a piece of scotch tape to collect some of the ants. Just lightly press the tape on a few of the ants you are seeing and be sure not to squish them. Secure the tape in an envelope and take them to your local pest-control company or your county extension office to have them identified. Once you know what type of ant you have, selecting the proper control is easy.
      Because most ants either feed on sugar or protein exclusively, you will need bait that is both palatable to the ant and contains the proper food. The old-fashioned square baits you may have used in the past are not as effective as the new gel baits such as Advion Ant Gel. Advion Ant Gel contains both sugar and protein and is superior to most of the products on the market. This gel comes in a small tube, and applications are made by squeezing BB sized placements or lines up to two inches in length, into areas where ants are foraging. Do not apply to surfaces where food is prepared or where children can come into contact with the product. Because this bait is a non-repellant, the ants will feed on the gel and return it to the colony where they share the bait with each other through a process called “trophallaxis.” Because the ants are not killed immediately, you can achieve control of the entire colony within four to seven days.
      Be sure to monitor the bait consumption, and if you notice the ants have eaten all of it, then you may have to apply additional product. An average-sized home will only require one small tube containing one point six ounces. Because Advion Ant Gel is so attractive to ants, you will not have to put the bait directly in the path of the ants. Foraging ants will find the bait as long as it is applied in areas where you see them. Please be sure you have removed any other food source such as scraps of food, grease, or dead insects from the areas being treated. Advion will eliminate most all the ants I have listed above.
      I also recommend that in order to eliminate any future infestations, you should apply a product called Niban granules under your refrigerator and washing machine to kill any ants looking for a water source. Ants must have water, and these are key sources of moisture. I do not like to apply Advion in potentially wet areas. Niban can also be used on the exterior on the home over mulch and in flower beds to prevent ants from gaining access to the structure. If you cannot find Niban granules, then you may also use Wizdom or Bifenthrin granules applied with a hand-held rotary spreader.
      Please prune all tree or shrub growth touching the home. These are considered runways for ants and could have been where they gained original access to your home. Tree limbs’ overhanging the home is ok as long as they do not touch the roof. Gutters should be cleaned periodically to remove any buildup of debris, which could be a nesting site for ants. You may also want to check landscape plants for insect problems like aphids, scales, or whiteflies. These sap-sucking insects secrete “honeydew” which the ants feed upon. If you find that any of your plants have these insects, then you can spray them with a liquid Bifenthrin spray.
      Ant control has become much easier with the advent of the new products listed herein. Make sure you properly identify the ants you are trying to control. Most of the ants listed in this article can be controlled if you follow the directions I have laid out here. Please make sure to give the products applied time to work. Do not spray contact insecticides like “Raid” while baiting for ants. Although, Raid may give you immediate relief, pretty soon the ants will come back, and your infestation will be prolonged. Good luck and remember, without plants, we would not be here.

  4. Gary swaney says:

    Hi Mark, I listen to your show but cant call from work. I have a Plumeria that grows and blooms great. The problem i have is the leaves grow so large and dense that the weight has all the lombs growing downword like a weeping willow. I cut some back last year and then it starts mew limbs with the same resilts. Its as if the limbs are so small in dia. They cannot support the weight. I tried putting a post to support one limb but when i tried to raise the limb upword it snapped. The limbs have taken the downword droop and grown that way. I am at a loss. It hangs over the 6ft fence too only 3ft from the ground. Thanks for sharing you knowledge. Gary

    1. Mark Govan says:

      Gosh I wish all my listeners had your problem of their plants growing too big. You must have a yellow variety as this particular variety seems to droop. Keep doing what you have been doing of cutting back the plant. Eventually the stem will thicken up to support the weight of the leaves. Be sure to continue feeding the plant and eventually you will have a large beautiful specimen! Good luck!

  5. Gary swaney says:

    Thanks Mark i enjoy your show and you are fantastic helping us all. One further queston. My plant gets at minimum 12-14 leaves per limb. The leaves are almost 2 ft long when full grown. The limbs droop from all that weight as i stated. Can i remove some of the leaves while it sprouts each season so the weight doesnt get so heavy? Say, leave 5-6 leaves while the branches grow thicker and more upwards?

    1. Mark Govan says:

      You are in charge of the growing habits of your plant. Go ahead.

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