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.