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What to do this week –
By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening“
Our summers are very harsh on our landscape plants, and turf grasses. Those of us fortunate enough to receive some rain can keep our plants hydrated and healthy. Unfortunately, many of us that live along the beaches or areas which do not have reclaimed water consistently lose our plants due to lack of water or poor soil conditions. In this article, I will suggest a plant that many of you may be aware of, but never have had the opportunity to grow before. This plant is the Plumeria, or the Hawaiian “Lei” flower. This is one of my favorite flowering tropical plants. These small to medium-sized trees are well suited for the intense Florida climate and soil conditions we all share. Because of their tolerance to heat and their tropical look, plumerias can be an attractive addition to any garden. This week I will share with you information about growing plumerias, their flower colors, and some interesting cultivars you may like to add to your landscape. Let’s get started.
Growing a plumeria is very easy. You can start a plumeria from a cutting a friend or neighbor may give you or you may purchase a rooted plant from your local nursery. Plumeria cuttings are the easiest way to procure plants because so many people grow plumerias. All you have to do is to take a cutting from the tip end of a plumeria. Each cutting should be about ten inches long, and you will need to remove the existing leaves. Once the leaves are removed, you will need to let the cutting harden off in a cool dry place. This allows the white milky substance released from the plant to congeal. I usually let my cuttings rest for about five days to ensure they are ready for rooting.
Rooting a plumeria cutting is easy. Just insert the cutting about four to five inches into the center of a one-gallon container filled with potting soil. Lightly compact the soil around the new cutting and add water to steady the plant. Place your new cutting in the full sun and only water occasionally. Most cuttings will root in about four to six weeks. I have seen some people root their cuttings directly in the ground, and you may want to try that. Just make sure you put your cutting in an area that receives a lot of sun. In fact, the more sun your new plants receive, the quicker the rooting process will progress. Do not over water the cutting as this may kill your plant. Although plumerias can be started from cuttings, you will only be getting the same color of flowers that the parent plant has. Buying new plants can give you more options.
ABC Tropical Plant Nursery in Largo, FL specializes in unusual cultivars of plumerias including many of the tri-colored varieties. Tri-colored plumerias offer three separate colors on each of the petals giving you a burst of color for the landscape. A couple of additional benefits plumerias offer are different fragrances and petal textures. Every plumeria has its own scent specific to that plant. Some fragrances available are Lemon, Citrus, Lilac, Gardenia, and Cinnamon just to name a few. Because some plumeria flowers are thicker than others, they keep longer once removed from the plant. If you would like to make a “lei” from your plant, then you will want to purchase a plumeria that produces thick flowers. You also will want to choose a plant that is right for your landscape.
If you want that tropical look for your landscape, then plumerias are for you. Plumerias thrive in our central Florida climate and can grow in the pure sand on our beaches. Once established, no additional watering is necessary. Most plumerias in central Florida grow to a height of six to eight feet, even taller if you fertilize regularly. As plumerias grow they bloom, then branch out. These new branches will grow and bloom again forming the framework of your small tree. The more branches your tree has, the more blooms you will have and the longer your bloom cycle will be. For those of you with smaller lots or if you are looking for a specimen plant, then there are also bush varieties available. For potted plant growers, there are dwarf varieties, which only grow about three to five feet in height. An interesting new variety even has 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.
The name Plumeria is attributed to Charles Plumier, a 17th century botanist who described several of these tropical plants. The common name of the Plumeria is Frangipani. The name Frangipani came from an Italian Nobleman, Marquis Frangipani, whom invented a perfume in the 16th century derived from the flowers of this plant. Many companies today continue to create perfumes based on these flowers, including scents from the well-known brands of Ormande Jane and Chantecaillel. However, I believe the best scents are directly from the flowers of plumerias growing in your landscape.
Fertilize your new Plumeria with Osmacote or another granular fertilizer containing phosphorous. I like to fertilize my plants lightly every two months. Even when Plumerias go dormant in the winter, I apply small amounts of fertilizer to keep the root system growing. Once your plant is established there is little you will need to do but enjoy the show.
I hope your will enjoy growing plumerias as much as I have over the years. If you would like to see some established plumeria trees or multiple tri-colored cultivars, please visit ABC Tropical Plant Nursery located at 13275 66th St. N. in Largo, FL. and as always, remember, without plants, we would not be here.