Plumerias are popular tropical plants that grow gorgeous, and very fragrant flowers. You might know them better as a Hawaiian lei plant (plumerias are the type of flowers used to make leis), or maybe by their proper name, frangipani.
You can only find them growing outdoors in the warm tropics, but did you know that they can easily be grown in pots in cold climates too! With the proper care, a potted plumeria plant can thrive and bloom year after year.
When I think back to my trips to Hawaii, one thing that I remember the most was all of the gorgeous plumerias growing and blooming everywhere!
It made the air smell amazing, and made me feel like I was in a flowery wonderland.
So of course, I just had to bring a plumeria plant home with me when I came back to Minnesota.
My new baby Hawaiian lai plant was only about a foot tall when I got it, and it bloomed shortly after I brought it home.
The blooms were beautiful and smelled fantastic!
Since they are so exotic, and only grow in tropical places, most of us only get to see them when we’re on vacation.
The thought of growing them in a place like Minnesota sounds like it would be really hard. But it’s actually pretty easy to grow plumeria in pots, and require very little care.
Plumeria Plant Care & Growing Instructions
With the proper plumeria plant care, these wonderful tropical plants can live for many years in pots. Mine is more than 15 years old(!!), and for most of those 15 years I was clueless about how to grow it.
So trust me, they’re pretty easy to keep alive (even if you’re clueless about how to grow them!). But, now that I’ve had plenty of experience growing them, I get to make it much easier for you!
So follow these tips to keep your plumeria growing and blooming year after year.
Plumerias like a lot of water during their active growing season (spring and summer), but won’t tolerate being overwatered.
When they’re consistently overwatered, the stem will rot from the bottom up, and it will eventally kill the plant.
It’s kind of a funny combination, give it a lot of water… but don’t overwater it? I know it sounds hard but don’t worry, it’s actually pretty easy.
During the summer months, give it a really good drink, and then allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
If you tend to overwater, make sure to check the soil each time to make sure it’s dry before you add more.
To check the moisture level, stick your finger about an inch into the soil. If it’s wet, don’t water it. You can use a soil moisture gauge to help maintain the right level of moisture.
You might also want to grow your plumeria in a terracotta pot, which will help the soil dry out faster.
Since they go dormant during the winter, it’s best not to water them at all during those months. Now that sounds easy, right?
Plumerias will do just fine in low light or shady conditions, but they need full sun in order to grow their best and also to bloom.
If yours is outside, keep it in a full sun location. I put mine outside during the summer in the full sun, and then bring it back indoors during the winter.
Be careful if you move it outside for the summer, because the leaves and stems can burn when they’re not used to being in the sun.
In order to avoid sunburn, put it in a shady spot for a few days, and gradually introduce it to a full sun location.
Using quality potting soil will make plumeria plant care so much easier! In a pot, they need to be planted in a fast draining mix, one that doesn’t hold much moisture.
You don’t necessarily need to buy a special mix, they will grow just fine in a general purpose potting soil (and that’s what mine is planted in).
When I first brought my new plumeria home from Hawaii all those years ago, it bloomed almost right away! I was very excited, and thought that getting it to flower on a regular basis would be easy.
As it turns out, it is NOT easy when you have no clue what you’re doing.
It actually took me years to figure out why my plumeria wouldn’t bloom. Turns out, I was missing one key ingredient… fertilizer!
They are heavy feeders! If yours is in a pot, you will for sure need fertilize it in order for it to bloom. Most of the time a potted plumeria won’t bloom without it.
Now that I’ve learned this key plumeria plant care fact, it will be super easy to get mine to bloom consistently every summer. Yippie!!
The trick is to fertilize them every 1-3 weeks during their active growing season (spring through summer). It sounds like a lot, right!? But like I said, they are heavy feeders.
And just like with watering, you should plan your fertilizer schedule around the seasons.
So, fertilize them from spring through summer, stop in the fall, and don’t feed them at all during the winter when the plant is dormant.
That’s pretty straight forward!
What Kind Of Fertilizer For Plumerias?
They also love it when you spray the liquid fertilizer solution on their leaves as part of your plumeria plant care routine, so don’t hold back!
Just make sure to do it on either in the morning or evening, because spraying plants in the hot sun could damage the leaves.
How Much Humidity Does A Plumeria Plant Need?
Plumeria plants need moderate to low humidity levels. If it’s super dry where you live, you can place a mister or humidifier near your plant to help add extra moisture to the air.
However, be careful misting or spraying them with water, you don’t want to overdo it. If water droplets are constantly sitting on the stems, it could cause them to start rotting.
Tips For Controlling Plumeria Pests
I’ve never had any plumeria pest issues while my plant is outside during the summer. But, bringing it inside for the winter is a whole different story.
I used to battle the whiteflies, and get super frustrated by them until I learned that the best way to avoid pest problems is to allow the plant to go completely dormant during the winter.
When it goes completely dormant, it will drop all of its leaves. And guess what… no leaves, no bugs!
But, that’s no guarantee. So, if you still have issues with bugs, I recommend using neem oil, which is a natural pesticide. It works like a charm, and I haven’t had a problem since using it.
If you don’t want to worry about mixing your own, you can buy a pre-mixed horticultural oil spray instead.
Be sure to spray both the tops and undersides of all of the leaves. Bugs (especially whiteflies) like to hide under the leaves. Learn how to get rid of houseplant bugs here.
How To Prune Plumerias
Plumeria plants will grow tall and leggy over time, so it’s best to prune them regularly to keep them looking their best (and to encourage tons of flowers!).
Pruning helps to keep it small, and maintain a compact, fuller shape. Plumerias can handle a pretty severe pruning, but never cut them all the way down to the ground.
Also, keep in mind that heavy pruning will probably keep your plant from blooming for a while, so I don’t recommend it unless it’s totally necessary.
It’s best to prune them in the spring, or right after they’re done blooming. Pruning encourages the plant to put on new growth, and you don’t want that in the fall or winter months.
Use sharp (and sterile) pruning shears to prune your plumeria, so you make sure to get a nice clean cut. You can wash your pruners with soap and water, or dip them into rubbing alcohol to sterilize them.
Also, they are very sensitive to tip rot, so make sure to make your cuts at an angle where water can’t settle into the cut and cause the branch to rot.
Don’t forget to keep the cuttings and propagate them for new plants!
Plumeria Propagation Tips
Plumerias are pretty easy to propagate by stem cuttings. Below are the quick steps. You can get my full step-by-step instructions for how to propagate plumeria from cuttings.
- After taking a branch cutting, remove the largest leaves from the top.
- Allow the cut end to callus over for a few days before trying to root it, or it may only rot.
- Dip the cut end into rooting hormone, then stick it into a medium made with perlite, soil, and sand.
- Mist the cutting regularly, or put it in a humid environment – but don’t water it.
- Once you see new growth on the cutting, that’s a sign that it has grown roots.
- Now you can water it, fertilize it, treat it like you would the parent plant.
Plumeria Winter Care & Dormancy
If you live in a cold climate like I do, you can’t grow plumerias outside year round. They are tropical plants, and won’t tolerate the cold.
But, as I’ve already mentioned a few times, they go dormant during the winter. This makes it super easy to keep them indoors.
Once the temperature starts to cool in the fall, and there’s less sunlight, your plumeria will start to go dormant naturally. This is the time to stop fertilizing, and slow down on watering.
As it starts to go dormant, it will begin dropping its leaves. The leaves will turn yellow and then brown before finally dropping from the plant.
This is totally normal, so don’t panic. Your plant might not drop all of it’s leaves though, and that’s ok too.
If you moved it outside during the summer, make sure to bring it back inside before the temperature gets below 40F.
Then you can simply store it in a room that doesn’t get much light through the winter.
There’s no need to try growing plumeria indoors, or worrying about fussing with artificial lights. It’s best to let it go dormant naturally, and ignore it until spring.
Well, don’t completely ignore it.
You should keep an eye out for bugs, and also check it a few times during the winter to make sure there aren’t any signs of tip rot. Learn more about how to overwinter them here.
Troubleshooting Common Problems
Potted plumeria care can be a bit tricky if you tend to overwater your plants, and they don’t take kindly to being overwatered.
Other than rotting, the other main problem you’ll probably have to deal with are houseplant pests. (See the insect pest control section above for information about bug problems.)
- Tip rot (the stem is rotting from the top) – In my experience, tip rot is a pretty common problem, especially during the winter. Tip rot can happen if water gets into the top of a branch, or there was some kind of a wound. The tip of your plumeria will turn gray, brown or black and be mushy. It’s not always easy to spot, so I try to check my plumeria for signs of tip rot a few times during the winter. If left untreated, the rot will spread, and could eventually kill the plant. You can save your plumeria by pruning off all of the rotted pieces of the stem.
- Stem rot (the stem is rotting from the bottom) – If the stem is mushy and rotting at the base, then you have a more serious problem. Stem rot is caused by overwatering. If left untreated, your plant will die for sure. If the rot isn’t too severe, you can save it by taking cuttings of the healthy stems or branches and rooting them.
- My plumeria won’t bloom – This is probably the #1 question I get asked about growing plumerias, and there is one simple answer… fertilizer! They need fertilizer in order to bloom, and lots of it. The good news is that it’s such an easy fix. And, once you get the hang of it, your plant will flower from spring through fall. Wow! That’s what we want, and it’s why we love them so much, right!
Where To Buy A Plumeria
If you live in a tropical place, you’ll probably be able to find large plumerias for sale at your local garden center.
But, if you’re like me and live in a cold climate, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find cuttings or plants anywhere local.
Lucky for us, it’s pretty easy to buy them online. Just be sure to purchase yours from a reputable source to ensure they will be bug free and healthy when they arrive.
Plumerias are wonderful tropical plants that are easy to grow in pots! And that’s great news for those of us who live in a cold climate, so we can enjoy these amazing beauties too!
Once you know the tricks for plumeria plant care, you’ll be rewarded with yummy smelling flowers all summer long!
If you struggle to grow healthy houseplants during the coldest months of the year, then my Winter Houseplant Care eBook is just what you need! It will teach you all you need to know in order to successfully maintain a thriving indoor plant collection all year round. Download your copy today!
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Share your plumeria plant care and growing tips in the comments section below.