Skip to Content

How to Grow Plumeria — The Complete Guide

How to Grow Plumeria — The Complete Guide

Transport your mind to an exotic Hawaiian beach with traditional dancers wearing flowers! They are known as Hawaiian leis and are made using Frangipani blooms. 

Officially known as Plumeria, the Frangipani, or lei flower offers a glorious, happy celebration of color from spring, through the summer, and into fall.

Although this plant is native to tropical regions, it can be grown in your home garden with some care and knowledge of its basic needs. 

There are many varieties of Plumeria. Some grow as shrubs, others as small, rounded trees. They look stunning in beds and borders and are ideal for planting into pots or containers. 

Frangipanis are perfectly suited for Mediterranean-style gardens and will add color to cottage, informal, and traditional gardens too. 

For interior home décor fans – the flowers look stunning floating in glass bowls as table decorations. 

Once established, Frangipani requires low maintenance. If you have very cold winters, you will need to move your plants out of the cold. This process is known as overwintering. Don’t stress – I will give you info on how to do this!  

The gorgeous flowers of the Plumeria bloom in solid or bi-color tones of white, pink, red, and yellow, among canopies of broad green leaves. They also offer a beautiful fragrance. 

Many varieties of Plumeria hold the acclaimed RHS Award of Garden Merit. This award is given to plants that offer exceptional qualities. 

Let’s look at the best growing conditions that allow Frangipanis to flourish in your garden. 

 

Plumeria Care 

Plant Plumeria in dry to medium-moisture soil. It enjoys full sun and can be watered weekly in the growing season. It is drought-tolerant. Plumeria does not enjoy cold and will not survive frost. Fertilize with a phosphorus-rich feed in spring and summer. Plumeria must be moved indoors in winter. 

 

Soil

Plumeria enjoys rich soil that is dry to medium moisture. The soil must be well-draining and water must not accumulate at the roots. The plant will thrive in loam and sandy soil. It is not happy in clay-type soils. PH readings are ideal if they are neutral to slightly acidic. 

I often have people asking me – why does my plant not look like the fabulous photos I see online? Well, there could be many reasons, but the first one to consider is the type of soil your plant is growing in. 

If your garden has very heavy clay-type soil or excessively silty soil, it may not be suitable for plants that are fussy about soil type. 

Plumeria enjoys loamy soil and sandy soil. It must be well-draining. You do not want the roots to stand in stagnant water as they will rot and your plant may die. 

Clay-type soil and silty soil are not ideal for Plumeria. If you have this type of soil, you can get around the problem by potting your plant, rather than planting it into your garden soil. You can also plant into raised beds filled with a free-draining mix. 

If you live in a region with harsh winters, it is best to plant your frangipani into a container that can be moved. This means that you can fill the pot with the perfect soil to make your plant grow at its best.

Many gardeners “bury” their potted Plumeria into the ground and then dig them up with the pot in the winter. 

Purchase a cactus-mix from your local nursery or farmer’s market. You can also buy regular potting soil and add in perlite and orchid bark to increase drainage and aeration. 

Soil that drains well will dry out after watering. That is what you want for your frangipani. 

PH levels are an indication of how alkaline or acidic your soil is. Plumeria will grow best in neutral soil or slightly acidic soil. If you get a PH home testing kit, you can look for readings of 6.5 – slightly acidic, 7.0 –  neutral.

Those readings will be ideal for your Plumeria. 

 

Light

Frangipanis do best in 6 to 8 hours of sun, or full-sun in gardening terms. If you are growing your plant indoors, ensure that it is in a spot that gets direct sun for most of the day. For outdoor plants, south and west-facing gardens are ideal. East and north-facing gardens are too shady.  

Plumeria is a plant that loves full sun. In gardening terms, that means it wants 6 to 8 hours of direct sun every day. 

If you are planting your Frangipani outdoors, a south-facing or west-facing garden will be ideal. East and north-facing gardens will probably be too cool and too shady. 

For indoor plants, stand your pot or container near a window where direct sun will fall onto the plant for most of the day. The same will apply to patio, deck, or balcony pots.

Ensure that the sun can reach your plant and that it is not blocked by walls, fences, trellises, or other obstacles. 

When you bring your plant outdoors after the winter, slowly adjust its position to full sun over a few days. Placing it directly into a scorching spot can cause distress to the plant. 

 

Watering 

Plumeria prefers less water to more water. This plant is very drought tolerant and can survive with little to no water for long periods of time. In winter it requires minimal water. During spring and summer, you can give an inch of water per week. Ensure that the soil dries out between waterings. 

Frangipani does not enjoy being constantly wet and can withstand long periods of dryness. This will certainly suit gardeners who forget to water their plants – I do from time to time! 

However, your plant does require water to survive and bloom to its fullest. 

Watering is more important in spring when you see the first signs of leaves appearing. Give your plant about an inch of water per week. Ensure that the soil dries out before watering again. If you have rainy weather, you may have to wait longer than a week for the soil to dry out. 

This also applies to frangipani growing in pots. Ensure that the drainage holes allow the water to flow freely out at the base. Test the top 1 inch to 1.5 inch (2.5cm to 4cm) with your finger and make sure that it is dry before watering again. 

When the leaves begin to drop in the autumn, you should stop watering. Do not water during the winter season when the plant is dormant. 

Your soil type will also affect the amount of water you give your plant. Heavier clay-type soils are not ideal for frangipani. Try to mix peat, perlite, or gravel bits into the soil to allow for better drainage.

Water less as the water takes longer to run out and you don’t want the roots to rot. 

If possible, using rainwater is ideal. Tap water contains chemicals and salts that build up in the soil. For indoor plants, you can also use boiled water that has cooled overnight. 

 

Temperature 

Plumeria does best in climates that are tropical, subtropical, and warm-temperate. Best day temperatures are 65°F to 80°F (18°C and 26°C) and night temperatures of above 50°F (10°C). Once your nights drop below 40°F (4.4°C), you should bring your Frangipani plants indoors for the winter. 

Frangipanis do not enjoy cold or freezing temperatures. Most varieties are also not tolerant of frost. 

These plants are native to tropical, subtropical, and warm-temperate climates. The ideal day temperatures are 65°F to 80°F (18°C and 26°C) and night temperatures of above 50°F (10°C). 

As winter approaches and night temperatures start dipping below 40°F (4.4°C), it is time to bring your frangipani plants indoors for the winter. 

 

Humidity

Plumeria thrives best in average humidity and can also tolerate higher humidity in very hot climates. Try to maintain a humidity of 40% to 50% for your indoor plants. Outdoor plants will not do well in dry desert-like or damp rainforest conditions. 

Plumeria thrives best in climates with average humidity. This means a humidity of 40% to 50%. 

They are best suited for USA hardiness zones 10 to 12. 

Feel free to mist-spray your indoor plants if you feel that your air is too dry. Take care to mist only the foliage and not the flowers. 

If your indoor conditions are very damp and moggy, you can install a dehumidifier to remove moisture out of the air. This is also good for humans, as damp living spaces can breed germs and mold. 

 

Fertilizer

Plumeria can be fertilized every 2 to 3 weeks during the growing season. They enjoy fertilizers that are high in phosphorus. Look for blends indicated as 10-30-10. Do not use fertilizers that are high in nitrogen, this encourages leaf growth but not flowers. 

Plumeria fertilizing care is not excessive. They do however, bloom best when fed with a fertilizer during the growing season. 

You can plan to feed your plant every 2 to 3 weeks. If you prefer to use a slow-release fertilizer, buy one that is non-chemical if possible to prevent pollution of the soil.

When choosing a fertilizer for your Plumeria, look for a blend with readings of 10-30-10. These numbers indicate the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the mixture. As you can see from this combination, the middle number, phosphorus, is  the higher of the three. 

Adding an organic fertilizer to your soil is always a bonus for any plant. Buy from your local nursery or make it at home in a compost kit. 

Do not over-fertilize your frangipani. Less is better than more in this case. 

 

Plumeria Care Tips 

Plumeria is a stunning plant offering fragrant flowers from spring, through the summer, and into the fall. They can be grown indoors and outdoors. They are ideal for planting into pots and for burying in containers into the ground. Use for Mediterranean, country, cottage, and informal gardens. 

Frangipanis are beautiful plants that bloom with flowers in hues of pink, white, red, and yellow. 

They have a beautiful fragrance, so plant yours near a window where the scent will fill your living space. It is especially noticeable as evening falls. 

Plumeria loves heat and sun and are best suited for south-facing and west-facing gardens that get 6 to 8 of full sun per day. 

You can plant Plumeria indoors or outdoors. Most people enjoy having them in containers on patios or balconies where they add a burst of color. 

For indoor plants, stand near a south-facing window where it will get direct sunlight for most of the day.

If you are planting outdoors, you need to be aware that they are not tolerant of cold weather. You will need to move them indoors for the winter.

The easiest way to do this is to plant them into containers that are buried into the ground. They can then be dug up and carried inside. 

The shallow roots of frangipani make them suitable for planting alongside pathways and walkways. They also look great near fish ponds, pools, and water features.

Frangipani is fairly tolerant of windy conditions and salty air. This makes them a great choice for coastal gardens. 

Plumeria flowers look stunning floating in bowls of water as table decorations. 

 

When to plant your Plumeria

For planting Plumeria outdoors, the best time is late spring to early summer.  Plumeria is not tolerant of cold and cannot be planted in cold weather. For indoor plants, spring and summer are best as the plant is dormant in winter. 

Frangipani is a heat-loving plant. It is dormant in winter and needs to be kept indoors if your temperatures drop below 40°F (4.4°C).

From this, you can see that planting your Frangipani in fall or winter is not a good idea. Spring and early summer are the best seasons for planting. Your plant will then be in full bloom for the summer months. 

If you are still getting frost in early spring, wait until the frosts are over. Plumeria is not tolerant of frost and the plant can be severely damaged. 

 

How to plant your Plumeria

 Plumeria can be planted into the ground or into containers. Many gardeners like to bury containers into the soil and bring them inside for the winter. Choose a cactus-mix and add peat, perlite, and mulch. Containers should be at least 15 inches (40cm) in diameter. Water well after planting.

Planting Plumeria requires some thought if you want to plant it outdoors.  Because it is not tolerant of frost or cold weather, most gardeners will bring the plants indoors for the winter. 

How do you do this, without digging up the plant and possibly stressing it, or damaging the roots?

The easiest way is to first plant it into a pot or container. Then bury the container in the ground! When it comes to digging it up, your Plumeria will not even know that it has been removed from its summer spot. 

Choose a container that is at least 15 inches (40cm) wide, or even larger. Place a layer of gravel or small stones at the base to prevent the drainage holes from becoming blocked and to allow the water to drain out. 

Fill your pot with a cactus mix or loose sandy soil from your garden. If you want to use regular potting soil, ensure that you add in peat and orchid bark to allow for drainage and aeration. 

Remove the wrapping from your plant and shake off any excess soil.

If the roots are tangled, try to gently prise them apart with your fingers or with a stick. Take care not to damage them in the process. 

If the rootball is root bound, you may not be able to separate the roots. In this case, you can take a sharp knife and make vertical incisions a few inches deep, into the rootball, near to the base, down to the bottom.

Don’t worry! This process will help the roots to spread.  

Now prepare your hole in the pot. Dig it as deep as the rootball. Plumeria roots like to spread rather than grow downwards, so more space around the plant is preferred. It does not have to be planted too deep into the pot. 

Make your hole 3 times as wide as the rootball so you can spread the roots when you place it into the soil. 

Add some liquid fertilizer. Frangipani loves a phosphorus-rich fertilizer. Choose a blend with a ratio of 10-30-10. Water well and allow the water to drain out. 

Place your plant gently into the hole. Spread the roots out as much as you can. Half fill the hole with soil. Water again and then fill the hole completely. Press down the soil, but not too firmly. This will help to remove air pockets. 

Frangipanis are usually planted one per pot as they grow quite large and need space for their roots to spread. 

If your climate is excessively hot and dry, you may want to add a thin layer of mulch around the plant. Ensure that it does not touch the main stem of the tree as it could encourage fungal growth that thrives in dampness. 

Transplanting a grown frangipani into a larger pot can also be done in the spring, by following the same steps. 

 

Growth

Plumeria grows as a deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub or small tree. It offers stunning, fragrant flowers from spring, through summer, and into fall. Flowers are 3 to 4 inches (7.5cm to 10cm) wide, in white, red, pink, and yellow. Leaves are oblong, dark green, and grow up to 12 inches (30cm) long. 

The beautiful Frangipani grows as a shrub, or as a small tree. There are different varieties, with some being semi-evergreen and others deciduous. 

Blooms appear from spring throughout summer and into fall. They offer stunning solid, or bi-color hues of white, yellow, red, and pink. The most well-known frangipani flowers are white with yellow throats. 

The blossoms appear at the tips of the branches. Flowers vary in size from 3 inches to 4 inches (7.5cm to 10cm). The leaves are dark green and oblong. They have a leathery texture and can grow as long as 12 inches (30cm). 

Plumeria stops growing when the temperatures average below 65°F (18.3°C). This is the time to move them indoors for the winter. 

Mature frangipani trees planted into the ground in warm climates can grow as tall as 19 feet (6m). They grow very slowly, so this will take many years. In home gardens, they reach average heights of 3 feet to 6 feet (1m to1.8m). 

 

Pruning your Plumeria

Pruning is not a major requirement for your Plumeria. You can trim it to control the size and shape. Pruning damaged or diseased branches is a good idea. Trim the branch flush where it joins the main trunk. Larger trees can be pruned to a smaller size before bringing them indoors.

Pruning your frangipani is not vital. However, there are a few good reasons for trimming.

If you want to maintain the size and shape of your plant, you can use a sharp trimmer to cut back individual branches as required. 

When you notice damaged, broken, or diseased branches, it is a good idea to trim them to keep the rest of the plant healthy. Do not use shears! Shears are great for large hedges or very dense spreading plants.

Your Plumeria needs selective trimming, branch by branch. 

Another reason that gardeners prune their trees is for overwintering. Large trees may be cumbersome to dig out of the ground and transport indoors. Trimming back branches is not a problem. They will grow again when the weather warms up. 

Here is a fascinating trick I learned while surfing the net! When you prune a frangipani branch some distance away from the main trunk, it will grow new branches outwards, just under the cut.

Gardeners do this to increase the branches and the number of flowers. I will certainly give this a try. 

Trimming the tree will also give you cuttings that you can use to propagate new trees. Your own propagated tree makes a great gift to offer to friends or family. 

 

Winter protection for your Plumeria

In very cold climates, Plumeria plants should be dug up and moved indoors where the temperatures are above freezing. Do this when outside temperatures drop below 40°F (4.4°C). Prune off very large branches to reduce the plant size. You can also remove all leaves that are still on the plant. 

 

Plumeria plants become dormant in winter. This means that they will not require water, light, or fertilizer. 

To prepare for this, you need to ensure that your plant is easily moveable. If it is in a container, you can simply pick up the container and move it indoors. 

The best storage areas are garages, covered patios, sheds, a closet, or even a spare room. Ensure that the spot is well ventilated and dry. Damp, moggy rooms are not ideal and can encourage the growth of fungus and mold. 

As you have read in my previous paragraphs, savvy gardeners plant outdoor frangipani into containers and then bury the containers into the soil. Now you know why!

This makes it easy to “dig up” your plant without stressing or damaging it in any way. When spring comes round, you simply bury your potted plant back into the ground and leave it to flourish for the rest of the year. 

Before digging up your pot, you can trim off any large branches to make the plant lighter to transport. Don’t worry – they will grow back again.

Most of the leaves should have dropped off by now. If any do remain, snip them off until the branches are bare. 

Water your plant well and allow it to dry completely before moving it indoors. You will not need to water it again until the spring. 

After digging up the pot, check for any roots that may have pushed their way through the drainage holes. Trim them off. Remove excess soil and clean your pot, you don’t want to drag all this soil indoors. 

For gardeners in warmer zones where you do not get freezing temperatures, you can leave your frangipani outdoors. It is a good idea to get a large frost-cloth to cover your plant, especially if the night temperatures drop below 33°F (0.5°C).

Remember to remove the cloth during the day and shake off any excess rainwater that may have accumulated in the folds. 

 

Different varieties of Plumeria

Here are some of my favorite varieties of Plumeria. 

 

  • Plumeria alba – also known as the West Indian Jasmine. It has classic white flowers with yellow throats and blooms from spring into fall. 
  • Plumeria obtusa – grows as a rounded tree, ideal for smaller gardens. The flowers are sweetly fragrant and bloom in tones of white with yellow throats. 
  • Plumeria rubra – this popular variety offers red-pink flowers with yellow centers. Flowers grow in a spiral shape among deep green succulent leaves. 
  • Plumeria rubra ‘candy stripe’ – as you can guess from the name, this variety offers beautiful flowers that are striped in tones of white, yellow, and deep pink. 
  • Plumeria rubra ‘vera cruz rose’ – a unique cultivar that offers bouquets of flowers with as many as 50 flowers in each cluster. This is a spectacular sight! Flowers are canary-yellow, with pink bands along the front and back of each petal. White borders complete the stunning look. 
  • Plumeria rubra ‘sundance’ – this variety is known for its unique fragrance that resembles cinnamon chewing gum. Flowers are a deep ink with orange centers and maroon streaks.

 

Plumeria Pests

Plumeria is fairly pest and disease resistant. But, it is always a good idea to check for pests that may have decided to make your plant their home. 

 

Frangipani rust 

This is easily seen. It grows as yellow pustules underneath the leaves. When they break open, spores spread outwards and look like fine yellow powder. 

You do not want this on your plant! Badly affected leaves may fall off. You should remove leaves that show signs of rust. Spraying with fungicides can help. 

 

Stem rot

Stem rot causes the stems to become soft and easily crushed. This is because the rot is eating away at the insides, making them hollow. It is difficult to remove this problem. 

Cutting off infected branches can help. Ensure that you sterilize your clippers after each cut so as not to transfer the disease to other branches or other plants. 

Mature Plumeria trees often have very dense canopies that can prevent sunlight from reaching the inner branches. Trimming them away will allow sun to filter in, reducing the chance of stem rot. 

 

Caterpillars 

Hornworm caterpillars enjoy feeding on frangipani leaves. Many will eat entire plants if not attended to. The caterpillars are large and ugly! They are about 6 inches (15cm) long, green, black, and red in color. If you are brave, you can simply remove them. If not, spray with a pesticide that contains spinosad. 

 

Common problems with Plumeria 

 

Branches are soft and mushy

This is a sign of stem rot. Trim off affected branches and sterilize your cutters after use. 

 

Plumeria does not flower

This could be an indication that your plant is not getting enough sun. It requires at least 6 to 8 hours per day of direct sun. Another cause could be that you are using a fertilizer with too much nitrogen. Nitrogen will encourage leaf growth but not flower growth. 

 

Branches appear burned and split open

This is a sign of too much sun and too little water. The cambium layer will turn dark and split open. This can cause stress to the tree and also encourage pests to enter the wound. 

 

Aerial roots growing above the ground

Your tree is searching for nutrients, causing it to send roots out where it shouldn’t. Feed it with a phosphorus-rich liquid fertilizer to increase the nutrients in the soil. 

 

Black spots on Plumeria

If you do find dark spots on the leaves of your Plumeria, you might want to have a look at our article about black spots on Plumeria leaves.

 

Plumeria fun facts

Here are some fun facts for trivia fans! 

The plant is named after an Italian nobleman of the 16th century who created a perfume used to scent gloves. When the flower was discovered, it had a similar scent and was named after him. 

The official name Plumeria came from Charles Plumier, who was a botanist in the court of King Louis XIV of France. 

The flowers are used for making leis in many of the Pacific islands.

In the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia the flowers are associated with ghosts and cemeteries and are planted in burial grounds.

The tree and the flowers are considered to be sacred in South East Asia. 

The flower symbolizes love and devotion and is often used in wedding ceremonies. 

In Hawaii, if a woman wears a frangipani behind her left ear, it means that she is in a relationship. Worn behind the right ear means that she is single and willing to meet a partner. 

 

Frequently asked questions about Plumeria

 

Can Plumeria grow in shade?

This plant loves sun. Shady spots are not ideal. Why not check out our fabulous choice of plants for shady gardens, to give you the burst of color you need? 

 

Is Plumeria toxic? 

Yes, parts of the plant are toxic to humans and animals. The milky sap can cause skin irritations and vomiting if ingested. That being said, some people use the petals of the flower in salads or steep it to make tea. Be cautious before eating your plant!  

 

Can Plumeria grow in pots?

Yes, this is the preferable way to plant frangipani. Gardeners plant frangipani into pots and then bury them into the soil. This makes it easier to dig them up and store them away for the dormant times. 

 

Are Plumeria easy to store in winter?

You will need to dig up your pots and store them in a dry, well-ventilated place like a shed, spare room, garage, or even a closet. Ladies – get a strong partner or friend to help you carry the pots! 

 

Can I leave the Plumeria in the ground? 

You can if you live in warmer climates and winter night temperatures are not freezing. Plan to cover your plant with a frost-cloth at night. 

 

What other plants go well with Plumeria? 

Pair up your Frangipani with cycads, flax, elephant ears, or cordylines. If you have a larger tree, you can plant philodendron or monstera underneath the tree. 

What Is Eating My Zinnia Leaves
Previous
What is Eating My Zinnia Leaves? — Revealed!
How Fast Do Pothos Grow
Next
How Fast Does Pothos Grow? — Oh Wow!