Plumeria, also known as Frangipani, is a fixture of California gardens. Sculptural trunks, vibrant green leaves, small, elegant, fragrant blossoms touched by the color blends of a divine make-up artist, they've got it all. They are not water hogs either. They actually like a well drained soil and to be lightly moist in the growing season. During the winter, they need little if no additional watering. They bloom and grow well in sunny locations, and root readily in pots. There are many ways to root plumerias, but this method from expert gardener Alden Norris worked like a charm for me, and didn't require any delicate cutting transplanting operations. Let's see how it's done. In pictures and descriptions:
Choose a well draining pot, unglazed terra cotta works well. This one has a pedestal base, so the roots will not sit in water. Rot and damp are the most common causes of plumeria failure. Use broken pot shards to cover the drainage holes, top w/ a good well drained potting mix. Use something like a water bottle to create a cylindrical impression in the potting mix.
Now you have a perfect divot to put in perlite, sand, pumice or gravel. Make sure there is about an inch or two of soil in the bottom of the indentation.
Add in the drainage mix, about half way up. I used a fine gravel mix. Make sure to wear blue garden crocs when executing these sensitive garden operations. JK
Insert the prepared cutting and top off w/ more gravel. Let's talk about the cuttings and how to prep them out. Take a good cutting, preferably w/ two or three branches on the stalk. I did this one in September. But from mid spring to late summer should work fine. Get a nice clean cut on the stem and allow the stem to dry for several days. You're looking for a dry, healed cut and a bit of dryness on the plant. Wait until the stem is a little bit stressed, no longer plump before you root it.
Make sure your cutting is nicely in the center of the gravel or sand mix and then add a layer on top of the soil. Make a mental note to ask an Australian to tell you what they know about the plant they call Frangipani. Everything sounds so alluring in a Aussie accent.
Next add a layer of decorative stones for both beauty and to protect the plant from damp soil that may encourage stem rot.
Secure the cutting in place w/ some larger stones to keep it upright. It'll be top heavy while it's rooting so it needs some support. Learn more about plumeria fun facts while you nurture your new addition.
Trim off some of the larger leaves, leaving just a few medium and small green leaves to power the plant. Too many leaves in the rooting process stress the plant as it tries to grow new roots. Learn more about the mighty Plumeria, originally a Central American native plant that has ingratiated itself into tropical locales all around the world.
And now the fun begins. Your new plumeria will need some regular care during the rooting phase. It needs to be moist enough to encourage growth, yet never overly saturated. Water it well once to make sure that the soil is fully moist. If using a terra cotta pot as we did, put the entire planted pot into a container of water and let it to soak in the water for one hour. Then remove it from the water and let it drain fully.
Set the planted cutting w/ its nicely trimmed foliage in a sunny spot. Ideally on a concrete or stone patio. The heat from the warm concrete will encourage rapid and vigorous root growth. Water frequently, but make sure the water drains from the pot. They do not want to sit in sogginess. Rooting takes a month or two. You'll know your plant has roots when the stem plumps up and the leaves broaden out. Remember that plumeria is deciduous so, they will lose most or all of their leaves in the winter months. Once rooted, they may not bloom right away. They usually do not bloom until after a full dormant period. And they may not bloom for up to three seasons. Don't despair. The plant itself is beautiful, very sculptural and a garden feature all on its own.
The blooms are deliciously fragrant, but somehow don't really show up much on the plant itself. You must seek them out. They make stunning cut flowers. They float well in glass vessels, last long and remain fragrant while you enjoy them indoors. They are ideal bed room blossoms.
Here is the fully rooted, established plant after going through one winter and now all greened up w/ healthy vibrant leaves in the summer of 2015.
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