I was lucky enough to go on two family trips to Hawaii when I was younger. I still remember getting off the airplane to be greeted by a Hawaiian woman who put a beautiful lei of plumeria flowers around my neck, as well as all those plastic plumeria flower souvenirs in many of the souvenir shops all over the islands. I now enjoy my own plumerias in my backyard and would love to share my plumeria care tips with you.
Before I talk about plumeria care, I would like to briefly discuss the origin and history of plumeria plants. It is quite interesting.
Not a Hawaiian Native
I don’t know about you, but when I see a plumeria flower, a motif or logo of one, I immediately think of Hawaii. Did you know these fragrant trees are not originally from the Aloha State? Neither did I!
So, where are these beautiful plants from anyways?
Origin of Plumeria
The plumeria tree is originally from the Carribean. This makes sense since the Carribean is another tropical area, although I do not think of plumerias when I see or hear about the Carribean. Maybe pirates but definitely not plumerias!
Plumerias also originated in Mexico and Central America. From these places, plumeria trees spread to other tropical areas as well.
The plumeria plant was named after Charles Plumier. He was a French botanist who studied many plants in the Americas.
Another name for plumeria trees is frangipani (plumeria rubra). A 16th century monk named Marquis Frangipani was known for a perfume he made. The plumeria flower’s scent and that of Frangipani’s perfume are similar to each other, hence the other name for plumeria plants.
Hello from Hawaii
The plumeria tree was first introduced to the great state of Hawaii in 1860. There is now such an abundance of plumeria plants in Hawaii that many people assume its a native plant.
Where Can Plumeria Trees Grow?
Plumeria plants can definitely grow in tropical areas, but where else can they grow? Plumerias can be grown in a variety of places, as long as the tree is brought in during the winter. USDA zone 10 are where plumeria trees grow best though.
I remember driving around Orange County, CA last year, seeing all the beautiful plumeria blooms thinking, I must have one! I am now the proud owner of two small plumeria trees.
Types of Plumeria
There are many different types of plumeria trees in a variety of colors. One of the more common trees is plumeria rubra aztec gold. The flowers on this tree are white with a gold yellow center.
There are other variations with more or less gold, as well as more or less white on the flowers. They are all beautiful. Mine are a variation of gold and white flowers.
Other types of trees have pink and white flowers with different colored centers. I’ve seen blue and purple ones online, but I heard these were fake blooms. I’ve seen many white, yellow and pink plumerias while driving around my neighborhood.
I hope to own other colors of plumerias, but will enjoy my yellow and white flowered ones for now.
Caring for plumeria trees is quite easy. They can be grown in the ground or in containers. I have my two small plumeria trees in pots and they fit perfectly in my little balcony garden.
Plumerias grow based on the space that is available to them. These plants can spread out and grow as tall as over 20 feet. As container plants, plumerias will grow as much as the pot they are in will allow.
Plumerias are commonly sold as cuttings. The tree I bought was sold with some soil in its small pot. These plants have thin root systems, so it was easily tranferred into a slightly larger pot.
The other plumeria I received as a gift from my best friend’s in-laws. They told me to let the cutting dry out in the shade for a few weeks, then plant it. This tree is currently growing in some beautiful leaves.
If you plan to plant your tree in the ground, use half native soil and half well draining soil. A cactus, palm and or desert soil will work great.
If potting the plant, you may want to add gravel or Perlite to the bottom. I added a few inches of mulch to both my potted plumerias and they are growing fine. Make sure that the containers have a hole for water drainage.
When I bought my first plumeria plant at the end of last summer, I expected it to start producing flowers right away. I’ve had it for almost a year and it just started blooming gorgeous yellow and white flowers. I’ve had to learn patience with this plant but its been well worth the wait.
The flowers are refreshingly fragrant. Each flowering tree has its own distinctive fragrance to enjoy.
How Much Water?
Plumeria trees are hardy plants that do not require much water. Plumerias need to be watered regularly while the leaves and flowers are blooming. Once the plant’s leaves fall off during the winter, it does not need to be watered.
I have been tempted to water my plants when they don’t need any, but try to hold back since I heard that over watering is a common reason plants die, especially here in Southern California where many plants thrive with little water.
Something else I learned about plumeria trees are that they become dormant in the winter. When the leaves fell off at the end of the year, I thought I had killed my plants. I wanted to throw them out when this happened, but took my husband’s advice and kept the plants.
I’m glad I did, since now I have two beautiful trees! One is producing flowers while the other is producing leaves. I’m not sure why one is not producing flowers, but I’ve only had it a few months so I may have to wait another year before I get to enjoy its blooms.
I knew the basics of plumeria care before I began researching for this blog post. I have learned so much more since and I hope you have learned a thing or two about plumeria care as well. Feel free to add your own tips on caring for plumeria trees below!