Plumeria is a wonderful genus of 10+ healthy-flowering species that now includes hundreds of cultivars.
Throughout the Indian Subcontinent and Orient, these plants have become important to both Buddhists and Hindi. Plumeria trees have gone from being South and Central American native to being naturalized in Hawaii, where they’re used to make leis. Considering these tropical plants can only be grown outside in USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11, you may have thought you’d never be able to enjoy one.
The good news is, you can!
Plumeria plants may range from large shrubs to small trees, but they adapt very well to containers and can be grown indoors easily or even brought outside in warm weather.
Between their prolific pastel blooms from early summer into early fall and the wonderful aroma they bring, this is one plant you don’t want to pass up.
Read on to find out how you can grow one of these exotic beauties in your own home.
Growing Plumeria in Pots
Growing your Plumeria flowers in a pot or other container is surprisingly easy.
You can propagate temporarily in the containers for transplanting outdoors or keep them in pots indefinitely.
Choosing Your Container
A young plumeria will need some room to grow, so it’s usually best to start with a 1-gallon container.
Black nursery containers or other plastic pots are generally preferable to clay-based pots, as plumerias have been known to dig their roots into the latter’s porous surface.
Make sure your pot has adequate drainage holes.
Picking the Right Potting Soil
Plumerias need well-drained soil with a slightly acidic pH (around 6.0 to 6.7).
One good option is to buy a quality commercial cactus or citrus potting mix and add 2 parts perlite per 1 part soil.
This provides both aeration and improved drainage without draining so fast the plant doesn’t get any water.
A good homemade mix involves equal parts coconut coir, perlite, and sphagnum moss.
Plumerias can be moderate to heavy feeders, so the higher organic content of these mixes will help reduce the burden on fertilizers.
Fertilizing Your Plant
Speaking of fertilizing your Plumeria, you will want to feed your Plumeria regularly during the growing season with a high-phosphorus liquid fertilizer.
A 10-30-10 NPK ratio works great, but you can also go with a similar ratio as needed.
Avoid having too much nitrogen, as this will cause your Plumeria to become leggy and reduce the number of blooms (which occur only on the tips of branches).
Apply the fertilizer as instructed by the product’s packaging on a monthly basis from spring through early fall. Stop fertilizing in mid-fall until new growth appears the following spring.
It’s usually best to add the fertilizer soon after watering to reduce the risk of chemical burns.
Finding a Good Growing Location For Your Potted Plumeria
Your Plumeria likes bright, indirect sunlight with at least 6 hours of full sun.
Rooms with good southern exposure are ideal, although these plants can also grow under fluorescent lighting as long as they get 14 to 15 hours of exposure daily.
The spot you choose should be free of drafts and have an ambient temperature between 65° and 85° Fahrenheit.
Plumeria will start to go dormant if it drops below 60° degrees Fahrenheit and can die if left exposed to temperatures under 55° degrees Fahrenheit.
They can grow in normal household humidity, although you may wish to augment this with a pebble tray or humidifier.
“Regular Watering”: The Hardest Part?
We were all taught as kids to water a potted plant using a schedule year-round for some odd reason.
However, these same people have never told us that we have to drink a set amount of water using a calendar to show when to drink.
As a result, amateur (and sometimes even seasoned) plant enthusiasts can accidentally overwater their plant and kill it.
The good news is, it’s easy to keep your Plumeria’s potting soil mix (and that of other plants, as well) adequately moist, so it’s never overwatered or underwatered using two basic techniques.
The first technique is called the finger technique and is pretty much universal.
Simply stick your finger in the soil to a set depth, and if it’s dry all the way down, it’s time to water.
This depth varies from plant to plant, but it’s 2″ to 3” inches for plumerias.
The second method may vary from one plant to another, but it’s the soak-and-dry method for plumerias.
Simply use room temperature distilled water or rainwater and slowly pour around the perimeter of the pot, so the potting soil has time to absorb it all.
Avoid tap water, as this contains harmful chemicals and minerals, and don’t use cold water as it can shock the plant.
Stop watering when you see moisture begins to seep from the drainage holes.
Pruning and Immunizing
Control the size and shape of your indoor Plumeria and keep it healthy with pruning (after all, who wants a 30’ feet tall tree in the living room?).
A light pruning from late winter to early spring to prevent leggy branches will help prepare for new growth.
You can also prune away damaged or diseased branches at any point.
Be sure to cut using sharp, sterile shears in a single cut at the branch’s base to avoid damaging the bark.
You may also wish to apply a neem soil soak as part of your watering regimen every 2 to 3 weeks.
The Azarchtin in the neem will be absorbed by the plant and act as a systemic pesticide for up to 22 days.
Any pest that bites or pierces the leaves will be affected, and it can kill some bacteria and fungi that attack the plant – all while being perfectly safe for your two- and four-legged family members.