Plumeria is a popular plant across the globe, especially known for its flowers. Also called frangipani, this is a tropical plant that is native to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South America.
Fun fact—in Hawaii, the Plumeria flowers are known to create a crown that is called the Haku lei or just lei.
These plants have a lovely fragrance that makes them a popular choice in spas too. The flowers typically have five petals and come in many different attractive colors, which makes them popular among home gardeners too.
According to the USDA, it should be grown in hardiness zones 10-12. But if you are not growing the plant outdoors, here’s a detailed guide on Plumeria care indoors.
How to Care For a Plumeria Indoors
When it comes to caring for any plant, you need to know the right temperature, light and watering schedule. You also need to learn about fertilizing them and what to do when they go dormant which, for Plumeria plants, is the winter season.
A healthy Plumeria plant has woody branches with sharp leaves that grow up to 1 foot in length. The flowers grow in clusters and look like bouquets that adorn the plant from summer to fall.
The flowers are about two inches wide and come in white, yellow, pink and red colors or a combination of these colors. The oil from these flowers is used to make candles, lotions and perfumes.
These plants love direct sunlight for about six hours every day. But if you are growing them indoors, make sure you pick a south-facing window so that they get the brightest light possible.
If that is not an option, you will have to inspect your home to see where the plant can get good sunlight. This might involve moving it around. You can also try placing it in fluorescent light for 14 to 15 hours a day.
Since this is essentially a tropical plant, you need to maintain the indoor temperature between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can also place the plant outdoors in the summer to facilitate better access to sunlight so that the flowers can grow well. But when the temperature falls under 55 degrees Fahrenheit, you should bring them back in.
At this point, you will notice that the leaves turn yellow or fall off the plant altogether. Take that as a sign to bring them indoors where the temperature has to be better than the outdoors.
Watering and Fertilizing
Plumeria plants must be watered deeply, but that does not mean you let them sit in stagnant water. The roots must never be sitting wet because there is a risk of rot. Over-watering is completely capable of killing the plant. And you know that because even in this case, the leaves start to turn yellow.
It is also good to remember that these plants, being tropical, like and also need some amount of humidity, which is clear from the mist on the leaves early in the morning.
If the weather does not permit it, you might want to consider getting a humidifier, which will add some to the room in which the plant is. Alternatively, you can also spray some water on the leaves but not on the flowers.
Now, the amount of water the plant needs often depends on the size and temperature of the pot it is planted in. If you live in a warmer region and have a small pot, the soil dries out sooner, which means it will need water more often than not. Stick your finger into the soil to check for dryness.
Plumerias also like to be heavily fed. So, you must consider using a fertilizer that is high in phosphate or phosphorus and low in nitrogen. Feed the plant once every two weeks through spring and fall and you will see clusters of flowers bloom. If you give it fertilizer, that is high in nitrogen, the flowers will maintain their normal growth trajectory, but the leaves will go wild.
Despite your best efforts, if your Plumeria does not bloom well, don’t be too hard on yourself. Getting this plant to flower can be a tricky endeavor. Be patient with the plant and yourself for the first 2-3 years. That’s when it matures and starts flowering.
Pests and Insect Infestations
Plumerias that are grown indoors can be susceptible to infestations caused by mealybugs, spider mites and whiteflies. This is not peculiar for Plumerias, but is common too many houseplants.
Using a regular insecticide soap is all you need to do to get rid of them. And when you move the plant outdoors in the summer, you can take care of the pests by just spraying a little water on the plant.
Repotting and Pruning
Spring is a good time to repot young Plumeria plants. When you notice that the container is filled with roots, move it to a container that is one size bigger. Make sure even this one has plenty of drainage holes so that the excess water can leave the container. Top dress the pot by removing two to three inches of soil and adding fresh soil to the mix.
Let’s talk about pruning the Plumeria plants. This is a way to encourage the branches to grow better while keeping a hold on their size. Pruning works because the clusters of flowers grow from the tips of the plant’s branches.
Pruning the tips at a 45-degree angle just a little above the node makes sure that the flowers grow well. To avoid tearing into the stems, ensure that you use sharp pruners. And since it’s a vigorous plant, you can easily cut back about a third of the branches and it will grow just fine without experiencing shock or pain.
But if you don’t want to prune the plant for the sake of growth, you can skip it and keep the activity limited to removing dying branches. Late winter and early springtime, when the plant is still dormant, is a good window to get this done.
Care in the Dormant Stage
Winter is when these plants enter a dormant stage. This is basically their hibernation period when they conserve energy for the upcoming spring ‘show’ when it is time for them to bloom in magnificent clusters.
What you can do to facilitate this winter sleep is to bring them indoors (if the plant is outside or exposed to outside temperatures) and place them in a cool, dry place. Obviously, we don’t mean the refrigerator.
Basements and garages are standard choices if the temperature there does not go under 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t give the plant too much water and completely stop giving it fertilizers till it is time for its growing season.
The good thing about Plumerias is that they go into dormancy even if they were grown indoors throughout the year. A little bit of change in temperature or lighting can trigger this phenomenon.
During this time it requires less than minimum care because it does not need soil, light or water. At best, you might have to give it a cup of water once a month and let it go back to sleep till spring.
How to Propagate Plumeria Plants
If you are looking to propagate Plumeria plants from the ones you already have, here are a couple of ways to do it. You can propagate them using seeds but using cuttings is preferred and also the easier way to go about it.
Start by snipping off a few leaves from the plant. This can be done when you need the plant to pay more attention to grow roots than leaves.
Pick some dry tips for the task to reduce the risk of infections. If your tips are not dry, wait till the cuttings get there before you try to re-plant them. If you skip this step, there is a chance your cuttings might rot.
While they are drying up, you can also think about adding plant hormones that help quicken the process of the formation of roots.
Now it’s time to prepare the pot that is right for the size of the Plumerias you plan to repot. A container with enough drainage holes has to be picked. Also, make sure it is clean before you start the process of repotting.
Next up is pushing the cutting into the potting mix. You should push it deep enough for the cutting to be able to stand by itself. Then you must pack the mix tightly in the container and water it heavily. Make sure the excess drains out and get rid of the drip tray.
There are very few guidelines when it comes to Plumeria care indoors. And now you know them all. The plants need direct sunlight for 4-6 hours a day. They need to be watered enough, but the roots must never sit in stagnant water.
The temperature has to be 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit and when it goes under 55 degrees; it is time to protect the plants.