There are eleven species of the small tree or shrub known as Plumeria (ploo-MEER-ee-uh). This plant is a member of the dogbane family of plants and hails from the Caribbean, Mexico, and Brazil. You may commonly hear this plant referred to as Plumeria or Frangipani.
These pretty subtropical and tropical plants produce gorgeous, sweet-smelling flowers that are used to make fragrances and also to make leis in Hawaii.
It is possible to grow Plumeria from seed, but the best way to propagate this pretty plant is by taking cuttings. In this article, we share advice to help you successfully take and root cuttings from your Plumeria plant.
Rooting Plumeria Cuttings Takes Some Planning
It’s very easy to root Plumeria from cuttings. However, it’s not a spur-of-the-moment activity. You need to plan about a week in advance because the cuttings will need to be hardened off for a week.
Your Plumeria cutting should be completely hardened off or callused before planting. A well-callused cutting grows better roots, and failure to allow cuttings to callus will lead to rot. The day before you take your cuttings, give your plant a thorough watering.
More on Caring For Your Plumerias
Be sure to use very sharp, sterile pruning shears to take cuttings. Successful cuttings should be between 12″ and 18″ inches long. For the greatest success, cut off lateral shoots rather than terminal shoots. These seem to produce roots better.
Keep in mind that the best cuttings are from the past season or the current season. They should be mature. Be careful not to take green cuttings because they don’t do well.
Don’t take cuttings that have flower buds, as these will drain energy from the cutting. If your only choice is to take a cutting that has a flower or a flower bud, use a sharp knife to cut the flowers off promptly.
Dip cuttings in rooting hormone powder immediately after taking the cutting. If you wait until the cutting calluses off, the rooting hormone will have less effect.
While your cutting is becoming callused, you should store it in a sheltered area out of direct sunlight. Good air circulation is a must.
While your cuttings are hardening off, check on them frequently. If you notice that the end of the cutting is becoming soft, cut that part away until you only see white at the cut end.
At this point, you’ll need to start the hardening off process all over again. You must allow the cutting to dry until the end is completely hardened or callused.
In dry, warm climates this will take about a week. If you live in cool and/or moist climates, it could take a couple of weeks.
It is best to pot up the cuttings as soon as possible after the callusing process is complete, but this is not absolutely necessary. When properly stored, cuttings can be kept for several weeks or even several months.
Use a Well Draining Potting Mix
When the week is up, you can plant your well-callused Plumeria cuttings in a mixture of one part potting soil and two parts perlite.
Sink about half of the length of the cutting in your potting mixture. Slip a bamboo stake beside the cutting to hold it firmly in place.
Give your cutting a very thorough watering immediately after planting it, and then allow it to dry for a few weeks. Too much water will cause your cuttings to rot.
NOTE: Always use a growing container with drainage holes.
It’s best to plant your cutting in a large container so that it has a good chance of becoming established and strong before you transplant it into the soil (if you live in a tropical climate).
During the first week, the pot with your new cuttings should be kept in a still, sheltered area that is warm and provides bright indirect sunlight. After the first week, you can gradually move the cutting into a full sun setting.
As your cutting is taking root, check on it frequently. It shouldn’t need more than its initial heavy watering for a couple of weeks, but if the cutting takes on a wrinkled appearance, you may need to mist it daily until the wrinkles have smoothed out.
Leaves should grow within 2 to 3 months, depending upon the variety of Plumeria you have. When new leaves have grown, you’ll know that new roots have grown.
When your cutting has produced three or four good-sized leaves, you can give it a foliar fertilizing by misting the leaves with half-strength general-purpose fertilizer. Be sure to spray either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Don’t mist your Plumeria when bright, full sun is shining directly on it.
When fertilizing cuttings, be sure not to use a fertilizer that has a high phosphate level. This is a bloom booster fertilizer. You want to encourage your cutting to produce roots and leaves, not flowers.
If you are in an area that has consistently warm, comfortable days, you can expect your cutting to form good roots in about a month and a half. If you’re in a cooler area, this may take three months.
When is the Best Time to Root Plumeria Cuttings?
Early in the spring is the ideal time to root cuttings. This is the time of year when the plant is in its most active growth phase. Early to mid-summer is also workable but not as desirable.
If you try to root through Plumeria late in the summer, just before its rest, it will not have time to set down good roots. Roots will form best at temperatures ranging from 75 to 85° degrees Fahrenheit.
If you happen to receive a Plumeria cutting late in the summer, you can extend your growing season by placing a heat mat underneath the pot in which you have the cutting. This will help to encourage root growth.
What Kinds of Plumeria Root Best?
Red Plumeria and hybrid types will take longer and may have more difficulty rooting; however, all varieties of Plumeria typically root well from cuttings, as long as you only take cuttings from very healthy plants.
Plants that are showing signs of illness, nutrient deficiency, or excessive fertilizing, or overwatering may not provide cuttings that will root well.
For this reason, it’s wise to keep your cutting activity separate from your pruning activity. It is never a good idea to try to take healthy cuttings at the same time that you are removing unhealthy growth.
Can You Root Plumeria in Water?
While it is possible to start Plumeria cuttings in water, this is not a preferred method. Water roots are not as strong as soil roots. When you transfer any plant that has been rooted in water to the soil, you run the risk of having the roots break and rot.
Suppose you have rooted a Plumeria cutting in water. When you do transfer it to the soil, place the container in a saucer or bowl of water so that the soil stays quite wet for the first week. This helps the roots adjust to taking up nutrients from the soil.
After the week is up, remove the pot from the water and allow the soil to dry naturally before watering again.