Garden Guide: How to grow tropical Plumeria up north

This sweet and tropical flower is rare to see in our climate, but it is easy to bring inside during the winter, because it goes to sleep.

Alex Calamia

Aug 30, 2023, 10:56 AM

Updated 320 days ago


Local nurseries are filled with tropical plants for gardeners to place on their patio each summer, but many of these plants are difficult to keep alive inside the house during the wintertime.
Tropicals need lots of light and humidity to grow, but Plumeria prefer to spend the winter inside our dark and dry homes because they can go to sleep.
Plumeria trees are native to Central America, but the flowers are well known for their place in Hawaiian leis and as an ingredient in perfumes. The fragrance is one of a kind and delicious. It is surprisingly easy to enjoy the scent right on your patio up north - with a few helpful tips in mind.
Plumeria naturally drop all their leaves and go dormant during the dry season in their native climate. The dry season in the tropics coincides with our wintertime, so these plants will naturally stop growing and start dropping their leaves when cooler and darker days arrive. These plants don’t require high light or frequent watering while they’re sleeping inside the house during the winter.
Plumeria sprout back in the spring with a fresh flush of leaves and, if you are lucky, a branch of buds called a flower inflorescence that will house hundreds of blooms from July until Autumn.
Plumeria do best in fast draining soil labeled for palms and cactus. These trees love organic fertilizer during the spring when they are waking up from their winter nap. Although plumeria do not require a lot of water or sun during the winter, they do prefer plenty of water and sunlight during the hottest days of the summer and will need to go outside in the summer.
Gardeners who are serious about getting these plants to flower up north shouldn’t look for shortcuts. Purchase “compact” plumeria varieties that are labeled as early bloomers for the most success. Some plumeria plants require a long growing season to bloom their best, so it’s worth spending the extra time and money to find one that is adapted to growing in less heat.
Plumeria are very easy to start from cuttings, if the cuttings are fresh. Stick the branch in warm soil and only water it sparingly for a few weeks and it will root. Unfortunately, many people who sell plumeria cuttings online are selling cuttings that have been laying around for a long time, so it's best to do research on the seller before you commit to your purchase. 

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