By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Plumeria, or frangipani, is a fragrant tropical plant that is often used as an ornamental in warm region gardens. Plumeria can develop into large bushes with extensive root systems. Transplanting mature plants may be difficult due to their size and the root mass, but transplanting a plumeria cutting is easy provided you get the soil mixture correct. We’ll go over some tips on how to transplant plumeria, whether it be cuttings or established plants.
Established plants may suddenly no longer fit where they were growing. If a mature plant needs to be moved, plan a season ahead. At this time, cut around the root mass to sever some of the larger roots–also known as root pruning. This will stimulate new root growth, but roots will be easier to manage the next year when the plant is moved.
Moving plumeria plants that are large can take a couple of gardeners. The season after cutting the roots, water the plant well the day before transplant. Spring is when to move a plumeria because the plant is just beginning active growing and it will be less likely to suffer from shock when lifted.
Dig around the root zone and lift the plant onto a tarp. Wrap the tarp around the roots to keep moisture in. Prepare the new bed by digging a hole twice as wide and deep as the root mass. Fill the bottom of the hole with loose soil in a cone shape and settle the roots on top of this. Back fill and press soil around the roots. Water the plant in well.
Cuttings are the most common method of propagation because they establish quickly and the new plants are true to the parent. If all goes well, new cuttings are ready to transplant in 30 to 45 days. The cutting should have several pairs of true leaves prior to moving.
If you are simply moving the plant to a larger container, a nice cactus soil will provide a good growth medium. In-ground planting spaces need to be amended with compost and plenty of grit to keep soil porous.
Gently loosen the soil around the cutting and remove it from the pot, being careful not to damage the small roots. Situate the cutting in the container at the same height and depth at which it was growing and fill around with the cactus soil. In-ground plants should be installed in a hole that is twice as deep and wide but then filled to just accommodate the roots. This looser region allows the plant roots to easily spread as they grow.
Once plumeria transplanting is complete, the plant will need to be well watered to settle the soil. Do not water again until soil is dry.
Place newly potted cuttings in a sunny location with some protection from the hottest rays of the day. After 30 days, fertilize with 10-50-10 ratio fertilizer. Water this in well. Spread fine bark mulch around the base of the plant to prevent weeds and moisture loss.
Cuttings may require staking at the outset. Once rooting has established, the stake may be removed. Larger plants should be pruned the next year after blooming. This will help open the interior, increasing air and minimizing disease and pests.
Feed plumeria once annually at the beginning of the growing season. This will encourage the beautiful, scented blooms and healthy, glossy foliage.
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Multiply your tropical tree garden by transplanting a large limb of a frangipani tree. Frangipani (Plumeria alba) is a tropical tree with small, highly fragrant white flowers. This South American native is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12. In zones 8 and 9, frangipani is an excellent container plant that overwinters well indoors or in a greenhouse. Next time you prune, or a large limb breaks, transplant it and grow a new tree.
Cut a limb that is at least 12 to 18 inches long. Make a clean cut at a 45-degree angle across the bottom of the limb using a pair of sharp pruning shears. Cutting the limb at an angle, rather than straight across, prevents water from pooling in the wound of the parent plant, and it provides more surface area on the cutting where new roots form.
Pinch off the leaves from the length of the stalk but leave the small, newly forming leaves at the top.
Place the cutting in a dry spot out of direct sunlight for three to five days.
Fill a 10- to 12-inch pot with clean, damp garden sand.
Dip the bottom, cut tip of the limb in hormone rooting power.
Place the bottom one-quarter of the cutting in the sand. Drive two dowels or stakes into the sand at the sides of the pot. Use dowels slightly taller or as tall as the cutting. Tie two strings to the frangipani limb and fasten the end of each string to one of the dowels. This holds the newly transplanted limb in place until it puts down roots.
Water once after placing the cutting in the rooting medium. Follow up by watering periodically only when the top of the soil around the cutting starts to feel dry to the touch. Frangipani cuttings need consistent light moisture but will rot if the soil environment gets waterlogged or excessively wet.
Look for new leaf growth six to eight weeks after rooting the frangipani limb. Once new roots form, indicated by new leaf growth, transplant the limb into a sunny spot in the garden or into a large pot filled with potting soil. Plant the limb at the same depth in the new location as it was in the rooting pot.
Plumeria is fragrant, beautiful and hardy. Growing a plumeria shrub outdoors may be more feasible for some, however others may want to plant your plumeria indoors in a container, in order to better control the environment and protect the plant from the winter cold.
As with other plants, growing a plumeria in a container poses one major problem: Limits. The plant’s root system is very literally bound by the pot, which means the roots can grow in a spiral around the pot, tangled up in each other, or even out of the pot. In some cases you may even see the roots growing out of the drainage holes!
These signs are how you can tell whether or not your plumeria needs to be repotted. If any of these symptoms are visible to you, it’s time to buy your beautiful plant a new home. Don’t buy one too large. This can actually kill the plant because the soil can hold more water this way, thus causing root rot. Try to plan for about 2 years of growth, and each time you repot, plan accordingly.
If you’re working indoors, lay down some newspaper so as to contain the dirty mess that comes from taking a plant from its pot. If you’re outdoors, or your plant is too big to repot inside, don’t worry about this step.
Go ahead and fill your new pot about halfway with the soil/lava rock/sand mixture, to give your plumeria a well-drained place to live. Plumerias prefer dry soil and will rot promptly if subjected to wet conditions. It may be a good time to give the soil a full dose of fertilizer, like you usually do in your plumeria care regimen. Set the pot aside and work on your plant.
Since you’ve inspected your plumeria shrub already to determine whether or not to repot, you should be aware of how to pull out your bush. Lift the plant and turn it over, taking care not to let the plant touch the ground (this can put unnecessary pressure on the stems). Thump the bottom a couple of times with your hand and loosen the plant. When you remove it, turn it back rightside up, and gently loosen the roots. If the roots started to spiral around the pot, simply score downwards down the roots. This will encourage them to grow in a better direction.
If the roots are growing out of the drainage hole, very gently try to work that root back up through the drainage hole as you pull out your plant. Generally the biggest root there is known as the taproot of a plant, and this is the most important root, so you don’t want to damage it if that’s the root coming through the hole.
Once you have it out, you can repot it.
With your plant in one hand, use your free hand to dig a well into the topsoil mixture in your pot. This means that you dig a hole within the dirt, but not all the way to the bottom, to accommodate your plant. After it’s dug, simply place your plumeria into it and pour the rest of your topsoil mixture into your pot. Gently pat it down so as to support the plumeria plant, and step back to admire your work.
Often grown for ornamental use in containers or pots, the tropical shrub plumeria (Plumeria obtusa) produces fragrant white flowers. It prefers sunny, warm locations and when grown in containers, well-drained, sandy potting mix. You can propagate plumeria at any time of the year using its stick cuttings, but late spring or early summer is the best time to start them. It can survive winters outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12.
Select a plumeria stick that has healthy-looking limb tips. Cut the branch on an angle between 12 and 18 inches from the tip with sharp pruning shears or a knife that's been sterilized with rubbing alcohol. If you're planting sticks that you've obtained from a nursery or garden center, no cutting or drying is necessary.
Remove all of the leaves except for those on the limb tip. Place the cut end of the plumeria in a container of dry sand. Set the container in a warm, sunny and dry place outdoors to seal the cut area. This usually takes about three days to one week.
Fill a 6- to 10-inch pot with cactus mix, or a combination of one-third perlite and two-thirds peat moss or potting soil, up to 1 inch from the top. The pot should have drainage holes.
Dip the cut end of the plumeria into water then into root hormone and place it about 3 inches deep in the potting mix. Fill the top of the pot with gravel to hold the cutting in place. Water the plumeria cutting thoroughly until water drips through the drainage holes in the pot. Fertilize the plumeria cutting with 10-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer.
Place the pot in a warm, sunny outdoor location. Heat from the bottom of the pot can be beneficial to plumeria cuttings, so warm concrete would be an ideal place to set the pot. Water the sticks sparingly and only when the soil feels completely dry. Don't allow the sticks to sit in water, because it can cause them to rot.
Cut off any flower stems that grow before two to four months. This is the time it takes for the roots to fully form, and new flower growth can take energy from the plant's root formation.
My plants are in pots so they can be brought indoors during the winter. Each plant is about two feet tall showing good leaf color with about an inch of new growth this year. One plant did bloom last year but as of today no indication of any chance they will put on any inflows. Most books say 2-3 years before a rooted plant will bloom.
The best fertilizer for plumeria trees is one that is high in phosphorous, such as 10-30-10. A granular formula is preferable to liquid.
Fertilize the plumeria every three months beginning in April and ending in August if you live in an area with frosts. Otherwise, continue to fertilize year-round.