How to Grow a Plumeria Tree (2024)

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How to Grow a Plumeria Tree (1)

Photo Credit

Ray Dyda

Botanical Name

Plumeria spp.

Plant Type

Trees, Shrubs, and Vine

Sun Exposure

Full Sun

Soil pH


Bloom Time


Flower Color




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Planting, Growing, and Pruning Plumerias

Andy Wilcox

How to Grow a Plumeria Tree (2)

Plumeriasare small tropical trees with fragrant flowers (used to make Hawaiian leis). In colder climates, you can grow plumerias in pots and bring them inside in the fall! They make great sunroom or patio plants. Learn how to plant, grow, and care for plumeriaplants.


Also known as frangipani, Plumeria is a genus of flowering tropical shrubs and small trees. Most are deciduous, but a few species are evergreen. They are found naturally in Mexico and Central America but have been exported to many tropical areas, including Hawaii, the South Pacific, and SoutheastAsia.

Leaves of plumeria grow in clusters at the tips of the branches and are alternate. They are elongated, with prominent veining, and can be either rounded or pointed at the tip. Flowering begins in early summer and continues intoautumn.

Blooms can be in any color you might consider tropical, from soft white to coral, pink, yellow, orange, and pastel hues. Each flower has five waxy petals that typically overlap. The original native color is white with small yellowcenters.

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The flowers are fragrant, even more so at night, to attract their pollinator, the nocturnal sphinx moth. Check this page from the University of Wisconsin Extension for detailed information about frangipani flowering.

You may be familiar with plumeria blooms as a common ingredient in leis. They have long been incorporated into this traditional offering of love and peace but are not native to Hawaii or the Pacificislands.

Plumerias can be shrub or small tree sized, with smooth, thin grey bark and an open branching habit. They are tolerant of salt and wind but notcold.

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Plumerias are tropical and won’t tolerate any freezingtemperatures.

If that’s not your location, don’t worry. They can be grown well in large containers, as long as you can rustle up the muscle to move them inside in autumn–when temps reach the 40s–and back outside inspring.

Whether in a container or in the ground, they prefer fertile, well-draining soil and fullsun.

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Plumeria may be purchased at nurseries in spring and summer; however, they may not be offered if you live farther north. Rooted cuttings can be purchased online. Expect a plant grown from a cutting to bloom in 1 to 3years.

When to PlantPlumerias

If you are planting your new frangipani out into a bed, do so in late spring, early summer, or early autumn. Deciduous varieties, in particular, need to be planted early enough to establish their root systems before going dormant for thewinter.

How to PlantPlumerias

Plumeria can be planted in the ground for warm climate gardeners, in planters, or in containers that are seasonally buried in the ground and dug up in fall.

  • Especially for containers, good drainage is essential. Sitting in wet soil can cause rootrot.
  • Plant outdoors in the same manner as other shrubs. Prepare the site by digging a wide, saucer-shapedhole.
  • Place the plumeria in the hole after cutting any girdling roots. Adjust the height to match the new soil level with the old pottedlevel.
  • Backfill with native soil and topdress with compost. Tamp in lightly but firmly to avoid large air voids. Mulch to suppress weeds and condition thesoil.
  • Water in well, and then again weekly if rainfall was insufficient. Once the shrub is established, it should only need watering during dryperiods.
  • Plumerias planted in containers need an excellent draining potting mix. Try using potting soil intended for palms or cacti, or make your own by adding perlite to regular pottingmix.


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Bright, warm sunshine, good drainage, and frequent admiration are all your plumeria needs to make fragrant, gorgeous blooms.

  • Plumerias enjoy tropical conditions. Water deeply with periods in between to allow the soil to slightlydry.
  • Plumeria can be fertilized with a high phosphorus fertilizer–bloom booster–during the growingseason.
  • Prune plumeria for size and shape in latewinter.
  • Container-grown plumerias will need repotting as they grow. Don’t plant a small one-foot-tall shrub in a ten-gallon container. The roots won’t be able to adequately use the moisture in the soil, and wet, soggy conditions could result. Instead, upgrade one pot size eachtime.


Plumerias in containers must be brought inside to overwinter if you live in an area where it freezes.
As the day gets shorter and the sunlight lessens, your deciduous plumeria will go dormant. The leaves will turn yellow and fall off. Don’t worry, that’s okay. You can speed this up by snipping thepetioles.

  • Once dormant, store in any location–light or no light–that will remain above 40degrees.
  • Although they should not need watering while dormant, do still check. Dry winter air can cause dormant plants to die of desiccation as the soil in the pot dries too much. The soil should feel neutral, not bone dry, and not damp. Add a little water ifneeded.
  • In spring, once temperatures have warmed, reintroduce your plumeria to the outdoors. Begin watering again, but take care to adjust. Your plant won’t use much water until it sprouts newleaves.

Recommended Varieties

  • P. rubra ‘Aztec gold’ blooms in dreamy yellow-peach colors with large 3-4 inchflowers.
  • P. rubra ‘Candy Stripe’ forms pinwheel blossoms in a kaleidoscope of fuchsia, orange, yellow andwhite.
  • P. rubra ‘Vera Cruz Rose’ is another deciduous variety with highly overlapped and folded petals that transition from light pink to white with deep goldencenters.
  • P. alba is an evergreen with white flowers, yellow centers, and strikingfoliage.


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Want to learn how to harvest plumeria flowers for a lei? Check out this pamphlet by the University ofHawaii.

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Wit and Wisdom

  • Plumeria flowers don’t produce nectar. Their strong scent, especially at night, tricks the sphinx moth into popping by for a visit. Finding no nectar, the disappointed moth moves from flower to flower, ever hopeful but never finding dinner. Poormoth!
  • The genus Plumeria was named after the 17th-century botanist Charles Plumier, who traveled to the New World cataloging and bringing back many plantsamples.
  • Plumeria alba is the national flower ofNicaragua.


  • Mealybugs
  • Spidermites
  • Rusts

Shrubs and Trees

About The Author

Andy Wilcox

Andy Wilcox is a flower farmer and master gardener with a passion for soil health, small producers, forestry, and horticulture. Read More from Andy Wilcox

How to Grow a Plumeria Tree (8)



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Add a Comment

P. alba might be evergreen in Cuba or P.R. but it is most definitely deciduous in Florida.

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Are Plumeria toxic to cats?

  • Reply

It appears that Plumeria sap and bark can be irritating to the skin, or mouth, and may cause digestive issues, such as diarrhea or vomiting, if swallowed. From what we could find, it is not highly toxic to cats, but in certain situations (amount eaten, cat age and health, etc.) its effects may mean that a cat needs to be taken to the vets for help. It would be best to keep it away from cats or other pets, as well aschildren.

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