Melia is the Hawaiian translation for Plumeria. Yesterday I heard a talk about plumeria trees. Tom Cook of Tom’s Plumerias in Solana Beach brought a lot of flowers of different varieties to show, as well as plants and cuttings that were available to purchase.

Plumeria need at least six hours of full sun and good drainage, should be planted south facing, and they should be allowed to dry out in between waterings to prevent rot. San Diego, inland and coastal, grows beautiful plumeria, in an array of colors.

They are potassium feeders so it’s important to fertilize with a heavier potassium mix (a higher P number in the N-P-K numbers) when the leaves are starting to bud out. It’s important to remember not to feed plants as we get closer to cold weather because the nutrients will promote tender growth that is easily frost damaged. The potassium will promote a stronger bloom which is, of course, the main reason we grow these tropical beauts. Also, now is a great time to feed your plants with Sul-Po-Mag. Sul-Po-Mag is a naturally occurring mineral containing significant quantities of sulfur, potash, and magnesium. Another dose of these trace minerals in the spring will really boost the health and bloom potential.

Cuttings are easy to cultivate for new plants. There are two kinds of cuttings – stem cuts and tip cuts. Early spring is the optimal time for cuttings, but in our mild weather, you can cut pretty much year round. RooTone isn’t necessary, but it sure can’t hurt. RooTone has nutrients for a good solid start, and a fungicide to prevent diseases. Soil type is important because good drainage is crucial. A mix of 2/3 E.B. Stone (Edna’s Best) potting soil and 1/3 perlite is a good soil medium. Again, don’t keep the starts soaked or you’ll just end up with a rotten mess. Roots take about 4-6 weeks to begin developing. Patience is a virtue….

Stem cuttings are sections of a plumeria branch, with both ends of the branch cut. A little trick if you aren’t sure which end is supposed to be up, is to look at the leaf nodes and make sure they look like smiley-faces. The advantage to stem cutting is that the stem will do more branching out.

Tip cuttings are only cut on one end with the natural end of the branch at the other end. Important note when cutting tips – Trim or snap off all the leaves on the branch. If the leaves are left on, the transpiration process will continue and the stems will dehydrate. The advantage of tip cuttings is that they are early bloomers, but beware that growth will be slowed because the plant’s energy is being diverted from root development to make those flowers.

I have one tree in the front yard, but am not inclined to have any more because I’m out of room, but I bought two cuttings (‘Lanai’ – pink, and ‘Celadine’-yellow) from Tom that are different colors and I’m going to attempt to graft them onto my existing tree. (I’ll document that when it happens.) I learned alot today and will strive to do better with my existing plant.

An interesting tidbit I learned with more research: Plumeria were only introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1800s. They are native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. I had no idea!

Some handy websites to check out:
Tom’s Plumerias – the guest speaker.
Southern California Plumeria Society
Plumeria Society of America
Exotic Plumerias