Monday, August 9, 2010

The Fabulous Plumeria Flower- A Perfect Landscape Tree

Aztec Gold Plumeria
Miami Pink Plumeria
Ah, the fragrance of plumerias is enchanting, and always reminiscent of the first place you smelled the flowers.So often, people discover them in Hawaii for the first time, yet they are fairly common street and yard trees in Miami. Oddly, though there are dozens of colors available, only 3 or 4 colors are common. This situation is changing, and for the better. With a true rainbow of colors available, and ever-blooming, evergreen, and even dwarf cultivars on the market, plumerias deserve a spot in our gardens.
Plumerias are unabashedly gaudy and fragrant. There are some color varieties from Thailand with blue spots, color streaks, and even 4 colors  in one flower. The flowers frequently smell like coconut oil or buttercream-jasmine, or boudoir talc, or even cinnamon. The plants grow in all day sunlight, with little need for water or fertilizer, yet these trees are remarkably rarer than they should be. Why, then, do we not see streets lined with plumerias ? There are several reasons for their perceived lack of merit.

Plumerias seasonally drop their leaves, which seems to offend people most grievously. I hear the same complaint about many flowering trees: "it looks dead !"  Yet this is only an intermission in the tree's flowering cycle, preceding the grand finale of a burst of flowers. So many people see only the leafless state, and forget what happens next. Many nurseries don't stock plumerias because they are un-sellable when leafless, and the branches are a bit brittle. Nurseries don't grow them very often from seed since it takes years for the plants to flower; plants are usually propagated from branch cuttings, which root easily in sandy soil.

Dwarf Singapore Pink Plumeria
Yet with these minimal flaws, plumerias have a lot of advantages. Plumerias can be planted in the worst rocky soils, need almost no water once established, and have the great bonus of producing flowers suitable for arrangements or bouquets. Plumerias are the flower of choice for Hawaiian leis, and are one of the gold standards for the words "tropical landscaping". Just plant a plumeria in a very sunny spot where it gets good drainage; these plants hate wet feet. Fertilize them as with any plant, using palm fertilizer. If the plant gets too tall, carefully cut back the tips so they are 18 inches long, whereupon the branch will split into a 3-pronged new branch. The best part of  this process is that the cut branches will root easily and you can give them to friends, months after they have been cut. These qualities connect to make a great landscape plant for sunny dry areas, certainly qualifying for xeriscape practices. There are specialty nurseries for these plants, so look them up on the Internet. Some of the nurseries are in Miami, with the Flowering Tree Society often selling a large variety of cultivars at their annual sales. Try a few varieties in your garden to see if the plants bring some color to your landscape palette.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens
    

 Singapore White Plumeria

12 comments:

  1. Hi Craig
    where can I purchase grown Plumeria trees ( 10ft min)
    Axel
    Miami beach
    305 989 6335

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  2. Hello Axel- you could try either Richard Lyons' Nursery in Miami at 305-251-6293, or Signature Trees and Palms in Homestead, 305-495-0897. They occasionally have a tree that size for sale.

    Good hunting !!

    Craig Morell
    Pinecrest Gardens

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  3. Only like Plumeria Pudica cuz its evergreen and blooms april/may until december/january (until cold haults blooming for few months)...No bug or rust issues! Great Plant!

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  4. I've often wondered why plumerias are so rarely planted in South Florida, especially in public landscapes. I live in Miami Beach(I just moved here last year from Chicago) and I've only seen plumerias in three public landscapes. I've seen some others in private gardens. In Hawaii, they are everywhere; public parks(including right by the beaches), cemeteries, on the sides of roads and streets, odd little corners, as well as in botanic gardens and private gardens. And from pictures I've seen(as I've never been there myself)this seems to be the case in Bali as well. It seems plumerias could be a perfect tree for South Florida, they are extremely drought tolerant, very tough and adaptable, have seasonal requirements similar to South Florida, as well as bringing beautiful color, fragrance, and form to a landscape.

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  5. Good morning Brian- I have wondered the same thing about why Plumerias are fairly rare here, but I have heard the same answer many times for many years: the tree go deciduous in winter, and people don't like that. Even the semi-evergreen 'Singapore' variety goes partially bare, and this seems to bother people a lot. In the warm tropics, many plumerias are evergreen, especially when there is no frost and equal daylength all year. Plumerias are much more common in the suburbs of Coconut Grove, Kendall, Pinecrest and South Miami, where there is more green space than in the urbanized areas. The trees grow fairly slow and they're rather brittle as nursery plants, too, making them a bit more expensive than the average landscape shrub. We have about 30 varieties here at Pinecrest Gardens, and they are a prominent feature in several areas here. I agrre with your interest in them, and hope you can make it here soon.

    Thanks !

    Craig Morell
    Pinecrest Gardens.

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  6. Hi Craig,
    I'm from Illinois-we expect trees to lose their leaves in the fall :D! There are plenty of tropical trees that are commonly planted that lose their leaves in the winter-tabebuias, ceiba, poinciana, etc. Even the sea grapes lose some of their leaves(and they turn red too-a bit of home!). Hmmm. We should start a plumeria advocacy group LOL!

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  7. Hi Brian, I agree with your views, since I am also a northerner, from Wisconsin. The curious thing is that even when northerners move here, their ideas change into the feeling that since we live in the warm subtropics, everything should be green and perfect all year. I frequently hear that we don't have seasons here, since it's "warm" all year. We certainly DO have seasons here, but not the 80 degree swing from Summer to Winter that is seen in northern states. Our seasons are distinct but in a more subtle way. We should get used to the idea that we have seasons, and that some trees go deciduous, and that we should get used to the predictable changes, not rebel against them. Thanks for joining us in the Sunny State !

    Craig Morell
    Pinecrest Gardens

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  8. I think I have a similar predudice when it comes to conifers and plants and flowers that dont "look tropical" to me(plumbago for instance). I'm getting over that when it comes to flowers; I miss all the beds of flowers that are common up north, but conifers look like Christmas trees and remind me of snowy mountains and semi-arctic climates, so they look so out-of-place to me among all the palms and tropicals, even though some conifers are tropical! Or at least can grow in the tropics. I'm not that big on conifers anyway, other than the scent of their needles and resins(olfactory pleasure there). I also would be hesitant to plant roses in a tropical garden, even though I love roses-once again, the out-of-place thing I have.

    There definitely are seasons here. Well maybe two anyway Summer and not summer. When I moved here last May, I likened the summer here to a Midwestern July heatwave-that lasts five months! But the weather, and also the length of sunlight and the sun's postion in the sky, change, and so does the foliage. And it does get cold! I was so suprised at how cold it got when I was here last year(both when I stayed the month of March and later in December after I had moved here). I left my stylish winter coat and thermal shirts in Illinois with my parents thinking "I'm not going to ever need them down there, I'll never going to wear them, I'll only need them up here". Let me tell you there were a few times I wish I had those clothes! I was shocked. Of course the weather didn't last long or was as intense as up north, but nevertheless, it got quite chilly!
    From October to April, the weather reminds me of the weather anywhere from late August to early December up north, depending on how warm or chilly it gets. The most common South Florida non-summer weather mostly reminds me of Indian summer up north.

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  9. Hi Brian, I can sympathize with your plight about the weather changes. It's hard to get used to the idea of wearing Bermuda shorts and sandals while setting out Christmas lights onto Coconut palms. It isn't the same "winter" as much of the country knows. I was wise when I kept some of my winter coats and socks, since it can certainly dip below freezing here, and the wind chill affects you the same here as in northern states.

    It is even harder to reconcile the idea that on Monday you could be basking in the sun, and on Wednesday see your breath at 40 F, then back to sunny weather on Thursday. This is rough on plants, too. It limits what we can plant, since it's too hot for the temperate species, and too cold for 5 days a year to plant the true tropicals. Good luck on the acclimation to our weather !

    Craig Morell
    Pinecrest Gardens

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  10. Hello Craig,

    I'm having my Cuban themed wedding in Coconut Grove/Miami during the spring of 2013 and would like to know if there will be blooms by April 1st? I just read all your wonderful info and I'm thinking they're only in bloom mid April til August. But I'm absolutely in love with the Confetti plumeria and have based my whole wedding colors around it. If I can get the blooms, or even the peachy/ yellow/ white ones, where would I purchase them from? It's a DIY job on the flowers, FYI... I have a friend that'll do the arrangement, so I'm skipping the florist. But I have to purchase the flowers. Was hoping for wholesale or something comparable, as I want them in the bridesmaids hair, in our bouquets, on the tables, and on the aisle chairs...

    Any info you may have would be so wonderful.

    Thanks in advance!

    Dena

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  11. Good morning Dena, thanks for reading my blog. Yes, there should be plenty of Plumerias in April, but a lot can depend on weather. I would suggest you contact Luke at Florida Colors Nursery at 305-258-1086, on SW 147 Avenue in the Redland area. His nursery specializes in Plumerias, and he has more than anyone. He can tell you a lot about what will be available, and can assist you with cut flowers, I'm sure. Good luck with your wedding !

    Craig Morell
    Pinecrest Gardens

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  12. Hi Dena, Craig,
    Yes Craig is right there should be plumies blooming in April. When I was in Hawaii one February they were blooming at that time too. There is also The Exotic Plumeria in Tampa. They sell the actual flowers too, although it may be only as leis. But I would ask too.

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