September 30, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Tips to get an indoor Plumeria to bloom

PlumeriaI have a Plumeria plant in my office in my lab and when I came in today (Monday), I found the Plumeria in bloom and giving off a very beautiful scent reminiscent of Hawaii. (update: note you may enjoy my “Scientist in the Garden” series).

Wow! Holy cow, how did that happen?

Ok, back up.

What is a Plumeria?

Plumeria is a tropical plant that produces gorgeous looking and smelling flowers. Most leis are made from Plumeria flowers.

Nothing says “Hawaii” to me like the Plumeria flower. Sure, you can grow it in other tropical places or even to try to grow it in non-tropical places, but when I see and especially smell the plumeria, my brain thinks “Hawaii!”

After a trip to Hawaii last year last year I thought “Can I grow Plumeria back home?”

I live in Davis, CA and my lab is in Sacramento, CA: two very similar dry, relatively very cool places for a Plumeria. The winters here are routinely so cool (lots of frost is not unusual) that heat-loving plants like the two Bougainvillea in front of my house die back (but do not die entirely) every winter. So outdoors is not possible.

Was I crazy to think I could grow a Plumeria indoors here?

Maybe not.

I decided to give it a try and bought a Plumeria cutting off of Amazon that only cost $20. It was called “Dwarf Pink Singapore” Plumeria. In fact the item is still available here from Amazon if you want to give it a try.

When it arrived it looked like someone had literally cut a branch off of a Plumeria bush and shoved it into some soil in a tiny pot.

Hmm, not too promising. I wasn’t sure.

Still I re-planted it into a slightly bigger pot, watered it, and hoped. I put it in a sunny window in my office in my lab and waited.

I was happily surprised. It grew with growth obvious within 1 month and seemed healthy. Lots of dark green leaves. Months went by and it still kept on growing. As fall and winter approached, I decided I better give it some extra light so I bought a fluorescent light that I hung about 8-12 inches above it.

The Plumeria loved that and grew even faster. Did I dare hope it would flower? On the web people say expect to wait 3 or more years for a flower from a plant grown from a cutting.

Plumeria indoorsHowever, in the last couple weeks something unusual seemed to be happening.

A stalk was growing right out of the middle of the plant very quickly and had a row of what looked like flower buds. This stalk with buds is called an “inflo”. Today I found it blooming!

How did I get this to bloom?

Luck maybe?

What are some possible tips? A key part is a grow light (see image to left above). I attached mine, which was purchased for about $5 at Ace with a clamp (also about $5 at Ace) to the bottom of the shade in my office window. I think more expensive grow lights (which can easily be over $30) are probably a waste of money, but perhaps it depends on what you are trying to grow.

I seasonally vary the distance of the grow light from the Plumeria depending on how much natural sunlight there is. This window has a SSW exposure, which gets a pretty good amount of sunlight. I did not water it very often in the winter (twice a month gave it a good watering). I didn’t use fertilizer in the winter.  About a month ago I repotted it into a bigger pot and some roots got disturbed…I’ve heard with other plants that sometimes this can stimulate blooming, although I didn’t do it for that reason, but rather that the plant had grown so much. I also started including about 1/4 concentration of all-purpose fertilizer in the waterings about a month ago, which became weekly waterings.

Great results. If you try to grow Plumeria please let me know in the comments how your experience goes (or if already experience how it went).

Aloha!

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