in the 80’s, my aunt was a travel agent and took many tour groups to hawaii every year. she fell in love with the plant life and one of the easiest ways to get a slice of that back home were plumeria cuttings. she also has grown a host of other tropical plants like orchids, and different varieties of elephant ears and bromeliads over the years but the passion still and forever lies with plumerias.
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on my first trip to hawaii there was no way i was coming without her, and there was no way i would return without a plumeria stem of my own.
as a crazy plant lady myself (and believe me i’m tame compared to a few i have met since moving on island) there was no resisting the urge to appropriate a few plumeria stems of my own over the past few months.
here are a few tips on collecting, rooting, and growing your very own plumeria trees!
first you start with a cutting that is anywhere from 8-12 inches, this way it isn’t too large to try to reestablish a root system. if it has large leaves go ahead and pull them off, they will fall of anyway if you don’t.
when choosing your branch, try looking for one that does not have flowers or flower buds, flowers use a lot of energy, which your little tree can’t supply it until it has a few roots. luckily plumerias have a lot stores in their stem and you can expect blooms very soon after it roots!
you will notice that your stem drips some sticky white sap. that’s normal, but can be messy. I like to set mine over the sink until it stops, only takes 20 minutes or so
now comes the not so fun part. you wait. give your cutting a week or 2, don’t worry if you forget, the cutting will survive for quite a few months once it has healed over itself.
next is the planting. simply place your branch cut side down into a small pot, these don’t require much and the smaller pot allows you to move it inside and out with ease if you live somewhere that gets a bit colder. i used 6 in plastic pots for my cuttings. i also water them in well with SUPERthrive and make sure to add this once a month to my watering schedule.
after about 3 or 4 weeks your cutting will have rooted and will likely be putting out new leaves and potentially you will see some flower buds. cue that needing patience again! plumeria flower buds will look like they are ready to pop open for a week or so, but the wait is totally worth the beautiful flower that is about to emerge! and no wonder this flower is so popular for hawaiian lei making, they smell so nice and sweet.
if you are planning to take a cutting off island back to the mainland you have a few options.
many locations around the various islands have cuttings for sale that have already passed an agricultural inspection and include the simple planting directions. stores such as ABC or Hilo Hattie as well as plenty stalls at the airports are full of them.
if you find a plant you are sentimental about, like if you are moving and had a plumeria in your yard, of if there was one at the resort where your husband proposed or you just thought it was the most beautiful color flower you’d ever seen, you can have your cutting inspected at a USDA inspection station so you can legally bring it home.
just make sure you are doing it the legal way, if you try to blame me when they confiscate your plant i will refer to this warning i gave you!
good luck plant finding and enjoy!
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