Most people think Plumerias need lots of water to grow big and healthy. While this is true for the early weeks, there comes a time when you must stop watering the plant. But when is that?
As a whole, leaf loss from approaching winter dormancy is a signal to stop watering Plumerias. This is important for those living in colder climates to prevent overwatering and creating root rot for the plant. During the growing season, Plumerias only need watering once the soil has dried out.
Below, I explain this further along with over and underwatering problems and helpful watering tips:
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Table of contents
- Do Plumerias Require a Lot of Water to Grow?
- Is It Possible to Overwater a Plumeria?
- Helpful Tips to Water Your Plumerias Better
- Frequently Asked Questions about Plumerias
- Final Words
Do Plumerias Require a Lot of Water to Grow?
It’s common for people to assume that Plumerias would need a considerable amount of water for their best development, especially if they are potted. However, this isn’t exactly true. Plumerias are drought-tolerant and can survive dry periods better than wet conditions. So they don’t need much water to grow once they’re established. A good rule for watering Plumerias is to soak the soil after it has dried out entirely. This could vary from once every 3-5 days to every 1-2 weeks.
A Plumeria’s watering schedule largely depends on its growth stage, the local climate, current weather, and whether it’s potted or in-ground. That’s a lot of factors to keep track of. But focusing on the pot situation and climate is usually an easier way to go about it.
In-ground Plumerias won’t need much watering because it will depend on the surrounding soil to extract moisture. But if there’s been no rain for quite some time, you can give the ground a good soak just in case. This also includes potted Plumerias that have been placed underground.
For potted Plumerias, using a moisture meter will help you out tremendously. All you have to do is stick the probe into the soil, and voila! Instant moisture level detection. If the dial registers at ‘dry’, it’s time to water your flowering plant. But if it’s ‘moist’, leave it for another week. You’ve probably seen me rave about this tool for a while now, but can you blame me? It gets the job done and stops me from being a notorious overwater-er! My plants have been soooooo much happier with me now. I highly recommend getting the same moisture meter I’m using from Amazon. It has 4.4 stars with a whopping 29,156 ratings!
There’s also a saying among Plumeria growers: “no leaves, no watering”. This only applies if you live somewhere where temperatures drop below 40°F. The plant is tropical, so you’ll need to bring it inside to avoid cold damage from the frost. It’ll go into dormancy by this point and shed all its leaves and flowers, leaving only bare branches. As long as you keep it in a warm room void of sunlight and no watering, it’ll come back to life once spring arrives. Although, younger Plumerias may benefit from a cup of water once a month. But be sure to check the soil first before watering them.
How often should I water my Plumerias?
As a general rule, weekly watering, after the soil has dried out, is a good baseline for keeping your Plumeria well-saturated. Be sure to check the soil first before watering each time. In cold climates with freezing winters, it’s best to stop watering the flowering plant entirely until spring after leaf growth has started.
Is It Possible to Overwater a Plumeria?
As mentioned previously, the flowering plant is drought-tolerant. It is often easy to overwater a Plumeria, leading to rotting roots and the plant’s eventual collapse. This is why letting the plant’s soil dry out before watering it is vital. It’s worth noting that this only applies to the potted ones since they have no other means of receiving moisture.
Over or underwatered Plumerias usually have limp leaves that fall off as an initial symptom. But when this happens, a quick soil check will usually tell you what the plant needs. Underwatered Plumerias also tend to show dying flower stalks or shriveled stems. The latter is a common sight when you store them indoors during winter. But don’t worry; these will swell up once you start watering them again in spring.
On the other hand, overwatered Plumerias will look as you expect them to. You’ll see yellow leaves, brown spots on the foliage, root rot, and stem rot. Typically, there’s not much you can do to save your plant once the stems are soft and mushy. Not to mention, these conditions can also potentially attract unwanted visitors like spider mites and mealybugs. But if you’re in the discolored leaves stages, repotting it quickly into a new pot with fresh, dry potting mix may save it. Avoid watering the plant at this time to let it recover. If you have insects and pathogens alongside this problem, this common houseplant pests & disease article will let you know how to get rid of them.
What does an overwatered Plumeria look like?
Drooping and yellow/brown leaves are the initial symptoms of an overwatered Plumeria. If there’s stem rot and an awful stench from the soil, it may be too late to save the plant because the roots are rotting. You can try to repot it into fresh potting mix, but there’s no guarantee it’ll bounce back. Propagating the remaining healthy stems may be your last resort to preserve part of the original plant.
How can I tell if my Plumeria is underwatered/dehydrated?
Wilting leaves and shriveled stems are signs of an underwatered Plumeria. Give the soil a quick check to see if it’s dry, then saturate it thoroughly until excess water is draining out. The plant will bounce right back once it has been watered, but keep an eye on it just in case.
Helpful Tips to Water Your Plumerias Better
There are a couple ways to make sure your Plumerias thrive, and getting the watering bit right isn’t that hard. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Use plastic pots with at least 3-4 drain holes at the bottom to aid drainage. Terracotta pots are not a good option because, despite their porosity, they’ll easily break as the roots expand. Not to mention, their singular drain hole may get plugged by the tap root and prevent drainage.
- Use well-draining, nutrient-rich soil blend like cacti & succulent mix for better drainage. The added fertilizers are beneficial for boosting Plumerias’ growth because they are heavy feeders. You can also mix in compost instead for a more organic approach.
- Let the soil dry out completely between watering. This is essential for drought-tolerant plants like Plumerias. They don’t mind a constantly damp soil environment, but letting it have dry periods is better for them. This is especially important in the winter when the plant needs little to no watering.
- Water your Plumeria early in the morning or late afternoon. This gives the plant time to absorb the moisture it needs throughout, allowing it to dry before nightfall. You can read ‘the worst time to water plants’ article to find out why these are the best times.
- Only water at the soil level and not on the plant’s leaves. It’s generally not a good idea to overhead water your plants, including Plumerias. The dew drops will become a potential breeding ground for floating fungal and bacterial spores. These will develop into diseases and cause considerable damage to the plant.
- Stop watering Plumerias before the first frost or when temperatures drop below 40°F. If the leaves have started to drop, you can quicken this process by pruning all the leaves and flower stalks off to get them indoors asap, away from the cold. The plant will soon go dormant and won’t need as much water to grow; otherwise, you risk overwatering them.
- Put mulch over the ground to prevent water loss for in-ground Plumerias. It’ll also help protect fragile roots growing near the topsoil. But be sure to leave 3-4 inches from the trunk mulch-free to avoid soil-borne diseases.
With that said, it’s worth mentioning that water is not the only thing Plumerias needs to grow. So here’s an overview of its essential care for your perusal:
- Sun: 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.
- Soil: Rich soil that drains well like cacti & succulent mix.
- Fertilizer: High Phosphorus fertilizer once a month in summer when the flowers bloom.
- Pruning: Unnecessary, but best done in spring before the leaves start growing.
- Propagating: By seeds or stem cutting propagation. For your reference, you can check out this detailed Plumeria propagation instruction by the Plumeria Society of America.
- Repotting: Once every 2-3 years in late winter.
- Winter care:
- Keep the plant somewhere warm and above 40°F to prevent cold damage.
- Wrap the pot with a frost blanket or burlap to retain heat.
- Do not water, fertilize, or give the plant any sun while it is dormant.
It’s also worth noting that Plumerias are not toxic. Still, their milky sap is an irritant on the eyes and skin. So be careful not to get any on yourself when pruning and use gloves, goggles, and long-sleeve shirts.
Frequently Asked Questions about Plumerias
It’s best to stop watering Plumerias in winter to avoid standing water from collecting at the bottom and rotting the roots. The plant doesn’t need much water when it has entered dormancy in the cold season. However, young plants may benefit from a bit of watering once a month but check the soil first before doing so.
here are a few things to keep in mind when taking care of your Plumerias in winter:
– Do not give the plant any sun, fertilizers, or water.
– Keep it in a warm room above 40°F with added insulation around the pot using a burlap or frost blanket.
– Do not store or place the plant on cold grounds like concrete. This will cause damage to the roots.
– Remove dead leaves and flower stalks off the plant to preserve its energy.
Once spring arrives and the temperature rises, it’s safe to put the plant outside and gradually introduce it to the sun. If the leaves have started growing, water them as needed.
Plumerias thrive in plenty of direct sun. It is intolerant of shade and will become etiolated or leggy when receiving only indirect light. The only worry you should have when the plant is getting that much light is if they are hydrated enough to get through the day. The more light there is for the plant to absorb, the more water it needs.
Plumerias blossom several times a year from summer to fall. Some even continue to flower till winter in warmer regions. Though it’s worth noting that some cultivars may be more short-lived than most. The plant typically has no problem blooming as long as they get plenty of sun, water, and fertilizer.
Plumerias drop their leaves and go dormant in preparation for winter. It’s basically the plant going to sleep and conserving as much energy as possible to get through the cold season. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it; it’s merely an adaptive trait, primarily if it’s being grown in cold climate regions.
Falling yellow leaves may be due to overwatering, approaching winter dormancy, or natural aging on Plumerias. The former can be discerned by checking the soil’s moisture level. If the ground or potting mix is fine, it’s not winter, and the affected leaves are coming from the bottom of the plant, then it’s simply old leaves falling off the plant.
Plumerias with yellow/brown leaves and stem rot are signs that the plant is suffering from root rot. Other symptoms may include wilting, leaf loss, brown spots, and a foul stench coming from the soil. It’s best to act quickly and repot the plant into a new potting mix to try and save it. But otherwise, it may be too far gone from saving.
All in all, Plumerias do best when you water them only when the soil has dried out. And if it’s wintertime, err on the side of caution and just stop watering altogether. They may look dead, but they’re just sleeping and will be alive when spring comes. Happy planting!
- Plumeria – University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (n.d.). Gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu. Retrieved August 10, 2022, from https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/plumeria.html
- Plumeria Care – The Plumeria Society of America, Inc. (n.d.). Retrieved August 10, 2022, from https://theplumeriasociety.org/plumeria-care/
- Susan.mahr. (n.d.). Plumeria. Wisconsin Horticulture. https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/plumeria/