I love visiting Hawaii. I love the history, culture, scenery and outdoor adventures. I am especially fond of the smells of Hawaii, and nothing smells of Hawaii more than plumeria, also known as frangipani. But if you have been to Hawaii, I am sure you know the fragrance. Plumeria is the most commonly used flower in leis. Its aroma is heavenly.
Since I can’t visit Hawaii as often as I would like, I decided to bring a bit of Hawaii to my home by growing plumeria. In its native climate of tropical America or the South Pacific and tropical Asia, plumeria is a nearly evergreen shrub or tree that can flower year round. Some types are deciduous.
In Napa Valley, you need to take some extra steps to ensure that your plant will grow and flower. Plumeria plants are sold potted or as cuttings. Grow them in containers so that you can move them indoors in winter.
Plumeria needs a well-draining, slightly acidic potting mix. I use a 50/50 blend of well-fortified potting mix and cactus mix. Put the containers in the hottest, sunniest place in your yard. Placing them on a stone or concrete patio or up against the house is often a good choice, assuming you aren’t compromising sun exposure, as this can increase the temperature around the plant by several degrees.
In Napa Valley, plumeria is well beyond its climate comfort zone, so you definitely want to fertilize the plant every year. I use approximately one-third cup of a granular 10-55-10 fertilizer when I put the plants out.
Typically, the plant will bloom late in the season, around November or December. This year, I had blooms on one plant in June and on another in early July. Usually the plants branch after flowering.
In Napa Valley, protect plumerias by bringing them indoors in winter. Put them in a bright room with as much sun as possible. Leaves will fall off and the plant will go dormant if it doesn’t get enough light and heat.
When the outdoor temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours each day, think about bringing the plants inside if you have a sunny spot for them. If you don’t have space in your house to overwinter your plants, store them in the garage or a closet until the temperature warms enough to put them back outside. If you overwinter your plumeria in the dark, don’t water the plant until it goes back outside. The plant will drop all of its leaves and hibernate.
While you shouldn’t expect plumeria to flourish in Napa Valley as it does in its native climate, you can succeed with it. With a few deliberate steps and not much care beyond watering, you can have the fragrance of Hawaii in your yard.
Free Composting Workshop
“Yard Waste Prevention and Home Composting” is Saturday, Aug. 18, from 9-10 a.m., at the White Barn in St. Helena. Pre-registration is required. Register online at compost.naparecycles.org/index.html.
Contact Napa County Master Gardeners at 253-4221 or 877-279-3065.