Bring the tropics to your own home by learning how to easily propagate a plumeria cutting!
Plumeria plants – also known as frangipani plants – are an iconic tropical plant. They bloom breathtaking flowers in many color varieties and are traditionally used to make leis.
Since Plumeria plants are typically slow-growing plants, a faster way to grow your own is to start from a plumeria cutting. With a cutting from the “parent plant” you can propagate a whole new frangipani for your yard or balcony!
What is “Propagation”?:
Propagation is the process of growing a new plant that is identical to the parent plant, using plant parts like leaves or stems.
- pruning shears
- succulent/cactus soil or potting soil
- rooting hormone
- watering can
5 Reasons to Propagate Plumeria:
- The fastest way – Propagating plumeria is the fastest way to grow a plumeria plant. Since they are so slow growing, it’s best to start with them already about 12 inches tall (by cutting from the “mother plant”, A.K.A. “propagating”), rather than start from seed.
- Free – Typically taking a plumeria cutting (as long as you do it legally) is essentially a free plant, which we all love, right?
- Iconic lei flowers – You can use the flowers to make leis or just to enjoy in your yard or balcony.
- Potted – Plumerias will stay in pots in most places in the world which allows you to easily move them to where they look best, to keep them protected from cold weather, and all around easier to be in control of their care.
- Fun project – This can be a fun garden project for you. Or learning to propagate plants may even become a fun hobby (there are many other plants you can also learn to propagate!)
Use these next 10 easy steps to add a little taste of the tropics to your life by propagating your own Plumeria!
#1. WHEN to Take Plumeria Cuttings:
^ This is the plumeria I took my cuttings from. Thanks to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law in Hawaii!
Frangipani plants will root easiest in the Spring and Summer.
The best season to take a plumeria cutting is Spring since they are emerging from their winter dormancy. As you can see above, the tree I took cuttings from had recently grown some new leaves and even some flowers as it entered the Spring season. Early and mid summer are also ideal, just not winter when they are dormant.
If you have control over the parent plant, water the plumeria donor plant the day before taking your cutting. This hydrates the cutting and avoids moisture stress.
#2. WHERE to Make the Cuttings:
Choose a plant that looks healthy and disease- and pest-free. Look for any small bugs or fungus (check for spotted leaves). If you have limited tree options (like there’s only one tree and it has pests), then just make sure you choose the branches that do not have disease or pests.
Take cuttings from the frangipani plant’s branches (lateral shoots) rather than the main stem/trunk (terminal shoots). Branches from the upper portion of the plant are preferable since they are less likely to have disease/pests and most likely newest. Avoid taking cuttings that have flower buds.
Don’t cut right where the branch meets the trunk as this can damage the trunk of the parent plant. You can see in the picture above that I left an inch or so of room.
A plumeria cutting has the best chances of rooting if you take a cutting from the last growing season. You can identify these by their light gray color (green shoots are too new).
#3. HOW to Take the Cutting:
If you can, cut at least 12-inch pieces for a better chance at rooting. As you can see, I was not able to do that but it’s ok if it’s less than 12 inches. These are all just ideal-scenario plumeria propagation tips. 😉
Use a sharp blade like pruning shears or a knife. To prevent spreading potential disease to each cutting and throughout the plant, disinfect the blade between each cut with rubbing alcohol (at least 70% isopropyl alcohol).
When you make a cutting on a plumeria plant, there will be a white sap. This is normal, not a disease. Yay! It can cause irritation to sensitive skin so it is wise to wear gloves for your protection. I didn’t realize that when I made my cuttings and my hands were fine – but I didn’t touch the sap, so be careful with either method.
#4. Remove Leaves & Flowers:
Yes, they look pretty sad without leaves…but bear with me here. There’s a reason to take off the plumerias’ leaves when propagating them.
I promise they will look beautiful once more!
Since we want all of the cutting’s energy to go towards growing roots, you will need to remove any leaves or flowers on your cutting. You can do this either right before or after taking the cutting from the parent plant.
Try not to break the leaves off in a way that damages the leaf nodes (the point where the leaf attaches to the branch). This could allow disease to enter your cutting through the damaged leaf nodes.
#5. Let the Cuttings Callus Over:
In order for roots to form, the plumeria cutting must first callus over. This is when the cut end dries out and becomes hard.
To allow your plumeria cutting to callus, leave it in a well-ventilated spot in bright indirect light. I left my cuttings on my covered porch on a metal mesh table to provide light, shade, and air flow.
This can take about one week. Mine only took a few days since I am in a very warm climate.
#6. Prepare a Well-Draining Soil Mix:
The ideal soil for plumeria propagation is a well-draining medium to avoid overwatering and root rot. Trust me, I’ve done this wrong before and killed my plumeria cutting with too much moisture.
Also make sure none of your soil bases have fertilizer already added.
If you are using regular potting soil – mix 1 part potting soil and 2 parts perlite.
If you are using cactus/succulent soil – mix 1 part cactus soil and 1 part perlite.
Place your mixture into a pot with drainage holes. A popular option is to reuse a disposable plastic pot from your local plant nursery. You can even leave your plumeria in this plastic nursery pot and set it into a decorative pot for easy transport during winter.
I happened to keep all of my plastic pots from the plants I bought last year for my yard. “Reduce, reuse…” 😉
Leave about one inch between the top of the soil and the top of the pot so that water does not run off the edge. This also will allow the soil to warm up and dry out in the sun to prevent root rot and promote plumeria growth.
#7. Dampen the Soil:
Give the soil one good initial watering before you add the cutting. Try to water it until it is about to run through the bottom holes. I did this by feeling through the drainage hole that the soil was damp.
After this you won’t be watering it again until it has grown 3 to 4 full leaves.
#8. Dip Ends in Rooting Hormone:
Prepare the cutting by dunking one inch of the bottom of the cutting in water and then dipping it into rooting hormone. This will give it an extra boost with rooting.
We’ll take all the help we can get, right? Sometimes propagating plants just doesn’t work out no matter how hard you try, so if using rooting hormone will help, I’ll take it!
#9. Plant it!
Push the cutting 3 to 4 inches into the soil.
Pat the soil around the cutting down into place.
It’s best to keep the cutting from moving (from wind or pets) since this can break the newly-formed roots. You can do this by adding bamboo stakes for support or even placing pea gravel on the top of the soil.
#10. Place in a Bright Location:
Place the pot(s) in a warm and bright location. Keep it out of direct sunlight at first but then slowly introduce it to direct sun. Over the course of one week, expose the plumerias to more sun each day until they can stay in direct sunlight.
Plumeria Cutting Care:
Check the cutting every week. If they start to shrivel they are getting dehydrated. Mist them with water every day until the cutting is no longer wrinkled.
You will know if your new frangipani has roots if you feel resistance when you veryyy gently twist the cutting. I personally did not want to risk harming my plumerias by doing this though.
You will definitely know it has rooted if leaves start to grow! Once you have 3 to 4 large leaves, you can transfer the cutting to a larger pot. Then you may begin to fertilize your new plumeria plant.
Plumerias in Winter:
If you do not live in a tropical location, keep your plumeria in a pot because they are not able to tolerate any cold weather. Every winter you will need to bring your plumeria inside to protect it.
Do not water your plumeria while it’s dormant in the winter.
And that’s it! Everything you need to know about propagating your own plumeria plant.
Let me know if you’ve ever done this before or plan to try it! Any extra tips you can tell us?
If you don’t have access to a plumeria donor plant, you can purchase plumeria cuttings in any color on Etsy. Or try contacting your local nursery. I’ve even heard that Walmart sells them!
Happy plumeria propagating!