Plumeria trees, also called frangipani and temple tree, are tropical plants grown for their architectural foliage and vibrant blooms. These tropical plants are dormant during winter and burst back into life in Spring. In this guide we’re going to teach you some simple rules on how to prune plumeria for better shape, better disease resistance, and more flowers.
Why Prune Plumeria Trees?
There are two reasons to prune plumeria: shape and disease. Pruning plumeria for disease is very simple and follows the most important rule in the garden, the three ‘D’s.
The three ‘D’s refers to Dead, Diseased and Damaged growth, and is a single rule for every plant in your home or garden. If you spot damaged, dead or diseased branches in spring, summer, autumn, or winter, the affected plant material should be removed as soon as possible.
The second reason is to maintain the shape of your plumeria plant. The reasons we need to maintain the shape of plumeria, or any tropical shrub, is both so it looks its best and to improve disease resistance. In the case of plumeria, in particular, keeping an open structure so air can flow freely between the branches is crucial to prevent fungal issues caused by humidity.
How do you Trim a Plumeria Tree?
To prune plumeria trees, you’ll need a sharp knife or a good pair of pruning shears, and the pruning rules are the same for mature frangipani and young trees too.
If you are pruning for the health of the plumeria tree by removing dead, damaged, or diseased branches, then always cut at least 1″ below the affected material, and immediately discard any diseased stems or leaves in trash bags – adding to compost can have adverse effects on other plants in future.
To prune for the shape of plumeria you need t to consider that by pruning you are creating new growth and supporting the production of fragrant flowers. Trim the plant carefully where a stem meets a leading branch, or just above a node.
Plumeria nodes are easy to spot as there will be a small bump in the main branch where new stems can emerge. To create a more even shape, cut branches, and any excessive growth in summer by carefully cutting back to where the secondary branch meets as mean trunk. Couple that by gently trimming the end a few inches (back to the highest node) on the thinner side of the tree in spring – this promotes new growth and will quickly even out the tree for a more symmetrical shape.
One really important this to remember about pruning any trees and shrubs, particularly older plumeria, is that they will forgive you. Pruning is good for the health of your plants, and you can read our guide to propagating plumeria for a better understanding of how it can even make new plants. If you cut too much, it will grow back. If you cut too little, you can try again next year.
When Should I Prune Plumeria?
Spring pruning frangipani
In spring when new healthy growth appears, that’s the perfect time to cut back plumeria. By cutting back in spring you promote new branches on this small tree. Plumeria produce a white sap so you’ll need garden gloves to protect your hands from potential allergic reactions.
For spring pruning, cutting the outer parts of the plant will help create a good shape for the coming summer and directly lead to more blooms later in the growing season.
Many gardeners make use of spring cuttings, by propagating them in water:
To propagate plumeria from branches left in spring, cut the young branches at a 45-degree angle, then place the cut end immediately in clean water. Cut the top of the stem at a straight angle (ideally with 1-2 leaves still attached, but this isn’t essential) and leave in a bright sunny position for a few weeks.
Summer pruning frangipani
By pruning frangipani in summer, you can stunt its growth, so it isn’t advised if you want to promote new growth or grow cuttings, but it can have some benefits.
Pruning tropical shrubs in late summer slows down their growth, and will help to create hollow parts of the plant with better air circulation. This reduces disease and the potential for infection, particularly as the days being to get shorter and fall weather conditions lead to high humidity and fungal infection on poorly ventilated plants.
Recommended Tools for Pruning your Plumeria
1. KOTTO 4 Pack Professional Pruning Shears
This 4 pack of professional pruning shears includes bypass secateurs, flush secateurs, fine pruning shears, and detail scissors.
This is basically the ideal set of pruning tools for frangipani, with bypass secateurs for thick branches, and fine pruning scissors to trim any damaged foliage. The pack even comes with free soil aeration gloves to scrape through the surface of your soil every winter to prevent fungal build-ups in the soil and disturb any overwintering pests that might be hiding there.
- multiple uses
- great value
- free soil aeration gloves
- good for fine pruning
- good for mature branches
- not very durable
2. Professional Sharp Pruners, Will’s Sword
Garden tools need to be functional, but most of the time looks don’t matter for tools stored in the garage. When it comes to house plant tools, they need to be functional and look good at the same time.
These secateurs are incredibly sharp and will cut through the majority of growth on your lei trees. Their only downside is that they are manufactured in aluminum, which means they are unlikely to cut through tough branches without blunting over time.
- Great looking
- Great value
- Great for stems, leaves, and gentle pruning
- Not ideal for tough branches or mature growth.
3. Fiskars Pruning Shears
Fiskars bypass pruning shears are perfect for plumeria, and capable o cutting through every part of the plant if needed. Their steel blades are easy to clean, and will last for many, many, uses before they need sharpening.
I’ve had a pair of Fiskars shears for years, and use them most days for heavy pruning. The biggest advantage of Fiskars is their ergonomic handles which make them incredibly easy to use whether you’re just cutting one or two branches, or have an entire garden to control.
- Tough & durable
- Easy locking for safety
- Capable of cutting mature branches
- Long-lasting steel blade
- A little expensive
4. Spear & Jackson Bypass & Anvil Secateur Set
Spear & Jackson is one of the most trusted garden tool brands on the planet and they never fail to provide the best possible choice for almost every tool they manufacture.
This is their classic secateur set, with both anvil and bypass secateurs, and both are perfectly capable of handling some seriously heavy trimming of your plumeria plant.
Bypass secateurs mean exactly how they sound – each blade passes the other blade by, slicing entirely through the plant, but because of this, they are prone to bending. This set includes an anvil secateur, which will easily cut through the thicker branches of your plumeria, and because the blade closes on a base plate rather than bypassing it, it is much less likely to bend or blunt over time.
- Trusted brand
- Great price
- Multiple uses
- Strong & durable
Pruning Plumeria FAQs
How do I make my plumeria smaller?
Trimming branches at the top allows for the growth of more branches, which will branch out from nodes or buds in each stem. By cutting to a pair of nodes, you promote a thicker head, but a shorter plant.
When should plumeria be pruned?
To promote growth and boost blooms, or to develop more foliage, plumeria should be pruned in spring when new growth starts to show. To stunt growth, and reshape the plant, pruning in summer is an easy way to slow down and shorten branches for the following season.
How do you shape plumeria?
Plumeria are a small tree rather than a shrub, and are at their best when grown to look like a tree, with an exposed trunk, and good branch structure. Using some of the principles of bonsai growers can be a great way to control the shape of your plumerias.
Remembering to give an annual prune as part of your plumeria care routine is essential for better flowers, brighter leaves, and higher disease resistance.
There is no need to overthink pruning, as you can never truly get it wrong on any plant so long as you have enough healthy growth for your plumeria to regenerate. I hope we’ve answered your questions with our plumeria pruning guide.
3 thoughts on “How to Prune Plumeria: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide”
I am new to Florida gardening. I planted a plumeria a couple years ago. When it finally started growing, it now has one long stem and all of the branches are at the top about 6 feet. Can I cut it closer to the ground to encourage lower branches?
Hi Karen, it’s a complicated question, with an equally complicated answer I’m afraid to say, but it can be quite a fun thing to try and fix. Plumeria are very tolerant of being cut back, and generally be cut back to about 12 inches above the soil, provided there is a branch or a leaf node to regrow.
In your case it sounds like that wound just leave you with a stump, so what I’d suggest is a technique called notching, whether you look for a small bump in the stem (an “unbroken node”) that could potentially form a new branch, and with a very clean, sharp knife, cut a small v-shaped notch just above the bump. This confuses the plant and will slow down growth above on that side, and try to push a new shoot out from the bump.
Once the new shoot appears and develops leaves you can cut the top off without any risk. Hope this helps 🙂
I pruned an old plumeria that was in a pot. Very little milk came out of the cuts, almost none. Is that mean there is a problem?