Caring for your plumeria is incredibly rewarding, but if you’re ready to take the step and propagate new plants from plumeria seed pods, this is the article you need. We’re taking an in-depth look at how to pollinate, harvest, store, and plant plumeria seed pods so you can join us on a journey of bringing up your own tropical trees.
Plumeria Seeds in their Natural Environment
Plumeria are tropical plants, preferring to grow in zones 10-11, so do not cope with winter, and require temperatures over 65F to flower, and produce seed. Plumeria love hot temperatures, good ventilation, well-regulated humidity, and loads of food. If you get those conditions right you’ll be in with a chance of growing new plants from seed pods.
To move from ‘a chance’ to a guarantee, we need to look to nature and consider the difference in conditions for growing mature plumeria trees to find the right conditions for plumeria seeds.
Firstly, the type of seed is important. Plumeria seeds don’t project like peas or lupins or float like dandelions. As their seed pods split open they float to the floor gently like maple or sycamore trees with small blades that help them float rather than thud to the floor.
Thanks to this adaptation plumeria seed pods typically germinate under the canopy of their parent tree, providing humidity, regulated moisture, a lack of competition, and most importantly, dappled shade.
What do plumeria seed pods look like?
Plumeria seeds develop in pods that form under the base of pollinated flowers. Plumeria seed pods look like short green beans, with green shells and three swollen seeds inside. As they ripen they dry out, turn brown, and eventually split open to drop seeds that float gently from their casing.
Each plumeria seed is about 5mm across, with a small tail that acts as a propellor, helping the seeds spiral gently to the floor. Most importantly, this plumeria seed ‘wing’ almost always lands facing up. The plant will sprout from the wing, and roots are sent downwards from the seed in contact with the ground.
Do all plumeria produce seed pods?
Not all plumeria plants produce seeds. Many cultivated varieties are grown specifically for their fragrance and have been developed for longer flowering. Like many crop plants, they are grown for their most favorable quality, which means selectively breeding sterility.
Sterile plumeria plants, such as cultivated varieties of the Singapore Plumeria, can still be propagated from cuttings.
Do all plumeria cross-pollinate?
If you have a single plumeria plant and wish to harvest its seed pods, your seeds will be true to the parent. However, if you have multiple plumerias in your collection, your seeds may be cross-bred between different plants by natural pollinators.
To avoid accidental cross-pollination, pollinate a single flower as soon as it opens (check each morning once buds have formed so you beat the bees to it). Once you have pollinated the flower, place a mesh bag over the top, and tie it around the stem. This stops other insects pollinating that flower. Wait for the flower to drop and seed pods to form, then keep an eye until ripe. This will be true for the parent plant.
Harvesting Plumeria Seed Pods
Tools you’ll need:
- Pollinate your plumeria flowers:
- Plumerias are self-fertile, meaning that a single plant can pollinate itself, and doesn’t need a male or female counterpart to produce viable seed pods.
- For indoor plumerias or greenhouse plumerias, you will need to pollinate by hand to produce seed pods. A pollination brush is perfect as the gentle vibration mimics bees and butterflies’ flight while they pollinate, encouraging pollen to drop from anthers to stamens.
- Like all pod-producing plants, as the ovaries swell, the flowers are forced to drop from the plant. Watch the seed pod grow for the next week.
- When the seed pod starts to turn from green bean-like pods, to dry, brown seed pods we can start harvesting plumeria seed pods.
- Place a breathable mesh bag over each seed pod, and tie it around the stem. This makes sure that when the seed pods open the seeds don’t float away.
- Wait for the seeds to drop, and sow as soon as possible.
- If you prefer to sow in spring, place the seeds in a dry seed envelope, seal, and store plumeria seeds in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 2 years (soak them before sowing).
How to Sow Plumeria Seeds:
Tools you’ll need:
Planting seeds, method:
- Plumeria seeds have a higher success rate if planted as soon as they fall from the plant. Fresh seeds are easy to germinate, but seeds are viable for 1-2 years after harvesting provided they have been kept cool and dry.
- Soak old plumeria seeds for at least 6 hours in lukewarm water until their papery tail starts to expand.
- Fill your seed pots with sterile seed compost.
- Plant your plumeria seed. Gently push the seed into the compost, leaving the tail sticking up out of the compost.
- Water your plumeria seeds well to increase contact with soil.
- Place your seeds in a warm spot (65F at least) and cover.
- If you don’t have a warm windowsill with dappled shade in the afternoon, try a heated propagator.
- After 7-14 days, you should see signs of termination, but it can take up to four weeks.
- When the seeds germinate, keep the soil moist enough so it doesn’t dry out but don’t water thoroughly until your young plumeria plant has its first true leaves.
- Continue to care for your plumeria seedling for the next 2-3 months, and plant it into a larger container, with fresh compost when it reaches 6-7 inches, or the roots are outgrowing the container.
Plumeria Seed Pod FAQs
How long does it take to grow plumeria from seed?
Plumeria seeds usually sprout within 7-14 days but can take up to 4 weeks to germinate even if under perfect conditions. Speed this up by soaking seeds for 6 hours. After germination, plumeria will typically reach 1 ft. tall in their first year and develop into more recognizable young trees after two years.
Is plumeria easy to grow from seed?
It’s easy to grow plumeria from seed, and it is slightly more reliable than propagating a plumeria cutting. It takes long for mature plants to develop large leaves and can take up to two years for flowering, but the process of growing plumeria from seed really is simple.
How do you get plumeria seeds?
Plumeria seeds are hard to find online and almost impossible to buy from garden centers or nurseries. The best way to get plumeria seed is to harvest your own. Either find a plumeria grower near you, or use your own plumeria plants to harvest seeds.
How long do plumeria seeds last?
Plumeria seeds can be kept in dry, cool, dark conditions for up to two years without going off. Seeds have an amazing ability to store energy and are simple to revive with a brief soak. Seeds that are damp, or have sprouted in storage are unlikely to grow into healthy plants.
Plumeria 101 was set up to get everyone growing plumeria, and possibly the most important aspect of that is to grow plumeria from seed. Whether it’s the joy of watching seed pods crack open or the hands-on need to gently remove each seedling from its start pot, there’s a true catharsis to growing your own tropical plants from seeds into seedlings.
You might have to wait up to two years for these young plants to develop into small trees, but it’s worth the wait, and you’ll appreciate their exquisite fragrance even more.