As plumerias mature they not only outgrow their containers but exhaust potting soil. Like all small trees, regular mulching can help with nutrients, and feeding plumeria with balanced fertilizers (albeit with a preference for phosphorous in these tropical flowering trees) helps, but won’t put off repotting forever.
Repotting plumeria is an essential part of plumeria care, making sure your plumeria root ball has enough pace to thrive. Growing plumeria means learning new skills for many gardeners, so like all our articles, we’re going to go right through the process from step one.
Plumeria Growth Needs
Plumerias are tropical plants with fragrant blossoms. That gives us a big clue to how to help create the ideal situation for their root system.
Fragrant flowering trees and shrubs need slightly acidic soil and plenty of phosphorous to thrive, but other micronutrients like iron and calcium are just as important as the big three that are splashed across most fertilizer labels. (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium).
As your small trees mature, they benefit from a root prune, regularly checking drain holes, and generally improving their potting soil. In this article, we’ll talk about each, step-by-step.
When to Repot a Plumeria
The first sign that a plumeria is ready for repotting should be time, rather than illness. If a plumeria has begun to wilt, it can often be a sign of potbound roots. When a plumeria becomes rootbound like this, it means that its roots have started to strangle themselves, taking nutrients from old, spent soil.
Before this happens, there is a really simple thing every plumeria parent should do: set a reminder on your phone. Once a year, check the root ball to see if the roots still have space to grow. If roots are starting to reach the outside of the pot, move it before it starts weakening your small trees.
The best time to repot a plumeria is in early spring, this helps them establish roots faster, and gives them much needed nutrient boost when they need it most.
Plumeria Trees Emerging from Dormancy
As plumeria trees emerge from dormancy, a state that every plumeria should go through in winter, they begin to show the signs of new life.
Dormancy is the winter state of all plumeria trees. Plumeria leaves drop, and they should not be fed or watered at all.
In spring, they are desperately in need of new food, having been deliberately starved of nutrients for the last few months. By repotting plumeria in spring, you not only help revive their roots but have a chance to add new soil, improve nutrients and give them a new container to grow into.
This new pot, in turn, allows plumeria to develop and improve new growth.
How to Repot a Plumeria
Repotting plumeria is a simple process, and gives you a chance to inspect the roots, and overall plant health too.
Below, we’ve got step-by-step instructions for repotting plumeria, but there are a few things to take note of and check while your plumeria is out of its pot.
First, make sure to check the health of plumeria roots. If there are any black, dead, or squashy plumeria roots, cut them off using clean secateurs. This prevents the spread of root rot and reduces any recurring problems.
Secondly, if your plumeria has become rootbound, trim the roots before it is replanted. Trimming plumeria roots is really simple. Remove any fleshy roots that have wrapped around the root ball, and use your fingers to tease out and gently break the younger fibrous roots. This should be done once every two years to produce younger roots, which are more effective at feeding foliage and blooms.
Step by step guide to repotting plumeria
Tools you will need:
- Sharp pruning scissors
- A new container (at least 1″ bigger than the old container)
- Potting soil
- Vermiculite / perlite/horticultural grit
- A trash bag
- Pea gravel
Notes: Vermiculite is a good option for repotting mature plumeria as it has low-level nutrients, as well as improving drainage, but if you don’t want to change the nutrient levels, use a horticultural grit, or perlite, which are inert and have no nutritional value. Both improve drainage.
Crocks are broken pieces of ceramics, either old terracotta pots or even broken crockery from the kitchen will work fine.
- Before you start, lay newspaper over your table to help clean up later.
- Gently pull your plumeria out of its container by lying the plant on its side, supporting its main stem, and teasing the root ball out (if the roots have come out of the bottom of the pot, cut them off before your start).
- Tease the outer roots apart so most of the soil falls away leaving you with a root ball that is holding the old compost, and loose fibrous roots.
- Trim any dead, damaged, diseased, or potbound roots.
- Place a few crocks at the base of your new container to aid drainage.
- Mix up your potting compost (guide below), and add a layer to the bottom of the pot, so the soil level is about an inch below the pot rim.
- Fill in around the plumeria root ball, gently wiggling the pot as you go so the soil gets into all crevices.
- Water the plant, until water runs through the bottom of the pot and the soil is saturated, then add a thin layer of compost to cover any dips.
- Mulch with pea gravel to stop water splashing leaves next time you water.
- Tidy up.
The best soil for repotting plumeria
Creating the best possible potting mix for plumeria is reasonably straightforward, as they are very heavy feeders, which means that whatever nutrients you add, they will be very grateful.
When you’re making a potting mix for any plant there are three important elements to consider. Follow the guide below to find your perfect potting mix, but always try to use a 1:1:1 ratio of each element:
- Host Materials
Drainage for frangipani potting mix is usually done with either perlite, vermiculite, or grit. All three serve the same purpose but have slightly different properties. Grit and perlite are both inert (they have no significant nutrients), while vermiculite is mineral-rich, and helps give a gentle slow release of basic nutrients to the soil.
All three are fine to use when repotting plumeria.
Nutrients are added through compost, which also helps with moisture retention. It’s important to use good quality garden compost or a tropical mix but don’t worry too much about the structure for mature plants. for young plumeria, sieve your compost to remove really big chunks of shredded bark or un-rotted materials.
Host materials are largely inert substrates, like used topsoil, or even coir compost. Coir compost is cheap, and easy to store as it expands when wet, but needs compost, and regular fertilizer to add nutrients.
Repotting Plumeria Rooted Cutting
Rooted Plumeria cuttings are tricky to repot, as their roots are more fragile, and more important to the plant than for mature frangipanis.
When a rooted cutting is showing signs of new growth, you might be surprised that they’ve probably already developed a very healthy root system. Plumeria often develops new roots before they develop leaves, and can fill containers in as little as 90 days.
Once a rooted cutting has shown clear signs of growth, check the root system. If it is outgrowing its starter pot, it’s time to pot on to something a bit bigger, and with more nutrients.
Follow the steps in the general guidelines above, as your plumeria is ready for a more mature potting mix.
Repotting is a task that many gardeners fear because it can seem extreme, and very invasive for plants that are used to their setting, but it’s an essential skill to learn. Despite all the warnings we give in this article, it’s also important to know that you repot plumeria at any time of year – and indeed, should if there are signs of root rot.
We give guidelines to repot frangipani in spring, as that gives them a great boost to their overall health, but they will always be grateful for new soil and more space.