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Growing Plumeria - The Hawaiian Lei Flower!

By Karen England

In the early 80’s, I traveled to Hawaii for the first time and, upon my arrival, was greeted with a traditional Hawaiian Lei made of fresh Plumeria blossoms. I had never before been exposed to this beautiful, fragrant flower and I was enchanted by both the greeting and the plant. As I traveled on “The Big Island”, Kona, I saw large profusely blooming shrubby trees of Plumeria everywhere, perfuming the air. Upon my return to the mainland I learned that Plumeria can be grown here very successfully, recreating a little bit of the Hawaiian Islands in your yard, patio or balcony. 

Plumeria, also known as Frangipani, Temple Tree & Hawaiian Lei Flower, was named for the seventeenth century botanist Charles Plumier who described several Plumeria species he found native to tropical America. Plumeria are nearly evergreen shrubs and trees that grow in full sun. For best results they require excellent drainage and regular fertilizing. Plumeria are easily grown in the ground or in containers, but both must dry out between very thorough waterings because they are subject to root rot and will not survive cold, wet soils. Our local water and native soils tend to be alkaline and Plumeria prefer a more acidic growing environment (approximate soil p.h. level of 6.5), this is achieved with regular fertilizings using GROWMORE All purpose Organic Fertilizer 5-5-5, supplemented 3 times a year with a combination of Ironite & Epsom salts (which are magnesium sulfate). If you grow roses, you may already have Epsom salts in your potting shed because roses, as well as Plumeria, benefit from magnesium sulfate in the soil. Follow the instructions on the GROWMORE fertilizer box for appropriate amount of fertilizer to apply monthly and every 4th month use 3 handfuls of Ironite and one 
handful of Epsom salts in addition to the GROWMORE per plant (ideally - in the beginning of spring, summer and fall). Following these recommendations will give you healthy plants with lots of blooms. 

Once your Plumeria plants are several years old (depending on the variety) you can get 10 - 20 blossoms at a time from each plant and then you can make your own “Fresh Lei” to give to your guests, thus carrying on the tradition of “aloha“. Making a lei is easy, just thread a needle with about 25 - 30 inches of strong thread and tie a large knot at the end. You will need approximately 40 to 60 plumeria blossoms to make one lei. Run needle and thread through the center of each blossom until you reach the end of the thread. Tie ends together and knot tightly. Enjoy! 

For more information on the care and culture of plumeria, consider joining The Southern California Plumeria Society, which meets the 4th Sunday of each month from 1-3pm in room 104, Casa Del Prado, Balboa Park. Additional information is available at their website
www.digitalseed.com/sandiego/gardener/clubs/plumeriasociety.html 

Karen England is the "Queen of Edgehill Herb Farm". www.edgehillherbfarm.com.

 

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