There is no more perfect plant to me than the plumeria. I always tell people that I don’t want a plant in my garden unless it blooms — unless it is a palm tree or bamboo. The plumeria has everything that I want in a plant — color, beauty, fragrance, ease of care, and cool-looking foliage. Plumerias are the plants from which Hawaii’s leis are made and they smell UNBELIEVABLE.
One of my favorite things to do when visiting Hawaii is to pick up some plumeria cuttings from any of the ABC Stores. ABC Stores are really the epitome of a tourist joint, but I love that they have these cuttings. (You can also buy them online, but I like saying I actually GOT them in Hawaii.) They are inexpensive and easy to pack, and they go very nicely through customs. They come in this little sack and it just looks like a foot-long stick. You just cram it into the ground or a pot and watch it grow. (Hey, look! One of them even has a bit of fertilzer packed right in!)
I planted these in a pot, but will eventually transfer them to the garden. I just can’t find a spot for them right now — but I will! I have one of each color: red, pink, white, yellow, rainbow and burgundy. Some of them I have never seen before (nor do I know their actual name — which is the drawback of buying them this way, but truly — I don’t really care that much about that. At least until they bloom. Then I’ll do some research and find out.)
I didn’t realize it, but the plumeria is also called “frangipani”. My mom used to buy these unbelievable smelling candles at Christma time with the frangipani scent. I had been unable to find this scent, but then somehow discovered that these two plants are one and the same. Who knew?? Now, when I look for scented candles I try to find a “plumeria” scented one.
Plumerias are native to New Zealand, South America, Mexico, etc. — you know, a lot of places “down south.” They are NOT a native Hawaiian plant as very few plants are native to Hawaii — they have all been brought over from visitors. However, you will see these everywhere, like they were meant to be there. And they are. And, they are also meant to be in MY yard.
Plumeria cuttings will bloom most likely the second year from the “stick” that you buy in Hawaii. I’ve rarely had one bloom the first year, but it does happen. However, I think that potted plants that you can buy at Houston Garden or any other nursery might bloom that year. I don’t know because I haven’t tried. However, once the plumeria blooms, it goes on, and on, and on….. and the scent is remarkable! This plumeria is called “Candy Stripe”. It’s one of my faves.
This plumeria is a red one that I also got in Hawaii. When I bought it, it was just labeled “Red Plumeria”, but after a bit of research I discovered that the name of it is really “Kauka Wilder.” Unfortunately, Ms. Wilder passed away in the harsh frost we had a few years back, and I didn’t know at that point how to overwinter it. It made me very, very, sad. I’ve since discovered that you can easily overwinter these plants by just digging them from the ground and stashing them somewhere in your garage. That is it. They won’t need any water or sunshine or any care at all. It’s amazing, but it’s true. I guess it would make sense because they hang around in their bags at the ABC Stores for months at a time until someone buys them and takes them home. Weird. But on this last trip to Hawaii I bought another because it is GORGEOUS. Hopefully it’s the same one.
I’ve found that my plumerias don’t like the direct Houston sun. They seem to do better if they are out of the sun a bit, but not completely shaded. They do love the humidity, though. I think that you could probably grow these in Seattle, as well — just make sure they get plenty of the sun when it comes out. Or, depending upon the Seattle weather, you may just end up with the same stick — but maybe you Seattleites can try it out and see.
Once you get your first plumeria, you will be hooked. I am! And, I don’t care who knows!