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By Mike Atkinson

These are the steps we employ on the farm. Some may consider some of them too burdensome or excessive, but as a commercial operation, all of our methods are designed to achieve the highest rate of success. We share them here with you to encourage healthy, blooming plants in your garden!

Before beginning, gather:

  • Plumeria cutting (better if it’s at least one foot in length)
  • Preferably a black plastic nursery pot that will accommodate the cutting’s size
  • Good-draining soil, like a cactus/palm soil
  • Perlite or pumice 
  • Water
  • Stake(s)
  • Twist-tie or garden tape
  • Warm spot (and eventually, a sunny one)

Note: Plumerias do not need rooting hormone. Gardening sulfur is recommended to apply right after cutting to retain sap and fight fungus.

Before you start, cuttings will root better…

…with a straight, flat cut at the foot/bottom.

…if the cutting is upright when callusing and rooting.

…with a cut end that has been hardened/calloused. That can be easily done by putting the cut end in plastic (small Ziploc bag or covered with plastic wrap) and closed up (with zip tie or tape, like electrical) so it will retain humidity and callus the end. Keep an eye on it as it should only take a few days. (Larger cuttings with a 3” or wider cut end do not need this.)

  1. Use a black plastic nursery pot to root cuttings. Black plastic will absorb the most heat, which is what cuttings need to root.
  2. Create a mix of two parts soil to one part perlite or pumice.
  3. Fill the pot with soil up to about 2” from the top of the pot.
  4. Cut all leaves and inflos/flower stalks off the cutting. If a flower stalk develops in the rooting process, cut it off as well. This allows for all the remaining energy in the cutting to move downward to root. (No need to cut them off when there are full, open leaves.)
  5. Then push it about 2” in the soil (less for shorter cuttings) and tamp down the soil to stabilize it.
  6. If the cutting is not stable, use as many stakes as needed and tie the cutting to it. If it’s a large cutting, the cutting will essentially hang from the stakes into the soil. This is critical as you don’t want the cutting moving in the rooting process, as young roots are easily breakable.
  7. Place the cutting in a warm spot (not baking in direct sun) with good ventilation and airflow. Do not move it. Do not water it. Really, resist the urge to water it. Ignore it – except you can periodically mist off the cutting with water without soaking the soil.

The number one reason why a plumeria cutting dies is watering!

  1. Around 2-3 months later, you will see what looks like spikes or claws at the tips of the branches, which are slowly emerging leaves. Again, resist the urge to water.
  2. Once the cutting has two or more leaves that are fully open, water the newly-rooted plant and move it to a sunnier spot, preferably filtered or morning sun to start with. In a few weeks, you can move it to afternoon or full sun. 
  3. You can start feeding it at this point with synthetic fertilizer at half strength and/or full-strength organic fertilizers.

YAY!  You’ve got a rooted plant! Please understand that it will take time for the root system to mature enough to generate blooms. Patience is the key. In order to reach the goal of a healthy, blooming plant, we share these growing basics with you covering how to water and feed your plant.

Watch for discoloration of the trunk, especially at the base. It could be sunburn. If it’s discolored, wrap the trunk in aluminum foil or the center cardboard roll from toilet paper or paper towels. 

Here in southern California, in November or December, the leaves will fall off and the plant will go dormant. Place the pot under cover (against the house, under eaves, Patio, garage, etc.) to minimize soaking rain. Don’t water the plant again until spring; if it’s a dry and windy winter and the plant looks wrinkly, mist the trunk with water without soaking the soil. New leaves should start growing in late March through April.

Alternate rooting instructions:

Bag rooting

Gang rooting: If you have a lot of cuttings, you might consider gang rooting. This is rooting many cuttings in one large pot. like in a 15- or 20-gallon pot. Just fill the bottom of the pot with 5 or 6 inches of well-draining soil – like cactus soil – stick them in and watch for leaves emerging. Let quite a few leaves fully develop and open and you can gently remove each one and put it in an appropriate-sized pot.