The Q&A Archives: Plumerias

Question: Hello! I'm sad your Nursery is closing! There is a nice article in the SGV Tribune re: Mr. Connor. Oh dear, 1,250 new homes!! I have had many individuals indicate that I should contact Monrovia Nursery and let you know that I have plumeria seeds. I have planted several seeds and now have baby plumeria plants. Do you grow plumerias from seeds? If so, do you have any recommendations for growing? Thank you!

Answer: Growing plumeria from seed can be quite rewarding provided you have the patience to allow for the 3 to 5 year wait for blooms. Growing from seed is the only way to produce new and different cultivars. Plumeria seeds are easy to germinate and will grow with a minimum of care. In fact, growing plumeria from seed is the least expensive way to increase your collection. A word of caution though, 100 or so 3 month old seedlings don't take much room but the same plants at 3 or 4 years will need a bit of real estate to develop properly. A very important and often overlooked fact is that if a plumeria is grown from seed, then it is a seedling, NOT the original cultivar. Even if the flowers look like the parent plant's flowers and shares the same fragrance, a seedling is still a seedling! There are still many people who will grow a seed of King Kalakaua for example and sell or trade cuttings or the seedlings as King Kalakaua. This practice is wrong! The cuttings in this example need to be labeled as King Kalakaua Seedling, not the original. A DNA genetic study would show that the seedling is different than the parent, no matter how much the flowers resemble the parent.

Seeds generally sprout in 3 to 14 days. On an average, you can expect a seedling to reach 6 inches in height in about 8 weeks. A one year old seedling will stand about 1 foot tall. After 2 years' growth, 2-3 feet tall, and 3-5 feet after 3 years' growth. After 3-5 years' growth, the seedling could bloom and branch, which will modify its race to become tall and skinny. Often times a seedling will appear to be setting its first bloom bud, but no flowers develop. The plant will usually branch at this point just as if it had bloomed. This process is called nubbing by some experts. The next bloom attempt probably will produce flowers.

Plumeria seeds are best started in a sterile soil mix, then, transplanted to a mixture suitable for mature plants after 3 or 4 true leaves have developed. Feed monthly after transplanting with a balanced fertilizer such as 20-20-20 for the first 1 or 2 years of active growth. If possible, do not let seedlings go dormant their first winter. Treat seedlings as adult plumeria after the first full growing season.

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