Plumeria forum: Is this Stem Rot?

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Name: Kyle & Liz
Long Beach, California (Zone 10b)
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Haberdashers
Mar 3, 2016 8:37 PM CST
We have a pair of plumeria that we got 3 or 4 years ago as young but established plants (they were in medium pots, about 3' tall and had branched once or twice when we got them).

They've been growing slowly, which I think is normal, since then and we put them in large terra cotta pots with potting soil and they've seemed reasonably happy. Living in Southern California we don't ever really freeze here, but it does get below 40 in the winters, so we'll bring them into the garage for the coldest months and put them back out when temperatures start to warm up. While wintering them we only water them perhaps once in the 2 or 3 months that they're indoors.

This winter one of them started getting shriveled and squishy in the middle which concerned me, but I was hoping it was just a part of hibernation. I brought them back outside last week and gave them some water, but that one has not recovered. After looking around online I tried pricking it with a pin in various places. The tips (which are still green and firm) bleed white sap freely, as does the base almost up to the first branching, but most of the space in between does not.

From what I've read this means the middle sections have almost certainly rotted and need to be cut away -- one of the tips is about 6 inches long and *may* be large enough to root from a cutting, but I'm more interested in the base -- it's already established and doesn't seem to have rotted all the way down. If I cut the whole plant off at that point will it survive?

This picture is the whole plant:
Thumb of 2016-03-04/Haberdashers/46ae64

Here's a closer picture of one of the soft sections; the parts that show up yellow under the flash are more of a sickly brown under natural light:
Thumb of 2016-03-04/Haberdashers/e2508d

And finally a photo of the base -- it still bleeds when pricked up to just below the fork there. The brown streak coming up from the dirt does not feel soft but also doesn't bleed unless I prick it fairly deeply -- it may just be beginning to form its thicker, more mature bark?
Thumb of 2016-03-04/Haberdashers/5d6bd2

Thanks for any advice you can give me!
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Mar 3, 2016 9:25 PM CST
Welcome! haberdashers. I thought I knew a good bit about growing plumeria, but this really stumps me. Without your explanation of your care, I would say that freezing temperatures is the reason for what you see. But your plant has not been exposed to freeze. It certainly does not look like it is secondary to over-watering. Cold and over-watering are the two main reasons for rot.

I don't think you will have much success with the tips that are very short, though some say they can root them. I have never had success doing so. I would begin to take cuttings, removing all the sections of stems that don't show white when cut and ooze white "latex" at the cut ends. If there are any stems or base plant that shows black/brown, toss that stem. You want those cut stems to callus well and then try to root them. I would keep the base stem almost dry, only misting every week or so. If it doesn't grow leaves, its a goner.

As a side-note. This doesn't look like a compact grower but you said you have had the plant for 3-4 years. My standard size plants would have grown several feet after that length of time, perhaps growing 2-4x as large as when I first got her. I don't know why yours has not grown. As I say, I am no expert here. I just have a lot of plumeria. You are much closer to being in a sub-tropical climate than I. Most of my plants go through 4-5 months of complete dormancy. I will lose some of the weaker plants during that dormancy but your dormancy is much lighter, much shorter. I just don't know what's going on.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Mar 4, 2016 5:25 AM CST

Moderator

Welcome! haberdashers.
I think you have a case of sunburn at the base. This is often seen when the sun gets lower, and I have to say, also the fact that your pot is not full all the way may cause the reflected heat off the inside of the pot to burn the sides. As long as there is white sap flowing you should be ok. However, it has clearly affected the center section of the plant and caused it to shrivel up and I believe that may be a lost cause at this stage. Your tips still look ok and I would recommend that you cut off the part that looks healthy, and then start cutting down the plant to remove the shriveled part as far as needed until you see the center of the stem white again. Clean your clippers or knife between cuts so you don't spread the rot.
Sorry not to be able to give you better news Sad
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Mar 4, 2016 6:46 AM CST
Interesting, @Dutchlady1. I never knew my plumeria could get sunburned stems, particularly in the dead of winter. Live and learn. Thanks for the information. Thumbs up
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Kyle & Liz
Long Beach, California (Zone 10b)
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Haberdashers
Mar 4, 2016 9:20 AM CST
Hmm. Alright. Thanks for the suggestion, Hetty. Sounds like I'll probably have to cut this one back, then.

Ken, in glad(?) To here I've got a stumper for you. Smiling We got these plumeria from someone who was selling an impressive selection at a farmer's market... They certainly have grown a bit, but nothing like the 2-4x that you say yours get. It's possible that we're not caring for them properly.

I think we had one morning with light frost this year, but I believe we'd already moved the plants into the garage by then. If not then I suppose this could be freeze damage. And yeah...it's hard to overwater most plants here in southern California.

I'll keep everyone posted on what happens.
Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Mar 4, 2016 9:36 AM CST

Moderator

Plants grow differently in the more arid climate in California than they do in our humid states.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Mar 4, 2016 9:48 AM CST
I did not realize Long Beach ever got freezes, Kyle/Liz. I just assumed your tropical plants stayed outside year 'round. Hetty is certainly right. Here in Mississippi, even northern Mississippi, humidity is high regardless of the season.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Kyle & Liz
Long Beach, California (Zone 10b)
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Haberdashers
Mar 4, 2016 11:45 AM CST
Yeah...it's certainly unusual. I'm not even sure how much of a freeze it was, but there was one morning this year where we had a light dusting of frost on the lawn at sunrise and had to run the heat on the windshield before the wipers would clear it. It certainly doesn't freeze enough for stone fruit like cherries to produce blossoms here, though.

Anyway, Liz says we'd moved the plumeria into the garage by then, and I haven't noticed any of the plumeria planted in the ground around the neighborhood dying off after those cold nights, so it *probably* wasn't a freeze.

As you say, Hetty, the low humidity here is a beast -- it'll dry out even very hardy plants before you can blink! (tomatoes absolutely love it, though.). Hetty, if it is sunburn like you suspect and the low soil level in the pot is contributing to it, what would you recommend doing? I'm going to try taking a cutting from the largest tip, but I'm also hopeful that the base of the tree with in-tact roots can come back from this substantial pruning. If I fill the pot with additional soil will that help protect the trunk, or just lead to problems with rot down the line? Is there anything I can do to help the stump leaf out and survive after its trauma?

And thanks for the welcome, both of you!
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Mar 4, 2016 12:11 PM CST
Hello Kyle & Liz! If it were mine, I would check the condition below soil level. If it is too rotten there already, no use adding more soil, better to just save the upper branches of the plant that may still be salvaged.

Yes, this winter has been really quirky. I do not know if you will have similar rain forecast we are expected to have starting this afternoon to weekend, so I would move that plant to a dry area to avoid the rains. Your plumie is compromised with something, so better to keep it dry, still very dormant. I would wait when our temps are stable overnight in the low 50 to mid 50's and that will be sometime in April yet. I know it is so tempting to leave it outdoors, our daytime is okay..but the overnights is the one that hurts it when it gets below 50's often.
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Region: California Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Composter
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tarev
Mar 4, 2016 12:11 PM CST
Hello Kyle & Liz! If it were mine, I would check the condition below soil level. If it is too rotten there already, no use adding more soil, better to just save the upper branches of the plant that may still be salvaged.

Yes, this winter has been really quirky. I do not know if you will have similar rain forecast we are expected to have starting this afternoon to weekend, so I would move that plant to a dry area to avoid the rains. Your plumie is compromised with something, so better to keep it dry, still very dormant. I would wait when our temps are stable overnight in the low 50 to mid 50's and that will be sometime in April yet. I know it is so tempting to leave it outdoors, our daytime is okay..but the overnights is the one that hurts it when it gets below 50's often.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Mar 4, 2016 12:22 PM CST
I have seen pretty much the same thing as what Kyle's picture shows, but those plants affected are always in or coming out of dormancy. They are kept dry and basically in low light/sunless. I have never been able to understand why exactly. I call the condition "dry-rot". The stems are always firm and there is never any mushy part. When I cut into the stem it will be solid as a rock and unfortunately, more like a rock than living plant tissue. There is no "latex" oozing. There is simply no viable tissue whatsoever. I generally lose these plants since by the time they are discovered (spring), it is far too late to salvage anything. I have already discovered (and trashed) a single, branched plant. It was in the center of probably two dozen mature, potted plants in my temporary greenhouse. All the other plants look fine.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Kyle & Liz
Long Beach, California (Zone 10b)
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Haberdashers
Mar 4, 2016 12:52 PM CST
Hmm. We do have rain forecast for this weekend. tarev, would you suggest keeping the healthy plant indoors through the rain as well as the sick one?

I was thinking of actually planting the healthy one in the ground this spring. I'll definitely check the roots of the compromised plant to see if it's worth trying to save.
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
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tarev
Mar 4, 2016 1:18 PM CST
If the healthy plant is already awake and leafing very well and in a very well draining media, I think you can leave them out, but do check your overnight temps that it is not going to be below 50F afterwards in the following nights, even if your daytime highs registers in the low 60's and 70's. For the sickly Plumie, best to keep indoors and protect it from the rain and cold, it will just add to its troubles.

I know it is frustrating to do the in and out storage of the plants..but it is still technically winter, and these plants are tropical ones, they prefer to be dry when dormant not cold and humid. ; but enjoys the warmth and humid conditions when already awake.

In my area, we are considered in Central Valley, the hot thermal zone during summer, but we get cold inversion during winter. When it rains, it is good, warms up temps a bit, but the following day we go very cold, since there will be snow in the mountains, so we get the cold temps or fog later in the valley. But you are in Long Beach, so much nearer to the coast, you may have better warming conditions from the ocean.
Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Mar 4, 2016 4:18 PM CST

Moderator

tarev is exactly right; temperatures below 50 are not good when it is wet.
And yes, I would certainly dig that plant up to check the roots. Remember, they are dormant right now.
Name: Kyle & Liz
Long Beach, California (Zone 10b)
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Haberdashers
Mar 6, 2016 12:49 PM CST
Alright, thanks for all the advice. I'll let you know how it goes.
Name: Kyle & Liz
Long Beach, California (Zone 10b)
Image
Haberdashers
Mar 13, 2016 8:21 PM CST
Alright, I've cut my plumeria. I have a 7" cutting that looks decent:
Thumb of 2016-03-14/Haberdashers/955cb7
Thumb of 2016-03-14/Haberdashers/aa5c50
I don't know if that darker ring inside is normal or not, but I sprayed it with fungicide and have it wrapped loosely in a paper towel on a shelf. I have some rooting powder and perlite, so when I get back in to town in 2 weeks I'll mix up some perlite and soil and try to get it to root.

I also cut the main trunk down pretty far -- it's back in the garage now too:
Thumb of 2016-03-14/Haberdashers/8e3a16
Thumb of 2016-03-14/Haberdashers/c9d832

We'll see what happens. The other plumeria has black tip, I think. I've sprayed it with fungicide and will continue to monitor it. Thanks for all the advice.
Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Mar 14, 2016 4:39 AM CST

Moderator

That looks fine. Good luck!!
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Mar 14, 2016 7:04 AM CST
You have a good chance of rooting the 7" stem and having the cut-off base branch. Good luck.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Steve
Sweden Zone 3b
Plumerias
SteveSweden
Mar 14, 2016 10:19 AM CST
Would it be possible to graft the cutting to the stump?
Those who lose dreaming are lost !!
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
Image
drdawg
Mar 14, 2016 11:02 AM CST
I have never considered doing this since grafting is done to establish a better root-stock plant. That being said, there is certainly no problem in doing this. That would make a great "experiment", something you can tell us about after you've done it.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.

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