How to Care for Plumerias During the Fall & Winter Season

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How to Care for Plumerias During the Fall & Winter Season

Many customers have dropped in to ask why their Plumerias foliage is turning yellow and even starting to defoliate. Fortunately, this is a natural response to the local climate turning cool to cold. Very common for Plumerias at this time of the year in our location. Depending on the variety and flower color, some plants will either start partially or completely defoliating around November. Don’t worry. The common response is “they don’t defoliate in Hawaii.”  Southern California has a totally different climate. It’s beneficial for plants to go dormant. They store their energy until the weather warms up, then pushes new foliage and flowers.

Last year my Plumerias started pushing around the later part of April through May because of the cooler temperatures.

Caring for your Plumerias in the fall and winter is simple. If you wish for them to continue blooming and maintain lush foliage, then simply bring them inside your home in a well lit place. Make sure to water thoroughly and drain well before bringing them inside. Watering is usually not necessary while they are inside, but this depends on how large the container is and if the plants are near a heating vent. If your plants have no leaves, I would not water them at all until they start to push new foliage in the spring. It is not necessary to add fertilizers at this time.

By |2018-12-12T22:58:26+00:00November 29th, 2018|California Friendly Garden Solutions, Gardening, Home Page|43 Comments

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  1. frauleduc January 27, 2016 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this information. Could you tell me I can propagate my plumerias from existing branches?

    • Roger's Gardens January 29, 2016 at 9:06 am - Reply

      Yes, Propagation is easy. The simplest way is to cut off a 12 to 18inch piece of an available branch (cane). Use a very sharp pruner to cut the cane. The cut should be as sharp and clean as possible. Let the cut end callous ( set in dry air ) for a week or two. Mix a soil mixture of 50% peat moss and 50% perlite and hydrate well. Fill a one gallon container ( or any container with the same soil volume with drain holes ) with the hydrated mix. Moisten the calloused end of the cane and dip about four inches into a rooting hormone. Press the callous end into the soil about four inches. Keep inside in a warm area about 70F or outside when temperatures average 70F plus. March through September are optimum months. Tip: Once you “stick” the cane do not water on a regular bases. Watering once every three weeks works for me. Tip 2: A cut cane can survive without soil for several months without moisture or roots! The cane is the perfect survival vessel holding nutrients and moisture until it can root.

  2. Kathleen Reardon May 10, 2016 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Could you tell me if the plumeria I put in the groung a month ago ( 6 inch long ) Should start having leaves . Should I put it in a pot now ? I am wondering if it was too small to put in the ground ? Thank you .

    • Roger's Gardens May 10, 2016 at 4:59 pm - Reply

      Hi Kathleen,

      Plumeria cuttings can take quite a long time to root and begin growing. I would normally suggest starting a plumeria cutting in a container for the first year or so and then planting it out into the garden once it has fully rooted. In the meantime, I would not be concerned at all if your young cutting is still completely dormant. In fact, that would be what I would expect. Just give it time and be patient with it. If you have done everything else right, the biggest risk right now is that the cutting actually rots from over watering. Too much care right now is the biggest worry. Keep the plant quite dry, which is contrary to most people’s human nature. But until the plant has leaves and begins growing it has very little use for any water at its base and too much water there will actually rot the cutting and kill the plant. Once the top begins to expand and show some leaves, then you can very slowly begin adding a little irrigation. Leaves equals water with a plumeria.

      I hope this helps.


  3. Loren October 16, 2016 at 2:24 am - Reply


    I am in Southern California. Los Angeles to be exact. My question is someone just gave me a cutting from a beautiful tree. It is October 16. Should I try to root it now or wait until next spring. If you suggest next spring then how do I keep the cutting alive until then. Thanks so much.

    • Roger's Gardens October 24, 2016 at 1:13 pm - Reply

      I would only attempt to root it if you have a heat mat or an insulated green house. Propagating a plumeria is a little tricky this time of the year because of the temperature swings we can experience.
      If you decide to try to root it in the spring, remove ALL foliage. Make sured the cut end has callused (takes about a week) Fill a small bucket with water and add 3 drops of Superthrive” then place the callused end into the water for 3 or 4 days. Remove, dry the end then store in a cool dry location. I usually keep them on top of my work bench in the garage. Your cane should be fine until spring for planting. Good Luck!

      Steve Goto
      Sales Manager

  4. Ingrid Selzer January 16, 2017 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    I live near Galveston Texas my plumeria is starting to show new little leaves at the top , shall I start watering them ???

    • Roger's Gardens January 16, 2017 at 3:05 pm - Reply

      Hi Ingrid,

      It really depends. . . but, I need some more history like are they in the ground or in a pot. Or when was the last time they received any water? I prefer to keep the soil on the drier side. Even though foliage is pushing I still wait for the soil to dry out first. Water is important but overwatering is definitely not recommended for Plumerias.

      Steve Goto
      Nursery Sales Manager

  5. Jack October 7, 2017 at 5:12 am - Reply

    I planted 4 cutting that I bought from Amazon on Father’s Day. As of today, 10/7/17, only the white plumeria has flowers. Yellow and red are catching up, then pink is at dead last but reasonably healthy. I live in Columbia, SC.

    -At what temperature should I start bringing my babies in?
    -Where should I place them (by the window)?
    -Should I buy a lamp or lamps? Any brand/type recommendation if I buy it from Amazon?

    I’m new to this so I want to make sure my plants survive the cold season. Thank you!!

    • Roger's Gardens October 9, 2017 at 12:38 pm - Reply

      Hi Jack,

      I’m excited that you thought of us all the way out here in Southern California, but of course my comments about Plumeria culture in your area are a bit speculative.

      It is not at all unusual to be without flowers on such young plants. Give them time, they will eventually all flower. Take the Plumeria indoors at the first sign of frost (night temperatures below 32 degrees). They may still have leaves on them when you do this. That is OK, but once inside they will fall off in a couple of weeks.

      When inside, they can be in total darkness and do not need any water. They will be completely dormant during those winter months, so just ignore them. No need for any lamps or other equipment, they will be leafless and sleeping – like a bear hibernating for the winter. No, you do not need to put them by a window, although if you want to, you can, but they are going to be dormant anyway.


  6. Cynthia Ponton November 12, 2017 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    I have Plumeria plants in my flowers bed in Houston, Texas. They are large and I usually uproot them and put them in the garage. Can I leave them in the ground for the winter? I would like to prune them now and leave them in the ground.
    Please advise.
    Thank you!!

    • Roger's Gardens November 13, 2017 at 1:05 pm - Reply

      Hi Cynthia,

      I am certainly not an expert on horticulture in the Houston area, but can weigh in with some advice. I would strongly suggest NIT leaving then in the ground during the winter months in your area. You have two significant issue. First, the nighttime winter temperature are going to harm then and quite probably even kill them. Second, the damp, cold soil through the winter months will probably kill them. Even if you can nurse them through the cold nights, the bigger issue is probably the cold and wet soil. Plumerias are not well adapted to this condition. My advice is to continue to bring them indoors in the winter.


  7. Regina November 20, 2017 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Thank you for all the information!! The question and answers were perfect!! Learned a lot.

  8. Martin Berghuis December 24, 2017 at 9:47 am - Reply

    I moved to a mobile home in Manteca CA, use to live in Orange County. I have a Plumeria pudica indoors. I understand it is a very sensative plant. I use to have and propagate plumerias in Laguna Hills. Is the dormant season of the P. pudica the same as orther Plumerias?

    • Roger's Gardens December 28, 2017 at 12:46 pm - Reply

      Hi Martin,

      Wow, Plumeria pudica! Not very common. I have not grown this species, so my comments are based upon what I have heard from members of the South Coast Plumeria Society. Plumeria pudica is a bit more cold tolerant than other species and is usually evergreen in warm winter areas of Southern California, however in colder climates it may drop its leaves. I think you may have to do a wait and see how it responds indoors in Manteca.

      Since you already know a great deal about Plumeria culture you probably do not need to be reminded that these plants want very little moisture during the winter months. It is not generally cold weather that kills them, but cold and wet soil instead. They just can not tolerate it. So water very sparingly, a bit if it keeps it’s foliage, but if it drops it’s leaves I would treat it like the more common Plumeria rubra or even P. obtusa.

      Too bad P. pudica only comes in white. And I wish it had a bit more fragrance, but still sounds like a fun plant.

      Good luck and Happy New Years.


  9. Deb January 7, 2018 at 4:59 am - Reply

    Super helpful info here, thanks!
    I live in San Diego, CA. Some of my potted plumerias, which have been rooting since early 2017, are getting wrinkly around the stem. I understand zero watering during the fall/winter but I feel some soft parts of the stem as well. They were doing fine until dormant season. I stopped watering altogether around 11/2017. They sit outside and do not have protection from the “winter weather,” if that’s what you call it out here in San Diego… (we haven’t had rain in a while and lowest is about 50 degrees at night.)
    Any suggestions?

    • Roger's Gardens January 8, 2018 at 10:12 am - Reply

      Hi Deb,

      Soft areas of the stem are not good at all on a plumeria. It is a sign of internal rot and may expand further down the stem, potentially killing the entire cutting. I’m not sure how large these cutting grown plants are, but I suggest cutting the top of the plant about two inches below any sign of softness or rot on the stem. To be sure of where this cut should be you can also cut just a short bit below the stem, check for any discoloration or softening in that area and always cut again, until you get to good, healthy firm stem. However, I would suggest either dipping your shears into a 10% bleach solution or a Lysol solution between each cut. I prefer the Lysol, because the bleach can corrode the pruners a bit over time. You don’t want to inoculate the disease from the infected portion of the plant to the unaffected portion.

      I hope this helps.


  10. ROGER MICKELSON February 10, 2018 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    I live in Eastern Washington state. I brought three cuttings back from Hawaii. One died, the other two grew about 8+ inches with one blooming all summer. I have kept them in an unheated bedroom (45-50 degrees) since last fall and am wondering when I should start thinking of bringing them into a warmer area of the house. The two survivors grew in a 50/50 mix of miracle grow and perlite in 1 gallon pots. I kept them pretty much indoors all of last summer in direct sunlight from sun-up until early afternoon when they were shaded. 1/2 gallon of water once per week per plant. I’m new to this and after seeing one plant bloom last year, don’t want to do something to up set the apple cart. Thanks, Roger

    • Roger's Gardens February 14, 2018 at 9:14 am - Reply

      Hi Roger,

      You are a bit out of our region of expertise, as we are generally providing information about year-round outdoor Plumeria culture here in Southern California – our principal service area. My only comment would be regarding the indoors-outdoors period for your plants. Typically, Plumeria are moved outdoors into better air circulation as soon as the weather is warm enough. Night time temperatures are the main consideration for this timing. Outdoor environments are almost always advantageous over indoor environments, when there is a choice and the temperatures are right. The air circulation, air quality and carbon dioxide/oxygen availability is almost always considerably better outdoors. Of course, this is only an option during the warm and mild months of the year. Regular watering during the summer growing and blooming period is seldom an issue. However, it is winter water, when the plants are leafless and dormant, that will cause problems, rot and certainly death. Keep them dry during winter dormancy.

      I hope that helps. (Btw, I like your “apple cart” reference too. If my geography is correct, you’re smack in the middle of a lot of apple carts.)


  11. Robert Smith March 13, 2018 at 8:08 am - Reply

    I live in Irvine, Calif, my leaves this year were much larger than normal, and here in March 2018, they are finally falling off, this is the first year they bloomed, IF I cut them back, will they bloom again later this year?

  12. Robert Smith March 13, 2018 at 8:13 am - Reply

    Oh! It is in a 5 Gal pot each of three arms are about 27 inches long, and are starting new growth.

    • Roger's Gardens March 13, 2018 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      Hi Robert,

      I can’t explain your leaf size, but it may have to do with nutrition, light or temperature differences. A cut back this late in the season will almost certainly eliminate any flowers this year, but if you have to do it you might as well. Normally I suggest pruning during the summer or early fall in your climate, which gives the plants a bit of time to re grow and potentially set flowers for the following season. Still no guarantees though.


  13. Chris March 19, 2018 at 4:36 pm - Reply


    I have a small potted plumeria obtusa and I was wondering if you should ever cut off the old flower stems or does it reflower using the same stem every year. We live in OC.

    Thx, Chris

    • Roger's Gardens March 20, 2018 at 9:10 am - Reply

      Hi Chris,

      There is no reason to cut the stem on a Plumeria obtusa. The flowers, once they are dry and finished, will eventually just fall off on their own. At first each flower will dry and fall off individually. Eventually, all the flowers in the cluster will have finished and after a little while longer the entire structure will also fall off. If you desire, you can cut the stalk that supports the cluster, just to make it look a bit prettier. But don’t cut into the growing stem, just the flower portion.

      Hope this helps.


  14. Gary Gruetzmacher March 30, 2018 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    Hi, I have a 5′ x 5′ Plumeria in a pot and am thinking of planting it as part of my landscape. I live in Santa Barbara in a frost free zone but my concern is that we get winter rains which will mean wet soil when it is likely to be dormant. (This year it hasn’t lost its leaves but did stop flowering). Thanks Gary

    • Roger's Gardens April 2, 2018 at 4:08 pm - Reply

      Hi Gary,

      The wet soil could cause issues, especially if it does not drain (dry out) quickly. Perhaps you can minimize this condition by doing some aggressive soil improvement, adding a drain tile, changing incoming water flow patterns in that area or by creating a slightly mounded profile around the plumeria. This last method is successful for some other low winter water plants, such as many California native plant. It has the advantage of moving rain water away from the root area, rather than allowing it to accumulate. The challenge will be applying enough water during the summer months, when the plant actually needs plenty of water.

      How much of a gambler are you?


  15. Nancy April 11, 2018 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Hi I’m in south Texas and my plumeria has not put on any leaves,,, is it dead….
    Thank you

    • Roger's Gardens April 11, 2018 at 4:42 pm - Reply

      Hi Nancy,

      It should not be. It would not be unusual for it to still be leafless in early April; actually, that would be expected. In fact, mine are still leafless here in warmer Southern California. Plumeria often do not leaf out until May or sometimes even as late as June, depending upon temperatures. You can tell if the plant is alive or dead by simply scratching the stem a bit with your fingernail. Just under the skin it should be moist and a green color. If it is dry, that is not good. You can practice on another shrub somewhere in the garden and then try the Plumeria and compare.

      Hope this helps.


  16. Sam April 17, 2018 at 2:09 am - Reply

    I have 4 plumerias including 2 I Grew From seeds that drop from an older plant and they are growing extremely tall and lanky. When they have lots of foliage in the summertime we get frequent winds here in California and they tend to bend or break the branches. Is there a way I can prune my Plumeria so they do not grow as tall or lanky and still get flowers?

    • Roger's Gardens April 17, 2018 at 1:43 pm - Reply

      Hi Sam,

      I have 4 plumerias including 2 I Grew From seeds that drop from an older plant and they are growing extremely tall and lanky. When they have lots of foliage in the summertime we get frequent winds here in California and they tend to bend or break the branches. Is there a way I can prune my Plumeria so they do not grow as tall or lanky and still get flowers?

      My first question would be why are they growing tall and lanky? My suspicion is that they may need be receiving adequate sunlight. Plumerias, as you may know, are full sun plants, but if in a more shaded situation will grow as you are describing. If sunlight is the issue I suggest addressing this, or you will be forever faced with the same dilemma.

      Plumerias can be pruned without much risk, if done during the summer/warm season growing period. Best to wait until you see new leaves emerging to do this. You can cut into any healthy, young stems and the plant will send out a new bud or buds from below your cut.

      Hope this is the information you needed.


  17. Sam April 24, 2018 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    Hi Ron.

    The plants get full sun all day long. I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re lanky, there are about an inch to 2 inches thick on the trunk, the offshoots are much thinner. As for the pruning can you elaborate more on that. By young stems do you mean the offshoots/ branches? As the plants I grew from seeds do not yet have branches, they are about 4 feet tall with no branches yet. Can I cut into the main trunk to premote growth and if so how do I make the cut?…. Thank you.

  18. Frank August 21, 2018 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    I have a plumeria that I just planted in my yard and it seems to be growing quite well.
    I live in Hesperia California and our winter can get quite cold.
    Do I need to bring it in the garage or would covering it with plastic work to keep it alive?

    • Roger's Gardens August 22, 2018 at 8:52 am - Reply

      Hi Frank,

      I just checked with the NWS and confirmed what I was already pretty certain about – you would definitely not be able to grow Plumeria outdoors through the winter in Hesperia. The winter lows are far too low for plumerias where you are and even sheets, frost cloths or just about any other approach would offer little respite.

      I suggest drying the plants off in early November, letting hem go dormant and then bringing them into the garage or another warm, dry location. Once the night temps rise in the spring you can bring them back outside and enjoy them again.

      Good luck!


  19. Deborah Brown September 22, 2018 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Living in Oklahoma, I have to bring my plumerias indoors in October. Can they be heavily pruned at this time?

    • Roger's Gardens October 2, 2018 at 9:32 am - Reply

      Plumeria are best pruned in spring, at the onset of new growth. In the meantime, let the plant set dormant through the cool winter months.


  20. Ellen September 30, 2018 at 9:03 am - Reply

    I live in thevTampa Bay Area of Florida. We grew a Plumeris shoot in an 8 inch flower pot. It has since bloomed and grew 10 inch long leaves. We continue to water it weekly. We kept it in the apartment when the sun was scorching. It’s now October and it should get a little cooler, from its current 92 degrees. My question is, do plumeria go dormant in our climate? Should we put it back outside? Will this plant go dormant given that sometimes in January we get to low 50s.? Does that mean the leaves will fall off? Then I know we stop watering. When do we start watering again?

    • Roger's Gardens October 1, 2018 at 4:50 pm - Reply

      Hi Ellen,

      Well, you are on the other side of the continent from us, so I am going to be a bit cautious in my answers.

      In your climate I would suggest keeping your Plumeria outside during the warm half of the year. Night temperatures will not hurt it. I fact, so long is there s humidity, the height temps will benefit the plant. However, the winter months are more of a concern. As you know, Plumerias can’t take any more than a tiny bit of frost. But more important is that Plumerias cannot handle damp or wet soil during their winter-dormant months. Winter rainfall dropping into the pot will easily rot the plant.

      I would take it outside now, and as the night temps slowly get lower you will see the plants head into dormancy. At some point the leaves will drop and from that time until you see new leaves beginning to form next spring, keep the plant extremely dry. You’ll be tempted to want to water it, but other than maybe a couple of splashes during the winter – don’t.
      So, basically do the opposite of what I think you are planning: keep you plant outside from spring to fall and water regularly. Then, take it indoors from late fall till spring and keep it dry.

      Good luck.


  21. Monica zavala October 10, 2018 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    Hi I live inTemecula Ca. And I have a couple of plumerias growing in my front yard.ive had them for a couple of years and they still haven’t bloomed. They have a bunch of leaves now bu no flowers yet. Fall is here now and soon winter will come is there anything I should do so my plants don’t die?

    • Roger's Gardens October 11, 2018 at 10:54 am - Reply

      Hi Monica,

      It seems like I might have answered a prior question from you as well. If so, hello again.

      Unless your plants are very small or very young, they should have bloomed by now. Be sure your plants are growing in nearly full sun. Too much shade will mean healthy lush foliage, but a lack of flowers. Also, be sure that during the late spring and summer months, when they are actively growing, you are using a “bloom” type of fertilizer, not a leafy foliage fertilizer. Most organic based rose fertilizers are a good choice, but not the synthetic ones with insecticides and fungicides added.

      Once cold weather settles in let your plumerias go dormant. They will eventually drop their leaves and become completely inactive. That is normal and in fact desired, esp. in your area. As the plants slip into dormancy, reduce the watering, until eventually you are not watering at all and the plants are kept completely dry. They should stay dry, or nearly so, throughout their entire winter-dormant period. Even too much rainfall that keeps the soil wet during the winter can rot and kill a plumeria. In fact, it is far more common for a plumeria to die of winter soil rot than for any other reason.

      Do be cautious of frost however, esp. in your area. Plumerias will need protection from killing nighttime temperatures. One of my best friends is a serious plumeria grower and collector and lives in Temecula. He has a few hundred plants in his collection and grows them outdoors year-round. But he does protect them on the cold nights.
      Hope this helps.


  22. Sue November 25, 2018 at 10:24 am - Reply

    i Bought a house in San Clemente Ca with a well established plumeria in the ground ( about 6 feet) The leaves are starting to get fuzzy white stuff with flies in the bottom. What do I do and can I pull off all the leaves this time of year?

    • Roger's Gardens November 27, 2018 at 8:44 am - Reply

      Hi Sue,

      Congratulations on you nice big Plumeria. My suspicion is that you have an infestation of a pest called a Woolly Whitefly. They are occasional summer and fall pests of Plumerias, Hibiscus and a few other mostly tropical plants. Fortunately, they look worse than they are. If it was earlier in the season I would suggest a couple of applications of Insecticidal Soap. But at this stage of the season I suggest just stripping the leaves off the plant and tossing them into the green waste. The plant will be dropping its leaves in the next month or so anyway, so no harm is done.


  23. B Yount December 1, 2018 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    Greetings from eastern Washington.

    I acquired a 7′ yellow plumeria tree two years ago… to add to my troupe of happy houseplants with loads of south window exposure in my retail business. It had a great growing season outdoors in our desert area in 2018, but is inside now and slowly going dormant and dropping leaves quickly. We have stopped watering.

    I’d like to prune it back to make it easier to get in and out the door next summer. I see that you recommend waiting until spring to do so, but have further questions. I have four main gangly branches 36″ long, two that have ‘y’ed at the ends, and two that are single stalks. Can I trim all four branches in the spring without stressing it too much and if so, where along the 36″ lengths to cut? I can see where the branches go from green to greeenish-brown and more woody as they descend to the main 3’ trunk. I think this old timer was ignored for a number of years and grew too gangly but I am hoping to be able to regain some control over it’s upper width and cross my fingers for double the branches if the pruning works.


    • Roger's Gardens December 3, 2018 at 5:37 pm - Reply


      Sounds like that’s quite a Plumeria to hail around, inside and out – seven feet. Congratulations.

      As for the pruning, yes I would wait until late winter or even spring, when the plant should be totally dormant and there will be no sap flow. Yes, you can make all of your cuts at the same time; since the plant will be fully dormant there is really no stress at all to the plant at that time. When cutting the plant, use clean and sharp shears and cut anywhere along the stem, just as long as it is at least about six or eight inches from the growth tips. If you look at your plumeria carefully, you will notice that the newest few inches of growth are generally a greener color, somewhat smooth and with very little callousing as compared with the growth a little further down the stem. If you cut into these young green tips, the plant may die back a bit and sometimes rot can enter the stem from those cuts and keep working it was further up the stem. On a Plumeria, by cutting past this new growth and into the older growth instead (it’s actually the two year old growth) the plant will heal more quickly and will avoid any infection. By the way, you can also root these tip cuttings quite easily. By contrast, trying to root cuttings from the soft new growth is almost impossible.

      You probably know that as you prune, keep in mind that the more tips on the plant the better. Plumerias only bloom on their tips (new growth), so where possible don’t prune past a “Y” or you will loose 50% of your flowers until that stem eventually branches again. Lastly, be sure that your plant is receiving enough light. Usually when I see plumerias that are gangly and stretched is due to lack of sufficient sunlight. Where you are, you might not be able to grow it in full sun, but the objective is to put it in as much light as possible, without burning it.

      Good Plumeria growing!


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