Q: How can I get my plumerias to bloom? They are in the sun, watered often and fertilized as needed, but have not yet bloomed.
A: Frangipani (Plumeria species) are the quintessential tropical flower. The fragrance makes me think of old-timey suntan lotion and time spent on Caribbean beaches. The blossoms can stay fresh and sweet for days in a vase. In Hawaii, they make up the leis that are draped around tourists as they arrive on the islands.
In Houston, plumerias must be protected in the winter by bringing them inside. Even indoors they will drop their leaves. When you take them outside mid-April, check that there are no soft or damaged spots on their branch tips. Place the plumerias where they will receive at least six hours of sun and use a water-soluble fertilizer with a high phosphorus content twice weekly. Be careful not to overwater. Young plants will send out bloom spikes after two years of growth from the top of the stem where leaves emerge. If your plumeria gets too big and you want to prune it, be sure to keep and root the top stem section, as this is the piece that should bloom the following year.
To learn more about plumeria care, register for Plumeria Introduction and Propagation Techniques Saturday, Aug. 10, at 9 a.m. at Mercer Botanic Gardens.
Unfortunately, if your plumerias have not bloomed yet this year, you may have to wait until next summer to enjoy this garden gem.