Plumeria's too tall, when/how to cut it?

txndudeMay 19, 2011

Hi gang, I've got a quick question regarding a few plumerias we're growing. I've spent a few hours searching, but haven't found anything that's similar to my situation. Anyway, I've got one large plumeria (6.5 to 7 feet tall, roughly 2" diameter) with minimal branching, and it's a bit top heavy, and has began falling over in high winds.

I've read on a few threads and FAQ guides which say that you should be able to prune (make a cutting) as long as each segment is over 1' long. Does anyone see any issues with cutting this one? I'd really like to cut it, and start growing the top half. I'd assume the bottom half would be too thick to re-grow, after the plant is cut?

If this was your plant, where would you cut it? And could you grow both halves?

And I'm assuming that this time of the year is too late to do this cutting? ...although the temperatures here in southern TX stay warm until at least October.

I'm happy with the plumerias so far (we have 4 of them), although they only send out 4-8 flowers once a year which I'm assuming is due to a fertilizing issue (another thread for another day)

I would like them to branch out a bit, being shorter and wider. Is the only way to branch out, via pruning? Or are there certain foods/fertilizers/growing conditions that promote branching? Any recommendations on how to do this, as well, would be gladly appreciated! Like I said, I've been searching a bit, but if anyone has any links or general guides on how to grow these plants, I'd love to see them!

Thanks for helping spread the knowledge!

Here is a link that might be useful:

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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA


I see two plumeria plants in your photos. I'll assume you're talking about the taller one? ...although both are quite tall. Some varieties just grow tall (like Aztec Gold), by the way, and there's not a lot you can do to keep them short or more branching. These ARE trees. And do you know whether these were seedlings or rooted cuttings, because seedlings can also grow quite tall before they bloom?

OK, all that said, you can certainly cut multiple sections to root. Hard to get a sense of how tall that is. Maybe you could cut the plant roughly in thirds ... getting two cuttings out of the top part.

Your base will resprout. Cut back on water a bit. It should resprout quickly in your heat. Resume watering once leaves have formed. It will likely sprout more than one branch...maybe up to three. But there's no way to predict.

Probably not too late to do the cutting now. Remove all leaves before trying to root the top section.

You might be able to maintain shorter plants by watering a bit less (growing 'hard'), using less nitrogren in your fertilizer and perhaps you might consider frequent, diluted foliar feeding, as well as giving it lots of sun.

If you make a shorter cutting of the top piece, since it's already branched, it will form a wider plant. The middle section will likely only grow one branch, getting tall again, but it's hard to say for sure.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 8:46AM
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I have no problem cutting mine any time of year. Best time is early spring to early summer. I cut below the previous year's growth in light brown/grey trunk. The trunk sections can be rooted. The stump will resprout. Dave's tips are all good.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 4:27PM
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Personally, I'd leave it alone and get a bigger, heavier pot!
I had one in a huge pot for a long time. Yours has
branched, so let it be.

Or, give it a whack about halfway down. Then you'll end
up with two lower branching plants.

Even if you do that though, I'd still get a bigger pot.
Give them roots some room.

What's that hanging from the tree in the left of the
picture and another one at the very right. Can't quite
make it out. Staghorn maybe?

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 12:27AM
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I also would consider the largest pot you are comfortable in moving when winter comes. I have some in 24 gallon containers.

You can cut, use the cutting, and both will survive as everyone else has said. I think you need to consider how you plan to display your Plumeria. will be a specimin in the background (then you want it taller and more branching from the point where it is now) or will you have it as a patio planting (short and bushy)? Answer that question and the rest is easy.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 12:49PM
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Thanks for the advice, everyone! I truly appreciate everyone taking their time and responding to my post, and I will definitely bookmark this thread. We've decided that we'll let the taller plumeria run its course for this growing season, and then cut it back next spring.

To be honest, we know very little about these plants, but discovered them on a trip to Hawaii a few years ago, they sure do look awesome! We thought we'd start growing them, so these first few plants are our experimental, "trial and error" plants. We'd really like them to be shorter and fuller, so that they'd flower a bit more, so I will go ahead and cut the taller one later on. Larger pots are also on the to-do list!

qaguy, good eye! Those are indeed staghorn ferns. We started our first one about 20 years ago, which we then split into 3 a few years ago, and just one of them into two more, so now there are 5 hanging from those oaks. We love those ones, too!

Thanks again for helping me out everyone!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 5:34PM
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I too have a 7' tall plumaria (it was before I brought it outside - it's taller now) and is a bear bringing it in and out every fall/spring. It must be Aztec Gold because it is a beautiful fragrant gold with white flowers. I bought it as a stick for $5.00 2 1/2 years ago. I need to cut it smaller, but I hate to sacrifice the blooms! It hasn't even branched yet. I can't foliar feed unless I'm on a ladder or get my hubby to do it. If I can get it in this year without damaging it, I'll cut it in Feb/March. It's already 95 deg here and it might really stress it out. If anyone is close to Aiken, SC - they can have a piece!


    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 10:37AM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

RuthAnne, you may want to consider air layering your lanky plumeria over the summer. Just roughen up (remove some tissue) an area on the trunk -- maybe 1/3 of the way around - you don't have to actually girdle the branch all the way around. This area will callous and form roots.

I had a plumeria that had a damaged branch. After a while I noticed roots growing out of it, so i wrapped it with Spagnum (sp?) moss, plastic wrap and foil (to prevent overheating in sun). I left it like that all summer. This branch bloomed like nothing happed -- while it was rooting. By end of summer, the spagnum was filled with roots. I cut off the plant and potted it up. I got my cutting rooted and did not sacrifice any blooms.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 9:20AM
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Interesting idea of air layering... I am interested to give this a try myself.

The other thing I have read about is "down grafting", where you'd remove a middle section from a long branch and graft the tip back on to the remaining branch.

I would be inclined to pick the option that is most likely to result in more branches on the host plant. I guess you could prune or air layer and end up with only one new branch. Or, you could down graft and end up waiting forever for the tip to bloom and branch again.

I have a hunch that we probably won't outsmart these plants... they'll do what they want :) I have one that I planted to be a centerpiece of my landscaping/garden, and it is ending up to be a lanky grower. I'm thinking it will be easier at some point to dig it up and give it away and replace it with something that has genetics for more compact growth.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 4:08PM
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