June 6, 2015

1 - Plumeria are tropical flowering plants that may be overwintered indoors in New Mexico, but they need more light than many other houseplants.

Yard and Garden June 6, 2015


I have a plumeria plant that a dear friend of mine gave me. She passed away unexpectedly last fall and I am not doing something right. I do realize these are tropical plants, but I cannot seem to keep the leaves on them. The younger one just now put three leaves on, but the large one in the back room still is just stalks. What would you recommend? I feel compelled to keep them going since I no longer have the friend who gave them to me! She brought them from Houston. She did tell me to let them go dormant in the winter, but what else do I need to get them growing?

-Judy O.

Silver City


Plumeria plants can go dormant in the winter - my mother had some that she kept in her garage and watered them very little during the winter near Houston. The leaves would drop, but when the warmth returned and she began watering they would produce new leaves. Your plumeria that are just stalks - are they getting watered? Is it still cool in that location (that should change soon anyway)?

Another consideration is that many tropical plants need more light than we often give them indoors. If they have only a little light, they produce new leaves, but drop older leaves to remain in "balance" with the available light. Production and maintenance of leaves requires energy (stored carbohydrates produced by photosynthesis). Without adequate light they just cannot support more than a few leaves. This depends on the type of plant. My mother grew her plumeria plants outside in direct sunlight in the summer. They did receive some afternoon shade. At her location on the Texas Gulf Coast the lower elevation and greater cloudiness protects plants somewhat from excess sunlight. The humidity there is also helpful. If you can provide a location with bright light, but not direct sunlight for most of the day and adequate moisture, you should be able to get them growing. If you keep them indoors put them next to a large south or east facing window with sheer curtains. If you grow them outside, find a place with some shade, but as much brightness as possible. Since they have been indoors, do not put them in direct sunlight without gradually acclimating them over a period of a couple of weeks.

You should not begin fertilizing until after they have begun producing leaves. After leaves are produced you can begin fertilizing with a flowering houseplant fertilizer. Such fertilizer contains more phosphorus than foliage plant fertilizer because phosphorus promotes flowering in plants. The fertilizer label should indicate a second number (phosphorus percentage as large as or larger than the first number (nitrogen percentage) in the fertilizer analysis.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


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