Plumeria Culture

Plumeria Culture, A companion article to The Moragne Plumerias

       While the Moragne hybrids are limited in availability outside of Hawaii, seeds, and cuttings of many other plumerias can be obtained through various mail-order catalogs and botanical gardens.  Visitors to Hawaii often carry home cuttings of plumeria to remind them of their tropical vacations.  The University of Hawaii receives many inquires about caring for these plants when they are taken to more northern climates.

It is important to remember that wild plumeria was found in hot, dry areas, often in poor soil, and on rocky limestone cliffs.  While they respond readily to water and fertilizer, an overabundance of either tends to cause leggy growth with few flower clusters.  Another problem with overwatering is the loss of roots due to the lack of air in the growing medium.  For container culture, a well-drained medium is very important, and water should be applied only when the soil seems dry.

Plumeria growers in Hawaii often feed them year-round with a 10-30-10 fertilizer, believing that the extra phosphorous helps promote flower productivity.  Recent research by horticulturists at the university has suggested that there is some validity to this practice, as trees fed with higher analysis phosphorus fertilizer had more growing points and slightly more flower clusters than trees given 10-10-10 or 10-20-10 fertilizer.  Their rates of feeding were from one to four pounds of fertilizer per tree per year, based on tree size, and four applications (roughly a quarter pound of fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter up to four inches, spread under the drip line).
In northern areas with short growing seasons, the most important feedings will be the early and late ones.  The spring feeding will help to develop the flower clusters and vegetative growth, while the late summer feeding, which should be low in nitrogen, will aid in setting the flower buds for the next year.  Both organic and inorganic fertilizers are satisfactory.

In their native habitat, plumerias probably shed their leaves during a long dry spell, releafing when there is sufficient water.  Regular and frequent deep irrigations promote long shoots.  Thus, container culture is a balancing act between the grower’s goal of a perfect leafy, floriferous plant and the plumeria’s tendency to keep growing or to shed leaves and go dormant.

For good flowering, light and temperature are probably most important than water.  The trees flourish in full sunlight and set few buds when shaded by taller trees or buildings.  Very little growth or flowering occurs once the temperatures drop into the sixties and lower.  Leaf retention, on the other hand, is more a matter of day length than temperature; growth decreases, too, as the days become shorter.

Plumeria fanciers in cold climates simply allow their plants to defoliate and go dormant in the fall.  Then they bring them indoors, either bare-rooted or still in pots, and store them in a protected place-a garage, basement, or attic-where they won’t freeze.  In March or April, they repot them if needed and once the danger of frost is past, they set the plants out to enjoy an early bloom.  Growth and flowering are rapid with the return of temperatures to the seventies and eighties in spring and summer.  They will grow and flower happily throughout the warm summer and fall months.

Those who want to attempt William Moragne’s method of cross-fertilizing plumeria will know within a month if they have a “take”; swellings should appear in two lobes at the base of the flower.  The seed pods require six to nine months to mature, and eleven months to split open naturally.

Good seed is plump when squeezed lightly.  Each has a little papery wing that enables seed dispersal by wind.  If dried slightly and stored in good condition, they may remain viable for up to a year, but it is best to sow them immediately for a high germination percentage.
Seeds should be sown shallowly or stuck into the medium with the wind protruding.  They should germinate in two to three weeks.  Seedlings can be transplanted as soon as their stems have thickened and true leaves appear.  Plumeria fanciers have observed flowering within a year, but more often it takes two to five years.  For the last of his hybrid seedlings to bloom, William Moragne waited eighteen years.

Thornton Collection

Plumeria grown from seed or introduced by Elizabeth Thornton.


Lemon Drop

Mardi Gras



Texas Aggie

Texas Fiesta

Texas Star

The following table is a summary of the information presented in a color booklet cataloging the Plumeria Cultivars produced by Elizabeth Thornton.

The Exotic Plumeria (Frangipani)

A catalog of Plumeria cultivars grown from seed by the Thornton family – Elizabeth, Sharon and Bruce Thornton, and Bette and Jerry Gips, in Houston, Texas 1979-1994. Of 700 seedlings these new varieties have been named because they have proved to be superior. Cuttings of these cultivars have been widely shared with growers in Texas, California, Florida, Kansas, Hawaii, India, Mexico and Kenya.

NumberNameFloret size (in.)Inflorescence No.Fragrance
1Symphony3 3/46 to 9Sweet
2Mardi Gras35 to 7Peach
3Texas Fiesta3 1/2 – 48 to 10Sweet
4Yellow Rose of Texas36 to 8Nasturtium
5Lavender3 1/2 – 48 to 10Grape
6Snow White4 1/2 – 53 to 5Citrus
7Maverick44 to 7Sweet
8Pink Perfection44 to 7Sweet
9Celebration3 1/25 to 8Citrus
10Sunshine3+5 to 7Lemon
11Angela3 1/28 to 10Sweet
12Texas Star3+8 to 10Citrus
13Rose Red Too4 1/24 to 6Rose
14Courtade Gold4 1/24 to 6Sweet
15Texas Beauty3 1/25 to 7Citrus
16Peaches3 1/24 to 7Peach
17Lemon Drop3 1/28 to 10Lemon
184th of July5 1/24 to 6Spicy
19Mellow Yellow36 to 8Sweet
20Firecracker3 1/24 to 7Spicy
21Texas Sunset3+4 to 6Fruity
22Courtade Lemon3 3/45 to 7Citrus
23Gold Cup3 1/23 to 5Citrus
24Pink Parfait4+5 to 7Citrus
25Gold Dust3+6 to 8Citrus
26Thanksgiving48 to 10Citrus
27Mauve4 1/25 to 8Fruity
28Pina Colado3 1/2 – 48 to 10Coconut
29Jubilee3 3/44 to 6Rose
30Moon Glow45 to 7Citrus
31Lemon Parfait3 3/45 to 8Citrus
32Elegance5 1/23 to 5Sweet
33Memo’s Gold3 1/24 to 6Fruity
34Cherry Parfait3 1/2 – 44 to 7Fruity
35Painted Desert3 1/28 to 10Sweet
36Honeysuckle3 1/2 – 44 to 6Honeysuckle
37Raspberry Parfait3 1/24 to 6Fruity
38Peppermint3 3/43 to 5Mint
39Raspberry3 3/43 to 5Raspberry
40Texas Aggie36 to 8Fruity

Moragne Collection

Plumeria Collection grown from seed or introduced by Bill Moragne. 

More than twenty years after the crosses were made, recollections are also vague about how many flowers Moragne actually attempted to pollinate. It is well documented that he harvested seed from the pods of four flowers and from them produced 283 seedlings, naming his favorites for his wife, “Jean Sr.”; daughters Mary, Sally and Katie; daughter-in-law “Jean Jr.”; and granddaughters Cindy, Kimi, Julie, Edi, Cathy, and Kelly.

Mary Moragne

Jean Moragne

Bill Moragne

Kimi Moragne

Edi Moragne

Katie Moragne

Moragne 23

Jeannie Moragne

Jungle Jack Collection

Plumeira Collection grown from seed or introduced by Jungle Jack




Tiger - J50

Taj Mahal

Purple Jack

Marco Polo

Inca Gold

Fools Gold