A Guide to Grow Plumeria from Cuttings

Propagation by cuttings is the most commonly used method to propagate plumeria, a cutting will produce an exact clone of the parent plant. Normally plumeria cuttings are quite easy to root if done in the Spring and Summer. All plumeria cuttings will root under perfect conditions, some take longer than others. Do your research so you are aware of the hard to root cultivars. Some hybrid plumeria can be more difficult to root. 

The most common mistakes are over watering and trying to root late in the growing season. For difficult to root plumeria cuttings you can use a grow or heat mat placed under the pots to encourage new root growth. Plumeria roots grow best when the root zone temperature is between 75 and 85 degrees.

The fertility status of the donor plant can influence rooting. Avoid taking cuttings from plants that show symptoms of mineral nutrient deficiency. Conversely, plants that have been fertilized heavily, particularly with nitrogen, may not root well. The stock plant should not be under moisture stress. Cuttings from lateral shoots often root better than cuttings from terminal shoots.

There are many good methods developed for starting cuttings. You can find some good articles on cuttings with various methods on Plumeria.Care. Which one works best for you will depend on the time of year and your climate.

Rooting Plumeria Cuttings in Soil

Below is a guide to start your plumeria from cuttings. What are Plumeria Cuttings, Rooted Plumeria and Grafted Plumeria.

  • When to take cuttings? Although you will eventually wind up with broken branches at different times of the year, the time of the year is important to your cutting survival chances. Different regions have different length of growing season. 
    • Spring is the best time to start plumeria cuttings, when the are waking up from dormancy.
    • Early to Mid Summer is also good time. Late summer is ok. The later you start a cutting the less chance you have to correct problems you may have.
    • Early Fall or later does not give your cutting a chance to put on a good root system to survive the first winter unless you extended the growing season with lights and bottom heat.
  • When taking cuttings it is important to decide the reason you are taking the cuttings.
    • Will you root the cutting yourself?
    • Will you graft the cutting?
  • Preparing the donor Plumeria tree for taking cuttings
    • Selecting a healthy tree with no visible signs of stress is important, the healthier the donor tree, the better survival chances your cutting will have.
    • Watering the donor tree the night before will provide extra hydration to the cutting.
    • Remove the leaves by cutting the leaf stem about 1/2″ from the branch before or right after you take the cutting. Leaves left on cuttings will cause the loss of valuable moisture. Breaking the leaves off can damage the cutting and allow disease to enter at the damaged leaf nodes.
    • If taking the cutting for rooting remove any inflorescence, they could prevent the cutting from rooting. 
  • Take cuttings from plumeria using clean tools. You can use garden shears, a sharp knife or saw with fine teeth.
    • Clean your cutting tools between taking cuttings from each tree or even more often.
    • Do not cut bad branches off when taking cuttings.
    • Select a branch from the last growing season that is light gray for best results.
    • For rooting, cuttings should be 12″ or longer. Larger cuttings have a better chance of rooting, but I’ve noticed that very large branches take longer to root.
    • For grafting, cuttings should be 8″ to 12″ long. Large cuttings are more difficult to handle and slip more easily. Finding the right root stock can be a problem for large diameter cuttings. 
  • Right after you make the cuttings.
    • For rooting, dip in a rooting hormone, the longer you wait the less benefit it will have.
    • For grafting no need to dip in a rooting hormone.
  • Allow the cuttings to Callus. Roots will not form until the cutting has formed callus.
    • Place in a warm dry place out of direct sun.
    • Allow plenty of air circulation.
    • Check the cut ends often to be sure they are not getting soft. If you find any getting soft, you should cut until you see good white wood.
    • Allow the cuttings to dry until the cut end is hard, usually from 1 week in warm climates to 2 weeks or longer in cooler climates.
    • Cuttings can be stored for weeks or even months, depending on the cultivar. The sooner they are planted after properly callused, the better they will do.
  • Potting soil mix preparation
    • Use a mixture of 1 parts Perlite to 1 part potting mix without fertilizer. The key is to have a well draining mix.
    • Moisten the potting mixture until it holds together but is not dripping water.
  • Fill a rooting tube or 1 gal pot (larger if needed for big cuttings) with lots of drain holes with the potting mix. 
    • Use one pot for each cutting
    • Or one rooting tube for each cutting
    • If using rooting tubes, place a cotton ball in the bottom so you will not lose soil.
    • You can use a large pot and place several in 1 pot. This is called gang rooting. It works well, but can cause damage to the roots when transplanting.
  • Make a hole 3″ to 5” deep deep and a little bigger than the diameter of your cuttings in the center of each pot.
    • Use your finger or the handle of a trowel.
    • Insert the cutting in the hole.
    • Gently firm the soil around the cutting.
    • It is a good idea to use bamboo stakes to keep the cutting from moving. The slightest movement for wind or animals could break the newly formed roots.
  • Watering you newly planted cutting
    • Water the pot or rooting tube well ONCE with a mix of Vitazyme and Carl Pool’s Root Activator and do not water again until you see 3 or 4 full leaves.
    • Add more soil if needed.
    • Check the cuttings every week.
    • If the cutting seems to get dehydrated or shows wrinkles, then you should lightly mist every day until the wrinkles are gone or at least minimized (NOT WATER)
    • Watering a rooting cutting to much will cause rot.
  • Place your potted cutting in a warm location and move to full sun after a week or so of exposing it to more sun each day.
  • When your cutting has 3 to 4 full sized leaves your cutting typically will have roots. The more the leaves the more roots.
    • Depending on your location and weather, cutting will form good roots in about 45 days.
    • The reds are usually harder to root.
  • Fertilizing by misting the new leaves is a good idea. Use 1/2 strength for first time and spray early or late in the day, but not in full sun.
  • Transplanting
    • Your cutting can stay in a 1 gal pot for many months. You can transplant to a larger pot when you see roots coming out of the pot.
    • If in a Rooting tube, you should transplant when you see 4-6 leaves to a pot.
    • Or you can transplant into the ground if you are in an area free of frost or freezes.

Tips

  • Cuttings should generally consist of the current or past season’s growth. Avoid taking green cuttings, they are harder to root and avoid material with flower buds if possible. Remove any flowers and flower buds when preparing cuttings so the cutting’s energy can be used in producing new roots rather than flowers. Take cuttings from healthy, disease-free plants, preferably from the upper part of the plant. Select cuttings from a healthy plumeria.
  • If your cutting looks wrinkled, soak overnight in warm water. Add a little SuperThrive (follow mix instructions) or Hydrogen Peroxide (use 1/2 cup to 1 gal).
  • If you cutting starts to get soft and turns black on the cut end, you should cut until you see all white.
  • If your cutting is already hard on the cut end, you do not need to recut. 
  • DO NOT use a bloom booster fertilizer (high center number), you want the cutting’s energy going towards creating roots, not to producing blooms.
  • Newly rooted cuttings should not be transplanted directly into the landscape. Instead, transplant them into containers. Growing them to a larger size before transplanting to a permanent location will increase the chances for survival.
  • Rooting time varies with the type of cutting (tip or mid cutting), the cultivar being rooted, and environmental conditions. Reds typically require more time than white or yellow plants. Early Spring to Mid Summer is a good time to root plumeria. Once rooted, they will have three or four normal sized leaves and may be transferred to a larger pot and fertilized. Winter is not a good time due to plumeria going dormant.
  • The rooting medium should be sterile, low in fertility, and well-drained to provide sufficient aeration. It should also retain enough moisture so that watering does not have to be done too frequently. Materials commonly used is a mixture of one part peat and one part perlite (by volume). Vermiculite by itself is not recommended, because it compacts and tends to hold too much moisture. Media should be watered while being used.
  • Place the cutting out of direct sun in a dry location. Allow the cut end of the cutting to dry until it is dry and firm. This takes 5 to 15 days depending on the weather. If the cut end becomes soft or rot starts, you will need to cut until all the dark coloration is gone. You can dip in a rooting hormone after a new cut is made. Before planting be sure the cutting is firm and looks healthy. If the cutting looks dehydrated or wrinkled you can soak for 4-6 hours in water. A bit of SuperThrive can be beneficial.
  • Treating cuttings with root-promoting compounds, (while the latex is still wet) can be a valuable tool in stimulating rooting of some plumeria that might otherwise be difficult to root. Prevent possible contamination of the entire supply of rooting hormone by putting some in a separate container before treating cuttings. Any material that remains after treatment should be discarded and not returned to the original container. Be sure to tap the cuttings to remove excess hormone when using a powder formulation.
  • While terminal parts of the stem are best, a long shoot can be divided into several cuttings. Depending on the Cultivar cuttings will generally range from 10 to 18 inches long. Use a sharp, thin-bladed pocket knife or sharp pruning shears. If necessary, dip the cutting tool in rubbing alcohol or a mixture of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water to prevent transmitting diseases from infected plant parts to healthy ones. 

Supplies You’ll Need

  • Clean and sharp shears or knife
  • Isopropyl Alcohol, for cleaning tools
  • Hydrogen Peroxide, Why Hydrogen Peroxide or SuperThrive
  • 1 gal or 2 gal nursery pots or Rooting Tubes
  • Rooting Hormone powder. I suggest Hormodin 2 Rooting Compound for wood and semi-woody plants
  • Potting soil
  • Coarse Perlite
  • Bamboo stakes
  • Vitazyme, Why Vitazyme?
  • Carl Pool’s Root Activator, Why Carl Pool’s Root Activator?
  • A good balanced slow release fertilizer to feed the roots. I suggest Excalibur 11-11-13, Why Excalibur 11-11-13?
  • A good balanced fertilizer for Foliar feeding. I suggest BioBlast 7-7-7, Why Bioblast 7-7-7?

Rooting Plumeria cuttings in water

Although people have been rooting plumeria in water with some success, this is not the best way to root your plumeria. The roots that form in water are not the same as roots that form in soil. They are fragile and brittle, adapted to growing in water as opposed to soil. Once you transfer a water-rooted plant to soil, many of these roots will break off immediately and the rest will shrivel and die up as they’re replaced by the more robust roots adapted to soil.

If you do water root, Just remember once a plant is in water, it will develop “water roots” and feed itself with water nutrients. When you put it in soil, (after all that is where they grow naturally) the first week, keep it in a cup, so the soil is really wet, puddle like, then gradually as the weeks go by, decrease the water and just let the soil be moist.

That way, it eventually will send out new soil roots, and can feed itself accordingly.

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A Guide to Grow Plumeria from Cuttings

Plumeria Care Regimen

I would like to share our vision of the best possible regiment, SO FAR, for our plumeria growing in South Florida. I hope the following helps you with your goals and plans for 2017.

The goal is to know what, when and why, so you can improve every year by giving your plumeria the best growing environment. Making a plan and documenting all adjustments will allow you to look back and hopefully determine where you can make improves.

Before the season starts we always examine what we did last year and try and determine how we can improve our methods and products. The following is an outline of what we’re planning for our 2017 Care Regiment at Florida Colors. Please keep in mind your growing environment and how it differs from South Florida Zone 10B. The start of your plan should correspond to when you are past the threat of a frost or freeze. You should also make a plan to protect you plumeria from cold weather, just in case you get caught.

About Plumeria

Plumeria / Frangipani

Nothing evokes that tropical feeling quite like the Plumeria. Their sweet scent and sheer beauty make them universally loved and the blooms look sensational on the tree and as a cut flower. Pick up some freshly fallen blooms and float them in a bath or bowl of water and it’s easy to feel you’re relaxing in a fabulous tropical day spa!

Most familiar in their white and yellow form, they also come in loads of tropical and sunset colors, becoming more colorful the closer to the equator you go. Plumeria are also tough plants that can survive neglect, heat and drought and still fill the garden with a wonderful perfume. What more could you ask for in a tree?

Description & Varieties

This section provides a description of the plants available, and details the varieties most commonly kept in the home garden.

  • Plumeria (/plˈmɛriə/; common name plumeria or frangipani) is a genus of flowering plants in the dogbane family, Apocynaceae. It contains primarily deciduous shrubs and small trees. The flowers are native to Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America as far south as Brazil but can be grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions.
  • Plumeria alba is a species of the genus Plumeria (Apocynaceae). This 2-8 m evergreen shrub has narrow elongated leaves, large and strongly perfumed white flowers with a yellow center. Native to Central America and the Caribbean, it is now common and naturalized in southern and southeastern Asia.
  • Plumeria clusioides is a species of the genus Plumeria in the family Apocynaceae. It is endemic to the Island of Cuba. Some authors consider P. clusioides to be the same species as P. obtusa, but we follow the lead of the World Checklist produced by Kew Royal Gardens in London in accepting it as a distinct species.
  • Plumeria obtusa, the Singapore graveyard flower, is a species of the genus Plumeria (Apocynaceae). It is native to the West Indies including Bahamas; southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Florida. but widely cultivated for its ornamental and fragrant flowers around the world, where suitably warm climate exists. It is reportedly naturalized in China.
  • Plumeria pudica is a species of the genus Plumeria (Apocynaceae), native to Panama, Colombia and Venezuela. This profuse bloomer has unusual spoon-shaped leaves, and its flowers are white with a yellow center.

    There is a variegated leaved Plumeria pudica commonly called Golden Arrow or Gilded Spoon, also a pink flowering hybrid produced in Thailand called Sri Supakorn or Pink pudica.

  • Plumeria rubra is a deciduous plant species belonging to the genus Plumeria. Originally native to Mexico, Central America, Colombia and Venezuela, it has been widely cultivated in subtropical and tropical climates worldwide and is a popular garden and park plant, as well as being used in temples and cemeteries. It grows as a spreading tree to 7–8 m (23–26 ft) high and wide, and is flushed with fragrant flowers of shades of pink, white and yellow over the summer and autumn. Its common names include frangipani, red paucipanred-jasminered frangipani, common frangipani, temple tree, or simply plumeria.

 

History, Facts & Legends

Did you know that plumeria will only burn in extreme heat (over 500 degrees)? In this section, learn a little about the history of plumeria and some little known facts. We also share some myths and legends about plumeria from around the world.

Plumeria / Frangipani Names

How did the plumeria get it’s name? And the frangipani? In this section, we give you the lowdown, not just on how they got their original names, but also what plumeria are called around the world.

Description

Plumeria are relatively small trees typically growing only to about 12-15 feet in height, but what they lack in height they make up in width often becoming as wide as they are tall. They have a well-behaved root system which makes them great for the home garden and for growing in pots. Plumeria are also great survivors coping with drought, heat, neglect and insect and pest attack. They are also deciduous allowing maximum winter sun while providing shade in summer.

With its gnarled branches, long leaves and distinctive flowers, the plumeria is easily one of the most common and identifiable trees. The bark is grey/green and scaly in appearance. The scaling is formed when leaves drop in winter leaving small semi-circular marks on the bark. The branches have a swollen appearance and the leaves, dark green on the top and a lighter shade of green underneath, cluster at the tips of branches.  A cut made on any part of the tree will exude a milky, sticky sap that is poisonous to both humans and animals.

Plumeria flowers appear in clusters, also at the end of the branches, and are distinctively scented. The petals are waxy with the center of the flower a different color to the rest. For example the most common plumeria has white flowers with a yellow center. There are many varieties ranging from deep crimson to orange , yellow and white (and every shade in between). Unlike some flowering trees which bloom for a few days or weeks, plumeria go on flowering. Flowers appear from May to October in the US and December to April in Australia, and even longer in warmer climates.

Varieties

Plumeria (common name Frangipani) is a small genus of 7-8 species native to tropical and subtropical Americas. The genus consists of mainly deciduous shrubs and trees. From Mexico and Central America, Plumeria has spread to all tropical areas of the world, especially Hawaii, where it grows so abundantly that many people think that it is indigenous there.

Plumeria is related to the Oleander (Nerium oleander) and both possess poisonous, milky sap, rather similar to that of Euphorbia. Each of the separate species of Plumeria bears differently shaped leaves and their form and growth habits are also distinct.

Plumeria Obtusa is a mainly evergreen tree (deciduous in dry seasons) with spreading branches and a rounded dome. Although its common name is “Singapore”, it is originally from Colombia. Height to 24′ and spread to 12′. Leaves are pointed and oval up to 18″ long. Tubular fragrant flowers occur in summer – autumn.

Plumeria Rubra (and variation Plumeria Acutifolia) also known as the Common Frangipani or Red Frangipani, is native to Mexico, Central America, and Venezuela. It is a deciduous, spreading, sparsely branched tree or shrub with a height to 15′ and spread to 12′ and more. Produces fragrant flowers with 5 spreading petals, ranging from yellow to pink depending on form or cultivar, in summer to autumn. Leaves are lance shaped to oval, and 9″ to 18″ long.

History

It is generally thought that plumeria are native to South & Central America although some reports claim they are native to the Caribbean and were taken to the Americas by Spanish priests.

According to Steven Prowse, of Sacred Garden Plumeria’s, frangipani arrived in Australia from South America via the Polynesian peoples who inter bred with the Melanesian peoples & established villages in the Melanesian region in what is now New Guinea. From there, frangipani came to Australia via 2 routes.

The first was via the Torres Strait Islands which are between Australia and New Guinea and are less than a day’s paddle in a dugout canoe from either. The Torres Strait Islanders traded & interbred with both the New Guinea & Australian aboriginal peoples and brought the frangipani to both the Torres Straits and Australia. The islanders consider the frangipani a sacred plant.

The second & most important wave of frangipani introduction into Australia happened in the late 1800’s through to the 1920’s through Polynesian missionaries and, later, slaves. The missions were established in remote northern tropical regions of Australia by the Polynesian-based church missions who brought with them Polynesian & Melanesian Christians, coconuts & frangipani. Most missions failed to survive long term in these disease, snake and crocodile-infested and cyclone-prone areas, and were abandoned. They eventually vanished into the tropical jungle with only the drought-hardy frangipani surviving. Most of the more beautiful varieties of frangipani found in Australia were brought directly from Polynesia & Melanesia by these missionaries.

Later, gold mining and a pioneering sugar cane industry was established in parts of the region and the land had to be cleared by hand. The work was too dangerous, hot & difficult for the European settlers, who turned to the enslavement of captured Polynesians as forced laborers to establish their sugar cane plantations.  In time laws were changed and the Polynesian slaves were set free.

Many stayed and others returned to their Polynesian homelands bringing back family members and many varieties of their sacred frangipani.

Today, frangipani are found in most parts of Australia as they will tolerate a wide range of conditions and are probably one of the easiest plants to grow from a cutting.

Little-Known Facts about the Plumeria

  • Many Hawaiian leis are made from Plumeria flowers.
  • The colorful caterpillar of Pseudosphinx tetrio feeds only on Plumeria rubra.
  • Cole Porter’s song “A Stroll on the Plaza Sant’ Ana” (from the musical Panama Hattie, 1940) mentions Plumeria.
  • Plumeria are good hosts for dendrobium orchids.
  • The plumeria is the national tree of Laos, where it is called dok jampa. It is regarded as a sacred tree in Laos and every Buddhist temple in that country has them planted in their courtyards. Many of the trees are hundreds of years old and are spectacular, huge, gnarled giants.
  • The plumeria is the flower of the city of Palermo in Sicily, Italy.
  • The plumeria is the national flower of Nicaragua and it features on some of their bank notes.
  • Plumeria won’t burn except in extreme (over 500 degrees) temperatures.
  • In Caribbean cultures the leaves are used as poultices (a healing wrap) for bruises and ulcers and the latex is used as a liniment for rheumatism.
  • According to Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (by Scott Cunningham; Llewellyn Publications, 1984) the plumeria (frangipani) is associated with the feminine, ruled by Venus, its element is water, its deity is Buddha, its power is love and its magical uses are in love spells.
  • The plumeria is also associated with love in feng shui.
  • In modern Polynesian culture, the plumeria can be worn by women to indicate their relationship status – over the right ear if seeking a relationship, and over the left if taken.
  • In India the plumeria is a symbol of immortality because of its ability to produce leaves and flowers even after it has been lifted out of the soil. It is often planted near temples and graveyards, where the fresh flowers fall daily upon the tombs.
  • In Vietnam the plumeria is used for its healing qualities: the bark, mashed in alcohol, prevents skin inflammation, it is also used to treat indigestion and high blood pressure, while the roots have purgative effects on animals and the milk-like sap serves as a balm for skin diseases. The white flowers are used in traditional medicine to cure high blood pressure, haemophilia, cough, dysentery and fever.

Plumeria Myths and Legends

  • There is a theory that Catholic missionary priests spread plumeria around the world as they traveled. This may explain why the plumeria is so popular and common in the Philippines and Thailand but very rare in China and Vietnam. Thailand and the Philippines welcomed the Christian missionaries while, in China and Vietnam, they were persecuted until around the 1850s.
  • Plumeria trees were once considered taboo in Thai homes because of superstitious associations with the plant’s Thai name, lantom, which is similar toratom, the Thai word for sorrow. As a result, plumeria were thought to bring unhappiness. Today, however, the blossoms are presented as fragrant offerings to Buddha and Thai people wear them on special festival days like Songkran (Thai New Year).
  • According to Vietnamese myth, ghosts live in trees with white and fragrant flowers including the plumeria. In Vietnam and China the color white is associated with death and funerals.
  • In Hindu culture, the flower means loyalty. Hindu women put a flower in their hair on their wedding days to show their loyalty to their husbands.
  • It’s believed the Aztecs used a decoration of plumeria flowers and other plant materials mixed with certain internal organs of predatory animals (with a reputation for cunning, strength and bravery) as a powerful potion against fear, lethargy and fainthearted.
  • “Warming” oils — such as those from Plumeria, sandalwood, lotus flower, frankincense, cinnamon and basil — are said to have a calming influence on those suffering from fear, anxiety, insomnia or tremors, according to the principles of Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old Indian holistic science that seeks to balance mind, body and spirit.
  • A popular legend among sailors shipping overseas from Hawaii during WWII was to toss a lei into the waters as the ship passed Diamond Head. If the lei floated ashore, the sailor would return. If it floated toward the ship, he wouldn’t be coming back.
  • In the language of flowers, Plumeria are said to stand for love long in absence, as for a sailor long at sea.
  • Plumeria are very rare in China, and even more precious than orchids. So, when a person gives plumeria flowers to a sweetheart, it is the closest thing to saying you’re special, I love you in a culture where expression of personal feelings is frowned upon.
  • According to Mexican (Lakandon) myth the gods were born from Plumeria flowers.
  • In Malay folklore the scent of the plumeria is associated with a vampire, the pontianak.

How the Plumeria and Frangipani Got Their Names

The name “Plumeria” is attributed to Charles Plumier, a 17th Century French botanist who described several tropical species, although according to author Peter Loewer, Plumier was not the first to describe Plumeria. That honor goes to Francisco de Mendoza, a Spanish priest who did so in 1522.

The name, frangipani, comes from the Italian nobleman, Marquis Frangipani, who created a perfume used to scent gloves in the 16th century. When the frangipani flower was discovered its natural perfume reminded people of the scented gloves, and so the flower was called frangipani. Another version has it that the name, frangipani, is from the French frangipanier which is a type of coagulated milk that Plumeria milk resembles.

Other Plants Which Go Under the Name Plumeria

The Climbing Frangipani or Frangipani Vine is not a Plumeria, but Chonemorpha Fragans (although it belongs to the same family, Apocynaceae).

The Australian Native Frangipani is not a Plumeria either. Hymenosporum Flavum belongs to the family Pittosporaceae.

Plumeria Names Around the World

The botanic name is Plumeria. Around the world the plumeria (frangipani) is called:

  • The Aztec word is Cocaloxochite.
  • Tipanier in Tahiti.
  • Dok jampa  or Dok champa in Laos
  • Pomelia and Frangipane in Italy
  • Couleuvre, or Snake Tree in St.Barths Bois
  • Kemboja kuning in Malaysia
  • Pansal Mal in Sri Lanka
  • Jepun in Bali, Indonesia
  • Flor de Mayo in Yucatan, Puebla, El Salvador
  • Flor de la Cruz in Guatemala
  • Pumeli or Melia in Hawaii
  • Amapola in Venezuela
  • Kang Nai Xin in China
  • Phool in India
  • Hoa Su (Southern ), Hoa Dai (Northern) and Hoa Su Ma (ghost Plumeria) in Vietnam
  • Kalachuchi in the Philippines
  • Flor de Cebo in the Canary Islands
  • Sacuanjoche in Nicaragua (the name is derived from the word “xacuan” from a native language called náhuatl and means “precious yellow feather or flower”.
  • Common names are Temple Tree or Pagoda Tree in India and the Far East, Graveyard Tree in the Caribbean Islands, Temple Flower in Sri Lanka, and May flower (for the time of flowering) in Nicaragua.

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