Air Layering Plumeria

jodik_gwJuly 27, 2014

I'm asking this question here, because I know Laura checks in from time to time, and she's our resident Plumeria expert... and there are others here who might be able to help, as well... so here goes...

My Plumeria is in the middle of blooming... and it's gorgeous! Lovely white flowers with a very nice scent!

But it's too tall and lanky, and the lower part of the stem is thinner than the upper part. I think the only way to salvage it, so it doesn't break in a wind gust or something, is to air layer it.

It looks more like a palm tree than a Plumie right now! In fact, my granddaughter asked me this morning if it's the kind of tree that will grow coconuts! :-)

I rather understand the mechanics of the air layering process, but can I do it now, while the plant is in bloom? Or should I wait until the flowers are finished? And what are the chances for such a process to work, here in zone 5, and at this point in the season?

I could sure use a little advice... has anyone attempted this, and with a Plumeria? And in zone 5?

Any help would be greatly appreciated! It will be my very first attempt at an air layering project!

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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Wow Jodie, what a novel Idea! I cannot believe it will work, but will be listening in. Al

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 9:07AM
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Hi, Al!

A Google search gives me results that show it should work... but it seems most of the plants and their growers are in Florida, Hawaii, California, and other warmer states with better climates for this sort of thing...

We're pushing August, here... and I would like to ensure that there's enough time for decent roots to grow before autumn hits...

I'm just unsure about the timing. I don't know if I should wait until next spring to attempt an air layering, or if i can get away with it now. I'm not really sure I can nurse it through another winter with its stem such as it is... too tall and lanky, and too thin on the lower half. It's very obvious, looking at its stem, when it had the best care and light... and when such things couldn't be or weren't provided.

I love the plant, and I've put a lot of effort into growing it... and it was a gift from a good friend. I would like to keep it healthy and growing well, and I'd like to experience more blooms in the future!

Also, when I first learned of air layering, I saw it done to a Dracaena marginata... and the technique was a little different. The stem was cut about halfway through, and the tine of a plastic fork was inserted to keep the cut slightly open. It was dusted with rooting powder, packed with damp sphagnum moss, and wrapped in plastic wrap which was twistie tied at top and bottom of the plastic wrap. When roots showed through the moss, and were visible under the plastic wrap, the wrap was removed and the cut was completed... and the result was two rooted plants... the original bottom portion, which would eventually grow new leaves... and the top portion, which now had its own root system.

Examples of air layering Plumeria show using a vegetable peeler to remove the outer "bark", exposing the under-layer... and simply wrapping that in damp sphagnum moss and plastic wrap.

I'm a little unsure of timing, and of which technique sounds right... though I'm going to assume the peeler technique to be proper procedure for this type of plant.

Any advice or help would be most helpful!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 9:37AM
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Well, I went ahead and asked my questions over in the Plumeria forum, and by gosh, I don't know why I didn't think of the offered solution, which is so simple, myself!

Instead of risking rot and losing both top and bottom of my Plumeria through the process of air-layering, I'm going to cut off and root the top piece. The bottom piece can be re-potted and allowed to regrow... it should simply branch out and start growing like a regular Plumeria would.

Now my only dilemma is... do I abort the blooms already in session and do this now? Or do I wait until next spring, which is a much better time for rooting and new growth?

I'm leaning toward nursing it carefully through the winter, and performing "surgery" in spring.

I do think I will photograph the process, though, so I have a record to show anyone else who might be interested in doing the same thing.

And so... panic averted! Now, all I have to do is keep the tall, lanky thing in one piece until early next spring! A small house, 2 kids, 2 dogs and a cat... not to mention 4 adults and poor lighting situations... what could go wrong? ;-)

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 5:40PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I have the same situation and will wait until after the dormant season. Can the excess trunk be cut into lengths and rooted? Al

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 10:31AM
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I would think so... under the right conditions, pieces should root... though I'm not sure if they need a growing tip to start with, like a regular cutting you'd take... or whether you could just cut sections with both ends having a cut?

I'm gonna cut mine just about in half, and let the bottom piece already rooted in the pot regrow, while I'm trying to root the top half. I only have about 2 and half feet, or thereabouts, of actual stem from top to soil level... but the top portion of the stem is thicker and healthier, and more top heavy than the bottom portion, so... my actual dilemma is the skinnier lower stem being too weak to continue holding up the top part with all the leaves.

Laura would know more about the subject than I, for sure...

I usually hear that you need about 8-12 inches of stem as a cutting, but who knows? Smaller pieces with both ends cut might root... the only way to find out is to try it! I also hear they need to callous for a week before rooting, kinda like cacti... and I've had good luck using bottom heat for rooting, while keeping the cutting in a humid "greenhouse" type of environment... like covered with a baggie.

I'm surely not a Plumeria expert! This will be my first attempt at "major surgery" on one! :-)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 9:25AM
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Jodi : Good luck with this. I'm sure Laura will add her comments and suggestions when she sees this thread.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 1:19PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi jodi !!

You could air layer. Most plumeria people don't.. We graft or recut to reroot..

There are several methods that you could do with your tall lanky tree!! Some of them get that way, but that isn't a bad thing.. It just got to top heavy. Some think its unsightly as well..

You could cut the top off and leave about twelve inches and rerooting. ( cut off leaves. ) leave inch on stems. They will fall of naturally. Then you could take a mid cut section. , or just cut it down to a nice size trees to start to re branch. ( I would leave about twelve inches and the seal the section that has the rootball. ( seal the top cut. Waterproof would glue) After it stop bleeding latex . It you root. Let the natural cutting that is oozing it seal in the home for 7-14 days. ( Dont use waterproof wood glue on bottom .....Callus It will be ready then to pot up in dry soil and get initial watering. Warm bottom heat is the best... Then leave it alone for 6-8 weeks. Mist if you think it is getting dehydrated.
Mid cuts. Make sure the lead node are smiling at you so you know which end is up!! ;-)

If it was my tree. I wouldn't do anything just yet. You have waited for this one to bloom. I would stake it so it can have some stability and be able to enjoy your precious bloom!! It take so long to bloom, why take the chance on cutting now and it aborting the inflo ?

Stake with strong tomato stakes inside the containers. Or rebar... Tie them off so it doesn't move.. Enjoy it for the summer. Then this spring and after it blooms , it will branch out from the inflo. So you will have a better tip to root or graft.

I like the idea of grafting the top of the tree ( cut the middle out ) and graft to the bottom twelve or eight inches. Slant cut or v cut.. Then you could root the mid section.. If the graft doesn't work, you could always recut , callas and root ... Win win...

Enjoy the inflo.. You earned it!!! ;-). Stake so its not top heavy. It's easy. You could use rebar if needed. It comes in sections at lowes. I use four foot sections to help mine...

Then figure out what you would like to do.. It will go dormant. They it will wake up and the energy will be a good time to figure out what you want to do. The beginning of the summer will be the best time. Bottom heat...

Hope this helps. Lol. I know you posted at the plumeria forum, but I couldn't leave along message then...

Hope you understand where I'm coming from?

Enjoy.. Plant time.. Lol. It can be done next season.. Enjoy your blooms. You deserve to enjoy these beauties!! Just my opinion!!!

Take good care!!!!


    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 4:53AM
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You're a wealth of information, Laura, thank you! :-)

I've decided to leave it be until next spring. I'm enjoying the flowers so much, and I would hate to miss that! They're so pretty, and carry a heady fragrance... rather like a flowery perfume that I couldn't really describe, but I like it!

I've got it staked and tied as well as I can. I owe that to my dear, sweet husband... who took the time to stake it better for me, and then protect it for its 3 hour trip from where it began rooting as a young cutting, to where it will live for the next few years, here with me... with us. He did such a good job, and my daughter helped him. It was her car it rode in, as he hitched a ride with her coming north for a visit, and to drop off more of our belongings.

Part of the problem is that it's in a plastic pot that's a size or two too small, and too light to support its top growth, which is thicker and healthier than its bottom stem portion... so I'll fix that, as well, come spring, with a re-potting into a larger, heavier pot.

A piece removal and a graft sound interesting, but as I'm not experienced, I think I'll stick with the tried and true... with what I know... and that will be cutting and rooting the top portion, and sealing the potted rootball part so it can regrow some branches. That will leave one middle piece that I'll try to root, as well. I'll be sure to keep it right end up! I'll mark it with a sharpie... an arrow pointing "this way up"!

Thanks, Laura, and everyone else who offered advice! I appreciate it! The last thing I want to do is kill off a plant that I like so much, and that I consider a gift from a very nice friend... again, thanks, Laura!

The blooms were truly worth the wait! I've got some pictures on my camera, and am now, that I know I can get them off and uploaded, slightly procrastinating... but I will get them up so you can see them... soon!

Have a wonderful day, everyone!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 7:13AM
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I knew Laura would reply when she had time. Looks like she gave you lots of good info! I think you are right, Laura is the expert on them.

I've never grown plumeria so I know nothing about it, but as long as you received the info you needed then your decision to wait was a good one.


    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 6:40PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Jodi !!,

You are so sweet.. I am Glad you are happy and feel good about your decision.. You could also take some of the leaves from the bottom off to alleviate the weight as well.. It won't hurt it if you have a lot of leaves on your tree. Don't take more than half off though... If you do cut some leaves, cut and leave an inch from the leaf to where it reaches the main stem. It will naturally fall off like they do in the winter.

Next season. We can see what will be the best way for you!

Lol.. As far as expert, I don't think so. I just love these babies!!!

You know I will help you with anything I can!! So glad to help!! ;-)

TYG... I do work a lot and I don't get here as much as I like.. I did see Jodi' s post of the Plumeria forum and offered her " a quick version as above". But I did have time last night!! Don't look at the time stamp!! I got home late... Lol

You guys are so nice. . I. Never think of myself as an expert, but I do love Plumeria ... ;-). Thank you for the nice comments.. Much appreciated!!!

Always glad to help!!

Ohhhh. Sheesh. I almost forgot. Jodi, here is a pic of a natural " air layering compliments of Mother Nature". This is a great example of a tree that had severe sunburn on the stem that looked great in the container. I noticed this strange rooting at the base of the tree and realized that it was fixing itself. So it was really " air layering itself". I repotted this tree later in the season and it had fixed itself by rooting at the thin area caused by the sunburn. It wanted to continue to thrive. If I didn't look at it as close as I do with all of my trees, I would have missed this. From the top of the tree.. The foliage didn't look like it had any problems.. Mother Nature works wonders...

I hope you like this pic.. Air layering can be done, but its easier to me and others to graft or reroot the top.. But, you can take some of the weight off the top by removing some of the leaves.. I'd wait until the inflo has finished and I would leave the inflo in case you get lucky and have a seed pod form!!!

I was asked by the Plumeria Society of America if they could use this pic for reference in their newsletter... I said of course!!! It's a great example of how they work hard to stay alive.

Take care,


    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 11:45PM
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Oh, wow! Will you look at that?! It IS fixing itself! Mother Nature is truly amazing... thanks for sharing that, Laura!

Yes... I feel very good about waiting until spring to do anything, and taking the safer route in the pruning and sealing and rooting.

Since the thing resembles a small palm tree right now, with its top mop of leaves and tall, lanky bare stem... I hesitate to remove any leaves. I know it will lose quite a few over winter, as it comes inside into dimmer light... but they grow readily enough as the days lengthen in spring.

As you can see in this first photo, all the way toward the right, hiding behind an Amaryllis for support, the Plumie is quite tall and top heavy...

And another...

And the gorgeous blooms!

I finally figured out how to get those photos off my camera and uploaded! I'm kinda proud of myself... I didn't even have to ask the husband to help! ;-)

Happy Gardening!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 8:31AM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Wow!! Jodi!!

Love those blooms!! I know you are a happy camper!! To move all of the plants and to have this bloom? You did an awesome job!! It is looking so healthy. Nice looking inflo on your beautiful tree!! I bet it smells wonderful!

My brain can't remember what variety I sent to you? ;-). It is a beauty!!!

Keep up the great work!!

Isn't that picture Interesting, Mother Nature does some amazing things.. Love to see the natural air layer.. I ended up adding more mix to cover those roots and letting it take off, then I repotted and root pruned the following year!!

Great job on up loading those pictures!! Lol. I know it takes time, beleive me!! ;-)

I am so happy for you!! You have been patiently waiting and you do deserve these beauties!!!

Have a wonderful weekend!!!


    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 11:31AM
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I'm sorry, Laura, I can't remember the variety name, either. The tag got lost along the way, but I'm okay with it as it is... it's gorgeous!

You had originally sent me two cuttings, and if I recall, you said one was a white and the other a... pink or yellow? Well, anyway, this is the only one that survived and rooted for me... and I'm thrilled to pieces with it!

The scent is mild but very beautiful... it carries lightly on the breeze, making the whole back deck area smell nice!

I think it would already be a more compact tree if I had had better environmental circumstances to work with, but on the other hand, I'm glad I was able to bring it to bloom!

It's an amazing plant... resting in winter, and growing so well in nice weather! Thank you for it, Laura! :-)

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 4:16AM
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