Q: I got a cutting of Bridal Bouquet Plumeria while in Key West last year. It is rooted in a pot, and the branch is about four feet tall. Should I cut it off at the top to make it branch out? The other cutting was planted in the ground, and it branched out this summer and is blooming. I need to keep the other one in a pot for a while. Can you tell me how to prune Bridal Bouquet Plumeria?
A: Pretty Plumeria pudica, also known as Bridal Bouquet or Bridal Veil Frangipani, is a small tree or large shrub. It is in the Apocynaceae family, and when Frangipani branches or leaves are cut or broken, they exude sticky milky sap. P. pudica has slender branches that are held upright. This small tree or large shrub tends to branch close to the ground giving the tree a vase or umbrella shape. Pruning can help shape and protect Bridal Bouquet Plumeria.
There are several reasons to prune a plant. The main reasons are maintaining or enhancing plant health, developing or maintaining a robust plant structure, increasing flower and fruit production, and managing plant size. All of these facts are true of Plumeria. However beneficial pruning can be, it still produces a wound on the plant. The best advice is to plan the pruning of young trees and shrubs and keep the cuts to a minimum.
Bridal Bouquet Plumeria is semi-deciduous or evergreen. It blooms during the warm weather and slowly tapers off in the dry, cool fall and winter. The best time to prune this plant is just before growth starts and the change of frosty weather is past.
Pruning cuts should be made at the nodes on the branches with sharp blades. If there are any damaged, diseased, or cross and rubbing branches, remove these first. The subsequent cuts, if needed, are made to control the size and direction of growth. The natural upright shape of P. pudica has less branching than the familiar Frangipani. Cutting the upright branches will cause other limbs to appear, but they will grow upright too.
I suspect Pat’s containerized cutting has yet to branch and bloom due to a reduced and restricted root system. Repotting the cutting into a larger pot will be beneficial to the plant. It will grow and eventually branch and flower on its own with enough root space. Also, it will be easier to maintain the plant in a large pot until the planting area is ready.
Pruning and propagation of Plumeria go hand-in-hand. Save any healthy branches cut. Let the cut ends harden and form a callus, dip them in rooting hormone, and plant them in sterile potting soil. Place the cuttings in the shade and keep the soil moist; roots will form on the branch.
This column first appeared in the Treasure Coast Newspapers.