Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Plumeria Farming

Exotic plumeria flowers with their velvety texture and sweet fragrance are absolutely my favorite flower. About seventeen years ago I purchased a plumeria cutting at the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, Florida. I brought it home, laid it on my kitchen counter and promptly ignored it for months. Then one day it caught my eye and on closer inspection I noticed little leaves sprouting from the top! This is one hardy little plant I thought to myself. I read the piece of paper that had accompanied my purchase and followed the directions, which basically were to stick it in a pot of soil and water. My plumeria lived in that pot for a few years before I finally planted it in the yard. The plant was always pretty, but flowers were not to be found. At this time I was bouncing back and forth between California and Florida and in 1999 when we sold the beach house and moved inland, I dug up that little tree (with permission from the new owner) and moved it with me. When I moved here permanently in 2000, I planted my oft neglected plumeria in the ground once again and it has rewarded me ever since. My little tree now stands proudly at about 11-feet tall and every year blooms profusely.

Not only do I enjoy my beautiful plumeria tree, so do some of the local wildlife. We have hundreds of little lizards that live in our yard and they are very territorial. This is the lizard who has made the tree his home. I was excited when I opened the photo on my computer and saw his lady friend poking her head up from one of the leaves. I took this photo yesteday.

A couple of months ago I was out shooting in the yard and captured this ladybug feasting on a few aphids. The ladybugs help keep the aphid population in check.

When the weather cools the leaves of plumerias fall off and the plant goes dormant. This is what my tree looked like on March 25th of this year. The leaves are just starting to grow back and you can see two seed pods on the right.

Two years ago it developed a seed pod, which I pulled off the tree too early, spoiling the seeds. Last year four pods formed and I started researching how to properly grow plumerias from seed. The pods must mature on the plant for 8–9 months, so I patiently waited and kept a close eye. Last week I was again rewarded by my little tree when the pods had sufficiently dried and were starting to open. This begins my new project—plumeria farming!

I believe that most folks who raise plumerias call themselves growers, since members of my family have been farmers (or planters) in America since 1607, I've decided to go with plumeria farmer.

First things first, I harvested my seed pods and gently extracted the precious seeds.

Next I readied my peat pots by soaking them in water until they expanded to about an inch and a half tall. I carefully planted the seeds, leaving the papery wing above the soil line and gently pinching the soil against the seed. I'm keeping them very moist for the first two days, so that the seeds will plump and then I'll keep them just moist enough to sprout, but not so wet as to cause rot.

From what I've read, I can expect my seeds to spout in 3–14 days. Keep your fingers crossed with me. I'm planning to document the progress of my plumeria farm each Tuesday, so if they don't sprout I guess I have to find a new project.

I'm keeping The Farm outside in the sun, but bringing it in at night. This will accomplish two things — I won't forget to check the soil moisture each morning and evening and if one of our tropical storms comes through while I'm sleeping, the little farm will not be washed away.

Over all, it will take three to five years before my seedlings (hopefully) will start branching and blooming. After about three years they'll be 3-5 feet tall, so this is a long-term project. I planted about fifty seeds and will very happy if a dozen or so grow. Time will tell if I am as successful as my ancestors.

Just to show you how much passion I have for plumerias I thought I would share a photo with you. When I first started designing custom Keds, the very first pair came from a photo of a plumeria blossom I isolated in Photoshop and then repeated in a pattern. I used a yellow background to signify the sun. They are still my favorite pair and the second most popular in my store, the most popular are the flamingos. That's okay, flamingos are my favorite bird! The emblem here goes on the matching t-shirt — surrounded by beautiful plumeria flowers this traditional Hawaiian greeting translates as, "May there be friendship or love between us!" Pronounced: ah loh' hah KAH'oo (w)ah.

Since I don't expect much to happen over the next seven days, next Tuesday I'm going to do a post on how to make a Hawaiian lei with plumeria blossoms. Hope to see you then!

Update: Since this is the first posting of The Farm, I'm also going to use it for my Outdoor Wednesday post this week. If there is anyone out there in blogland who has experience growing plumerias from seed, please feel free to offer your advice. I'll be back next Wednesday with my normal OW post, I have pictures of a most unusual tree to share with you (I can feel the suspense mounting). Be sure to visit our hostess with the mostess, Susan at A Southern Daydreamer for more Outdoor Wednesday posts!

37 Thoughtful Comments:

Sierra said...

I love plumeria flowers and yours are just lovely! You are very talented lady. One day when I have a garden I will go back to this post and plant away! :)

CrazyCris said...

What an interesting project! As far as I know I've never seen plumerias. And the photos are gorgeous! The first one actually looks more like a painting the colours are so rich! :o)

Maya said...

The plumeria is gorgeous... and I love how you took your passion to the Keds!

Kat said...

One of my very favorite scents, and the flowers are just beautiful. Love your photos - the lizard and the ladybug are really nice shots. Can't wait to track your farm's progress. Kathy

Anonymous said...

How neat?! I can not believe the color of the trees. How va va voom!

I went to Hawaii once and there were so many little lizards climbing up and down the trees. It was funny because the ones going up stayed on the right side and the ones going down stayed on the left - just like a highway! However, one did sneek into my room and that was not pleasant.

Keds are such a classic. I used to have a white pair that my mom would put beads on the shoe strings for me. I thought I was so cool.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Rhonda, what a neat flower! I'm going to have to investigate and maybe get one for the yard. Thanks for the tip, and I hope your farm takes off like a rocket!

And girl, I just love those cute shoes! You are GOOD! These are adorable.

Happy Outdoor Wednesday on Tuesday...


Sheila :-)

Rose Marie Raccioppi said...

A post of such devoted delight!! I am now an ordained virtual gardener under your spell. Your spirited enthusiasm is indeed an intoxicating elixir!

Unknown said...

I love plumeria. Whenever I go on a walk, I'll pick a blossom and smell it the whole time I'm on my walk. It totally reminds me of Hawaii. They're beautiful and fragrant!

Blue Creek Home said...

Hi Rhonda from the other Rhonda!
You had a green thumb and didn't know it??? I can't believe it survived on your counter!
It is truly gorgeous. I can see why it's your favorite.

Shellbelle said...

Sierra, when you have your garden maybe one of my little seedlings will be big enough to send to you! Plumerias grow beautifully in California!

Cris, thanks. When I opened that photo in iPhoto it looked just like that, I didn't do a thing to it. I just love it when something comes out just the way I want it to. No plumerias in Spain? That is really sad, they are so exotic and make me dream of tropical islands.

Thanks Maya, you always inspire me.

Kathy, I'm so glad you dropped in to see my little farm and I hope I will have seedlings for you to see their progress. {{{fingers crossed}}}

Meg, we get them in the house several times a week, but ours are so tiny and cute. They are hard to catch though! I keep a large aquarium net handy, that works really well. Highway lizards — now that's funny!

Sheila, I'm hoping that ancient planter blood of our ancestors comes through for me! (For those who don't know, Sheila and I have discovered that my ancestors built their home on land owned by her ancestors in the early 1600s, amazing isn't it?)

Rose Marie, your words are always so heartfelt and just touch my soul. Thank you.

And thank you Janie, I believe this is your first visit to my blog and I can't wait to visit yours and read your OW post.

Thank you all for visiting my little farm. I'm hoping it grows and grows and that I will have many future posts on their progress.

Giovanna said...

Oh those are gorgeous pictures of plumeria. I always see a sign down one of our streets that says plumeria for sale and never knew what they looked like. I hope that your plumeria do well and grow for you, just keep channeling that ancestor planters vibe! : )

Unknown said...

I love Plumeria... I always drag one home from Hawaii when I go... but I am never successful here in AZ... its just too dry I think... anyway... good luck with your plumeria farm!
Have a great week.
~Really Rainey~

Becky K. said...

Awesome Post!
I love the scent of plumeria too.
It is unique.

Your tree is so pretty!

Have a great day!
Becky K.
Hospitality Lane

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful project. I just love plumerias, but have never had one. I just figured that they were difficult to grow. Obviously a light frost will not kill them and they will rebloom again. I see they belong to the apocynaceae family, the same as my allamanda and oleander. It will be great to follow along and see how they do. I just love those shoes Rhonda and your great photos.


Mary Beth said...

I love plumerias but have never grown them from seed. Someone once told me the seed cross-pollinates with other plumerias and I wouldn't know what color my new tree was until it actually bloomed. And growing from cuttings is SOOO easy (as your experienced proved) My favorite color is the white bloom with a creamy yellow throat.

Mary @Boogieboard Cottage said...

Hi Rhonda! Thank you for the nice compliments! Oops, sorry, I forgot about the sleeping seal, I'll try to keep it down, shh......I love your blog and I love plumeria trees, I didn't know that they made seed pods, very interesting, thanks for the tutorial, I love reading things like that. Are you going to start allowing following on your site? I'd like to follow your blog too. Mary @Boogieboard Cottage :O)

Claudia said...

I am always looking to find that unique flower that I could grow.

Do you know if they grown in the Utah desert climit? (I always laugh as i write that because while we are near a desert... we have tons of 4 seasons)

Lovely information and color.


TTFN~~Claudia ♥

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I've always admired photos of plumeria and envied those who could grow it. It does sound like an amazingly hearty plant. Good luck with 'The Farm'!

The shoes are fantastic!


LV said...

What a great post. You are so talented. I enjoyed visiting with you today.

Shellbelle said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by, I'm so glad to hear you all love plumerias!

Sue, plumerias are easy to grow, but in very cold climates they have to be stored in the garage during their dormant phase. My cousin in Neptune Beach, Florida forgot to bring hers in last winter when a freeze came through and lost hers. Here we seldom get below freezing long enough to damage mine, I mean its 17-years-old and except for the stint on my kitchen counter, it has always been outside.

Mary Beth, you're right, the seeds of plumerias are very different that the parent plant. To have a true match you have to use a cutting. I find that very interesting. I'm hoping to end up with all different colors. There are no other plumerias anywhere near mine, so this could be very interesting.

Mary, I do allow and encourage following on my blog. It's up near the top, not to far below my profile. BTW, plumerias have to be very happy to produce seed pods. I think mine was just happy to be off the counter, lol. Also, my 17 yo tree didn't produce seed pods until the last couple of years.

Claudia, I don't believe plumeria will grow in Utah, they are very tropical and love humidity. If I find any solutions I'll let you know.

Now I have to get a little work done, so that I can check out more OW posts!

Fifi Flowers said...

Beautiful Pumeria!!!

The Fajdich Times said...

I love your Plumerias. Wow....the pictures are great:)

Mary Bergfeld said...

What patience you exercised. The plumeria is gorgeous and I hope your farm comes to fruition. Your photos are lovely. We have always tried to bring something from the garden of an old house to that of the new one. We have a dwarf Japanese Maple that has moved with us for over 40 years.

Light and Voices said...

Your flowers appear to look like paintings. Nice job!
Joyce M

Sierra said...

Rhonda - thank you so much for your advice in regards to my Etsy shop! That was so incredibly kind of you and I really appreciate you! I will certainly look into zazzle (I do digital art as well) and try local shops. I had thought about that but need to get the courage to actually take my items to shops to see if they would like them there. ;) Thanks again and hope your zazzle is going well! I would love to see it if you have the link. Hope you are enjoying your day. :)

susan said...

I am unfamiliar with this plant, but they certainly sound hardy! Good luck with your project; they are beautiful and will be worth the effort!

Signing Out said...

I'm not familiar with plumeria. They sure are gorgeous! This is yet another reason why I want to retire in Florida. What a great project. I am glad you're going to blog on it.

Love the sneakers, btw.


annies home said...

very pretty flower and cute shoes

Mary @Boogieboard Cottage said...

Hi Rhonda, below your profile I see your list of different types of blogs and below that a pink button saying thanks for stopping by and below that it says "Follow me to the beach". My cursor won't allow my to click onto it and I also can't see any little square followers like you usually see on blogs, it's just blank. I should also mention that these types of things usually happen to me. I'm not sure if it's the complete lack of technical skills on my part or my blog or both. Sometomes when I view a blog, I can't see a picture which is supposed to be part of a post, as well. Oh well, I'm going to keep trying periodically anyway. :O)

Regina said...

Beautiful post and shots.

Sahildeki Ev said...

Such a nice plant. I havent seen one before..

Anonymous said...

Hi Rhonda! What beautiful photos, I love how you capture the closeups! That plumeria is breathtaking, the colours....btw, yesterday we had a major windstorm, I was down by the harbour and that tiki boat was flying around the waves!!! :)
I'll let you know when I'm back to blogging, thanks for your wonderful comments!!! xx

Rose Marie Raccioppi said...

Picturing you as the bloom of your garden - "The Lady in Red" - Draped in the flowing essence of the exotic plumeria, draped layers of plumeria chiffon lilting in the grasp of soft winds...

Anonymous said...

What is that Talmud saying, about every blade of grass has an angel that whispers to it to grow?

I wait in anticipation of your plumeria farm. If you tend to it with as much care as you do with me and others like me who follow your blog, I can't imagine your not having your Plumeria Garden of Eden. Have a wonderful weekend.

Shellbelle said...

Giovanna, I just cracked up when I read "channeling that ancestor planters vibe" — I am going to try my hardest to make them proud of me! My ultimate dream is to have a large enough farm in the next 8–10 years to turn it into a little side business. That would be a lovely way to retire.

Mary, thanks for acknowledging my patience, I know it's going to take a lot more! I love that you've moved your dwarf Japanese Maple for over 40 years and that I'm not the only one to form an emotional attachment to my plants.

Thanks Joyce M, I take 100s of pictures just looking for that perfect one and I was extremely pleased with the first one in this post.

Ocean Dreams, your homemade cards are so lovely, especially the mermaid one, and I hope your Etsy shop becomes a huge success! There is a link to my Zazzle store in my side panel (the one that shows three different products) and another at the bottom of my blog that shows different shoes. Thanks for asking, I would value your opinion. My screen name there is FloridaSiren.

Mary @Boogieboard Cottage, I noticed the same problem with the Followers widget after you commented on this, but it was working later in the day. Blogger does have its problems from time to time, so it's not just you.

Rain, I miss your face and faces! lol. Enjoy your break and will wait to hear from you when you're back to blogging, I am so happy you're still stopping by though!

Rose and Rainbow, what can I say — you both inspire and delight me all the time with your blogs. Rose, even your comments are poetic and I love you for it!

Unknown said...

You must already know how I lust over every single plumeria I see.I have a friend who has grown quite a few from seed.He swears by panty hose for collecting the seed.

Sandy Fish said...

Land sakes, this is an old post - but I could NOT help myself - I WANT those Keds!! I looked in your store, sadly I didn't see them :(
Oh, Plumerias; never grown one from seed but have been growing & collecting them for the better part of 20 years. I 'cheat' and buy the 'sticks' or start my own cuttings. RED is the color I've had the hardest time finding & growing. LOVE all of them :)

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