Plumeria (frangipani) is a tropical plant that loves water and is loved for its beautiful, fragrant flowers.
A common problem with caring for plumeria is giving it too much water. It can be disheartening to have droopy, discolored, and dying plumeria.
Wilting, bottom-up leaf yellowing and soil mold growth are all signs of overwatering. To save an overwatered plumeria, here are the steps:
- Stop watering right away and improve drainage.
- Identify root rot and treat it right away.
- Use a new well-draining mix and pot to repot your plant.
- Bring down the humidity and improve the temperature and the flow of air.
Allowing the soil to dry out before thoroughly watering is one prevention method. Reduce watering frequency to once every 2-3 weeks during dormancy.
Dangers of Overwatering Your Plumeria
Your plumeria enjoys moisture, but water it sparingly during the growing season.
It is best to keep the soil slightly dry during the winter months, when it enters dormancy, to keep it from drying out.
If you overwater as usual out of season, overwatering can hurt your plumeria.
The same can happen if your garden plumeria shrubs get flooded by heavy rains.
Overwatering can kill your plumeria, especially when it is combined with low light, poor ventilation, and inadequate drainage.
If you overwater, the soil becomes soggy. Because of this, your plant is in an overly wet environment.
The soil can’t get enough air when it’s too wet, so it becomes anaerobic.
Plumeria roots can’t get oxygen in anaerobic soil, making them vulnerable to bacteria and fungi that cause rot.
Also, if the roots stay in “wet feet” for a long time, they will die back and break down, and the plant won’t be able to get the nutrients and water it needs.
Signs of Overwatered Plumeria
Plumeria Leaves Turning Yellow
Overwatering weakens the plant’s root system, preventing it from absorbing and transporting vital nutrients and water. That causes a nutrient imbalance or deficiency.
The yellowing of your plumeria’s leaves is a telltale sign that it is deficient in nitrogen, an essential nutrient.
Edema from overwatering can damage leaf tissue. It is characterized by damaged leaf cells and tissue.
As a result, leaves cannot absorb enough light to perform photosynthesis effectively.
In addition, extensive leaf damage can result in the degradation of the green pigment chlorophyll.
Because of this, the leaves will lose their green color and may look pale, spotted, or yellowed.
When a plant gets too much water, the leaves will turn yellow from the bottom up. So old and lower leaves might be the first to go.
Overwatered plumeria roots are unable to absorb water and nutrients normally.
Therefore, although your plant may appear lush and shiny in the early stages of overwatering, things will quickly deteriorate if no immediate action is taken.
When the roots are damaged, your plant becomes dehydrated and emaciated due to a lack of water and nutrients.
As a result, your plant will appear limp, floppy, and wilting despite your best efforts to water it.
The wilting leaves will eventually fall off your plant if the issue continues.
Stem Will Rot from the Bottom Up
The rot disease doesn’t just affect plants in the ground. The fungal infection will spread to the stems and lower foliage once the roots have decomposed towards the base of the plant.
So, if the stem of your plumeria is soft or mushy and rotting from the ground up, you might be looking at the worst-case scenario: severe root rot below the soil line.
Rot in the plumeria stems can also be caused by fungus and red spider mites feeding on the cellulose in the plant’s leaves.
Branches develop hollow feeding points that attract fungi. Fungal disease can thrive in a tree’s cavities if it is over-watered.
Brown Spots on Foliage
Overwatering is a common cause of brown spots on the leaves. They usually begin as small, water-soaked lesions, but as they progress, they become more prominent and darker.
First, the brown spots appear on the lower leaves closer to the soil. They could be ringed in yellow.
Leaves turning brown or having brown spots, like yellowing leaves, indicate root rot in the soil.
Don’t put your faith in re-greening leaves sprayed with brown spots. It would be best to cut them off as you treat your plant.
Plumeria Soft Leaves
Overwatering plumeria damages the roots, making them unable to draw water from the growing medium.
As a result, your plant will not be able to hydrate itself, no matter how much water you apply.
Because of this, leaf tissue and cells lose their turgor pressure. This makes the foliage appear and feel limp and soft to the touch.
Mold spores are often all over dead plants on top of the soil and in the soil itself. In dry conditions, they’re usually inactive and harmless.
However, overwatering makes the soil too wet for spores to thrive.
If it rains for a long time, the blooms will spread quickly, and moldy growth may occur on top of the soil.
In addition, mildew, algae, and other fungal growths thrive in damp soil.
All these moldy growths appear as a fuzzy white or gray cover on the growing medium’s surface.
Mold spores are usually all over dead plants on top of the soil and in the soil itself.
In dry conditions, they’re generally harmless and inactive.
However, excessively moist soil created by overwatering provides the ideal environment for spores to bloom.
If it rains for a long time, the blooms will spread quickly, and moldy growth may occur on top of the soil.
On the other hand, this moist soil environment is ideal for mildew, algae, and various other fungal growths.
All these moldy growths look like a fuzzy white or gray covering on the growing medium’s surface.
- Mild case – Only a small number of roots are hurt, and the rest of the root system is fine. If you stop watering immediately and allow the roots to dry out, your plumeria may be able to fight off the fungal disease.
- Severe case – Most roots are dead or dying, and only a few are still healthy. Despite its poor condition, your plumeria may be salvageable. Repotting will be required to save your plumeria from destruction.
- Unsalvageable cases – The entire root ball has become mushy. There are no health roots in sight. Your plumeria is essentially dead. Consider throwing it away and starting over with propagation.
Saving Overwatered Plumeria Plant
(1) Assess the Severity of Overwatering Damage
In most cases, your plumeria should be able to recover from overwatering and return to total health.
However, the ability to fully recover depends on the damage amount.
The sooner you catch your overwatered plumeria, the better your chances of saving it.
If the growing medium had been damp for an extended period, your plant might have suffered.
As a result, it may take your plant longer to regrow and recover if you remove so much of the affected material.
(2) Change to a Fast-Draining Soil after Drying Out the Plant
If the overwatering damage is minor, there is no need to take drastic measures that could endanger the root system.
For example, if only a few roots are affected, you don’t need to disturb the rootball.
Instead, stop watering immediately and move your plant to a warm, sunny location.
Allow plenty of air circulation to help your plant dry out faster.
You can also take it out of the pot and air-dry the root ball on a bed of newspapers or paper towels.
Check the drainage status of the pot to see if it contributed to the overwatering issue.
Make sure the bottom has enough drainage holes. I recommend replacing a clay or terracotta pot with any glazed or plastic container.
Overwatering can have a negative impact on drainage quality and soil integrity.
You should use a batch of the fast-draining sterile potting mix instead (Amazon link). Plumeria thrives in rich, well-drained loam soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH.
Avoid clayey soil with high organic content. To improve the drainage factor of the potting mix, add some coarse sand, pumice, or vermiculite.
Coco-noir, peat moss, and orchid bark can also be used. In general, I discourage my garden friends from reusing old soil.
(3) Prune Away Affected by Plant Matter
Take advantage of this window of time to tidy up your plumeria.
Because you’re dealing with overwatering, you should inspect the root system thoroughly.
You should remove all dead or diseased roots with a sterile tool such as scissors, pruner, or needle-nose shears (Amazon link). No mushy or spongy roots should remain.
Only roots that are white and firm should remain. Those are in good health and will probably aid in the speedy recovery of your plumeria.
A dark brown or black color on the roots is a sign of rot disease, so cut them off.
Don’t just clean up the roots. You also need to get rid of:
- Dead or dying leaves
- Affected stems
- Dead branches/twigs
- Spent flowers
(4) Treat the Roots with a Fungicide
Pruning away affected roots might not get rid of the pathogens completely. Instead, you should treat the remaining roots with a fungicide spray, dip, or drench.
This should kill off any remaining pathogens and minimize the re-occurrence of the infection.
A disease-free plumeria is likely to recover fast from the overwatering damage.
I usually treat mild cases using powdered cinnamon or activated charcoal. You can also douse the roots with hydrogen peroxide.
Activated charcoal, cinnamon, and hydrogen peroxide boast remarkable antifungal properties.
I’ve also found cinnamon to be an excellent rooting stimulant.
For severe cases of root rot, you might not want to pin your hopes on these homemade remedies.
Instead, I recommend reaching out for a non-toxic copper-based fungicide (Amazon link). Then, apply the fungicide treatment as recommended on the label.
(5) Select the Right Pot to Repot the Plumeria
You should get rid of both the old soil and the pot. They may harbor pathogens that could infect your plumeria again. When selecting a pot for your plumeria:
- Make sure it has enough drainage holes.
- It is made of a porous material, such as terracotta or clay.
- It must not be glazed.
- It should leave at least an inch space between the root ball and the container walls.
- It should include a cachepot or drip tray.
(6) Repotting Your Plant
Now, you can repot your plumeria:
- Fill the pot halfway with new soil. You can add some hydrogen peroxide to make up about 1% of the total volume.
- Check to see if the soil is crumbling out of the drainage holes.
- Place your plumeria in the center of the pot.
- Fill the pot with more soil around the plant.
- Press the soil down slightly to ensure that your plant is properly planted.
(7) Position Your Plumeria Properly
If your plumeria is not well-placed, it is more likely to suffer from repotting shock. To help your plant dry out, I recommend moving it to a shady but not dark location.
This location will allow the roots and soil to dry out without being exposed to the harsh effects of direct sunlight.
The anti-shock procedure may take several days. The plant’s size will determine the precise time frame, the amount of damage sustained, and its resilience.
Wait until the top 2-3 inches of topsoil has dried before watering again.
You must learn from your mistakes in this situation. A good location should eventually receive at least six hours of bright, indirect light.
Other important considerations include air circulation and temperature. Plumeria prefers warm weather that does not fall below 50°F (10°C) at night.
(8) Adjust the Watering Schedule
Changing the watering schedule is an excellent way to help your overwatered plumeria recover.
It also helps prevent future watering errors, which can lead to overwatering or root rot.
Plumeria plants require that the soil dry completely between waterings.
Therefore, during the growing season, your plant should use about an inch of water every week, depending on its size.
The following watering should dry out at least two to three inches of the top layer of soil.
A good watering schedule is once every 7-10 days. However, you should check the soil moisture with your finger every two to three days.
When your plumeria goes dormant in the winter, cut back on watering to every 2-3 weeks. Remember that this tropical plant is highly drought tolerant.
How Often Do You Water A Plumeria?
Water a plumeria once a week or so during the spring and summer. That is when your plant is at its fastest growth.
As a general rule, make sure the soil dries out between waterings.
During the winter, reduce the watering frequency to once every two to three weeks or longer, depending on size, light conditions, and temperature.
How to Water Plumeria in Containers
The soak-and-dry method is the best way to water plumeria plants in containers. This is how it works:
- Use a suitable watering can that has been thoroughly cleaned.
- Clean, distilled, or filtered water should be used.
- Fill the container halfway with water.
- Pour until liquid comes out of the drainage holes at the bottom.
- As needed, empty the cachepot.
How to Water Plumeria Indoors
Deep-soaking is the best method for watering plumeria houseplants. Here’s how it works
- Fill a sink or bathtub with three inches of water and place your plumeria in it (You can increase the depth of the water, depending on the size of the pot).
- Use filtered water, distilled water, or rainwater.
- Allow the container to absorb moisture from the bottom by removing the saucer/drip trap.
- To expedite the soaking process, pour water from the top around the container’s perimeter.
- When the sink or bathtub has reached saturation, drain it.
- Allow ten to fifteen minutes for the pot to drain completely.
- Replace your plant in the saucer. Make sure to empty the drip tray regularly.
How to Water Plumeria Grown Outdoors
Watering outdoor plumeria plants is not always necessary. This is especially true if you live in an area with cool winters and rainy summers.
Remove any weeds from the plant’s base to help keep up with its water requirements.
To prevent localized over-humid environments around your plant, leave at least a foot of space between it and other plants.
In the fall, summer, and spring, this can help prevent fungal diseases and overwatering.
When to Stop Watering Plumeria
Watering an outdoor plumeria should be discontinued in the fall, just before the cooler or colder winter season.
Likewise, stop watering potted plants when water comes out of the bottom drainage holes.
Should You Water Plumeria in Winter?
It would be beneficial if you reduced irrigation drastically during the winter.
Wait until the soil has completely dried out before adding more water. This should happen at least once every two to three weeks.