Good Advice For Plumie Buyers

Ventura, United States(Zone 10b)

Hey, All. Some problems have come up recently, and I fear that the problem encounters are only going to get worse when spring and summer are here and when buying season is in full swing. There are many plumeria sellers now getting into the business of selling plumerias since they are a hot item and fetch a big price. It is easy to spend several hundred dollars just acquiring a few. So I thought it would be a good idea to provide some tips and address some problems when buying. These are just my personal views so feel free to express your own views and address anything that I left out.

1. Only buy from sellers who have established reputations: There are several good sellers out there and many not-so-good ones so ask around to the people who buy plumerias regularly, and they will give you recommendations. I highly recommend checking Garden Watchdog also before buying.

2. If taking a chance on an unknown seller, be sure that only a few bucks are at stake: I have, on occasion, bought plumeria cuttings on eBay when they were too cheap to pass up. I've had both happy results and disastrous results doing this. I got some really nice ones from Hawaii that were unnamed but beautiful. I also got ones from the Florida Keys that had a beetle in the box and contained the borer beetle larvae, which can ruin a plumeria collection. Be sure to check feedback when buying on ebay, but bear in mind that the feedback system doesn't often tell the whole story. Since it can take a while for plumerias to bloom after purchasing a cutting, it is not possible to know right away if you got what you paid for. There have been many stories of people receiving a white when they paid for a red. The saying 'Buyer beware' definitely applies when purchasing on eBay.

3. Beware of sellers who use other people's pictures to sell their products: This is a big problem lately with new businesses using other people's pictures to sell their products. A seller should show you a picture of what your exact plant looks like when it blooms. Reputable sellers should not use other people's pictures to sell their products unless they have the permission of the picture owner and make clear to you that credit belongs to someone else for the picture. Most reputable sellers wait to see a plant bloom before they sell it just to make sure that it is what it is supposed to be. This is a way that they safeguard their reputation. Be extremely wary of sellers that copy pictures from PlantFiles, photo galleries, plumeria forums, and various web sites to use for selling purposes. Unscrupulous sellers will use other people's pictures for selling purposes without letting you know that the pictures were not taken by them.

4. Familiarize yourself with the color, fragrance, and growth habit before you buy: Some growers have purchased a flower based on a picture and have been disappointed with a lack of fragrance, with variations in color, or with growth habit. Plumerias can be short, medium, or tall growers so be sure to find out that particular characteristic before buying. Florida Colors lists that characteristic right on their price sheet. Also check out the FAQ's threads on fragrance, remembering that fragrance is often subjective. If fragrance is important to you, seek out opinions on the best fragrances and search the plumie forum for past threads on fragrance. Color can vary slightly or greatly due to amount of heat exposure. Indoor blooms will be very light compared to outdoor blooms. The same is true of spring blooms compared to summer blooms. Remember that the color red, in particular, will be brought out by more heat, and colors will be more vibrant with intense heat. Keep this in mind when you see yours bloom for the first time if it blooms in cool conditions.

5. Know that named plumerias will be more expensive but not necessarily more desirable: I have several unknowns which are outstanding in color, fragrance, and blooming habit while I have several named ones which are unimpressive, and the reverse is true. The named, registered ones do tend to cost more -- sometimes a lot more. Some of my favorite plumerias were gifts so don't think that you have to spend a lot of money to enjoy a wonderful flower with an awesome fragrance. It's true that some named ones are so unique that you won't find an unnamed one like it. In that case, if you want that particular flower, be prepared to pay more for it and be sure to purchase it from a reputable seller.

6. Don't expect to bring home a plumeria from Hawaii and find a name for it: There is a thread about identification already in the FAQ's, but briefly, there are thousands upon thousands of unnamed hybrids in the world and only a few hundred named and/or registered ones so the chance that your mystery plumeria is a named/registered one is very slim. Trying to identify a plumeria from a picture is not a good way to identify a plumeria due to variations in lighting, growing environment, and differing conditions. Occasionally, a plumie grower/collector will lose a tag from a plumeria and need help in figuring out which named one has bloomed, but this too can be difficult. Any plumeria that is unnamed should remain unnamed for future selling and trading purposes.

7. Know that mistakes happen: Even the best sellers can make mistakes. I've purchased named cultivars that have turned out to be something completely different, and this has happened more than once. This will only happen very rarely with reputable sellers. When it does happen, the seller should replace the incorrect one at his/her own expense or provide a refund. The reputable sellers do this readily and without question. This can happen especially with imported plumerias. Be sure to ask if the seller has seen your plant bloom before you buy it or request a plant that has bloomed at least once while the seller has had it. Beware of sellers that sell plants that they have never seen bloom.

8. Familiarize yourself about viruses and diseases: Several growers have placed orders from Thailand and other countries only to have the Agricultural inspectors destroy their plumeria cuttings when they reached the inspection station. One grower's grafted plumeria was destroyed because it was three feet in length. According to the import permit, a grafted plant cannot exceed 18 inches. The other growers' cuttings were destroyed because of Phomopsis sp. and Mycosphaerella.

9. Be prepared to lose some cuttings: Some cuttings refuse to root even if you do everything right. This is probably due to the health of the cutting. Health and freshness of the cutting are important factors when rooting or grafting a cutting. Cuttings can become desiccated in intense heat, and sometimes, traveling in a dark box for many days will stress a cutting to the point where it won't root. Even the best rooters lose some cuttings sometimes. If you want to avoid the stress of getting a cutting to root, buy a rooted or grafted plant. Rooting a plumeria cutting can take a full 90 days so buying a rooted or grafted one can save you three months of time. Some sellers, like HawaiiSandy, only sell cuttings so, if you are not skilled at grafting yourself, then send your cuttings to Luc at Florida Colors to graft for you. Luc charges around $4 per graft, and you pay shipping to and from the Florida Colors business.

10. Expect to pay less for center cuts: A center cut is the middle part of the branch with no tip. These center cuts take a bit longer to root because they have to grow new branches from the side nodes below the cut. These generally won't flower the first year while rooting and growing new branches. Center cuts are generally considered to be not very attractive and tend to make lopsided trees, but once new branches have grown out, those branches can be cut and rooted to form straight trees. I find it is best to buy a cutting with a growing tip as opposed to one without a tip.

This message was edited Jan 12, 2008 5:49 PM

Davie, FL(Zone 10b)

Wow Clare this must have took a long time to write :)
Very good info and layout is perfect..
This should help many for sure..

West Orange, NJ(Zone 6a)

May I add that so many DG members have been generous about supplying cuttings in plant trades? Offering to trade stuff in return for plumie cuttings from our own in-house experts is another way to obtain nice plumie cuttings.

Ventura, United States(Zone 10b)

Thanks, Robert! I hope so;-)

That is so true, Beverly. Thanks for adding that. I've gotten some wonderful cuttings from members here in the form of gifts and trades.

Mulberry, FL

Clare thanks so much for the important info I live in central fl and have bought alot from ebay . Lots of cuttings and whole lot of seeds. Proably 75% of the cuttings have made it and the seeds do well but you have me worried now about the beatlesworms. I have all these in a green house it gets pretty cold here from time to time. So I run a heater in the very cold nights and keep grow lights on. Is there any way to detect these critters before its too late? Out of all the seeds that came up one has the very dark red leaves. It seems you can guess what color the plant is going to be from the new growth and on the edges of the leaves. If you could tell me what to look for would be very thankful thanks again Dana

Ventura, United States(Zone 10b)

Hi Dana and welcome to Dave's Garden and to the Plumeria Forum!

Check out this thread for more information about the borer beetle: Chances are that infested cuttings wouldn't root for you and would rot instead so you probably don't have them. You can look for obvious holes on the cuttings where the beetle has tunneled in. Follow that link for more info and pics.

Your plumie seedling with dark leaves will probably be a red or a pink. Unfortunately, the leaves aren't a good indicator of the color of the flower.

Mulberry, FL

Thanks for the welcome and the link appreciate it!

Valrico, FL(Zone 9b)

Great tips. This should definately be a "sticky" for this form.


Ventura, United States(Zone 10b)

Thanks, Chris. I'll see about adding a link to it the next time that I update the FAQ's Sticky Thread.

Valrico, FL(Zone 9b)

I brought it to Dave's attention too, and he's interested in using it as an article for the site. It' a great no-nonsense guide for the Plumeria newbies that that site will attract.


Ventura, United States(Zone 10b)

Well, thank you, Chris. That was nice of you to do! I'd be very pleased if Dave wants to use what I wrote for the new site. I also sent him two of my articles on growing plumerias that I wrote in case he wants to use them for too, but I haven't heard back from him yet.

Ventura, United States(Zone 10b)

I thought that I would bump this up. I wrote it last year and just modified it a little bit just now.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Great idea to bump this up Clare... I don't remember reading this from last year...

New Orleans, LA(Zone 8b)

Thank you Claire for the detailed information. Florida Colors does not sell plumeria seeds? I can't seem to find it on their website.

Ventura, United States(Zone 10b)

Thanks, Brittany:-)

Karma, no, they don't sell seeds. Jim Little, Hawaii Sandy on eBay, and Brad's Buds and Blooms do.

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