Plumerias are deciduous or semi-evergreen tropical trees with showy, fragrant blossoms and waxy leaves. Their branches and twigs are thick all the way to the end, and they have an open branching habit. However, plumerias demand a patient gardener, since they do not grow quickly.
Many extension centers and growing guides, such as the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, consider plumerias slow-growing, meaning they grow less than two feet per year. Other sources, such as the University of Hawaii at Manoa Cooperative Extension Service, categorize them as medium growers, putting on 2 to 5 feet of growth per year.
The disparity between the two categorizations is likely due to the different lengths of the growing seasons in different regions where plumeria grows. The longer the growing season, the more time plumeria has to put on growth, and the taller it grows each year. Hawaii, for example, has a near year-round growing season, whereas several parts of northern Florida have temperatures low enough to cause plumeria to drop its leaves.
Problems Preventing Growth
Low lighting and unusually long cool seasons are the two main factors preventing normal growth for plumerias. While plumerias tolerate light shade, they photosynthesize and grow fastest (not to mention put on more fragrant blooms) when exposed to full sunlight.
Plumerias prefer dry soil and warm air. This makes them ideal for southern exposures, such as the southern facing wall of a building. But if they are overwatered, they may get sick and stop growing or even decline. The roots lose access to oxygen and either drown or become infested with a fungal disease. Plumerias can be moved to a more favorable location in the yard or greenhouse where they can grow at their normal pace through transplanting or cuttings.