Plumeria and Leaf Curl

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Plumerias are common in Hawaiian flower decorations.
Image Credit: letty17/iStock/GettyImages

Plumeria flowers not only light up a landscape with their colorful blooms and vibrant smells, they are also an important flower for bouquets and flowering gifts. These flowering trees also produce one of the primary flowers used in making Hawaiian lei necklaces. So if you notice the normally beautiful flowers suffering from leaf curl, it's time to act. There are two possible causes of curling leaves in plumeria: Aphids are pests that can cause plumeria leaves to curl, while plumeria rust is a fungal disease that can cause spots on the leaves in addition to causing them to curl. Both require quick action to avoid further damage.


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Aphids on Plumeria

Aphids are extremely small insects that can appear green, yellow, brown, red or black, depending on the type of aphid you see. These insects land and feed on the leaves of many plants, including plumeria. As they feed, they suck the nutrients and water right out of the leaves, causing curling, wilting, yellowing or browning as the leaves struggle to survive without much-needed nutrition.

As the aphids feed on the plants, they leave behind a sticky substance called honeydew. This secretion attract mold diseases. Small populations will do little to no damage, but large aphid populations can cause defoliation or even kill an entire plant.


Plumeria Aphid Control

There are a large range of pesticides, insecticidal soaps and oils that can control aphids, since they are such a common pest for so many types of plants and flowers. The most important aspect of aphid control is identification. Check your plants for aphids at least twice per week. You'll see them as small dots moving on the surface of your leaves. When you catch them, spray the leaves with pesticide, oil or insecticidal soap.

Make sure you get the undersides of the leaves, where most of the aphids will reside. Repeat applications every two to three weeks until you can be sure that the infestation has passed.


Leaf Curl From Plumeria Rust

Plumeria rust is a disease the fungus ​Coleosporium plumeriae​ causes. It's easy to identify by the small yellow or orange specks that appear on the leaves. The specks resemble rust on a pipe. These specks are actually pustules that contain spores of the fungus. When the pustules rupture, they spread out the spores and soon the whole plant, or many plants nearby, will be infected with the fungus.

Often, the pustules will only appear on the undersides of the leaves. The upper sides may only show small spots that don't rupture. Infected leaves will curl up, wilt and eventually fall from the plant.


Plumeria Rust Control

Remove infected leaves from the plant with pruning shears and pick up any infected leaves that fall off the plant. Burn them or dispose of them far from the plant. These leaves can still spread the disease.

Plant plumerias with at least 6 inches of space between the plants at full growth, to ensure air circulation that can prevent the spores from settling on the leaves. Controlling all weeds will also increase air circulation. There are a number of fungicides that are approved to treat plumeria rust; be sure to read and follow all instructions regarding application.



Samantha Volz

Samantha Volz has been involved in journalistic and informative writing for over eight years. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a minor in European history. In college she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and completed a professional internship with the "Williamsport Sun-Gazette," serving as a full-time reporter. She resides in Horsham, Pennsylvania.