Growing Medium – Soil
The first step to growing Plumeria is a good soil or potting mix!
Growing plumeria involves a number of cultural inputs. Among these, perhaps the most important is the type of growing medium used. Due to the relatively shallow depth and limited volume of a container, growing media must be amended to provide the appropriate physical and chemical properties necessary for plumeria growth.
The following is a list of some of the more popular growing mediums used by both novice and professional growers.
Suggested ingredients for growing plumeria
Sphagnum Peat Moss – Works great with water retention. Can be used in soil-based and soilless growing. Sphagnum peat moss is acidic in nature. It may need a pH buffer like perlite. Environmental concern for using peat moss is that the bogs from which they are harvested are ecologically fragile. There is a movement to protect these nonrenewable habitats. Peat Moss from different regions may decompose at different rates.
Coco-Coir (Coconut Chunks of Fibers) – Coir is also great for water retention as well as aeration. Its pH hovers around 6-6.5 which is pretty good for plumeria. It’s a renewable and organic source! We recommend the unsterilized version of coco coir because it still contains our friendly fungi, the Trichoderma, which have a symbiotic relationship with roots. A con would be that it holds on to moisture so you may want to mix it with some perlite. Also, because of its source (near salt water), it is high in salt content. Soak your coir at least once before using it.
Perlite – has some major advantages. It is lightweight, stable, reusable, inexpensive, and can retain water very well. Perlite floats so it should be mixed with something or it will float away on you. It is more alkaline at a 7-7.5 pH so it can’t be used to slightly lower the pH.
Organic Soilless Potting Mix – When choosing the right soilless mix, there are a few things to consider. The general rule of thumb is to have a light and fluffy mix. But, you want to make sure you have proper aeration and water-holding capabilities. You want to have and maintain the right pH so the nutrients remain available. Plumeria seems to do best in a slightly acidic pH of 6.5 to 7.0. When pH is too low or too high, nutrients become toxic to the plant and results in plant death.
Growing Mixes for Plumeria
The composition of a growing medium should be largely determined by the plumeria requirements. However, there are some media formulations that may be used as a base. The following is a list of several of the most commonly used soilless mixtures:
|4:2:1||Peat, Perlite, Vermiculite|
|2:1||Peat, Sand 3:1 Peat, Sand|
|6:4:1||Peat, Perlite, Vermiculite|
|2:1:1||Peat, Bark (pine decomposed), Sand|
|2:1:2||Peat, Bark (pine decomposed), Perlite|
|3:2:1||Peat, Bark (pine decomposed), Sand|
|1:1||Peat, Perlite (for rooting cutting)|
|2:1||Coir, Perlite (for rooting cuttings)|
|1:1:1||Coir, Peat, Perlite|
|2:1:1:1||Coir, Peat, Perlite, Bark (pine decomposed)|
Material Use in Soil Mixes
Peat and Peat-Like Materials
Peat moss is formed by the accumulation of plant materials in poorly drained areas. The type of plant material and degree of decomposition largely determine its value for use in a growing medium. Although the composition of different peat deposits varies widely, four distinct categories may be identified:
- Hypnaceous moss – this type of peat consists of the partially decomposed remains of Hyrum, Polystichum, and other mosses of the Hypanaceae family. Although it decomposes more rapidly than some other peat types, it is suitable for media use. Many of the peat deposits in the Northern United States are Hypnaceous.
- Reed and Sedge – are peats derived from the moderately decomposed remains of rushes, coarse grasses, sedges, reeds, and similar plants. These fine-textured materials are generally less acid and contain relatively few fibrous particles. The rapid rate of decomposition, fine particle size, and insufficient fiber content make reed and sedge peats unsatisfactory for media use.
- Humus or Muck – consists of the decomposed debris of finely divided plant materials of unknown origin. Humus often contains large quantities of silt and clay particles, and when mixed with soil does not improve drainage or aeration. Due to its rapid rate of decomposition and particle size, humus is considered to be undesirable for growing media use.
- Sphagnum moss – is the dehydrated remains of acid-bog plants from the genus Sphagnum (i.e. Spapillosum). It is light in weight and has the ability to absorb 10 to 20 times its weight in water. This is attributed to the large groups of water-holding cells, characteristic of the genus. Sphagnum moss contains specific fungistatic substances which account for its ability to inhibit the damping-off of seedlings.
Sphagnum moss is perhaps the most desirable form of organic matter for the preparation of growing media. Drainage and aeration are improved in heavier soils while moisture and nutrient retention are increased in lighter soils. Germany, Canada, and Ireland are the principal regions of Sphagnum moss production.
Wood residues constitute a significant source of soilless growing media. These materials are generally bi-products of the lumber industry and are readily available in large quantities. Nitrogen depletion by soil microorganisms, during the decomposition process, is one of the primary problems associated with these materials. However, supplemental applications of N to the growing media can make most wood residues valuable amendments.
- Leaf Mold – maple, oak, and sycamore are among the principal leaf types suitable for the preparation of leaf mold. Layers of leaves and soil are composted together with small amounts of nitrogenous compounds for approximately 12 to 18 months. The use of leaf mold can effectively improve the aeration, drainage, and water-holding properties of a growing media. Although these materials are readily available at a low cost, leaf mold is not extensively used in container production.
- Barks – are primarily a bi-product of the pulp, paper, and plywood industries. Suitable particle size is obtained by hammer milling and screening. This produces a material that is suitable for use in container media. Physical properties obtained from tree barks are similar to those of Sphagnum moss. Decomposed pine bark is suggested for use with Plumeria.
- Sawdust – the species of tree from which sawdust is derived largely determines its quality and value for use in a growing media. Several sawdusts, such as walnut and non-composted redwood, are known to have direct phytotoxic effects. However, the C:N of sawdust is such that it is not readily decomposed. The high cellulose and lignin content along with insufficient N supplies creates depletion problems which can severely restrict plant growth. However supplemental applications of nitrogen can reduce this problem. Not suggested for use with Plumeria.
Bagasse is a waste bi-product of the sugar industry. It may be shredded and/or composted to produce a material that can increase the aeration and drainage properties of container media. Because of its high sugar content, rapid microbial activity results after the incorporation of bagasse into a media. This decreases the durability and longevity of bagasse and influences N levels. Although bagasse is readily available at a low cost, (usually transportation), its use is limited.
Rice hulls are a bi-product of the rice milling industry. Although they are extremely light in weight, rice hulls are very effective at improving drainage. The particle size and resistance to the decomposition of rice hulls and sawdust are very similar. However, N depletion is not as serious of a problem in media amended with rice hulls.
Several other organic materials are suitable for use with container media. Included are manures; corn cobs; straw; peanut and pecan shells. However, these do not constitute major commercial sources of organic amendments.
Sand, a basic component of soil, ranges in particle size from 0.05mm to 2.0mm in diameter. Fine sands (0.05mm – 0.25mm) do little to improve the physical properties of a growing media and may result in reduced drainage and aeration. Medium and coarse sand particles are those which provide optimum adjustments in media texture. Although the sand is generally the least expensive of all inorganic amendments it is also the heaviest. This may result in prohibitive transportation costs. Sand is a valuable amendment for both potting and propagation media.
Perlite is a siliceous mineral of volcanic origin. The grades used in container media are first crushed and then heated until the vaporization of combined water expands it to a light powdery substance. Lightness and uniformity make perlite very useful for increasing aeration and drainage. The course perlite is best for drainage.
Perlite is very dusty when dry and has a tendency to float to the top of a container during irrigation. It has also been shown that perlite contains potentially toxic levels of fluorine. Although costs are moderate, perlite is an effective amendment for growing media. You should always wear a mask when mixing perlite.
Vermiculite is a micacious mineral produced by heating to approximately 745oC. The expanded, plate-like particles which are formed have a very high water holding capacity and aid in aeration and drainage. Vermiculite has excellent ex-change and buffering capacities as well as the ability to supply potassium and magnesium. Although vermiculite is less durable than sand and perlite, its chemical and physical properties are very desirable for container media. Adding too much Vermiculite can cause the soil to retain too much water.
Calcined clays are formed by heating montmorillonite clay minerals to approximately 690oC. The pottery-like particles formed are six times as heavy as perlite. Calcined clays have a relatively high cation exchange as well as water holding capacity. This material is a very durable and useful amendment.
These inorganic soil amendments are generally utilized to increase the number of large pores, decrease water holding capacity and improve drainage and aeration. Other materials such as pumice; cinders; and pea-gravel are also suitable for this use.
Several synthetic soil amendments are bi-products of various plastic manufacturing companies. Others are designed specifically for use in container media. These materials are frequently used in place of sand and perlite and have much the same influence on media properties.
Preparing Soilless Growing Media
Although amendment combinations may vary, basic objectives in the preparation of a growing media are alike. An effective program should produce a growing media that is:
- Porous and well-drained, yet retentive of sufficient moisture to meet the water requirements of plumeria between irrigations;
- Relatively low insoluble salts, but with an adequate exchange capacity to retain and supply the elements necessary for plumeria growth;
- Standardized and uniform with each batch to permit the use of standardized fertilization and irrigation programs for each plumeria;
- Free from harmful soil pests; pathogenic organisms, soil insects, nematodes, and weed seeds
- Biologically and chemically stable following pasteurization; primarily free from organic matter that releases ammonia when it is subjected to heat or chemical treatments.
- Free from fertilizers; allows better control of fertilizer nutrients
Since innumerable amendment combinations can produce a growing medium with these characteristics, it is important to consider both the economic as well as cultural optimums. Factors that determine the cost of a growing medium include transportation, labor, equipment, materials, and handling. In many cases, the cost of mixing a “custom” growing medium exceeds that of the commercially prepared materials. These factors should be studied carefully before making a decision.