HOW TO STORE PLUMERIA CUTTINGS OVER WINTER
Yes, taking cuttings in the fall and winter is not very wise — at least purposely. But you know the scenario - a friend insists they just have to cut back their plumeria in November, or you're moving your pots under cover for the winter and a branch breaks. So, now what?
Storing plumeria cuttings over the winter is a risky endeavor, but following the advice from these seasoned plumerians should help increase your success rate:
I keep them in a cool dark place and mist them if they look too dry. Another thing that I do is put 4 to 6 inches of perlite or coir in a container and place the cut end on top of the medium. Sometime they will send roots into it.
Since I have a greenhouse that I keep at 68-69 degrees, I just put those cuttings into a pot of perlite and hope they grow. I've had pretty good luck with that. To keep the heat up in the greenhouse, I use a small heater I got at a thrift store for $3.00 that I control with a thermostat.
I actually had this happen to me last year when a friend's tree split in half in September. Many cuttings came my way. I stripped off the leaves and torched the bottom of the cuttings (see Bud Guillot's ideas on torching below). I thought that torching the bottom of the cuttings would prevent rot over winter, and it seemed to work well. I ganged/bunched the cuttings together in buckets and stored them in my kitchen. The cuttings were not in any medium, but if I had to do it again, I would have them rest on top of 2 inches of peat, perlite, coir, or pumice to promote rooting. If I had just a few cuttings, I would bag the cuttings and put them in a warm room near a sunny window. There's a good chance the cuttings would root if bagged.
Best method of storing plumerias has many elements. #1 Category: High value of the plant to you and others. #2 Category: Scarcity of the plant. #3 Category: Very little value and abundance of cuttings.
#1 & #2: When I received my first plumeria cutting in 1950, a large shipping carton (approximately 4" x 4" x 4" feet) had been shipped in from the Philippines. They were all single tips about 18 inches long and they had all been individually dipped in hot paraffin that had been died green. The cuttings were completely sealed with a 1/8 inch layer of green paraffin. Absolutely no air around the cutting and moisture could not escape or enter. To plant the cutting, I just trimmed the paraffin away from the cut surface and planted it and let the tip's new growth push through the paraffin. Before the cutting developed leaves the green paraffin prevented the cutting from sun burning. I suspect that cuttings with a paraffin coating could be stored 10 years and still be viable. For my first 10 years of growing plumerias I did not know of another person growing plumerias and I assumed the only way to start plumeria cuttings was to first dip the cuttings in hot paraffin. Though I did not put green coloring in my paraffin that I used.
Nowadays when I want to store a plumeria cutting for a few weeks or over winter, I make a clean cut and immediately torch the cut surface with a plumber's blow torch to quickly seal the flow of the white latex and dip the torched area in water to dissipate the heat. Remove all leaves and inflorescence by cutting them off. Dry the cutting thoroughly and loosely wrap in crumpled newspaper. Place wrapped cuttings in cardboard boxes and then store in a dry place. I remember well during World War II in England the best food you could get was fish & chips and it was always wrapped in last week's newspaper. The story you were told is that the newspaper is completely sterilized by the acids in the inks. I lived through many orders of fish & chips wrapped in newspapers, and so will your plumeria cuttings.
#3: Trim the plant and strip off all leaves and inflorescences from the cutting and neatly pile the cuttings near the base of the tree so you don't lose its identity when you give them away or sell them. Don't waste good storage place on something with little value.
You can seal them up in a cardboard box, tape it shut, and store in a garage or inside area with low or no light. Second, if you need to cut, then generously dip the fresh cuttings in rooting hormone to seal the end and then wait 10-14 days before you place them in small pots of potting soil and place inside a hot-house or indoors where it is warm. I do not use heat mats, but I know they work well. Lastly, all cuttings that are in this second form must be acclimated to low-, medium-, and then full-sunlight. I suggest cuttings go outdoors (on the coast) in April and March for the east county folks.
I suggest that you bag root any cuttings you have to store over the winter. (Instructions on bag rooting.) This way the damp rooting medium can provide the moisture the cutting needs, since most cuttings get shriveled/desiccated/dehydrated over the winter. I also mist them off every few days. Then I would bring them in the house, where it's a warmer climate. I've always thought putting them in the laundry room would be a good idea, since it gets warm and humid in there. (We don't have a room like that, but seems like it would work.) I know others who put them in the attic, which gets all the heat from the house.
And if you're serious about wanting to root cuttings over winter, here's an easy, inexpensive method I used successfully.
Mark is in Texas and has tested wrapping his cuttings in plastic wrap (like Saran Wrap). Read the article on his blog.
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