Plumeria Leaves Turning Yellow? Find Out Why it Happens, and How To Fix it!

Trying to figure out why your plumeria leaves are turning yellow? There's actually several reasons this may happen, some of which can be easier to fix than others. In this article, gardening amateur Jason White looks at why this happens, and how to fix it.

Plumeria Flowers in Sun


Plumerias are gorgeous. They are a wonderful way to get a little bit of tropical paradise in your home or garden. Their beautiful flowers give off a sweet fragrance sure to bring joy to anyone in their vicinity. As a gardener tending to plumerias, you want to do your best to keep your plant healthy so it can bless you with fragrant blooms for many years to come.

However, it can be discouraging if you see the once-healthy, bright green leaves on your plant start to yellow. If this sounds like you, you’re probably wondering why this is happening, and what you can do to fix it.

While the answer may not always be obvious, there are a few reasons your plumeria’s leaves are yellowing. It’s important to examine your plant and the care you give it with much scrutiny. Being able to troubleshoot the problem can get you to the root of the matter, and thus come up with a solution. In this article, we’ll detail the reasons for your plumeria’s yellowing leaves, and what you can do to fix it. Let’s begin!

Overwatering and Underwatering

Flowers in the Rain
These beautiful flowers are accustomed to a lot of rainfall, but it is still possible to overwater them depending on the climate of where you live.

Overwatering your plumeria plant can cause its leaves to turn yellow. This is because watering excessively can suffocate your plant, effectively rendering it unable to take in nutrients from the soil. When it can’t do this, it can’t make food either, so the leaves’ health will start to fail. Thus, they will eventually yellow, and in more extreme cases, turn completely brown before falling off. Overwatering can be the cause for stem and root rot, as well, which can cause even more problems, and can potentially be deadly for your plant.

Not giving your plant enough water is also a problem. Water is the medium necessary for transporting nutrients throughout the plant. In this case, the leaves will also start to turn yellow, first in spots, before yellowing completely, drying out to brown, and then falling off. While both overwatering and underwatering your plant is bad, it usually results in very similar effects, so it can be hard to tell at first glance if too much or too little water is the issue.

Plumerias are special in that they don’t really need too much water, especially when they are building a robust root system. You can care best for them by watering upon planting, and then every 2 to 3 weeks after that.

Once you start seeing lots of leaves, you can water once or twice a week, provided they are getting a lot of heat and light from the sun. One thing to note is that when your plumerias go dormant for the winter, it’s important to stop watering them, and to only begin to water again when the leaves return. Watering in plumerias’ dormancy can definitely kill them, so be vigilant.

How to Fix it:

Luckily, figuring this out is as simple as touching the soil. Do this before you water your plumerias. Insert a finger a few inches into the soil and note the moisture. If it is very obviously dry, then it’s time for a deep, long drink. Water the plant immediately at the soil level to bring moisture back into the soil and into the plant.

If you find that the soil is still quite wet, then leave off watering for a few days before trying again. Generally, the soil should be “just dry” before you water your plumerias. They are accustomed to plenty of rain, as well as dry spells that are frequent in the tropical areas they are native to.

Improper Sunlight

This tropical beauty needs plenty of sunshine to grow both bright green leaves and flowers.

Being tropical plants, plumerias love sunlight. If they’re not getting enough, they can turn yellow. This is because the sun is essential to the photosynthesis process, which is the means by which your plants create their food. If your plumerias are not getting enough sun, there won’t be enough nutrients. Thus, its leaves will yellow. Too much sunlight can be a cause for yellowing, too, but this is less common in sun-loving plumeria plants. It’s also noteworthy that not enough sunlight will also mean fewer flowers.

Plumerias will need a lot of summer sunlight, so if you have them in pots indoors, bring them out to soak up the sun from June through late August. When autumn and winter come, it’s okay to have your plant indoors, near a window so it can still get indirect sun.

Plumerias are winter hardy only in USDA zones 10 through 12. This means they’ll do extremely well in subtropical climates like Florida, but less so in climates a little further north without as much sunlight. You’ll need to be sure they’re getting the light they need, and then protection from harsher elements. Temperature-wise, they’re okay to be left outdoors if the nighttime temperature is above 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. T

In the case that your plant’s leaves are turning brown and crispy, this is an indicator they’re getting too much sun and not enough water. Counteract this by watering more frequently and moving the plant to a more appropriate spot if at all possible. If sunlight is the problem, simply ensure that your plant is happy with the amount it is getting. New, green leaves should come back in no time at all.

How to Fix it:

Whether your plumeria is getting too much or too little sun, the fix here is easy. Adjust your plant’s sunlight schedule to ensure it’s getting enough sun for growth, but not too much that it’s burning your plant to a crisp. You can move your plant around your house at certain times of the day, or just find a brand new permanent location for it.

Soil Conditions

Proper Soil for Tree
Well-draining and slightly acidic soil is the ideal growing conditions for this flowering tree.

Yellowing plumeria leaves can definitely come from bad soil conditions. Soils with good drainage are a must for plumerias, as poor drainage can cause waterlogging, and thus be detrimental to your plant’s health.

Choose a good, well-draining soil for your plumeria regardless if you are planting indoors or in a container. This also allows your plants’ roots to breathe; compacted roots can be a real problem that can cause yellowing leaves too, which we will explore in a later section.

Another issue to consider with regard to your plumeria’s soil is the pH. Plumerias are fond of slightly acidic soil pH, somewhere in the 6.4 to 6.8 range. Anything lower or higher can give the plant problems, thus causing yellowing.

How to Fix it:

To determine the pH level of your soil, you can purchase a testing kit, available at most garden supply stores. If the soil is too acidic, you can use alkalinizing agents such as agricultural lime.

In the case of soil that is too alkaline, you can add organic matter such as compost or peat moss to bring the pH back down. Adding organic matter also has the added benefit of improving drainage, as it raises the bed. It can also add plenty of nutrients to your plumeria’s soil, which will definitely make it happy.

Lack of Nutrition

Fertilizing Young Plant
Providing your growing plants with a fertilizer with high levels of phosphate will give it a growth and nutrition boost.

On the topic of nutrients, your plumerias could also have yellowing leaves because of a lack of nutrition. We’ve covered how the different care aspects of gardening will help your plant absorb the nutrients it needs for more flowers and greener leaves. It’s worth noting that poor soil quality can also turn leaves yellow, as well as reduce the amount of flowers you get. Nutrient deficiency can be seen if the leaves are yellow, but the veins are green. You will also notice the top leaves yellow first.

You can test the amount of nutrients your soil has with a testing kit, too. Determining what your soil is lacking, and then balancing out the nutrients with plant food, can really turn the tables. Usually, it’s important to give your plumerias a fertilizer with high levels of phosphate. Something like a 10-30-10 ratio can really make all the difference, as it encourages blooms.

If you have too few leaves, then adding more nitrogen can encourage foliage growth, though it could halt bloom production too. Plumerias will need to be fertilized fairly often, as they are heavy feeders. Provide plant food once every 2 to 3 weeks throughout the active growing season.

Bear in mind that it’s important that you follow the directions on your fertilizer’s packaging faithfully. Too little fertilizer won’t really produce much of an effect, but too much could cause problems as well. In the case of too much fertilizer, the leaves can also yellow and eventually brown in a phenomenon called “burning”. Simply use the product as directed to prevent you from wasting time, effort, and money.

How to Fix it:

Find the proper fertilizer and stick to a regular feeding schedule. Make sure to follow the fertilizer’s instructions. Too much fertilizer will burn your plant. And too little fertilizer means your plant isn’t getting the nutrition it needs. The fertilizer balance should also be in line with what a plumeria needs.

Root Damage

Young Tree Growing in Pot
Be sure your tree is planted in the right size pot, and re-pot as necessary.

Plumerias planted in the US tend to be grown in containers to facilitate easier movement through the seasons. While this can be beneficial, there are still some conditions to watch out for, particularly root damage. Root damage can render the roots unable to bring nutrients into the leaves, so they will definitely turn yellow if this is the case.

Root damage can happen from something as simple as being too harsh with tools. However, it can also happen from compacted roots. This occurs when the pot becomes too small for the growing roots.

It’s important that you give your plant the right size pot from the very beginning. You can begin with a 6-inch pot and go up one size every spring. Around the time they reach the appropriate size for a 5-gallon pot, you can expect your plumeria tree to grow quite tall, around 5 feet high with lots of nice foliage.

You can care for your plant’s roots by checking them every time you re-pot the plant. Pruning them slightly can help encourage better growth as well as make a little more room, but do not rely on this too much. When checking the roots, note the color. Healthy roots will always be a yellowish, pale white color.

Diseased roots will be dark and have a foul odor. Unfortunately, in the latter case, this is an indicator that it is time to discard the plant and try again with another one. Diseased roots often come from waterlogged conditions.

Even if you are watering your plant the appropriate amount, if the soil doesn’t drain well, it will not handle the water the way it should. Good aeration is key to the plant having room to breathe, and thus take up nutrients. This way, the leaves of your plant should stay green.

How to Fix it:

Ensure your plant has the right size pot if it’s an indoor plant. If it’s an outdoor plant, make sure there are no diseased plants planted near it in your garden so that infection doesn’t have a chance to spread to the roots of your plant. If your plant becomes root-damaged, you can pull the plant, clean the roots with a fungicide, and replant. Unfortunately when severe root damage is a cause of health problems for a plant, many times the plant won’t survive.

Plumeria Rust

Rust on Back of Leaves
This disease specifically affects the leaves, while leaving the stems and flowers unaffected.

It’s possible for a fungal disease to be the cause of your plumeria tree’s leaves turning yellow. One such disease is known as plumeria rust, caused by the Coleosporium plumeriae fungus. It should be noted that while the disease can definitely affect the foliage of the plant, it doesn’t do anything to the stems or flowers.

A telltale sign of plumeria rust is the spreading of yellow spots or specks on the upper side of the leaves. Checking the underside, you will find powdery, orange lesions. These lesions are the pustules which produce the fungus’ spores. When this condition is left unchecked, your plumeria plant may end up losing all its leaves.

Plumeria rust loves conditions that are warm and humid. The spores of this fungus are airborne, so it’s of utmost importance to water the plant only at the base level, as watering from above may cause spores on the leaves to spread elsewhere.

How to Fix it:

If you have discovered plumeria rust on your plants, take care to properly gather and burn the fallen leaves. Pruning off diseased parts of the plant can also make a difference, but be sure to clean your tools thoroughly between uses; this helps prevent contamination when working with healthy plants.

Something else to keep in mind is to have proper air flow between your plumeria plants. Pruning the plant can improve air flow, which can deter the spread of the fungus. Remove all weeds and ensure that the plants are far enough from each other to prevent potential spread.

You can further control the infection by using a fungicide on the plant and the soil. Opt for broad-spectrum fungicide containing benomyl or oxycarboxin. You can also make a neem oil solution and use it with a sprayer; use it on your plants weekly to control the infection. However, prevention is always better than cure, so be sure to purchase disease-resistant plumeria starts whenever possible.

Pest Infestation

Mealybug Infestation on Leaf
A mealybug infestation can be identified by a sticky coating and white bugs on the back of your leaves.

It is possible that a pest infestation may be causing your plumeria plant’s leaves to turn yellow. This is especially seen if you notice curling on the leaves as well. Plumeria sap is attractive to many different pests. Since the sap is effectively the blood of the plant, having a pest infestation will lead to the poor health of the plant.

Mealybugs, whiteflies, spider mites, and thrips are all common pests who love preying on plumerias. Mealybugs can be identified by a sticky coating (though it may also be a wax-like coating), plus small, white bugs on the plant. Whiteflies are similar, though they have rounder bodies than mealybugs.

Spider mites are also small, white bugs, but will leave behind webbing on the underside of your plant’s leaves. Thrips are small and difficult to see, but can be more clearly identified by shaking the plant over a white piece of paper or cloth. A thrip infestation will leave behind black specks that will be moving around.

How to Fix it:

You should do your best to leave harsh insecticides as a last resort for your plumerias. Gentler methods can have great effects, so try those out first. If the infestation is not very severe, you may dab at the bugs with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. You can also wipe out mealybugs, whiteflies, and spider mites by spraying a strong blast of water at the affected leaves; this washes off the bugs. Repeat until you see good results.

In case the pests return, you may try using a neem oil spray applied weekly until the bugs are gone. Insecticidal soap is the next step in case that does not work either, or the infestation is more severe. Only use systemic insecticides for highly severe infestations.


Baby Seedling in Plant Nursery
Your new plant may need some time to adjust to its new environment after leaving the ideal growing conditions of the nursery.

One of the last reasons your plumeria plant could be yellowing is because of simple acclimation. When purchasing a seedling from a greenhouse, it’s likely that the plant has spent all of its life thus far in that environment.

It finds it comfortable and warm, and will thus be quite shocked to be transported out of it and into new surroundings. The same is true for all plants. As such, it could very well be that your new plumeria plant simply isn’t used to being in your home or garden just yet. Symptoms can be yellowing leaves that drop off the plant, general drooping, or generally looking very sickly.

How to Fix it:

While the dramatic antics can be tiresome if not outright alarming, this is just a cue for you to treat the plant with lots of love and care. If you are attending to its needs, your new plumeria should get used to its new home in no time.

You will start seeing its health come back; you’ll know the plant is happy again because it will begin to thrive. Simply stay the course during the acclimation period, and you shouldn’t have to worry any further about your plant being unhappy. Applying the appropriate amount of care can also prevent future problems.

Natural Life Cycle

New Budding Leaf
After a season of dormancy during winter, new leaves will begin to sprout.

The final reason your plumeria plant may have yellowing leaves could simply be because it’s that time in their life cycle. This is especially true for plumerias planted outdoors. When the weather gets colder, your plumeria plant will naturally begin to have its leaves yellow, and then brown, before falling off for the winter. This is just a sign that it’s the time of year your plant goes dormant. There isn’t much cause for alarm.

How to Fix it:

Dormancy happens when the temperature starts to dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It is likely, especially in colder areas, for the plant’s leaves to fall off completely, leaving the branches bare. To keep it safe through the winter, it may be necessary to make provisions for frost protection.

A frost cloth that extends the whole way to the ground can make a big difference in your plumeria’s comfort as it stays dormant for the winter. Protecting your plant through its dormancy will ensure that it stays healthy as it rests, just in time for it to begin sprouting green leaves again when the weather gets warmer.

Final Thoughts

We hope that this article has helped you fix the yellowing on your plumeria plant’s leaves. While this issue is definitely a cause for concern, applying solutions in a timely manner can get your plant back in tip top shape in no time.

Understanding how best to care for your plant can really make a difference in its future health. Apply these tips to keep your plumeria in the best health and you will be sure to be greeted with the blooms you love so much year after year. If we helped, or if you have other tips you’d like to share, please feel free to let us know in the comments section below!

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