Drought Resistant Flowers for the Home Garden

Plumerias, those lush flowers from Hawaii, can live in a drought-tolerant garden

By Elaine Regus

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — Plumerias are perhaps best known as the fragrant flowers Hawaiian leis are fashioned from.

While the Caribbean natives flourish in the lush island landscape, plumarias also thrive in the dry desert conditions of Southern California.

Seymour Van Gundy, Professor Emeritus of Nematology and Plant Pathology and Dean Emeritus at UC Riverside.

Seymour Van Gundy, Professor Emeritus of Nematology and Plant Pathology and Dean Emeritus at UC Riverside.

Seymour Van Gundy, Professor Emeritus of Nematology and Plant Pathology and Dean Emeritus at UC Riverside, has a garden full of brilliantly colored plumerias to prove it.

“Plumerias fit well in drought situations since they need to be watered like cactus and succulents,” Van Gundy said. “Most home gardeners over water them and then they get root rot, which is fatal.”

Plumerias are easy to care for and provide breath-taking beauty to a garden of drought-tolerant plants. Like cactus, they should be planted in sandy soil. They only require watering twice a week from mid-spring to mid-winter, when they go dormant.

Van Gundy has been teaching students how to take cuttings, root, repot and prune plumerias through UCR Extension since 2007. His classes include a field trip to his home where more than 150 plumeria plants and cuttings in pots are spread throughout his garden.

Van Gundy first got interested in plumerias when his wife brought home three or four back in 2000. They started going to Plumeria Society meetings and buying cuttings. Before long, his yard was full of plumerias.

“They just kept growing and growing and growing,” Van Gundy said.

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