Underwatered Plumeria – Signs and How To Revive

Underwatered Plumeria - Signs and How To Revive

Plumerias are small flowering trees that are native to Central America, Mexico, Brazil and Florida. They are also known as frangipani or lei flowers, and belong to the family Apocynaceae. They have large leaves and highly fragrant flowers which are used to make Hawaiian leis. These flowers can be pink, yellow, red or white. Plumerias are quite drought-tolerant but, like most plants, they are still prone to the effects of underwatering if neglected for too long. 

Underwatered plumeria – Signs and how to revive

Signs of an underwatered plumeria 

  1. The plant becomes wilted. 

Wilting is a common sign in underwatered plants. When plumerias receive too little water they lose turgor, or the rigidity of their cells and plant tissue, resulting in an overall limp, wilted appearance. 

  1. The soil is dry. 

Underwatered plants have dry soil around them. If the dry soil is accompanied by any other signs mentioned here, it is a clear indication that the plants need to be watered more frequently to stay hydrated and healthy. If dry soil is the only sign, then the underwatering has not become severe and you will be able to remedy it by simply watering the plant immediately.

  1. The leaves are dry and brown. 

Underwatered plumerias develop dry leaves, starting from their tips and edges. The leaves will eventually turn brown and fall off the plant. This happens because the plant no longer has the resources to feed the leaves, and will concentrate its remaining moisture and energy on the parts most essential to its survival, rather than the leaves.

  1. The plant’s growth has slowed. 

Underwatered plants tend to grow more slowly than they otherwise would. Any new leaf growth will likely also be smaller than its usual size. 

How to revive an underwatered plumeria 

  • Water the plant.

Underwatered plants are dehydrated, and you need to water them as soon as possible to give them the best chance at recovery. Pour water into the soil until excess water runs freely from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. You can also use a hose to spray water on the stems and foliage. 

  • Remove any dead leaves. 

Remove the dry and brown leaves so that the plant can focus its energy on new growth. Snip the leaves with a pair of shears or pinch them off with your fingertips. Dead leaves come off quite easily, especially plumeria leaves, because they are larger than those of many other plants. 

  • Trim back the stems.

If the underwatering is severe, you may also need to trim back dead stems. Leave at least two inches of stem above the soil if most of the stems are already dead. If your plant is in a pot, you should also ideally repot it, and expect it to take a few weeks before it is fully revived.

  • Assess the plant’s lighting conditions. 

To help revive your plumeria to optimal health, you should also check the amount of light it is receiving daily. Move the plant if necessary, so that it gets sufficient sunlight, but avoid giving it full sun all day while it is recovering.  

  • Check whether the plant is getting ideal humidity levels.

If the plant is showing signs of wilting and shriveling, the humidity may be too low. If more humidity is needed, mist the plant regularly, place a pebble tray filled with water under the plant, or buy a humidifier to do the job for you.

Reasons plants need water:

  1. To transport nutrients from the soil to the rest of the plant.
  2. To maintain rigidity and the ability to stay upright. 
  3. To avoid excess leaf or bud drop.
  4. To photosynthesize. 
  5. To stop flowers fading faster than usual. 

Factors that determine how often and how much you need to water your plumeria include your local climate and weather, soil conditions, and the size of the plant. 

Plumeria plant care

Plumerias are grown as small trees or ornamental shrubs. They prefer well-draining soil that is also quite acidic, and they need at least six hours of full sunlight per day. They are not cold-tolerant and should be protected from extremely cold temperatures. This means that in colder regions, they must be container-grown. 

You may also place container-grown plumerias on the ground and bring them indoors during cold weather. When the weather is warmer, you can always move the plants back outdoors. Use a well-draining potting mix or cactus mix if you are growing your plumerias in pots. Fertilize the plants at least every two to three weeks during the growing season. 

Reduce watering during the mid-fall season, and stop completely in winter when the plants enter dormancy. Once spring arrives, you can resume normal watering. At this time, also provide a high-phosphate fertilizer to encourage blooms. 


Plumerias are also called frangipani or lei flowers, and are famous for their highly fragrant blooms. These tropical shrubs are fairly drought-tolerant, but are still prone to underwatering if you neglect them for too long. The most common signs of underwatered plumerias include wilting, dry and brown leaves, and slow growth. 

To revive your underwatered plumeria, give it a good and thorough watering so that excess water pours out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Trim off any dead leaves and stems, and check that you are providing adequate light and the correct humidity for the plant to make a full and speedy recovery. 

Image: istockphoto.com / silatip