How important is pH for Germination Plumeria Seeds

Growing Medium and Water PH

The success of plumeria seeds always starts with the condition of the medium used for germination. One of the most important properties to keep tabs on is your pH levels for the medium and the water.

What is pH?

pH is a numerical rating of its acidity or alkalinity. All pH is measured on a logarithmic scale from zero (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline or basic). In chemistry terms, when you measure pH you are essentially measuring the number of hydrogen (H+) ions in a solution.

Why does pH matter?

If you search the web you will find quite a few different opinions regarding the importance of checking the pH. However, we urge you not to ignore soil pH. Determining the pH of the germination medium and water is essential to determining how available soil nutrients will be to your seeds when they germinate. Achieving the optimum pH for your seedlings will allow them to absorb nutrients more effectively. If you germinate your plumeria in a medium outside of its preferred pH range you will most likely see poor growth and eventual blooming and your seedling may even struggle to survive.

What affects pH?

Soil pH varies with climate, as well as physical surroundings.
For example, climates with dense forests such as those along the Pacific Coast will have acidic soils with pH ratings of about 4.0-5.5. Arid regions, such as the Rocky Mountain regions, will generally have soil pH levels that are closer to neutral ranging from 6.0- 6.5 and regions such as South Florida will tend to be more akaline above 7.0. Keep in mind that even these general ranges are subject to variability.

However, the good news is when you purchase a seed germination mix, most are pH neutral around 7.0

What is ideal pH for growth?

All plant species require their own unique pH to achieve optimum growth. For most plumeria you will want to aim for a pH level between 6.5-6.8 (slightly acidic) for optimum nutrient uptake.

How can you obtain optimum pH?

There are a variety of techniques that may adjust the pH of your soil.

Note: If you need to adjust your pH, use small amounts when adjusting the nutrient solution to affect the pH level, as required. Apply to the soil by mixing the product with water. Make sure to check the pH of your mixture before adding it to the soil. For best results, check the pH level daily.

Maintaining pH

Why is Checking pH Important?

Among the growing community there is debate on the importance of checking and maintaining pH. We urge you not to ignore the pH of your germination medium, whether your medium is plugs, soil, or water. Determining the pH of your medium is essentially determining how available nutrients will be to your plumeria. Achieving the optimum pH for your plumeria will enable them to absorb nutrients more effectively. If your seed germination medium is outside of the preferred pH range, you will most likely see poor growth and your plumeria may even struggle to survive.

What if I Don’t Check pH?

Many successful crops have been harvested without ever checking pH, but we don’t recommend going that route. Having an optimal pH will allow your plumeria to absorb maximum nutrients and your seedlings will grow and mature sooner and to their fullest potential.

Failure to check your pH can cause a variety of problems. You may be overfeeding your seedling, and this could put your plants at risk for nutrient burn You may also misdiagnose a problem as a nutrient deficiency, when in fact the problem is not the amount of nutrients, but the ability of the roots to absorb the nutrients.

Remember, nutrients can be costly, and if you are overusing them to make up for unbalanced pH levels then you are basically throwing money down the drain.

How Often Should I Check pH?

When growing plumeria seedling in soil, you should check the pH every few weeks to ensure levels are remaining stable. Due to hydroponic systems being more sensitive to pH changes, it is important to check the pH of your water more often.

Types of pH Kits

There are several types of pH testing kits available on the market today. Learn more about the different types below to determine the best kit for your growing conditions. 

Test Strips

To use in soil, you will have to make a mixture of soil and distilled water that is about the consistency of a milkshake. Place the strip in the solution and wait for the color to change. Compare this color with the color chart on the bottle, and will be able to tell what your pH is. To test your water, you can just dip the strip directly into your water.

Chemical Solutions (AKA Dropper Kits)

To use, place some of your soil in a vial, add distilled water, and then apply the amount of chemical solution as per the instructions. This will give you a color that you can compare to the attached chart.

Digital pH Testers

Digital pH pens offer a precise way to measure the pH of your water or soil. You will need to make a solution with your soil and distilled water. No need to squint at a color chart with a pH pen, you simply look at the number on the screen.

Would it be better to take a pH reading of the soil directly?

Sure would! This is trivial at the top of the soil, pulling out a sample at the bottom of the pot is a bit more involved. As we know, they may not have a consistent pH between them. In some cases, that could be a very different reading.

Extreme pH readings

If you have extreme pH readings, bad things are happening. Seeing a pH that is more than 1.0 from your input target is cause for alarm when you see any indication in the plant. This usually indicates over/under feeding, bacterial infection, large amounts of media buffers present, or some lesser-likely issues.

Coco Coir is the classic example of this. If you feed regularly, but don’t run enough solution through to dissolve and remove some build-up from past feedings, nutrients accumulate. Since these nutrients are mostly acidic mineral salts, they drop the pH of the plant. By the time you notice, the pH has hit an extreme enough level that you need to act fast.

Fixing this particular case consists of flushing the plant and giving light feeding for a little while. After the media environment stabilizes, you can increase the feed schedule. Additionally, you should run more nutrient solution through to prevent build up, or add a flush in the schedule.

Extreme pH fluctuation going alkaline is a sign that you are greatly underfeeding your plant, or could be a bacterial infection. This is far more rare, but just as deadly. The solution is to determine the cause, and attack that problem.


How important is pH for Germination Plumeria Seeds

Fertilizing New Seedlings

Fertilizing seedling is very important to development and growth. Fertilization should begin soon after your seedlings grow their first “true” leaves. The first leaves that emerge from the seed are called the cotyledons. They’re rounded with smooth margins. The second set of leaves to develop is the “true” leaves. They look very similar to the foliage of the mature plumeria. When the first 2 sets of “true” leaves have fully emerged, it’s time to start providing your seedlings with nutrients and move your seedlings to the next stage in their care.

When the “true” leaves arrive, your seedling will have developed roots and need nutrients and sun to help convert the nutrients into plant food. There are lots of different potting mixes you can use, but I suggest ones that contain 1/3 pine bark, 1/3 peat, 1/3 perlite with Mycorrhizae. Potting soils with nitrogen will cause your seedlings to grow lanky. Lack of sunshine will also cause your seedlings to grow lanky

When you transplant your seedling into pots, it’s time to begin fertilizing with a balanced granular fertilizer containing micro-nutrients. I suggest slow-release Excalibur 11-11-14 or similar.

Suppose your seedlings get stressed from heat, too much rain, or insects. It’s beneficial to use a quick-release granular fertilizer or a liquid fertilizer. I suggest Excalibur BOOST 10-12-14 or Bioblast 7-7-7. You can use Excalibur BOOST every two months and Bioblast every two weeks. Choose a product formulated for use on seedlings.

If you haven’t started your seedlings in full sun, you will need to introduce them gradually. Begin by placing them in a shady spot outdoors for just a few hours. Slowly leave them outside for more extended periods and expose them to more sunlight until they are in full sun for at least 6 hours per day. This hardening off process is significant to young seedlings and helps them gradually adjust to brighter light levels, wind, and fluctuating outdoor temperatures.

NOTE: If you live in a region with extremely hot temperatures you may need to use shade cloth or less exposure to the hot sun.

Fertilizing New Seedlings

How Nutrients work with Plumeria Seedlings

Plumeria seedlings need nutrients as soon as possible to grow well, along with water and adequate sunlight.

When plumeria seedlings have roots they are looking for nutrients, when they have real leaves they are capable of processing nutrients into plant food via photosynthesis.

Fertilizers supplement essential nutrients in the soil needed by plumeria for healthy, vigorous growth. Contrary to popular belief, fertilizers are not plant food. Plants manufacture their own food from water and carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. Fertilizers provide the nutrients plants need to convert into plant food and grow.

To grow healthy crops full of nutrients, growers need to ensure they have healthy soil. Plants use up nutrients as they grow and without fertilizers, nature struggles to replenish the nutrients in the soil. The soil and water pH is also a major factor in a plant’s ability to convert nutrients into plant food.

A soil test is the only accurate and definitive way to determine how much of any substance is present in your soil. You can send samples to your local county extension or to a testing lab, or you can use a test kit purchased from a nursery or garden center. If the test shows a high concentration of Nitrogen, Phosphorus or Potassium, it could mean that the fertilizer you are using contains too much of it.

What is plumeria fertilizers?

Fertilizers are frequently referred to as plant food, which is really not correct. Actually, it is the carbon dioxide in the air and the water in the soil, which in the presence of sunlight are converted into sugars and carbohydrates by a process called ‘Photosynthesis’, that do the actual feeding of the plant. Fertilizer is much more analogous to vitamins. The Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium and other trace elements contained in the fertilizers are necessary for cell division and enzyme processes that allow photosynthesis and growth to proceed. A fertilizer, often referred to as plant food, is a broad term for either a mixture of chemicals or naturally occurring matter that is used for enhancing the growth of plants.

How do fertilizers work?

Fertilizers work by providing essential nutrients needed to developing flowers, roots, branches, and vegetation. Many fertilizers also improve the way the soil works by helping it to retain water better and allowing air to flow freely, very good for roots.

The main ingredients in most popular fertilizers are N, P and K the basic elements required in plant growth, Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K).

The Nitrogen element works by increasing the plant’s capacity to produce new stems, flowers or fruit. It also increases the speed at which it will grow and improves the quality and appearance of the foliage.

Phosphorus helps the plumeria produce all of that nice organic stuff like oils and starch which is great for forming large, strong root systems. Phosphorus also helps the plant to develop Chlorophyll, which allows it to turn solar energy into chemical energy (photosynthesis). Combined with Potassium, Phosphorus helps produce healthy flowers and seeds. 

Lastly, Potassium helps to build protein, fight off diseases and, just like Phosphorus, is essential in the process of photosynthesis.

All of the above are required to work together to produce a good healthy plumeria if just one of these valuable nutrients are missing or lacking your plant will struggle to produce fruits or flowers of the highest quality.

What else do plumeria love about fertilizers?

Nutrients normally occur naturally in well-maintained soils but if there’s a drainage issue or other problem, nutrients can soon disappear. Plumeria loves water but does not like to stand in water. The best soil for plumeria is soil mix that drains well and may require more watering than other soils and also causes the nutrients to wash out sooner. Adding fertilizer is a way of giving nature a helping hand.

Natural and man-made fertilizers can contain a variety of ingredients, but here are a few of the most important ones for plumeria in addition to the standard Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium as described above.

  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Calcium
  • Sulfur
  • Manganese
  • Molybdenum
  • Iron
  • Boron

You can also get fertilizers that are fit for the purpose of a specific plant or species. These are important as different plants, Plumeria, requires a careful balance of certain nutrients. If a general purpose fertilizer is used it may not provide all the nutrients plumeria require.

Too Much Nitrogen

  • Excess Foliage Growth – One of the main actions of nitrogen is increasing chlorophyll production; this process is done by creating bigger leaf structures with larger surface areas for the photosynthesizing pigment. Excess nitrogen fuels fast foliage growth so that your garden has an appearance of a jungle gone wild, but another plant growth suffers as a consequence. Energy for flower growth is redirected to foliage proliferation, so plants may not even produce their necessary reproductive organs during the growing season.
  • Burning and Salt Concentration – If you use a high-nitrogen fertilizer mixture, you also increase the soil’s mineral salts; excessive elemental nitrogen takes water away from the plant while leaving the salts behind. As a result, the leaves take on a burnt look from dehydration. Leaf edges become yellow or brown and wilt. Flushing the area with water to remove the excess nitrogen is the best course of action to revive the plant. Although the nitrogen produces desired large foliage, you may find that the rapid growth becomes decimated with leaf burn if nitrogen stays at high levels.
  • Root Growth Stunting – Energy used for large leaf growth stifles the root system below with high nitrogen soil levels. Roots slow their naturally spreading habit since they do not have the necessary nutrients to use as energy as the elements are redirected upward. As a result, the plant may be destabilized in its soil position; if it is tall enough, it may blow over in heavy winds. Additionally, stressed roots invite disease through soil pathogens as well. In the end, both leaves and roots succumb to nitrogen-induced stresses that damage the plant throughout its length.
  • Groundwater Pollution – Plants cannot absorb all the excess nitrogen in the soil. Those extra nitrogen levels slowly leach out of the soil through water runoff; the nitrogen is effectively in the form of nitrates due to microbial conversion when it leaches from the soil. As a result, groundwater and drinking water becomes contaminated from the nitrate levels. Between harming the plants and the surrounding water supplies, high nitrogen levels around plants need to be closely monitored and amended for natural harmony.

Too Much Phosphorus!

  • Iron Deficiencies in Plants – When there is too much phosphorus in the soil, the plant’s ability to take up necessary amounts of iron is compromised. Even where soil levels are tested and show appreciable amounts of iron, plants may have trouble utilizing it because the phosphorus disrupts their natural processes. Usually, the symptoms are most evident in young plant tissues and can be confused with the symptoms of zinc deficiency, making it hard to correct the problem.
  • Zinc Deficiencies in Plants – Exactly as in the case of iron deficiencies, an overabundance of phosphorus in the soil means it is hard for plants to get necessary levels of zinc from their growing medium, even when the zinc is there for the taking. A zinc deficiency manifests in a bleaching effect of the plant tissues, in rosetted terminal leaves and in yellowing of the leaves in between the veins. Because the symptoms are often the same as iron deficiency, the best way to correct the problem is to perform soil tests to figure out how much phosphorus already exists and to add only enough to keep plants healthy.
  • Phosphorus Buildup From Application of Nitrogen – Many gardeners and crop growers use animal manure to supply the soil with nitrogen, a necessary nutrient for plant growth. Most manures contain around the same amount of nitrogen and phosphorus, but plants use 2.4 to 4.5 times as much nitrogen as phosphorus, leaving much of the phosphorus untouched in the soil. This can also happen in the application of biosolids or commercial fertilizers. In the case of commercial fertilizers, however, you can buy a mix balanced fertilizer to meet your needs, which often means that the amounts of phosphorus are lower (for instance, 20-10-10, which is 20 parts nitrogen to 10 parts each phosphorus and potassium).
  • Water Pollution – Because phosphorus is water-soluble, it easily becomes waterborne. Whenever a buildup of the nutrient in the soil cannot be utilized by plants, it is free to run off during rains into the streams, rivers, and waterways in the surrounding areas as well as leach into the water table through the soil. This increases the fertility of watery areas, called eutrophication, causing algae blooms and the explosion of quickly growing fish populations at the expense of beneficial organisms. It also makes purifying water more difficult and can result in insect increases that feed on the algae.

Too Much Phosphate 

  • Preventive Measures – Establishing the right balance between potassium and other soil components is more about controlling how much goes into the soil than trying to reduce it once it’s there. If a soil test indicates a high level of potassium, literally start from the ground up by not adding more to it in the form of a multipurpose fertilizer. Typical fertilizer blends are generally composed of the three most important substances — nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — which are indicated on the packaging by the letters N, P, and K. Selecting a blend that is low in potassium, or K, or contains none at all, is a first step in assuring that it doesn’t build up to unsuitable levels in the soil.
  • Plant Distress Signals – Too much potassium disrupts the uptake of other important nutrients, such as calcium, nitrogen, and magnesium, creating deficiencies that usually produce visible effects. A calcium deficiency produces irregularly shaped new leaves and blossom end rot on plants, such as tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum ), that produce fruit. As frost-tender plants, tomatoes can be grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 to 10 if set out into the garden once the soil has warmed to at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. A nitrogen deficiency is suspected when older lower leaves on plants turn yellow while the rest remains a light green. Plants lacking magnesium will exhibit yellowing of the edges of older leaves that may also develop an arrowhead shape in their centers. While adding more of these substances to correct the imbalance may help, the excess potassium will most likely impact their long-term effectiveness.
  • A Healthy Balance – When present in the soil in proper amounts, potassium helps with photosynthesis, the process by which plants manufacture their own food using the sun’s energy; helps plants absorb other nutrients more efficiently; creates a favorable environment for micro bacterial action; and provides turgor, or the ability of plants to stay upright. Distribute excess potassium more evenly by thoroughly working dense soil until it is loose and friable. Dilute and flush out large amounts of potassium by watering the soil any time it appears dry to a depth of one inch. Schedule any fertilizing within several weeks before planting, so that the potassium doesn’t have time to accumulate during the off-season. To minimize long-term potassium buildup, consider using aged or composted animal manure as a substitute for commercial fertilizers, as its components break down more slowly to keep up with plant demand. If using manure, apply it at a rate of 40 pounds for every 100 feet, and work it into the soil to a depth of 6 to 9 inches.
How Nutrients work with Plumeria Seedlings

When do you start fertilizing plumeria seedlings

Plumeria Seeds

Plumeria seed embryos typically contain two cotyledons and are grouped as dicots or dicotyledonous plants. It’s usually easy to tell which leaves are the cotyledons. As they are the first leaves the seedling produces, they will be the lowest ones on the stem, the ones to which an empty seed case often clings. They also won’t look like any of the other leaves on the seedling.

The cotyledons or seed leaves provide the seedling with nutrients for the first few weeks of its life, but when the seed leaves dry up and fall off, the seedling needs nutrients. Some people like to pinch off the cotyledons after the true leaves emerge. Unless those leaves are in the way, it is best to allow the seedling to decide when it’s done with them, or you may accidentally break its stem instead. Plumeria cotyledons are photosynthetic producers, as photosynthetic producers, cotyledons essentially can synthesize the organic nutrients it requires for growth through photosynthesis.

Fertilizers are frequently referred to as plant food, which is really not correct. Actually, it is the carbon dioxide in the air and the water in the soil, which in the presence of sunlight are converted into sugars and carbohydrates by a process called ‘Photosynthesis’, that do the actual feeding of the plant. Fertilizer is much more analogous to vitamins. The Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, and other trace elements contained in the fertilizers are necessary for cell division and enzyme processes that allow photosynthesis and growth to proceed. Photosynthesis is the process in which organisms use the energy from sunlight to produce glucose, a type of sugar, in addition to releasing oxygen. This glucose is the plant’s food.

Many methods and products are used by different growers to fertilize plumeria and plumeria seedlings. I’ve been experimenting with different plumeria seed growing methods and products over the last 20 plus year. The methods and products below are what I’ve determined to work best for me considering my growing conditions in South Florida (Zone 10b), so far.

The following is my current method for fertilizing plumeria seedlings for the first four months.

Over the last 5 years or so, I’ve been germinating and growing my seedlings outside in the full sun. (your weather conditions should be considered, not too hot, not too cold) Conducting experiments regarding when and how much to fertilize seedlings, some are complete some are still ongoing.

For the best results. so far, I use foliage feed with a liquid fertilizer at 1/2 strength for the first month or so. As soon as the seedlings have grown 3 or 4 real leaves I start spraying at full strength.

Fertilizing Plumeria Seedlings

  1. Fertilize with Bioblast 777 or similar as a foliage spray. If you use other balanced fertilizers, you should experiment, starting with 1/2 strength and increasing over time. When using a balanced fertilizer, I get better root growth and thicker trunks.
  2. When using a fertilizer high in Nitrogen as a foliage spray, the seedlings got very lanky very quickly. Lanky stalks and light green leaves can be a result of growing in shade or in a location with too little sun.
  3. When I using high phosphorus fertilizers as a foliage feed, I noticed the seedlings seem to shut down and didn’t put on as many new leaves. I suspect the seedling was having a hard time absorbing other nutrients.
  4. Micronutrients are important to healthy seedlings, so fertilizers I experiment with all contain micronutrients. 

I’ve also fertilizes from the bottom up method by setting the pot or plug tray in a container filled with nutrients. Similar to hydroponic methods. 

I don’t use granular fertilizers until I transfer to soil. I grow my seedling for the first stage in foam-injected peat plugs and then transfer the plug and all into a good soil mix.

I will transplant in pots when plenty of roots are protruding out of the plugs. This usually takes 2-3 months, depending on the time of year and weather conditions. The 2″ x 3″ plugs allow me to transfer directly into a 1 gal or larger pot mixed with ProMix without damaging the roots.

When I transplant into pots, I add granular fertilizer. I use Excalibur VI and apply twice a year. The season is almost all year long in South Florida Zone 10B.

Why Use Flexi Plugs?  –  Why Use ProMix?  –  Why Use Bioblast?  –  Why Use Excalibur Plumeria Fertilizer?