How to Coax a Tree to Bloom Indoors

Last summer a fellow in town called me up to see if I wanted his potted Plumeria. He was moving, and it didn’t fit into his plans. I didn’t know the Plumeria, so I asked him about it. It’s a tropical tree, he said, the one that produces flowers for Hawaiian leis, those lovely necklaces of flowers. Did his ever bloom? Yup. Sure, I said, I’d love it. Come get it, he said. But bring a truck.

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The common name of the Plumeria is frangipani. The tree I got stands 7 feet tall (including the pot) and has a spread of 5 feet. It has long green leaves with prominent white veins; the leaves are arranged in whorls at the tip of each thick branch.

Frangipani leaves are smooth and dark green

I re-potted the frangipani soon after I got it as it was root-bound in its pot. I placed it in a sunny, hot location and watered regularly. But it showed no inclination to bloom. Fall came, and I washed the leaves carefully to get rid of aphids, and brought it indoors.

The only place I had for it was near my desk – but not near a window. I hoped for the best, but was not sure it would be happy there. Because it didn’t get much light, I didn’t give it much water. But one day I worried it might be suffering from lack of water, so I gave it a good soaking. Soon after, I noticed flower buds forming.

It seems to me that my tree had responded to a dryness-induced stress, and responded with blossom buds when it got water. But it still was not happy. Every time a bud got ready to open, it drooped and fell off. Very frustrating.

So I added lights. I have 2 twelve-inch square LED lights, each with 112 red and blue daylight-spectrum bulbs. I try to run them 8 to 12 hours a day. The fixtures are made by Sunshine Systems ( and they produce a lot of light.

This frangipani tree is doing well with extra humidity and lights

I also put a humidifier under the tree to give it more humidity. And once I had made those two improvements, virtually every bud has produced a blossom. The blossoms are light pink with dark pink edges, and a yellow throat. Each blossom has 5 petals and they appear in clusters of 10 to 12 blossoms. Very satisfactory.

So if your houseplants are languishing, try offering some extra light, and some himidity. I have a hand mister that pushes out a fine mist from a one-quart bottle. It's made by Delta Industires called the Florasol. It works very well. I got mine at the Vermont Flower Show last year. I keep it on my desk and reach out and mist my frangipani tree on a regular basis. Just to show I care. 

Bored indoors? Go out and learn some trees, click here to see how.  

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