Frangipani stem rot

A New Zealand gardener is having trouble with her potted frangipani. I am posting my reply separately as other gardeners may have had a similar problem:

I live in Auckland NZ. I have white frangipani over 1.5m tall in a large pot. It last flowered about 4 years ago which was it’s first year in the pot. Now we are getting good leaf growth and new stems in the summer but the new stems rot in the winter and we have to cut them off.

There are several reasons why new growth on frangipanis can rot in winter – (1) water-logging of the mixture while the tree is dormant. (2) Lack of nutrients, such as potassium, which strengthens cell walls as well as promoting flowering. Have you given the tree any fertiliser? (3) Its position in winter is too cold for a tropical tree.

Remedies for (1) and (2): If your tree has been in the pot for 4 years, it is quite possible the roots have blocked the drainage hole/s, and that is causing the softer, new growth to rot when the tree is not using the moisture in the pot. Or, perhaps the holes have become blocked if the pot is in direct contact with the ground. Frangipanis form lots of roots and they must have good drainage.

As their roots are rather brittle, if you can’t remove the root ball from the pot easily, lie the pot on its side and hose out the potting mixture. Then carefully re-pot it into a larger pot with fresh potting mix that contains some complete fertiliser, and gently water it to settle the mix around the roots. If you can’t find a larger pot for the tree, trim the longest roots (so that they will have to grow about 5 cm to fill the pot) and re-pot in fresh mix in the same pot. Sit the pot on some pieces of tile so that the drainage holes remain clear of the soil.

Remedy for (3): Even the white frangipani (which is the hardiest) will not do well if temperatures are too low or they are in windy positions. When growing frangipanis in temperate zones, on the north side of a wall is a good position for them. A brick or concrete wall is best because the wall absorbs heat during the day and releases it slowly at night, keeping the air around the tree slightly warmer.

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2 Responses to Frangipani stem rot

  1. Gianna says:

    I have a 1 metre high frangipani in a pot and would like to re-pot into a bigger pot. The pot I would like to use is a wine barrel which has been cut in 1/2. Would this be suitable for it, and when would be the right time to transfer the plant. I have another frangiapani tree which on some branches have become soft at the tip, and then some are hollow. What should I do. Thanking you for your advise Gianna
    Hi Gianna. Late winter is the best time to repot frangipani. You haven’t said what size barrel you have and they come in a variety of sizes. Potting mix will go sour if a plant is too small for the roots to use it within 12 months. When potting on, the pot should only be at most twice the diameter of the existing pot. You can transfer your tree into a larger pot and sit it on bricks inside the barrel until it gets large enough to go directly into the barrel. When you do replant it in the barrel, make sure that there are lots of holes around the base of the barrel as frangipanis will rot if drainage is poor. This may be the problem with the other plant, Gianna, or it may be getting too much shade. Repot that one into a slightly larger pot with a free draining potting mix, and keep it in a sunny, warm position. – Lyn

  2. Judy gill says:

    I commented a replay after a NZ gardeners but hers was in pot, mine old tree in ground, very high but lims rotting. Do I give it a severe cut down?
    You can, Judy, if you follow the instructions here about pruning to the outside of the ‘collar’ at the base of the branch and don’t just cut off the rotted parts. – Lyn

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