Flexible definitions

My area of northern California is sub-tropical. Meaning, you can grow tender things like citrus and hibiscus most of the time, but then a freeze comes along and you’re back in the 1-gallon department of the garden center.

Hawaii is the tropics proper, where plants you think of as indoor/greenhouse babies rioting twenty feet high. Croton in all its wildly colorful forms grows along the roadsides, vines with two-foot leaves lay claim to telephone poles. Shiny coffee grows wild in the corners.

The temptation is great, to consider sub-tropical a flexible definition. So I was thinking, maybe next to the house, I could manage a plumeria, one of those weird bare trees that sprout leaves and lei-flowers at the ends of their fat branches.

Surely the cold wouldn’t be so cruel as to kill one of those, would it?

Leaving the Big Island today for Maui, which is either the best of all the islands or completely spoiled by development, depending on who’s talking. If it doesn’t rain for the entire ten days, I’ll be happy.


  1. My faovrite Maui menmory was snorkeling around this little reef full of fish near our hotel every afternoon and listening to the whales singing 🙂

  2. My parents had plumeria planted in our yard in SoCal and it did pretty well. Surely it would grow better in the “sub-tropic” central coast than in the desert environs we were in. Worth a try, I think!

  3. Plumerias seem to do ok in some yards in Santa Monica . . . tried to grow one once without success, but I do not seem to have a green thumb. Enjoy paradise.

  4. Plumeria blossoms are gorgeous. I wish I could have one here in PA.

  5. Laidee Marjorie says:

    The plumeria question seems to depend on wether you are will to either dig them up when it threatens to drop below 40 degrees or be willing to plant them in tubs that can be brought indoors. So it’s not impossible to have your little piece of Hawaii, but it would take some doing. But don’t most things that are worthwhile?

    More plumeria info:


    –Marjorie (who is very glad for you that you have had this retreat)

  6. TheMadLibrarian says:

    If you hit Longs Drugs or Hilo Hattie, you should be able to find pre-rooted plumeria cuttings in travel-ready baggies for you to take home and plant. You may want to set it out initially in a pot, so you can move it around until you find a good place for it, which may include indoors should it prove not as hardy as you wish. Failing that, if you are on Maui, swing by the Kahului Public Library and I will happily provide you with a cutting of the color of your choice from my own trees; I have pink and creamy white, highly scented 🙂

  7. We know them as Frangipani (originally a native of Mexico and Central America)and they grow well in Sydney (Australia), even in very small spaces (like the front yard of a terrace house). For me the flowers are always associated with Christmas and the summer holidays

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