Pomelia is an exotic ornamental plant native to tropical areas of Central America and the Caribbean, which belongs to the family of Apocynaceae.
It is very appreciated and cultivated both indoors and outdoors, for the beauty of its leaves and for the magnificent shades of color of its beautiful flowers.
The botanical name of the plant is plumeria, from the botanist Charles Plumier, who first studied it on behalf of the King of France. It is also called frangipani, from the name of Count Muzio Frangipani, who made a very popular perfume in the court of Catherine de ‘Medici in the sixteenth century.
Arrived in Sicily in the eighteenth century thanks to the English, it was renamed pomelia by the Sicilians, who immediately cultivated it widely, appreciating its fascinating ornamental characteristics. It has thus become the flower symbol of the city of Palermo and in the Botanical Garden of the city are preserved the oldest specimens.
Widespread in many parts of the globe, pomelia takes on different meanings, depending on the cultures, but all positive.
In the tropical countries where it originates, it symbolizes peace and friendship and, in fact, in Polynesia and Hawaii its flowers are used to make welcome necklaces as a sign of welcome and hospitality.
In India it is a sacred plant, it represents immortality and rebirth, it is called “temple plant” and is planted near cemeteries or brought to places of worship as an offering.
In our peninsula it is an emblem of beauty and simplicity. According to tradition, a pomelia is given to the bride when she goes to live in the new house, as a wish for prosperity and fertility. In Sicily, pomelia is very popular in the realization of the bride’s bouquets.
The pomelia is a shrub-bearing plant which, under optimal conditions, can reach even 10 m in height. It is a very long-lived plant and you can also find specimens of pomelia centenarians.
It has a very developed root system and very branched stems, which never lignify and always remain fibrous and rich in whitish latex.
The leaves are oval, dark green, slightly pointed and, depending on the species, may fall in winter or be persistent.
Flowering takes place in May and lasts throughout the summer, and during this period, the pomelia spreads in the air an intense and pleasant scent. The flowers sprout at the top of the branches, are rather large, formed by 5-7 petals, grouped in numerous clusters and the colors may vary between red, pink, white, yellow or orange, depending on the variety.
A very appreciated variety is the Palermo one, with white and fleshy flowers, and with an insistent smell of vanilla, cinnamon and pink, with rounded and superimposed petals, almost forming a closed circle, and yellow striae, at times pink, of different intensity.
The multiplication of the pomelia can happen either by seeds or by cutting.
Propagation by seed has less chance of success, because the seeds take many months to mature and this does not always happen in varieties grown in Italy. For this reason, pomelia cutting is the preferred method of propagation.
Let’s now see how to make a pomelia cutting.
Pomelia cuttings do not root very easily, so prepare more than one, so you have a better chance of success.
- Make your pomelia cuttings in late spring.
- Get well sharpened scissors disinfected with flame or alcohol, a rooting hormone, which you will easily find at a nursery, and a large container filled with universal soil mixed with sand and peat.
- Choose a strong, healthy plant and cut apical twigs at least 30-40 cm long. Make a clean cut to avoid fraying, just below the knot. Also cut obliquely to have a larger area for rooting.
- Remove all leaves and leave only those on the top of the twigs.
- Sprinkle the cuttings with a broad-spectrum fungicide, place the cuttings in the rooting hormone and place them to rest in a warm, dry place for about a week.
- When the plant tissue has healed, bury the cuttings in the container and gently compact the soil with your hands.
- Water thoroughly until the water comes out of the drainage holes, then place the pot in the sun.
- When you see new leaves and new shoots appear it means that the cuttings have rooted and the pomelia plants can be transplanted.
Cultivation of the Pomelia
The pomelia plant is not difficult to cultivate and can be grown both in pots and in the ground.
It may be necessary to support the stem with a guardian after planting, until it develops the first branch.
Pomelia prefers fertile soils, rich in organic matter, but above all capable of quickly draining water.
It is sufficient to mix universal soil with sand or perlite and pieces of coarse bark.
Pomelia loves sunny and bright places and with a good air circulation, but its greatest enemy is the cold and cannot survive with temperatures below 5 °.
For this reason, in winter, if the temperatures drop a lot, they must be moved to sheltered places.
The pomelia needs constant and abundant watering, otherwise it sacrifices the floral production, but we must, however, avoid the water stagnations which could rot the roots and cause the death of the plant.
You can regulate yourself as follows: water it generously from spring to summer, when you see that the soil is completely dry.
But, starting from autumn, when the pomelia starts to turn yellow and lose its leaves, thin out the irrigations until they are completely suspended when the leaves have all fallen, until spring.
This is because the vegetative rest in this plant is practically absolute and even if you see only the stripped branches, without leaves, do not worry, that with the arrival of spring, the pomelia will return to bloom.
During the vegetative restart, that is from spring and for the whole summer, it is necessary to fertilize the pomelia every 2-3 weeks with a liquid fertilizer to be diluted in the irrigation water.
Starting from autumn and throughout the winter, during the vegetative rest, it is not necessary to fertilize because an accumulation of nutrients would be harmful to the roots of the plant.
Repotting and Pruning the Pomelia
The pomelia grown outdoors does not need pruning, except to remove in spring sick or damaged parts, in this case you can use shears, which are gardening scissors suitable for this specific purpose, in fact they allow a clean cut without crushing and fraying, that’s why using the right gardening tools is essential.
The pomelia cultivated as apartment plant, is to be repotted every year in the month of April, utilizing new soil and a pot which is twice the size of the roots. Only dry or poorly grown branches are removed.
Pomelia: Diseases and Parasites
Pomelia is a resistant plant that is not affected by particular diseases, but can, however, suffer the attack of parasites.
- Cochineal infection occurs with dark spots on the underside of the leaf and, with a magnifying glass, you can see the presence of these pesky animals. Just rub the diseased parts with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol or, in case of very extensive infection, use an anticoccidico, easily found in garden shops.
- If, on the other hand, the leaves turn yellow and crumple and there are small cobwebs on the underside of the leaves, the plant is infested with the red cobweb, a very dangerous mite, which proliferates in particularly dry environments. In addition to creating a more humid climate around the plant, to avoid the proliferation of the parasite, you must intervene with suitable acaricides.
- Rust, on the other hand, is the attack of a fungus that creates small rust-colored pustules on the leaves. It is very dangerous because it spreads easily and for this reason you must immediately remove the diseased plant to avoid contagion and provide with a specific pesticide.
The sticky latex present inside the drums of the pomelia is toxic to humans and animals if ingested and can create skin irritation by contact.