Plumeria Pest Problems – Learn About Pest Control For Plumerias

Plumeria Pest Problems – Learn About Pest Control For Plumerias

As with many plants, we first notice a problem with plumeria when leaves start to turn yellow, then brown and drop off. Or we are delightedly waiting for buds to burst into color, but the buds never open or drop off. Assuming the plumeria has the correct environmental conditions such as sufficient light, appropriate water, and fertilizing schedule, examine the plant for pests.

Common Plumeria Pests

Plumerias are subject to many of the same pests as any other garden plants. The most common of which include:

  • Spider mites
  • Whiteflies
  • Thrips
  • Scale
  • Mealybugs
  • Slugs
  • Snails

In addition to the pest above, there is one more commonly found insect that affects this plant – the caterpillar of the Tetrio sphinx moth. Plumeria just so happens to be its primary host plant.

Identifying Plumeria Pest Problems

Examine the leaves on top and bottom, looking for any pest problems. Spider mites, a sucking insect, are smaller than a pin head but can be identified by webs between the leaf ribs. To check for whiteflies, shake the plant stems and leaves. If small insects fly out, you likely have a whitefly infestation.

Now examine the leaves and stems for white, fluffy, sticky clumps, especially where the stems attach to the plants and along the edges of the leaf ribs. With a magnifying glass, you can see these are mealybugs. If you found brown, raised bumps along the stems and leaf ribs, you are dealing with scale.

Thrips generally reside inside the buds of plants. They are difficult to see until you pick off a bud and set it in a plate. Soon, you will see small, black bugs that look like a rye seed crawling out of the flower bud.

In some areas, slugs and snails are plumeria plant pests. Portions of the plant stem will have been chewed away and slime trails may be visible near the plants.

Damage from caterpillars will come in the form of chewed leaves and defoliation of the plant.

Treating Plumeria Insect Pests

The first, easiest, and least expensive pest control for plumerias is to spray the plants with a strong jet of water. This creates a moist environment to discourage spider mites which prefer dry, dusty conditions. The spray dislodges whiteflies, either drowning them or breaking off their mouth parts so they die. If a jet of water fails, spray the plants with insecticidal soap to suffocate the insects.

Water does not impact scale and mealybugs. Both of these plumeria plant pests create a waxy protective shell preventing pesticides from penetrating. For these common plumeria pests, treat them with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol. Dab each bump or white sticky patch with rubbing alcohol to kill the insect under its protective shell.

Diatomaceous earth is a good choice for treating plumeria pest problems such as slugs and snails. Spread it on the ground around the plant.

For the most part, the caterpillar pests can be picked off by hand and tossed into a bucket of soapy water. Of course, if you’re a bit on the squeamish side, this probably isn’t something you want to do. Should this be the case, you’ll be happy to know that most caterpillars can be controlled with the use of Bacillus thuringiensis.

If the above methods do not eliminate your plumeria plant pests, you may need to resort to systemic insecticides, recommended by your local garden center.

Frangipani (plumeria) leaf problems

I live on the Algarve, in Portugal, and grow frangipani Singapore outside all year round. This year for the first time, white patches have appeared on the leaves, and have spread to cover most of the leaves. It looks a bit like spider mite damage in a conservatory, but I cannot see any bugs. I feel that I should treat with a systemic insecticide, but presumably at this time of the year I should wait till after leaf fall. Any advice gratefully received.

That sure does look like the damage done by very small sucking pests like spider mites.
No webbing on the back of the leaf? No dust-like stuff?
Maybe thrips?

Systemics work by poisoning the plant so that when the pest feeds it takes in the poison, so do not wait for the leaves to fall. Apply it now while the bugs are still active, especially to protect new leaves.
Then apply it again when the new leaves start to form next spring.

I agree with Diana_K that looks very much like spider mites. Mites can be very small and hard to see. Often you will see them with a magnifying glass on the undersides of the leaves. Mites are generally easy to kill with various miticides on the market or even blasts of water. Neem oil works fairly well as well as other horticultural oils. I also agree to apply now.You can also make a dormant application with some sort of oil that will kill any overwintering eggs.

Thanks for your comments, DianaK and Drobarr. I will spray as soon as it stops raining!

there is also a spider mite that doesn't make webs but does all the same damage as the regular ones.

they hate and cannot live in water. an infestation can usually be thwarted by faithful daily (or nightly) mistings but you must get the whole leaf, bottom and top, especially the bottoms.

Comments (5)


How much are you watering? They could be fungus gnats or white flys. Do you get white spots on your leaves from an insect biting them? That could be white flys. If your keeping you soil too moist it could also be fungus gnats. Their young eat decomposing matter in the soil (somtimes a little roots but it won't hurt an established plant). They tend to look like fruit flies. If your watering too much it can make the leaves drop, the insecticidal soap usually won't harm the plant as it is very mild. Try using a water meter from Home Depot or Lowes (they are usually pretty cheap and I've found them VERY helpful). I haven't herd of the cigarette treatment but I have herd wattering with a little vinegar in the water can help. The link might help you out, although it doesn't cover the gnats (they are a common problem with houseplants though). Also visit for pictures of some common problems.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plumeria Pests & Diseases - PSA


Spider mites are major pests of plumeria. Symptoms include blistered tissue, deformed leaves and the appearance of dead spots on the leaves, leaf drop and shoot tip dieback. Sometimes, a yellow stripe appears down the midrib of a leaf. Webbing also appears on the leaf. Spider mites are tiny bugs that are hard to without a magnifying glass. The damage they cause is a result of their feeding on plant juices. Control them with a light horticultural oil spray, insecticidal soaps or a miticide.