Frangipani (Plumeria) has been playing a prominent role not only in gardening culture for ages. It has also been an important plant in perfumery for a long time.
Basically, mainly the species of Plumeria known as frangipani play a role in houseplant culture. However, the genus includes several other species, about 20 in total.
They are generally native to the Neotropics, i.e. the Central and South American tropical to subtropical regions from the southern USA to the southern Andes. The range of some species even extends to the West Indies.
The most relevant species are the Singapore graveyard flower (Plumeria obtusa) and the red frangipani (Plumeria rubra). They are native exclusively to the tropical areas from southern Florida through Mexico to Puerto Rico.
Its original habitat is therefore a warm, humid rainforest climate. Therefore, it is only possible to keep them in year-round indoor or greenhouse cultivation in many regions.
Origin at a glance:
- Various species of Plumeria are distributed throughout the Neotropics (southern USA to southern Andes).
- Only the frangipani species originating from the tropical region of Central America are relevant for local gardening.
- Frangipani can be kept only in year-round indoor culture in most regions.
The frangipani grows as a large shrub with a stately, spreading habit. Other Plumeria species also form into large, thick-stemmed trees.
In their native habitat, frangipani species can reach about 23 ft (7 m) in height and up to 16 ft (5 m) in width. In indoor culture, however, it usually grows only to a maximum of 10 ft (3 m).
The richly branched twigs have a fleshy, succulent consistency of about 1 inch (3 cm) thick. All parts of the plant contain toxic milky sap.
Growth characteristics in brief:
- Frangipani forms shrubby, spreading habit.
- In natural habitat up to 23 ft (7 m) high and up to 16 ft (5 m) wide.
- In indoor culture not more than 10 ft (3 m) high.
- Other Plumeria species grow as large trees.
- Richly branched shrubbery with fleshy branches.
- Contains poisonous milky sap.
The leaves of the frangipani are alternate and usually clustered at the shoot ends. They have an elliptical to obovate lanceolate shape and reach a length of 8 to 16 inches (20 to 40 cm) with a maximum width of 6 inches (15 cm).
Their color is a rich dark green. The pronounced, neat veining and the prominent midrib give the leaves a compelling and stringent appearance.
Leaf characteristics in brief:
- Set alternate and clustered at shoot ends.
- Elongated, elliptical to obovate lanceolate shape.
- Length 8 to 16 inches (20 to 40 cm), width up to 6 inches (15 cm).
- Rich, dark green color.
- Distinctive veining.
The flowers of the frangipani have provided the perfumery with a popular raw material for a long time.
Fragrant frangipani contains fragrances characterized by a creamy delicacy, a gardenia-like floweriness, and a slightly fruity, peachy nuance. Especially in combination with other exotic scents such as coconut, the frangipani odor is used in scented waters.
But the visual appearance of frangipani flowers is also extremely attractive. The sharply contoured shape of their 5 tapered, cupped petals and their waxy consistency give them a very elegant, exotic character.
The magnificent coloration also makes the flower very decorative. There exist varieties in bright pink-red to red, but also yellow or yellow-cream-white varieties.
The petals fuse together in a funnel shape so that the flowers present themselves as a noble calyx.
Flower characteristics at a glance:
- Exceptionally strong, creamy-floral-fruity fragrance.
- Five cupped, waxy petals, fused together like a funnel.
- Magnificent color variations from pink to red or yellow and white.
When is Flowering Time for Frangipani?
The frangipani shows its beautiful flowers throughout the summer, approximately between June and September.
The flowers form two bellows fruits each, each of which contains many seeds that you can use for propagation.
Which Location is Suitable for Frangipani?
When talking about the right location, we again refer to the most cultivated frangipani species that originate from tropical regions.
Their habitat of origin also determines their environmental requirements. Like all tropical plants, they need warmth, brightness, and high humidity all year round.
The frangipani thrives best in a room or greenhouse at a constant temperature of about 68 °F (20 °C).
Unlike other tropical houseplants, the frangipani does not mind direct sunlight. On the contrary, it is a true sun worshipper and prefers about 6 hours of sun a day.
Nevertheless, you must maintain the highest possible humidity.
In winter, the frangipani comes into a forced pause in view of the dwindling light supply. It can then stand a little cooler, but the temperature should not fall below 54 °F (12 °C).
What Kind of Soil Does Frangipani Need?
As a substrate, the frangipani needs a medium nutrient-rich soil with a good drainage layer in the form of sand or expanded clay.
This is because it is quite sensitive to waterlogging. The ph-value should be in the rather high range.
When watering, you should be relatively careful. Frangipani is indeed quite thirsty and needs vigorous watering, especially in the summer.
However, as already mentioned, it is sensitive to waterlogging. So always make sure that before each watering the substrate is well dried and the root ball is never permanently in water.
Frangipani requires an extremely regular watering practice. The plant is not well suitable for people who are rarely at home.
During the winter dormancy, however, you should water significantly less, so that the plant sprouts again properly in the spring and forms buds.
Watering rules in a nutshell:
- Especially in summer, water vigorously, but in well-dosed portions.
- Avoid waterlogging at all costs.
- Reduce watering significantly in winter.
Fertilizing Frangipani Properly
According to the average nutrient requirements, you can supply the frangipani regularly with additional food during the main vegetation phase.
A simple, universal liquid fertilizer is suitable for this purpose, which you add to the watering water at intervals of 2 weeks. However, the dose should be at most half concentrated.
Pruning Frangipani Properly
Depending on how much space you want to or can provide for the frangipani, you can either cultivate it growing freely or restrained in shape and size.
However, it naturally forms a very shapely, albeit expansive, crown. So if you have enough space, you should simply give it room. The cut ends also provide a breeding ground for fungi to colonize.
Otherwise, you can also prune the plant regularly without any problems, preferably in early spring. You can easily shorten longer, troublesome shoots and bring them into the desired shape. The plant will then immediately re-branch at the cuttings.
Pruning rules in brief:
- You can prune frangipani but it is not necessary.
- Because of the naturally beautiful growing crown, prune only when there is a real lack of space.
- Otherwise trimming the shoots is possible without any problems.
The inevitable loss of light in autumn requires winter dormancy for frangipani cultivation in colder regions. This means that you should reduce all other care measures in parallel with the reduced light supply.
A somewhat cooler ambient temperature is quite reasonable, however, it must not fall below about 54 °F (12 °C). For this purpose, you can put the plants in a room that is not too cold.
However, the frangipani still favors as much light as it can get, even in the winter months. A greenhouse with a glazed roof is therefore advisable.
You should also reduce watering quite a bit. Give only enough water so that the pot ball never dries out completely.
Don’t be alarmed: Plumeria loses its leaves during the winter break. This is normal given the lack of light and the generally downed vegetation as a result.
Once it gets brighter again in the spring, the plant will sprout fresh without further ado.
It is quite easy to propagate frangipani. The best ways to do so are cuttings or seed sowing.
In this method, cut 8 inches (20 cm) long shoots from the upper crown of the shrub, preferably without leaves yet. To stop the flow of milky sap, it is advisable to dry or scorch the cut.
Put the cutting in a planting container with growing soil and a good amount of sand. At a warm ambient temperature, about 77 °F (25 °C), and even moisture, the cutting will take root best. However, you should not pull it under foil.
You can also try rooting it in a water glass after the cut of the cutting has dried well.
You can also grow new frangipani from seeds you have collected yourself or bought. However, there is no guarantee that you will get a daughter plant of the same variety and color.
Germinate the seeds in potting soil at a soil temperature of 68 to 77 °F (20 to 25 °C) and with even moisture. At a size of 2-4 inches (5-10 cm), report the seedlings and cultivate them further in a species-appropriate manner.
Diseases in Frangipani
Fortunately, the frangipani rarely gets diseases. It is rather caring mistakes with respect to the water supply that can affect it.
These include waterlogging, which can lead to root rot, and insufficient humidity. The latter attracts the usual drought-loving parasites such as spider mites and mealybugs.
Spider mites and mealybugs are the most common pests that infest humidity-loving tropical plants in heated rooms. It is not easy to maintain adequate humidity in living spaces.
Cultivation in a conservatory is therefore recommended for frangipani, and not only for reasons of light.
These pests are easily recognized by the fine webs they draw around the leaf axils and branches of their host plant. Especially if they are of the red or yellowish variety, you can spot the mites with the naked eye.
Spider mites are quite easy to control by using water to get at them. First, wipe them with a damp cloth, and then spray the plant thoroughly with a disperser.
Afterward, wrap the plant under plastic wrap. In this humid, low-air climate, the mites will die within a week.
Mealybugs also give themselves away by a clearly visible secretion on the host plant. When sucking on the leaves, they secrete woolly balls on the plant.
You should also first remove mealybugs mechanically by wiping them off with a wet cloth. Then apply a spray cure with a mixture of water, alcohol, and curd soap.
Is Frangipani Poisonous?
As a member of the dogbane family, frangipani and all other Plumeria species are poisonous. They contain a milky sap with toxic saponins in the branches and leaves.
Therefore, it may not be suitable for households where young children and curious pets live. Also, when cutting frangipani, it is best to wear gloves.
Within the frangipani species, especially the red frangipani (Plumeria rubra), several different cultivars are offered in the plant trade, which differ from each other mainly in flower colors. But sometimes they also a little in the growth.
Plumeria rubra ‘Divine’
This variety of the red frangipani captivates by its particularly pretty and numerous flowers.
The waxy, artistic formations appear in a wonderfully exotic play of colors during the summer months: Their heart presents itself in warm yellow-orange, which outwardly changes into clear white and finally into fresh pink at the petal edges.
The fragrance of Plumeria rubra ‘Divine’ is beguilingly floral-fruity.
In terms of growth, the variety is quite compact due to its intensive branching and is therefore also suitable for exotic plant fans who have less space available.
It should be planted in a sunny place, ideally in a conservatory with good humidity.
Plumeria rubra ‘Gina’
In this variety, the flowers stand out in summer in a scarlet pink with pinkish and yellowish-white edges from the medium green foliage.
They appear more two-dimensional than the flowers of Plumeria rubra ‘Divine’, both from the somewhat more homogeneous coloration and from the somewhat more plate-shaped opening. Their fragrance is also very intense.
In terms of growth, it develops quite broadly, but still with compact, richly branched shrubbery. It grows to a height of about 6 to 10 ft (2 to 3 m).
Plumeria rubra ‘Inca Gold’
The cultivar name of this variety already suggests its flower color. Indeed, starting in June, they shine in a rich golden yellow with delicate light yellow edges, thus exuding a warm, southern flair.
Their fragrance is sweet and slightly spicy. In a sunny, warm location, the Plumeria rubra ‘Inca Gold’ is also extremely willing to bloom.
Its growth is bushy and richly branched, reaching a height of about 8 ft (2.50 m).
Plumeria rubra ‘Dulcemia’
If you are a fan of strong red tones, this variety is the right choice for you. The variety blooms in intense red the more sun it gets.
With less light, the flower color remains paler, more in the pink to pastel pink range. Its fragrance is delicately fruity.
The Plumeria rubra ‘Dulcemia’ grows bushy and reaches a height of about 8 ft (2.50 m).