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Plumerias (Frangipani) Complete Growing Guide

Plumerias sport some of the showiest tropical flowers out there and the genus consists of many gorgeous species to choose from. Few ornamental plants can add such lovely beauty to gardens as the fragrant frangipani trees. 

Their delicate 5-petalled star-shaped flowers add unparalleled pops of color and sweet scents to landscapes and the trees are fairly easy to establish and care for, making them an excellent choice for any garden and grower. 

Here is your in-depth guide to growing and caring for plumerias in your home's garden. 

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Plumeria commonly known as Frangipani

The famed flamboyant flowers are notorious for their presence in Hawaiian Leis and these small trees are now widely cultivated globally for their ability to boost any garden's appeal. 

The blooms form in large bouquet-like clusters at the ends of branches atop large, luscious dark-green leaves. The trees also sport an attractive form that, along with the sweetly-scented waxy flowers, can add an excellent tropical influence to outdoor spaces. 

Enjoy a selection of flower colours from white, pink, yellow, orange to even red depending on which species you choose to establish.


Genus:

Plumeria

Species:

Many available

Common Names:

Frangipani, Lei flowers

Location:

Outdoor

Type: 

Small trees

Growth:

10 to 25 ft. tall and wide

Sun Requirements:

Full sun

Foliage Color:

Green

Flower Color:

White, pink, yellow, orange, red (varies depending on species)

Flowering:

Spring to fall

Maintenance Level

10 to 12

Hardiness Zones::

Low

Poisonous for Pets:

Sap is toxic to humans, cats and dogs if ingested

Getting to Know Plumerias

Plumeria landscaping application

The genus was named after the 17th Century botanist, Mr Charles Plumier. Now, these trees are known as plumerias or frangipani. The genus consists of eleven species of shrubs and small trees in the Apocynaceae family, most of which are native to tropical America from Brazil to Mexico and the Caribbean.

They naturally thrive in subtropical and tropical climates and should be grown in USDA hardiness zones of 10 to 12.


Frangipani Plant Features 

Growing to about 10 to 25 feet tall and wide in gardens, these trees are known as rapid growers, especially in hotter climates. They are primarily grown for their highly decorative flowers that feature vivid petals with even brighter flower throats, usually in yellow. 

Common landscaping applications include uses as a feature plant, large container plant for patios (making it perfect for container gardening), attractive bordering plant or as part of a flower garden. 

Plumerias can live for over 15 years so choosing your planting location is an important task as these small trees don’t like to be transplanted too much.

Many choose to establish them near areas that get frequented often to allow the sweet blooms to gently fill the air. The sap is toxic to humans and pets if ingested so placement will also need to be adjusted accordingly if you’re concerned. 

5 Most Popular Plumeria Varieties

Plumeria rubra (Red frangipani)

Plumeria rubra commonly known as Red frangipani

Perhaps the most cultivated and cross-bred species of the genus, this gorgeous plant comes in many colors and shrub forms. Its flowers are the most fragrant, often variegated with stunning hues of red and pink.

Commonly known as red frangipani, this species now offers many exciting new cultivars, giving growers a fantastic selection of ornamental plants to choose from. Plumeria rubra grows to around 15 to 25 inches tall and wide on average. 

Check out our Plumeria rubra growing and care guide here.

Plumeria obtusa (Singapore graveyard flower)

Plumeria obtusa known as Singapore graveyard flower

Known as the Singapore graveyard flower, features white flowers with yellow throats and pink petal edges. This species is one of the smaller in the genus, growing to roughly 10 to 15 feet tall and wide.

This evergreen has shiny rounded leaves and an attractive umbrella-shaped form once matured, making it an excellent ornamental addition, particularly for smaller gardens. 

Here is detailed how to grow and care guide for Plumeria obtusa.

Plumeria alba (White plumerias)

Plumeria alba referred to as White plumerias

Commonly referred to as white plumerias, these deciduous trees are famed for their vivid white flowers with bright yellow throats.

This species produces no red in its blooms unlike other plants in the genus. Plumeria alba is a larger growing species that can reach up to 40 feet tall in ideal conditions. 

Plumeria pudica (Fiddle-leaf plumeria)

Plumeria pudica known as Fiddle-leaf plumeria

Known as fiddle-leaf plumeria, this plant boasts white or pink blooms with yellow centres and rounded petals. It is notorious for its presence at weddings and features unique foliage that forms in a spoon-like manner.

This species also grows more branches than the others so it’s a great fit for those looking for a bushy, medium-sized decorative tree. 

Plumeria stenophylla 

Plumeria stenophylla

Source: gardentags.com

This species is perfect for those looking for a smaller plumeria for their home or garden. They grow particularly well in pots and normally reach 8 feet tall.

The flowers form with five narrow petals that resemble a pinwheel-like arrangement. There is an even smaller dwarf cultivar available that grows to only 2 feet tall and wide. 

5 Most Popular Plumeria Varieties

Plumeria rubra (Red frangipani)

Perhaps the most cultivated and cross-bred species of the genus, this gorgeous plant comes in many colors and shrub forms. Its flowers are the most fragrant, often variegated with stunning hues of red and pink.


Commonly known as red frangipani, this species now offers many exciting new cultivars, giving growers a fantastic selection of ornamental plants to choose from. Plumeria rubra grows to around 15 to 25 inches tall and wide on average. 


Check out our Plumeria rubra growing and care guide here.

Plumeria rubra commonly known as Red frangipani

Plumeria obtusa (Singapore graveyard flower)

Known as the Singapore graveyard flower, features white flowers with yellow throats and pink petal edges. This species is one of the smaller in the genus, growing to roughly 10 to 15 feet tall and wide.


This evergreen has shiny rounded leaves and an attractive umbrella-shaped form once matured, making it an excellent ornamental addition, particularly for smaller gardens. 


Here is detailed how to grow and care guide for Plumeria obtusa.

Plumeria obtusa known as Singapore graveyard flower

Plumeria alba (White plumerias)

Commonly referred to as white plumerias, these deciduous trees are famed for their vivid white flowers with bright yellow throats.


This species produces no red in its blooms unlike other plants in the genus. Plumeria alba is a larger growing species that can reach up to 40 feet tall in ideal conditions. 

Plumeria alba referred to as White plumerias

Plumeria pudica (Fiddle-leaf plumeria)

Known as fiddle-leaf plumeria, this plant boasts white or pink blooms with yellow centres and rounded petals. It is notorious for its presence at weddings and features unique foliage that forms in a spoon-like manner.


This species also grows more branches than the others so it’s a great fit for those looking for a bushy, medium-sized decorative tree. 

Plumeria pudica known as Fiddle-leaf plumeria

Plumeria stenophylla 

This species is perfect for those looking for a smaller plumeria for their home or garden. They grow particularly well in pots and normally reach 8 feet tall.


The flowers form with five narrow petals that resemble a pinwheel-like arrangement. There is an even smaller dwarf cultivar available that grows to only 2 feet tall and wide. 

Plumeria stenophylla

Source: gardentags.com

How to Grow Plumerias

Plumerias are easiest to establish from stem cuttings rather than seeds. Seeds can take a lot of time and effort to get right, meaning even if you do get the seeds to strike, the tree will take considerably longer to flower. 

Alternatively, young and healthy nursery plants should be readily available at your local nurseries or garden centres that can quickly be transplanted into the desired position in your landscape. 

Another great reason to rather use cuttings is that cuttings will always be very similar to the parent plant and they will flower far sooner. Either way, propagation should start in spring when dealing with frangipani. 

How to Grow Plumerias

Growing Plumerias from Seeds

  • Place seeds in between moistened paper towels and leave them in a warm location for 24 hours. 
  • Once the seeds have swelled up, prepare seed-growing containers filled with a quality seed-raising mix or potting soil. 
  • Lightly water the soil and then gently place the seeds on the top of the mix in the middle of the containers. 
  • The seeds should be sown at a depth of about 0.2 inches deep where the thicker ends of the seeds should be sown towards the bottom of the containers. 
  • Place the seeds in a warm, well-lit location away from direct light. 
  • For a boost in humidity, cover the seeds in some plastic wrap and allow them to breathe at least once per week. 
  • Germination can occur within a month or two depending on the conditions. 
  • Once your seeds have sprouted, you can move young seedlings to bigger containers as needed to continuously stimulate new growth. 

Propagating Frangipani from Stem Cuttings

  • Using a sharpened and sterilized pair of secateurs, take a healthy cutting of 12 to 15 inches long from the parent plant. 
  • Remove most of the leaves from the cutting, keeping a few at the top. 
  • Place your cutting aside in a dark room to let it dry out for about a week. 
  • Prepare your bed or propagating container filled with good planting soil. A combination of perlite and potting soil should work great.
  • Once dried, dip the cut end of your cutting into some rooting hormone. (find the most popular rooting hormones here).
  • Plant the cutting into your container or directly into your garden bed to a depth around halfway up the stem. 
  • Water well after planting and keep moist. 
  • The cutting should root within a few months when it can then be transplanted if needed.

 Learn more about the ins and outs of taking plant cuttings here


Best Conditions for Planting Plumerias

These tropical plants can be grown outside of their natural habitats as long as you know what they need to thrive in gardens. Warmer conditions will always be favourable for frangipani but if you live in a colder climate, consider growing your plant in a pot so you can move it indoors during the winters. 

Best Conditions for Planting Plumerias

Here are your planting and caring tips for plumerias. 

Lighting Conditions for Best Growth

Frangipani trees will always perform and bloom best given at least 6 hours of full sun each day. Position your plant so that it gets about half a day’s sun exposure and you’ll have a bountifully blooming tree in no time. 

Recommended Planting Soil

Plumerias grow best in beds with well-draining, slightly acidic soil. They are pretty tolerant to different types of soil provided the soil retains moderate moisture and drains properly. 

For container-grown plants, use a mixture of a coarse, well-draining potting mix. A cactus mix or perlite and sand should work perfectly. (For testing your soil, check out the Soil pH Tester for reference).

Tips for Planting Plumerias

  • It is best to plant these small trees about 4 feet away from any buildings or structures to allow the plant to reach its proper height and width without worrying about potential damages. 
  • Always plant these tropical shrubs in warmer weather. 
  • For container-grown specimens, always use containers with consistently good drainage. 
  • The planting hole should be at least twice as wide and to the same depth as the root ball. Plant at a depth so that the root ball is flush with the surrounding soil. 

Caring for Plumerias

Caring for Plumerias

Watering Plumerias

Plumerias hate wet feet so overwatering should be avoided at all costs. Water deeply and allow the soil to dry out some before watering again.

Reduce waterings in mid-fall and cut waterings out completely during the dormant winter months. Once spring comes around, gradually increase watering as new growth appears. 

Fertilizing Frangipani

During the active growing seasons, feed your plant every two to three weeks with a high phosphate (phosphorus) fertilizer like a 10-30-10.

This will encourage blooms and healthy new growth. Avoid using fertilizers high in nitrogen as this will lead to more growth in the foliage and ultimately, less flowering. 

Pruning Needs

These small trees respond well to pruning. Before new growth appears, prune your plumeria as needed up to 12 inches from the ground. Do this in late winter or early spring for the best results.

Try to avoid hard pruning as this can also lead to less flowering. When pruning, remove any diseased branches and always use a sharpened and sterilized tool to avoid possible infections. (See our review of the best pruning shears here).


Possible Frangipani Pests & Diseases

Normally, frangipani doesn’t struggle with any major issues, especially when grown in good conditions. On rare occasions, these issues could present themselves. 

Plumeria Rust

Appearing as an orange powder on foliage and flowers, this disease is luckily not fatal if treated. It may also cause leaf blisters and other unwelcomed damages.

To treat plumeria rust, simply apply a fungicide to your plant every couple of weeks and the tree should recover soon. 

Mites/Mealybugs/Scale Insects

Any of these smaller pest issues can quickly be treated by using a soap and water mixture and manually spraying and knocking them off the plant. Repeat treatment as needed.

Alternatively, using an organic neem oil spray is just as effective. Try to avoid letting your plant sit dry for too long and make sure it gets enough sunlight to ensure these infestations never bother you. 

Root Rot

This is normally caused by overwatering problems or soil that isn’t draining well enough. Always ensure your soil is well-drained and only water when the soil has dried some.


Plumerias Frequently Asked Questions

Blooming Plumerias

Are plumerias poisonous?

Yes. The sap is toxic to humans and pets, especially if ingested. When working with your frangipani, be sure to always wear gloves as the sap can also cause rash and other skin irritations. 

Do plumerias have deep roots?

Yes. The root systems are known to be deep and extensive. Be sure to consider placement accordingly so that the roots don’t interfere with the buildings and structures around your property. 

Do plumerias lose their leaves in winter?

Once temperatures begin to drop, your plumeria will start to lose its leaves as it enters dormancy. 


Prepare Your Garden for Prolific Blooms with the Picturesque Plumerias

These decorative small trees are an easy choice for anyone looking to establish a highly ornamental flowering tree in their landscapes.

The one-of-a-kind blooms will quickly add unapparelled tropical beauty to your outdoor spaces and the tree itself will always impress with its attractive form and lush foliage. 

With so many stunning species to choose from, you’re bound to find the right plumerias for your landscaping needs. 

About the Author Mabel Vasquez

Mabel has enjoyed a long career as a horticulturist, working in nurseries and greenhouses for many years. Although she loves all plants, Mabel has developed a particular passion over the years for herb gardens and indoor plants. Mabel has since retired from her horticulture career and loves sharing her many years of experience with our audience here at Sumo Gardener.

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