Plumeria is a genus of flowering plants indigenous to tropical and subtropical regions, including Southeast Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, and the Americas. The plants are well-known for their exquisite, scented blossoms, frequently used in classic Hawaiian leis.
This beautiful specimen adds a tropical burst with its soft petals and bright blooms.
Because plumeria plants are relatively simple to grow, gardeners and other plant enthusiasts frequently choose them. They can take little shade but prefer well-drained soil and lots of sunlight. Plumeria plants can be cultivated inside or in greenhouses in colder climes.
Here’s everything you need to know about Plumeria and its care.
Common Name: White Plumeria, Frangipani
Plant Type: Tree
Hardiness Zones: 10-11 USDA
Sun Exposure: Full, partial
Soil Type: Loamy, sandy, well-drained
Soil pH: Acidic, neutral
Height: Up to 20-25 ft. tall
Bloom Time: Summer, fall
Flower Colors: white, yellow, pink, and red
Native Areas: Tropical and subtropical regions of the world, including Southeast Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, the Americas, the Pacific Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Lesser Antilles
What is a Plumeria?
The plumeria plant is a tropical deciduous member of the dogbane family. This plant is considered Nicaragua’s national flower. This flower is native to warm tropical regions Nicaragua, Central America, South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Hawaii.
Most plumeria plants are small shrubs or trees with log green leaves and stunning flowers.
The classic plumeria flower has five petals and can be found in a variety of hues, including white, yellow, pink, and red. The blooms have a strong fragrance that is frequently utilized in perfumes and other scented products. The fragrant flowers have a pleasant, fruity scent.
Plumeria cuttings are often used to make Hawaiian leis and replanted in temples and cemeteries.
Their flowers pop amongst the dark green foliage and attract many different types of pollinators.
The Plumeria genus belongs to the Apocynaceae family and is closely related to oleanders and milkweeds. Plumerias are often called frangipani, Melia, Champa, or Dok Champa.
There are 11 currently accepted species in the genus plumeria, with hundreds of additional known hybrids and cultivars.
Because of their large leaves, showy bloom clusters, and relatively compact size, plumeria plants have become a staple landscaping species throughout southern Texas, California, Florida, and the Pacific Islands.
Common Plumeria Types
The plumeria genus includes several different species, most of which are native to tropical America, but only five types are well-known:
- Rubra plumeria: Also known as red plumeria, these small trees originate in Mexico and Venezuela. This plumeria has large green leaves and white or pink flowers.
- Obtuse plumeria: Native to Mexico, Guatemala, Florida, and the West Indies, this plumeria has white flowers with a yellow center and beautiful dark green leaves.
- Pudica plumeria: this evergreen can measure up to 5 meters high and has immaculate white flowers and arrow-shaped leaves, unlike other plumerias. P. Pudica has no aroma.
- Filifolia plumeria: This plumeria is native to Cuba and can grow as a 2 to 3-meter-tall shrub. P. Filifolia has very thin leaves and white flowers with a yellow center.
- Plumeria x stenopetala: this hybrid is better known as narrow-petalled frangipani. This plant has much thinner and longer leaves. Like P. Filifolia, they have white leaves and a yellow center.
History of Plumerias
In the mid-70s, Carl Linnaeus named the plumeria genus after one of the 18th century’s most renowned French botanists, Charles Plumier. Plumier has traveled through the Caribbean several times, documenting numerous species, including plumerias.
In their native region, both Aztec and Mayan people believed them to be a symbol of life and fertility. They included plumerias in the gardens of nobles and surrounded their temples with them.
While this plant is native to parts of Central America, it has been exported to tropical climate regions like Hawaii, Laos, and Thailand.
Plumeria oil has been used to make fragrances and perfumes for centuries, leading to a fruity and sweet scent that can conjure images of eating tropical fruit on a sunny beach.
Plumeria Cultivation and Care
For the most part, plumeria care is minimal.
Plumeria plants do not like wet feet, they need to be fertilized 2-3 times throughout their growing season in the spring and summer, and they need to be occasionally pruned. Let’s dive deeper into plumeria’s care.
As with most tropical flowers, plumerias can be grown in full sun and partial shade.
At least six daily hours of direct sunlight is ideal for this plant.
Plumeria plants do well with approximately one inch of water per week.
Ensure you water thoroughly, then allow the soil to dry out entirely before waiting again.
Do not water your plant when it is in dormancy during winter months.
Water indoor plumerias every 2-3 weeks during their dormancy. Established frangipanis are drought tolerant.
Frangipanis only thrive in hot tropical climates.
Anything cooler than USDA zone 10 will not allow these plants to thrive as they do not do well in frost.
These tropical plants do well in high humidity, like those in tropical areas. You can increase humidity levels using a humidifier or placing indoor plants on top of a pebble tray filled with water.
Plumeria plants are tolerant to a wide variety of soil types as long as they’re well draining. Soil with poor drainage can cause root rot.
Plumeria does best in well-draining, loamy, nutrient-rich, neutral, or slightly acidic soil.
This plant requires high phosphorus fertilizer.
Avoid giving it too much nitrogen, as it will develop more foliage than flowers.
Feed your plumeria every month during the active growing season for better results.
Pruning before new growth appears in late winter or early spring can help this plant maintain its desired shape.
When pruning, remember that the branch tips produce the flowers. If the branches get cut, they won’t grow flowers until the following year, so proceed cautiously.
To create a taller plumeria with a central trunk, prune all near the trunk’s lower branches.
For a denser shrub, prune all branches to half of their length.
Plumerias can be easily propagated in spring with cuttings.
Here’s how to do it.
- Using clean, sharp shears, trim the tip of a stem that’s ideally 12-18 inches long at a 45° angle.
- Remove leaves from the cutting, leaving only a couple at the top.
- Let the cutting dry out for a week or so in an upright position to allow the cut end to seal.
- Moisten the cut tip and dip it into the rooting hormone.
- Shake off any excess powder.
- Prepare a small pot with soil and perlite mix.
- Plant the cuttings 3-4 inches deep.
- Set the cutting in a warm sunny location.
- Water thoroughly and allow the excess water to drain from the drainage holes.
- Water again until the solid feels dry
- Once healthy roots have developed, plant the plumeria cutting in a sunny, rich, well-draining spot – it’ll take 6-8 weeks to acclimate.
Plumeria Common Problems
As previously mentioned, plumerias are usually easy to care for and are not prone to many issues.
However, when problems do arise, these are some common issues you may encounter:
Frangipani moth, frangipani rust, scale, caterpillar, spider mites, nematodes, and mealybugs are common pests and diseases for this plant.
Any of these issues can be treated with horticultural oil/neem oil or insecticides in severe cases.
Soft, wrinkled, or spongy branches are often caused by a root fungus or overwatering.
To avoid this problem, do not water your plant in winter.
If the problem persists, stop watering, spray your plant with antifungal treatment, and remove the affected branches.
This is a common sign of overwatering or root rot.
If your plumeria is in a pot, ensure it has proper drainage.
Cut back watering until the soil is arid, and replace your pot where the excess water can drain away.
If planted in the ground, cut back on the watering, and if the soil retains too much moisture, amend it with sand or other fast-draining material.
All parts of this plant are considered toxic.
The plumeria’s sap can cause a rash in sensitive skin people.
The alkaloids in this plant make it extremely bitter, so there are not a lot of plumeria poisoning cases.
The ingestion of plumeria can cause mild stomach pain, cramping, and other gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
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Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa’s work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.