How to grow and care for frangipani

No flower evokes thoughts of the tropics quite like a frangipani does—the beautiful form, the colours and that perfume! As well as its flowers, frangipani has a stunning form that can bring great summer shade.

What you need to know about frangipani

Name: frangipani (Plumeria sp. and cvrs.)

Height: 5–8m with age, canopy often as wide

Foliage: deciduous. Large (20–30cm long × 10cm wide), deep green, distinct veins and mid-rib.

Climate: tropics, sub-tropics, sheltered location in warm temperate, and microclimates in cold temperate.

Soil: free-draining to sandy soil. Will perform best with extra organic matter in the soil.

Position: full sun, protected from winds

Flowering: varies by region, from December through until April.

Feeding: not essential, although a spring/summer feed is beneficial.

Watering: during warmer months if needed. Avoid winter watering.

Frangipani

Appearance and characteristics of frangipani

The frangipani is a small tree with a distinctly tropical appearance. The richly fragrant flowers appear across the warmer months, and range from white with a yellow centre to vibrant pinks, yellows, pink-yellow-orange mixes (often called “fruit salad”) and dark shades of mahogany-red. Some reds are so dark they’re sometimes described as “black”. With age, the plant develops a broad, spreading crown, with the branching often starting just above ground level.

The most commonly grown species are deciduous. There are evergreen species, but they are generally only suitable for tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Uses of frangipani

Whether grown in the ground or in big pots, no tropical-look, resort style, Balinese or modern Aussie coastal garden is complete without a frangipani or two. You can even plant a perfumed rainbow! The choice of flower colours is enormous, and the perfume is divine.

Frangipani is excellent grown against sunny walls, providing cooling summer shade while letting winter sun flow through. It can also be a real problem solver, as it will thrive in sandy soil that many plants can’t handle.

And if you only have a balcony, you can still have a frangipani! They can do very well in large pots and planters too.

How to plant and grow frangipani

As frangipani hails originally from tropical regions, its best performance will be in the tropics and sub-tropics. However, if protected from cold winds and frost, it can also grow well, albeit more slowly, in cooler zones.

In cooler areas, select a north-facing spot that will create a suitably warm microclimate. Frangipani will tolerate a wide range of soil types, provided drainage is excellent. Avoid locations where soil may remain wet, especially across the cooler months, and avoid windy spots, as frangipani branches are brittle.

Frangipani planting tips

Follow these planting tips to ensure your frangipani will thrive:

  • Frangipani will benefit from some extra organic matter, such as a quality compost or composted manure, blended in with the planting soil.
  • Don’t be surprised if the plant only has a very loose root ball when you remove its pot.
  • Try not to disturb the roots too much, as they can be easily damaged.
  • Larger plants will require staking, as they will be top-heavy until they establish.

Frangipani care tips

Frangipani is a very easy-care plant. If conditions are dry in the warmer months, water the plant as the leaves and flowers are developing. Avoid watering your frangipani while it is dormant (leafless).

Fertilising isn’t necessary, but will improve performance. Apply a controlled-release fertiliser around the edge of the canopy line in late spring or early summer.

How to prune frangipanis

Occasionally, you may need to prune your frangipani to restrict size, tidy a broken branch or to remove an inconvenient branch. On older trees, look for any branches that have started rubbing or crossing over, or have stopping producing foliage or flowers, and remove them.

Diseases and pests

Frangipani rust generally appears shortly before leaf fall, and shows up as discolouring of leaves above, and orange spots on their under-surface. Thoroughly spray all leaf surfaces with a suitable fungicide such as Eco-Fungicide and repeat weekly. Any fallen leaves should be promptly removed, sealed in a plastic bag and disposed of in the regular bin (not the compost).

Scale insects are found on stems or leaves. They look like small white or brown lumps. These can easily be treated with a suitable horticultural spray oil.

Growing frangipani from cuttings

Frangipani grows very easily from cuttings. Your cutting should be a growth tip at least 10–15cm long. Ensure the cutting is cleanly cut, not crushed, and put it somewhere warm and shady until the sap seals.

Once dry, fill a suitable-sized pot with a free-draining potting mix or propagating mix. Put the cutting in, and support it if required. Put it in a warm spot and only water when dry. 

You can grow a new plant from even very large cuttings—just ensure they have adequate support as they grow.

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