Tropical Climate Gardening

Your guide to all things garden in the tropics

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How To Grow Frangipanis

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One of the recognisable plants from the tropics has to be the famous frangipani or called by its botanic name Plumeria. From the frangipani's sweet scent to it's gorgeous spiral flowers it's no wonder this plant is found in so many gardens in the Top End and around parts of Australia. The frangipani is commonly known as the flower of love and used in Feng Shui it was fascinating to see whilst in Bangkok last year the flowers scattered around many temples. In our garden we have a favourite frangipani tree its a Obtusa and we often picnic under it so we can smell the sweet perfumed scent wafting past, my daughter loves to also pick the flowers and make her own version of Paris perfume.   

Frangipani's arrived in Australia from South America in the 1800's through to the 1920's through the Polynesian missionaries and very early travelers. The islanders considered the  frangipani plant to be sacred and used it in many traditional ceremonies. In the 1970's the flower was used allot in political movements to promote world peace and a gained its status as a symbol of harmony which is when the popularity really took off. In Australian backyards the frangipani is more grown for its colour rather than variety but many serious growers and collectors from the frangipani society of Australia are even starting to form new varieties.

The frangipani flower has many uses from perfumes, soaps, oils and pot puris in fact the flower has been used in perfumery since the sixteenth century so its been around a long time. The flowers form a nearly perfect spiral in the bud and then opens up to a pretty spiral shaped flower with 5 petals. You can use your frangipani in many ways around the home too, I like to use my flowers for a perfumed water spray in the build up season, its very refreshing.


Frangipani varieties to consider when buying

  • Evergreen frangipanis- these offer year round foliage in the tropical climate zones however I think these are some that do well in the cooler zones. It's usually these type that offer the really amazing foliage which is a feature on its own.
  • Deciduous frangipanis- Most well known and most colourful type, they do shed all their leaves in the cooler months (dry season in the NT)   
  • Variegated frangipanis -Comes in both the evergreen and deciduous forms
  • Dward Frangipanis- Very popular in the landscapers world and in high demand, can be pruned and shaped. 
  • Large full sized frangipani trees- 5-6m high by  4-5m wide, these types are the fastest growing, great used around pools as the root system is still relatively small and soft so it wont damage pipes, concrete and drains.  b2ap3_thumbnail_nature-landscapes_hdwallpaper_exotic-plumeria_4682.jpg

How To Grow A Frangipani

Frangipanis like sub tropical to tropical climates and require partial to full sun in order to grow and flower well, if your in a cooler climate you can still grow a frangipani but they do prefer the warmer zones. Frangipanis are fairly hardy and I suppose they tend to remind me of a bougainvilleas as they tend to thrive on neglect, you can grow them in the ground or in large pots. I remember about two years ago I had a cutting and whilst in a rush i just stuck it in an old wheel barrow near the kids sand pit. Within no time it rooted and now its about 2m high flourishing in the wheel barrow, it seemed to love the spot so much I couldn't bare to move it.

If your going to plant your frangipani in a pot we use a ratio of 40-50% high quality potting mix to 50-60% organic materials with sand added. Make sure your frangipani is not exposed to wet feet for prolonged periods, free draining soil is preferred. But as you can see from my wheel barrow story don't stress about the ratio's especially if your in the tropics.

As for fertilising they love organic matter,good animal manure, fire ash and compost, your frangipani wont die if your not fertilising or composting but if you do the foliage will be more lush and I find the flowers tend to be more vibrant.

Prune Or Not To Prune?

Like everything in most gardens your plant or tree will benefit from a prune every now and then.I do both, some of my trees I don't touch, they are happy in their spots and not in high traffic areas whilst others I will prune once or twice year. The frangipani I do prune I like to keep smallish and dense so I prune to half their height. The branches I cut will sprout new multiple branches making it more bushy and ornamental looking but note it can take up to two years for the new branches to flower. 



Propagation is dead easy and done by cuttings (make sure the cut is clean) which all you need to do is dry your cutting for a week in a shady position then pot into pots with a sandy potting mixture. Water once a fortnight until the roots have formed. Frangipani can also be grown from grafting, seed and even air laying but to be honest they are easy to propagate I've only ever done the cutting method or bought whole plants from our wholesaler. When you do propagate your new plant may take up to two years to flower so just be patient, it will happen if you want to try your luck at early flowering look for a fertiliser that is high in phosphorous.  

If you do buy one from the shops depending on size price can be from $22 upwards, markets are a great place to find cheap cuttings and a good place to find rare colours. If your right into the rare finds there are some online places you can try but beware the price for the rare ones can be $100- $250 just for a standard size opposed to the common found colours $22-60

TIP- Use terracotta pots for your cuttings as they can breath and stake the cutting in place, 

Frangipani Problems

  • Rust (Coleosporium plumeriae) This rust looks like small orange pustules which will be found on the backs of the leaves whilst not serious it will contribute to early defoliation. There are varieties which are rust resistant I've read there are three levels of rust tolerance from low resistance to full immune, in Darwin I've not yet come across any frangipani that was affected. If you do happen to come across rust hand pick the leaves and bin them straight away (don't compost)
  • Heat Stress, mainly caused by watering during the heat of the day
  • Powdery Mildew- High humidity can cause this but easily treated with a white oil solution, spay late in the arvo so the leaves wont burn.
  • Mould -Spray with white oil and then feed with a fertiliser high in potassium or potash which will help your frangipanis natural resistance.




There are so many colours around today it must be in the 100's they range from the single uniformed colours then there is the two toned colour such as the white and yellow ( still referred to as a white) or the pink and white (referred to as a pink.) The pinks I find very fascinating as they tend to have hues of orange and/ or yellow so you get these pretty tri colours forming. A new variety/ colour is named when these variations are shown consistently and have a unique character.    b2ap3_thumbnail_frangipani.jpg

Did you know?

  • The frangipani flower is the flower of the city Palermo in Sicily, Italy
  • The frangipani flower is the national flower of Nicaragua
  • In the Carribean the frangipani leaf is used as a healing wrap for bruises and latex used for rheumatism
  • Frangipani flowers are worn by Polynesian women to indicate their relationship status, over the left ear means she is taken
  • The frangipani tree is the national tree of Laos where its called dok jampa, all their Buddhist temples have them planted as they are classed as the sacred tree.
  • Nicaragua also have the flower as their national flower and it can be seen on many of their notes of currency
  • In Hindu culture the flower means loyalty
  • Sailors from the Hawaii waters back in the war days would toss a frangipani lei into the waters as the ships passed diamond head. If the lei floated ashore the sailor would return but if it floated towards the ship  it was feared he would not be coming home.
  • Frangipanis are rare in China and more precious than an orchid, if a loved one in China receives a frangipani flower then this means a long lasting relationship.
  • In mexican myth the gods were born from frangipani flowers
  • Frangipanis are drought and fire hardy



Frangipani Face Cream Recipe

1/2 Cup Aloe Vera Gel

1/8 Cup Glycerin

1/2 Teaspoon royal jelly

1 Teaspoon Frangipani Essence ( I buy mine from Bush Flower Essences approx $14)

Combine all ingredients and dab onto face, gently massage in. this recipe can be kepyt in the fridge for up to 6 months

Frangipani Essence

Great for a calming in stressful situations, inner and outer self awareness, passion, loyalty, peace and harmony 












©Kylie Stephens- Lawn Ranger
in Gardening Hits: 40497
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Guest Sunday, 24 March 2019