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Aloha feeling blossoms with frangipani

By Staff | Aug 5, 2010

There are three very mature frangipani trees in the colors of ruby, pink, and white blooming at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Plant Subject: Frangipani (Plumeria)

Photo 1

First impression: Bright, exotic five petal flowers that remind me of orchid blooms on a tree. The trunk has super smooth light grey bark with large dark green fleshy leaves in its canopy. The tree stands very straight up and down with a bulbous shape. Milky white sap oozes when a flower is broken off. Exotic perfumed scents linger in the breeze. We have three very mature Frangipani trees in the colors of ruby, pink, and white blooming at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Photo 2

Upon further investigation: Frangipani is pronounced FRAN-GEE-PAN-EE, which includes around 45 plus species of trees and shrubs from tropical America. This beauty is great as a specimen plant or grouped lining a walkway. Considered a small tree whose mature height can be 25 feet, it is perfect for our temperatures of dry climates and coastal areas. Plant in partial shade to full sun in a well drained area. It is the host plant for a gargantuan six inch caterpillar that voraciously feeds on it. This caterpillar, morphs into the Tetriosphinx moth (wingspan five inches). Fertilizer is not recommended before or during the bloom and during our rainy season, only ends up in our water resources as unwanted algae blooms. Remember we have a yearly fertilizer restriction during July 1 through Oct. 2. This is a very important mandatory restriction to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into our precious waterways. Easy to propagate by one to two foot cuttings of any limb then prune off all its leaves. When you cut your “Frangi stick”, let the end bleed out the milky sap (which resembles our poinsettia ooze), by laying it on the ground under a shady shrub. Wear gloves, wash your hands, never ingest this ooze, it has a highly-toxic quality. Approximately two to seven days later, retrieve your stick and it will have closed off its ooze and is ready to plant. Many of my sticks have traveled in suitcases and been tossed around at gardening get togethers. In days long ago, sticks were graveyard plants and widely distributed by traveling missionary priests. Present day, Hawaii is known for its lovely lei’s from the never ending forests of Frangipani Trees.

Pros: Unique orchid like bloom- Does well in sandy soil – likes full sun- easy to maintain/prune-easily propagated by sticks – fragrance is haunting – lei’s can be made for parties – salt tolerance – Is great for accents in a garden due to its small size – host plant for a lovely large moth.

Cons: Daily clean up when shedding leaves – non native status – loses limbs in strong winds-neighbors may be stealing sticks when your not looking – slow grower – can fool you by looking dead with no leaves and just branches between flowering – when invaded by caterpillar they are very aggressive eaters.

Conclusion: Frangipani is coveted as one of the world’s most beautiful flowering trees. Just perfect for our tropical oasis, it encourages you to bring a little aloha to your garden. Hula and grass skirts are optional!