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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Frangipani gives your garden that ‘island feel’

By Staff | Jul 6, 2016

Nothing compares to the fragrance and beauty of a frangipani once they are in bloom. PHOTO BY ANITA FORCE MARSHALL

Plant Subject: Frangipani (Plumeria ssp)

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 supersized dark green fleshy leaves in its canopy. The tree stands very straight up and down with a bulbous shape. Exotic perfumed scents linger in the breeze. No need to visit Hawaii, look in your tropical garden for frangipani trees in the colors of ruby, yellow, pink, white and the rainbow.

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 in the company of other plants, or 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. If you see nibbling, it is the host plant for a large 6 inch caterpillar that feeds on it. This caterpillar, morphs into the Tetriosphinx moth (wingspan 5 inches). Most frangipani’s have a dormant period when all their leaves drop off. For about two months, you must trust that your tree is not dead, it is utilizing all its energy to surprise you with oodles of flowers and fragrance.

Get ready, when they bloom, there is nothing to compare to their beauty, uniqueness and fragrance. Propagation can be done by seeds or sticks. You can harvest the seed pods, they look like swollen boomerangs on your tree. Sticks are 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. 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

Fragrance is haunting

Lei’s can be made for parties

Is great for accents in a garden due to its small size

Gotta have at least on frangipani in your Florida garden

Don’t you just love saying Fran-Gee-Pan-ee?

Cons:

Daily clean up when shedding leaves

Non-native status

Looses limbs in strong winds

Neighbors may be stealing sticks when your not looking

Can fool you by looking dead with no leaves and just branches between flowering

When invaded by caterpillar can be very aggressive eaters

Conclusion: Frangipani is coveted as one of the world’s most beautiful flowering trees. Just a whiff of the fragrance can take you back to your memories of Hawaii. Luckily, it fits in perfectly in our tropical oasis. It encourages you to bring a little aloha to your garden. Hula and grass skirts are optional! Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!