With their gorgeous blossoms and unmistakable fragrance, a frangipani (Plumeria sp.) is an ideal tree for the garden, whether you entertain in its shade or simply sit, admire its blooms and take in its irresistible scent.
Colour your world
Frangipani blooms appear in summer and continue flowering well into autumn. They are available in countless single and bi-colour combinations, from the classic yellow and white to pastel pinks and oranges, and even striking reds and lilacs. Although the blooms look delicate, the trees are robust, with long lives, and can grow up to 8m tall. And if you’re short on space there are also compact choices.
Frangipanis are quite easily propagated from cuttings – the trick is to allow the cutting base to dry out and callous over before planting. Late spring to early summer is a good time to take cuttings, but almost any time will do. Simply cut lengths of stems or lop off a branch, then remove most of the lower leaves and any flower buds. Next, stand cuttings upright in a shady place for one to four weeks. Once dried, insert into a pot filled with coarse sand and water sparingly until roots form.
Although frangipanis are generally very hardy, there are diseases, such as rust, which can affect their health. Rust is most noticeable in late summer and autumn. Keep a lookout for yellow pustules appearing on the undersides of leaves while the upper surface is discoloured and motley. If you see this, spray all surfaces with a fungicide such as Eco-fungicide or Yates Rose Shield – don’t forget to collect, bag and dispose of any fallen leaves. A clean-up spray with copper fungicide or lime sulphur in winter may slow the disease’s progression. However, if the tree looks too far gone, consider taking cuttings from branches that look the healthiest and replanting.
How to grow them
Climate Frangipanis thrive in tropical, subtropical and warm-temperate climates. They are sensitive to frost but, once established, can tolerate light frosts, so they’re even worth a try in cool climates.
Aspect Plant in full sun. Protect
Water During dry summers, water newly planted trees at least once or twice a week, when the soil feels dry to touch. Once established, they’re fairly drought tolerant and rely mostly on watering from rainfall, although a drink once in a while will help them along.
Soil Frangipanis are not fussy and suit a wide range of soils, but well-draining soils are essential. In areas with heavier soils, plant in raised beds with freedraining mix or in pots filled with good-quality potting mix
Fertiliser Established trees rarely need additional fertiliser, but younger trees and especially those grown in containers benefit from controlled-release fertiliser (a fertiliser for roses is great) applied in spring and again in summer. A thin layer of cow manure works as an effective mulch and gives a gentle feed.
Going potty Frangipanis will happily survive in pots for many years, but require re-potting into larger containers as they grow. Compact dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties also make lovely container plants. Select a wide container over 50cm wide and 40cm deep, and fill with two-thirds quality potting mix and one-third coarse sand. Frangipanis become top-heavy as their crown develops, so wide pots prevent toppling over in windy conditions. Allow the soil to dry to the touch before watering, and ensure there is adequate drainage by sitting the pot on ‘pot feet’ so any water can drain freely.