How to grow frangipanis
Plant in full sun, and find a spot in your garden where they will be protected from wind.
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.
Frangipanis are not fussy and suit a wide range of soils, but well-draining soils are essential. Frangipanis generally don’t thrive if your soil is heavy clay. In areas with heavier soils, plant in raised beds with free draining mix or in pots filled with good-quality potting mix.
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 plants and rely mostly on watering from rainfall, although a drink once in a while will help them along.
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.
Frangipani leaves are lovely and long, their ribbed blades providing extra texture, but if you use fertiliser that’s high in nitrogen, you’ll get a surplus of them at the expense of flowers.
Prune in spring before leaves grow and the sap starts running. Remove branches that rub against each other, those that are dead or diseased and to open the middle of the tree for better air flow.
Don’t let mulches touch your tree’s base – the trunks are prone to fungal disease, especially if the weather has been cold and wet.
Where to plant frangipanis
A frangipani tree in your garden will make you fall crazy in love – with their summer flowers and their punchy perfume. You don’t have to live in the tropics to happily grow a frangipani tree – they will thrive anywhere with sunny summer days and frost-free winters.
The sweet, heavenly scent from their flowers will fill your garden, and you have a rainbow of colours to choose from. It’s a must-have small tree for a garden that provides sweet-scented shade in summer while its bare branches let in the soft, low sun in winter.
With its striking branches, a frangipani tree can make a statement in a small garden bed. Match its arching leaves with bromeliads and the bigger alcantarea, then contrast with the wrinkly leaves of purple waffle (Hemigraphis sp).
If you’re lucky enough to live in a tropical zone, you can put southern indoor plants – such as the colourful coleus and croton – in your outdoor jungle and let them sit at the feet of your marvellous frangipani. Cordylines and palms fill the background while Spanish moss adds silver glitter to the gold!
Plant your frangipani next to your outdoor seating so you can fully appreciate the summer shade – and the perfume!
On a slope
Create a modest tropical garden on a slope with small trees and shrubs, crowned by a long-leafed frangipani that's complemented by evergreen magnolias. Planting with silvery emu bush and lamb's ear shrub provide light, the succulents and grasses give volume, and you get the tropical pops of red with day lillies. Setting up and decorating a Christmas tree in your living room is a fun activity that the whole family can join in.
Be bold with your planting, and turn your pathway into a dense, mysterious adventure by cramming together frangipani, hibiscus, cordylines and angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia sp).
How to pick a frangipani tree
- Look for a straight trunk, as the weight of foliage on a bent trunk will destabilise a mature tree.
- Gently squeeze the base of the trunk and give it a small tug to ensure the roots are healthy.
- Ensure branches are high on the trunk so that as the tree matures, you still have access under it for weeding or mowing.
How to propagate frangipani from a cutting
It is easy to propagate frangipani from cuttings – the trick is to allow the cutting base to dry out and callous over before planting.
Step 1) Simply cut a branch with a pruning saw, during mid November.
Step 2) Then remove most of the flower leaves and any flower buds. Wrap cut end with plastic wrap or a clear plastic bag and secure with a rubber band. Leave for 4-7 days.
Step 3) Remove plastic wrap and leave cutting exposed in a dry and shaded spot for a couple of days.
Step 4) Dip cutting in hormone rooting powder and plant in a 100 x 130mm pot filled with quality potting mix.
Step 5) Place in full sun and water lightly when the mix is dry. • When the mix needs more water, perhaps every day, it’s a sign the cutting has developed roots.
Step 6) When the roots snake outside the drainage holes, transfer the cutting to a garden bed or larger pot.
Step 7) Water cutting with liquid fertiliser and a wetting agent every two weeks to help the roots develop. Once leaves appear, water when the soil is dry.
How to grow frangipanis in a pot
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.
Although frangipanis are generally very hardy, there are diseases, such as rust, which can affect their health. Frangipani 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.
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