All about Frangipanis
Frangipanis (known by their botanic name Plumeria in America) bring a heady, romantic fragrance to the garden, as well as a wide choice of warm, tropical colours.
In Australia, frangipanis are sold by colour, rather than variety, and the further north you go, the wider the colour choice.
Frangipani was the name of an Italian perfume used to scent gloves in the 16th century and named after its creator, the Marquis Frangipani. When the frangipani flower was discovered its natural perfume reminded people of the scented gloves, and so the flower was called frangipani. The genus name, Plumeria, commemorates Charles Plumier, a seventeenth century French botanist.
Native to Central America, Mexico and Venezuela, this deciduous tree grows from 5-8m tall (15-24′). The leaves are dark green and shiny, and have a prominent midrib. Like all plumeria, the stems and leaves contain a white, milky sap. There are at least four distinct forms of this species: acutifolia – white flowers with yellow centres lutea – yellow flowers sometimes flushed pink rubra – deep pink flowers with yellow centres tricolor – white flowers with yellow centres and a red or pink tips
Many of the forms of Plumeria rubra are grown in Australian gardens but the most commonly seen is Plumeria rubra f. acutifolia. Named cultivars are less readily available. Frangipanis will grow and flower well as far south as Sydney and Perth, particularly in coastal gardens. In colder or inland areas grow them against a warm masonry wall, in a north facing position and protect them from frost.
There is a new disease attacking frangipanis in Australia called frangipani or plumeria rust (Coleosporium domingense syn C. plumeriae). It is most noticeable in late summer and early autumn. Small yellow pustules appear on the underside of leaves. They rupture and spread spores which pass the disease to other plants nearby. The upper sides of the leaves are brown and discoloured. Severe infections may cause the leaves to drop prematurely.
To control frangipani rust try using a fungicide (such as Mancozeb) in the warmer months to slow the development of the disease. Disposing of all fallen leaves in winter and spraying the tree and the area under the tree with a fungicide may slow the reappearance of frangipani rust next season.
Availability and cost
As frangipanis are sold by flower colour rather than by variety, it’s best to buy a plant in flower. They are available from nurseries in NSW and QLD as well as selected nurseries in NT and WA. Expect to pay around $13 for 140mm (6”) pots.
Yates Mancozeb Plus costs about $14 and is available from nurseries and garden centres.
Visit Plumeria Place, an excellent website packed with frangipani info:
If you are interested in joining the newly established Frangipani Society of Australia, visit:
‘The Handbook of Plumeria Culture’ by Richard and Mary Helen Eggenberger
(RRP $39.95) is a good source of information on frangipanis. Order through a
book store or try your local library.