Frangipani: flower, varieties & how to plant Plumeria


I study landscape ecology and through my studies have discovered a love for plants. Plants are not only beautiful, but also have countless fascinating survival strategies. To bring a bit of nature into my home as well, I nurture my houseplants and herbs on every possible windowsill.

Favourite fruit: rhubarb and all kinds of berries
Favourite vegetables: onions and garlic

Plumeria plants with their beautifully colourful flowers are not just a flower to be admired on a tropical holiday. With a little love and dedication, you can grow one successfully at home too.

Frangipani flower
A little finesse is required in order for frangipani to bloom beautifully [Photo: Thicha6327/]

If you want frangipani (Plumeria) to thrive in the UK, location is everything. With a little TLC, you can grow and propagate this tropical beauty in your own home. Find out exactly how to do that and which varieties of the frangipani tree do well here in our article below.

Frangipani: flower and characteristics

Frangipani is the name given to plants of the genus Plumeria from the Apocynaceae family. They are generally found throughout Central and South America as well as the West Indies. Given the right conditions, it is also possible to successfully cultivate them in temperate climates like the UK.

Plumeria flowers come in a wide array of colours and they are not only stunning to look at, they also emit a fruity-sweet fragrance that is no less impressive. Frangipani flower between June and October here, making them very popular indoor plants. The flowers look waxy and as the stamen and stigma, which you usually see in the centre of a flower, are not visible, they have an almost minimalist feel to them. The stems can be up to 3cm thick and usually hold a cluster of coarse leaves with distinct leaf veins at the tips of the shoots. The stems also hold a poisonous sap, so make sure to wear gloves when handling the plant.

Depending on the variety, Plumeria might grow more as a compact shrub, or as a spreading tree that can grow up to 8m high in their native country. As a houseplant they are, however, unlikely to grow more than 3m.

In Asia, the frangipani plant symbolises immortality and is often planted at temples, which is probably where one of its other common names – temple tree – comes from.

Plumeria tree
In nature, some species develop into magnificent frangipani trees [Photo: Bill Florence/]

The most beautiful Plumeria species and varieties

Plumeria are divided into evergreen and deciduous species and there are up to 20 species in the genus. Here are some of the Plumeria varieties that can be grown in the UK:

Evergreen frangipani

  • Plumeria obtusa ‘Singapore White’: has white-yellow flowers that grow up to 10cm in size.
  • Plumeria pudica ‘Bridal Bouquet’: also has white-yellow flowers and large, violin-shaped leaves.
Plumeria plant
Evergreen varieties include Plumeria obtusa and Plumeria pudica [Photo: arpitcoolboy/]

Deciduous frangipani

  • Red frangipani (Plumeria rubra): is available in numerous varieties and is particularly popular as an indoor plant.
  • Plumeria rubra ‘Heart Desire’: the flowers change from orange to pink in colour.
  • Plumeria rubra ‘Elsie’: has bright pink flowers.
  • Plumeria rubra ‘Golden Noi’: has yellow petals with orange-red markings.
  • Plumeria rubra ‘Khao Bali’: is a dwarf plant that grows up to 70cm tall, with white flowers and a yellow centre.
  • White frangipani (Plumeria alba): is often confused with white-flowered varieties of Plumeria rubra and is less common as a houseplant.
Frangipani plant
There is also an incredible colour variation within deciduous species [Photo: Arvind Balaraman/]

Frangipani as a houseplant: location and soil

Frangipani plants love sunlight and high humidity. Do not put them in partial or full shade as they cannot thrive in those conditions – they need full sunlight. Humidity can be created using a water mister. While a heated greenhouse is the ideal place for Plumeria trees, a conservatory or a south-facing window should also do the job. In summer, Plumeria should always be placed outside in the sun, but once the average temperature drops below 18°C, it is time to bring it back indoors.

Tip: To minimise the dry heat in the house during winter, place bowls of water on or close to the heating to increase humidity.

Use a permeable substrate that is moderately rich in nutrients and ensure that the soil is never waterlogged. Take a high-quality potting soil, such as our Plantura Organic Flower Compost, as a base. Mix with at least one third sand, perlite or crushed expanded clay for the best results. This helps improve the aeration of our structurally stable soil. A drainage layer of pebbles or clay shards under the substrate prevents waterlogging, which is particularly important for frangipani plants.

Organic Flower Compost, 40L
Organic Flower Compost, 40L
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  • Perfect for all flowering plants in garden beds & pots
  • For beautiful blossoms & healthy plant growth
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

Diseases and pests

Frangipani plants are pretty robust and do not often suffer from diseases or pest infestations. Should this, however, be the case, it is likely due to mistakes in their care. Appropriate frangipani care is therefore particularly important. We have summarised the more common issues and how to handle them below:

  • Root rot: is caused by poor drainage and subsequent waterlogging. Repot the Plumeria in fresh substrate, add a drainage layer, and water a little less. Remove excess water from the plant saucer.
  • Spider mites: usually occur when the air is too dry. If a frangipani plant has been infested by spider mites, wipe them off with a damp cloth and spray the frangipani regularly with water to increase humidity. Alternatively, place a bowl of water on the heater.
  • Scale insects: have brown shells and usually sit in the leaf axils. They secrete a sticky honeydew that sticks to the leaves and is an indication of infestation. Where possible give the plant a shower to wash the scale insects off.
  • Woolly aphids: also secrete honeydew and should be wiped off. Woolly aphids themselves are white and usually have thread-like appendages on their bodies. Both scale bugs and woolly aphids can be treated with a biological plant protection product with a neem oil base.
Frangipani blossom
Above all, plumeria need a lot of light, warmth and humidity [Photo: eli medeiros/]

Frangipani not flowering: possible reasons and what to do

There are several reasons why a frangipani plant might not flower – usually related to incorrect plant care.

  • Too much fertiliser: do not over fertilise your frangipani. If you do it too much, too often, or with the wrong nutrients, the plant might not flower. Try to ensure that you have the right balance between nitrogen and phosphorus.
  • Incorrect overwintering: if overwintered incorrectly, you may find that flowers do not form. During the hibernation period, it is best not to fertilise or water varieties of the Plumeria rubra species. Evergreen species need only be watered rarely.
  • Young plant: be aware that it can take several years for flowers to appear on frangipani that are grown from seed – so patience is required.
Frangipani leaves
There are several possible reasons why a frangipani might not bloom [Photo: PAPALAH/]

Frangipani losing leaves: possible reasons and what to do

As mentioned above, there are both evergreen and deciduous species and depending on the species it might be perfectly normal for them to lose their leaves. If you have a deciduous frangipani the plant will lose its leaves in autumn and winter like most other deciduous trees. However, if you have an evergreen species, or a deciduous tree that is losing its leaves in spring or summer, it may be down to incorrect care:

  • Too much watering: reduce the amount of watering.
  • Wrong location: find a new spot for your Plumeria where it is bright, warm, and humid.
  • Frequent change of location: frangipani plants can be unsettled if regularly moved. Only repot every 3-5 years, to avoid plant stress.
Frangipani fruit
This is what Plumeria seed pods look like [Photo: Paul Vaisaya/]

How to propagate Plumeria: from cuttings or seeds

You can use both cuttings and seeds to propagate frangipani. As the plants contain a poisonous sap, ensure you wear gloves when handling the cuttings and pruning. Pollination is essential to Plumeria so that fruit with seeds can form. This can be difficult for our native insects to achieve with this tropical plant, so it is best to get frangipani seeds directly from a specialist shop.

Tip: To pollinate frangipani yourself, you will need to get at the deep-seated pollen. To do that, using a sharp knife, cut open the flower close to the base and apply the pollen to the pistil with a brush.

Propagating Plumeria from seed

  • Sow the seeds in spring or summer.
  • Use a special growing medium, such as our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost. The low nutrient supply promotes root growth and produces strong and hardy plants. Mix it with one third sand to improve permeability.
  • Spread the seeds over the substrate so that the seed wings are still visible and give the seeds a light dusting of soil.
  • Moisten the soil lightly and place the pot in a warm and bright place. The temperature needs to be at least 20°C, but 24°C is better.
  • Put a glass cover over the pot – or a layer of cling film – to create high humidity. The cover should be aired once a day to avoid mould.
  • The first cotyledons (seed leaves) should appear within two to three weeks. As soon as a few more leaves have developed, you can repot the young frangipani plants and water more generously.
Frangipani in a pot
Young frangipani plants need a lot of light [Photo: faithie/]

Tip: Bear in mind that it can take up to eight years for a frangipani grown from seed to flower for the first time.

Propagating Plumeria from cuttings

  • Take your cuttings between May and August.
  • Cuttings should be taken from the grey area, never the green area.
  • The cutting should be about 25cm long and 2cm thick.
  • The cutting should be woody and hard to the touch.
  • Cut off all but the topmost leaves.
  • Store the shoot in a cool and dark place for a couple of days to allow the poisonous sap to bleed out.
  • Place the cutting in a growing medium as described above.
  • Keep the cutting at 21°C, in 90% humidity and plenty of daylight.
Frangipani cuttings
A cover helps keep the humidity high allowing the cuttings to take root [Photo: faithie/]

Is Plumeria poisonous?

Yes, Plumeria contain a poisonous milky sap in the stem so always wear gloves, especially when pruning.

You can add even more colour and tropical flair to your home with bromeliads. Read our related article on how to plant and care for these exotic houseplants.