The gorgeous fragrance alone, is reason enough to have this shrub in your garden. However, you will have to live in a favourable climate for Plumerias - and certainly this type - are not hardy.
This shrub - or at least its common name of Frangipani - is mentioned in many books; not always about gardening! Such quotes as "heady scent of the Frangipani trees" etc, are to be found in countless romantic novels. But, as this site is about gardening, we will deal with its horticultural values - and various shortcomings.
Depending upon the size of your garden, Plumeria alba is either a large shrub or small tree. Evergreen for the most part, but also lapses into periods of either semi evergreen nature, or for short periods, totally devoid of any foliage whatever.
In Thailand, I have seen Plumeria alba totally devoid of foliage, but with flower buds bursting open - followed by the foliage. But, as can be seen in the images, they normally flower whilst in foliage. The leaves are large, leathery and deep green. Thee flowers at the end of the branches in terminal clusters so they are always visible - and create a stunning display for much of the year.
Plumeria alba is certainly the best for scent, but there are other Frangipanis that have flower colours ranging from yellows through pinks to deepest red. As with many popularly hybridised plants, the names are often conjured up by various sales outlets and nurseries - so confusion reigns. Far better to see your Frangipani in flower before purchase to be assured of the flower colour you require - or desire. (They can be flowered at the nursery on single shoots no more than 60cm tall). A great selling point.
Frangipani is best grown in full sun in hot climates. Do not try to grow in countries where winter temperatures sink to zero, although when small, they can be wrapped in a straw jacket for the winter. best to be realistic - it is a tropical subject. It will grow to several metres in height and spread. Around 3 - 4 metres seems to be average maturity - but have seen an ancient specimen - well tended by monks - that was in the region of 8metres.
Rarely need watering - if ever. If it gets too hot, then it simply sheds it leaves and waits for things to cool down to a more suitable temperature regime. It is certainly a better forecaster of weather than most TV presenters!
The best - or easiest - method of propagating Plumerias is by sowing them from seed. This should be done in early spring - or in tropical countries - as soon as the seed is ripe. Not all Plumerias set seed, so it will probably be necessary to obtain seed from local supplier. Other than Plumeria alba, you can expect wide variation in flower colour with Plumeria. Please don't give it a name of your own. All colours and forms are probably now in existence so you will only be adding to the confusion!
Growing Plumeria from Cuttings
For true colour type, then taking cuttings and growing the cutting on is the only method. Cuttings should be taken in Spring - or when the plant is devoid of foliage. Stem tips around 8in long will root quite well, but ensure that the selected cutting material is well ripened and not soft lush growth. Allow the cuttings to dry out at the base. Simply lie them is a slightly shade place for a few days. As they will not have foliage, they will not wilt as with most shrub cuttings. Plunge the prepared cuttings into a pot to a depth of around 4 inches.
As the new foliage emerges at the tip of the stem (after rooting) then a weak feed will help establishment. Not too much watering. They can be planted out as soon as there is good foliage on the cutting.
Rust on the foliage seems to be a problem in some areas - though rarely troublesome - other than by appearance. As stated - a large shrub with a leathery canopy of foliage. So, spraying against rust is rarely effective.
If grown under glass - possible for a short time, then red spider mite is often a problem, and again not easy to control by chemical means. If you try spraying, then be sure to get under the foliage where the red spider are at home.
Sometimes suffer from mealy bug which nestle in the crotches of the leaf stems. These rarely do any lasting dame, but a large infestation can soon help to defoliate the shrub. It soon recovers, and the best time to spray - is as a preventative measure whilst without foliage.
Plumeria fall into that group of shrubs which are best left alone as far as pruning is concerned. far better to be realistic about ultimate growth - and allow space for that -rather than trying to control its size by pruning. Under glass - a different regime - it can be controlled by pruning when dormant. Dormancy will happen in areas too cold to grow the Frangipani outdoors.
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