Frangipanis are loved all over the world and have significance for many cultures. In Australia they are a long-standing garden favourite, tolerating a wide range of conditions and rewarding the grower with lush green foliage, bright flowers and tropical perfumes. Originating in central America, the main species of frangipani found in Australia are:
- Plumeria obtusa (evergreen frangipani, commonly known as Singapore White);
- P. pudica (evergreen frangipani shrub with spoon shaped leaves);
- and P. rubra which is believed to be the ancestor of all the deciduous coloured frangipani varieties found today.
All frangipanis contain the distinctive milky white sap which is believed to be a natural response by the frangipani to deter predators, whilst exhibiting very different colours, fragrances and growth forms, that will suit any situation – from dwarf varieties for courtyards or containers to towering trees in parks and public gardens.
As well as having a wide range of varieties to choose from, frangipanis will thrive with just a little care. Frangipanis need a well draining soil and sunlight for at least half the day. Frangipanis can survive with little water but are able to cope with heavy rain during the summer, producing shade, colour and fragrance. In the dry season, the deciduous frangipani varieties are likely to lose their leaves allowing the sun to provide warmth and light. Fertiliser can be applied during the growing season, either as as a ‘one-off’ just prior to the warmer weather, with a top-up in mid-summer or as a smaller fortnightly application throughout the season. As with all plants, frangipanis will benefit from a good mulch layer to reduce evaporation, keep roots cool and improve soil structure.
There are few pests that cause serious damage to frangipanis, but warm and humid conditions can lead to the presence of fungus spores known as rust. This will not kill a frangipani but it is a good idea to clean up and remove any fallen leaves and avoid overhead watering.
Since the Spanish and Portuguese introduced Plumeria into their Asian colonies and started its spread across the globe in the 17th century, frangipani has continued to grow in popularity. Today, nurseries in Thailand and India are involved in breeding programs to produce ever more amazing flower colour and perfume. Whichever variety you prefer, frangipanis are an important feature of every Australian garden.