The moment someone mentions the word “frangipani” my nostrils begin to seek that aroma as if it were a natural physical attraction. For once you’ve breathed in the fragrance of these flowers there’s no going back – it will become indelibly stamped upon your senses.
But then for the remainder of the year the plant looks like a naked twig taking up space that could be occupied by something far more productive.
It’s this love/hate relationship I have frangipani’s. When it’s flowering there is no competitor. When it’s not you could try to hide the stems with aluminum foil and it would still gain more respect.
I’m yet to plant one in my garden for that very reason – and for the reason that most people plant them awkwardly in their gardens. I’m over the idea that they should reside next to a bed of roses or competing against a rampant plumbago. Or worse still, they protrude from their lonely position in a bed of sand (not soil) by some gardener who thought they got lucky with the “plant-of-the-century.”
No folks, the frangipani needs to be grown as an architectural plant. Or, at the very last within a tropical grouping surrounded by flowering canna lillies, bromeliads or tillandsias.
In it’s natural environment the frangipani grows wild in Central and South America – picture the climate! Warm tropical days where frost is never present. Frangipani would grow well in most coastal areas around Australia and the lower third of the US. If kept indoors it may even be grown quite successfully in most other parts as well.
Plumeria rubra, it’s scientific name, are available as evergreens – although you rarely see them growing – as most specimens are deciduous. They can grow to nearly 8m (26ft) or more and span 3-4m(13ft), resembling a phallic sculpture during their dormant season.
Their gorgeously fragranted flowers aren’t just limited to the common white with yellow centres either. They range from dusted apricots through coral pinks and even extend the palette through to dark reds which makes their desirability even greater.
How to propagate frangipani
Frangipani are one of the easiest plants to propagate and grow, which is why so many would-be-gardeners have stuck them in the ground.
During the winter months, when the plant is dormant, take a cutting about half the length of your arm and leave it in the sun to dry. When the wounded end has calloused over plant this part into a free-draining potting mix and leave in a warm, sunny spot. Come spring, the propagated frangipani shall begin to produce foliage, but may not display any flowers for the first year or two.
Where to grow frangipani
Be creative. Remembering that for most of the year it has no foliage or flowers, the stems can seem quite ugly and unattractive if planted in the wrong place.
As mentioned previously, mix them with some other flowering tropicals or palms that can accentuate their design qualities. You could even display your frangipani against a feature wall by contrasting the bare branches against a bold colour.
But, whatever you do don’t just stick it in the middle or some flowering ornamentals. They look stupid.
Photo source: Swami Stream