Plumeria rubra

Plumeria rubra

Plumeria or frangipani is a genus of 8 species of shrubs or small trees, better known for their beautiful night scented flowers.

They are also rubber plants secreting a white, milky and irritating sap. This sap is severely irritating to eyes and skin, so take care when handling the plant and be cautious with children and small pets.

Plumeria is native to Central and South America but is now cultivated and even grows wild in the tropics around the world.

In the Pacific islands the flowers are used for making lei or flower necklaces. In the modern Polynesian culture, the women wear the flower on the left ear to show that they are already in a relationship and on the right ear to show that they are available. In various Asian cultures the tree and flower are interwoven with tradition and superstition.

Plumeria can easily be grown as a houseplant and may be placed outside in the summer.

Description:

The trees produce a lot of latex. The branches are 2-3 cm thick, almost fleshy.

The leaves are alternate and born on a long peduncle. Each species of Plumeria has a different shaped leaf.

The flower heads are terminal, 2- or 3-branched. The bracts are usually big and fall off before flowering. The flowers are fragrant and waxy. The scent is emitted at night to attract moths responsible for pollination. The calyx is small and without glands: although the flower secretes a perfume, it does not produce nectar. The corolla is white, yellow, pink, red, pink or purple, narrow tubular and hairy within. The petals overlap each other to the left. The stamens are at or near the base of the corolla,

The fruit is oblong, up to 30 cm long, and poisonous! The seeds are numerous, flat with a membranous wing.

Nomenclature:

Common name:

Frangipani

Etymology:

Plumeria: originally spelled Plumiera, was named in honor of the seventeenth-century French botanist Charles Plumier, who traveled to the New World and documented many plant and animal species.

Frangipani: from a sixteenth-century Italian marquis who designed a Plumeria scented perfume.

Origin:

Tropical central and south America.

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 9-11, 0 °C



Care:

Soil:

Well-drained soil. The pot should be large because of the extensive root system.

Exposure:

Sun, light.

Water:

Give plenty of water during the growing season, but let the substrate dry out between waterings. Give water sparingly in winter.
The plant tolerates drought but temporarily loses its leaves. It does not tolerate standing water at the bottom of the pot, provide a drainage layer.

Fertilizer:

Fertilize with a fertilizer rich in phosphorus (P), e.g. a tomato fertilizer. Every 2 weeks in the spring, monthly in the summer and nothing in the winter.

Temperature:

Keep the plant at minimum 10 °C in the winter.

Propagation:

Seed, cuttings.

Sowing instructions:

Offspring obtained by sowing are usually different from the parents because there are so many cultivars. There are over 300 cultivars listed.

  • soak the seeds for 24h
  • sow in very damp sowing soil or cactus soil
  • plant 1 seed per pot
  • plant the thick part down and let the wing appear above the ground
  • provide soil heating or put in a place as hot as possible, ideally 28 °C
  • make sure the substrate stays moist
  • germination time: 3-21 days
  • repot the seedlings when large enough to handle

Cutting instructions:

  • in April
  • take cuttings of 15-20 cm, under a button
  • remove the lower leaves
  • stop the bleeding of the sap buy immersing the wound of cuttings in cold water
  • let the cuttings dry for a few days
  • dip the cuttings in cutting hormone (optional, but speeds up the rooting)
  • plant in small pots filled with a moist mixture of peat and sand
  • wrap the pot in a plastic bag or place it in a mini greenhouse to diminish the evaporation rate
  • place in partial shade
  • 21-27 °C
  • when growth resumes, air progressively
  • the first year the cuttings fragile: do not repot them the first year

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