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Know Your: Frangipani

Frangipani are familiar as the scent of summer but the range of species, colours, perfumes and leaf shapes might surprise you.

Here Linda Ross tiptoes through a forest of frangi's and introduces us to some of her favourite varieties.

Frangipani, Plumeria acutifolia ‘Rubra’

This is the frangipani we know best. It’s deciduous, with fragrant flowers, usually white, but also found in yellow, pink, orange and red. One of the best cultivars is ‘Bill Moragne Snr’, pictured below, named after the father of Plumeria breeding who worked in Hawaii in the ‘50s. It features soccer-ball sized heads of flowers, each in brilliant tropical sunset tones of red, pink, gold and yellow.


Plumeria acutifolia, 'Bill Moragne Snr’


Evergreen frangipani, Plumeria obtusa

These evergreen tropical trees growing to 5m have alluring, fragrant, ivory flowers with smooth, recurved petals and glossy, deep-green, paddle-shaped leaves with a rounded tip. Difficult to grow outside the tropics, they are native to the West Indies including Bahamas; southern Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.



Plumeria obtusa is rarely seen south of the tropics, but in the tropical zone it is a very common and prolifically flowering tree.


Dwarf Singapore Pink, Plumeria obtusa

Grown in tubs, dwarf varieties make colourful pool-side specimens and are ideal for hot or sunny balconies. ‘Petite Pink’, also called ‘Dwarf Singapore Pink’, will grow 1-2m with pale-pink, pinwheel-shaped flowers. For warm, frost-free spots only.


Plumeria obtusa 'Singapore pink'


Variegated frangipani

Collectors who crave plants with unusual leaf variations should look out for ‘Anayamanee Gold Variegated’ with cream splodges on pale-green, round leaves and yellow flowers; and ‘Marbled Magic’ with a range of greens and cream in the leaf and dark pink flowers. We found this one alongside ‘Dwarf Singapore Pink’ at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore.


Variegated Plumeria (right) and Singapore pink (left).


Golden arrow, Plumeria pudica

This fast-growing, evergreen species from Columbia and Venezuela is perfect for hedges, fences, screening and large pots. Profuse white flowers with a yellow centre are fragrant, with a very long flowering season. Also known as ‘Everlasting Love’ and the ‘Hammerhead’ frangipani, they are evergreen in the tropics and the arrow-shaped leaves are resistant to rust. A pink form is also available.


Plumeria pudica Golden Arrow.


Climbing frangipani, Chonemorpha fragrans

It looks like a frangipani, and is fragrant, but Chonemorpha fragrans is no relation. The semi-deciduous climbing frangipani is good on trellises and fences. It’s not affected by frangipani rust, and can be grown in pots or directly in the ground, in full sun or shade, as long as it is frost-free and warm.


Climbing Frangipani, Chonemorpha fragrans


Tricolour frangipani

There are many tricoloured frangipanis to choose from, all cultivars of Plumeria acutifolia ‘Rubra’. They get the name because of the range of colours in each petal. A popular and common variety called ‘Fruit Salad’ looks orange from a distance, but up close the fragrant flowers are yellow and white with a pink blush. The leaves of this variety have an undulating leaf margin. It’s thought to have been bred in Australia.


Frangipani fruit salad


About this article

Author: Linda Ross