Cotton Candy is also know as Tricolour, known for its wide rounded petals. Photo - jesadaphorn/Shutterstock.com
Once you’ve been seduced by the sweet scent of frangipani you’ll fall in love with their grace, grandeur and simplicity. Linda Ross shares her passion for the world’s most beloved fragrant tree.
It may come as a surprise, but frangipanis come from Mexico, which is why they love the hot dry climates of Australia. During the 15th century the Aztec civilization immortalised the flowers in frescoes and stone carvings.
When the Spanish opened up Mexico during the 16th century, the resulting trade routes ensured the spread of frangipanis to Asia. Buddhists adopted it as their Temple flower or Pagoda tree and it became synonymous with the tropics.
The icon of the tropics is an easy flower to grow. Frangipani love neglect, dry soils and full sun and are easy to strike from cuttings. Use the shape of the frangipani to your advantage in the garden, taking note of its wide umbrella shape. Plant it somewhere you can admire it from up close, or benefit from the shade it offers by planting one of the western side of your house.
The common white frangipani is often called Celadine. Photo - source unknown
Mature frangipanis can grow to around 6m high and 5m wide, but they grow slowly, only about 20cm per year. This slow growth, along with their small root ball, makes them ideal around pools, in planter beds, containers and beside walls, as there is no fear the roots will harm any structures. If they become top heavy they can be pruned without fear of failure. Trees around pools can be trained to tilt from a young age, giving the impression the tree is leaning over and hugging the pool.
For gardeners restricted to containers on terraces, roof gardens, balconies, decks and patios, low-care frangipanis are the perfect choice! They grow well in pots, flowering reliably every summer. Choose a quality potting mix and a wide shallow pot. Water only in spring and summer and allow to dry out during the cooler months.
What they need
Frangipanis thrive in well-drained soil, plenty of sun and frost-free conditions. They love growing by the beach in sandy soils and are one of the best trees for tolerating salty air along the coast. They will struggle in clay soils and in this case it is best to keep them growing in large containers. Frangipani rarely need feeding, although they will benefit from some fertiliser around the drip line (under the branches) during spring/summer.
In cooler areas it is still possible to grow a frangipani if the microclimate around the house is warm. Radiating sun and heat from brick paving, walls or mirrors will help the frangipani withstand cooler winters. In frosty areas it is still possible to grow frangipanis in containers as long as they are brought inside during the winter months.
During wet cool weather frangipanis can be at risk of root, branch and tip rot, which is caused by a fungus. To check on your plant’s health squeeze the stems: a firm stem indicates a healthy tree. To reduce the risks avoid watering in winter. If the stem becomes wrinkled the tree is not well. Cease watering and spray leaves with AntiRot. If you notice spongy stems, remove the stem completely to the junction with a main branch. Thinning out 15 – 20% of the canopy of your mature frangipani is good to do every few years; it opens up the branches, allows light in and reduces stem rot.
Plant notes: Our favourite frangipani
Frangipani enthusiast, Steven Prowse, of Sacred Garden Frangipanis at Mt. Garnet in far North Queensland, boasts a rainbow collection of frangipani cultivars. Some of his discoveries date back to trees brought to the tropical north by Polynesian Christian missionaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries- now these trees grow wild. These have been combined with exciting varieties from Thailand to result in some stunning flowers.
This newly discovered seedling from a cerise frangipani boasts a truly beautiful flower with warm rich complex tones and exceptional perfume.
Special Comments: Given regular watering and a fertilizer high in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous, during the flowering season, they will reward you with more plentiful flowers which are bigger and stronger in colour.
Garnet Gem, Sacred Gardens Frangipani. Photo - Stephen Prowse
Unusual flowers are lolly pink elliptical petals with a yellow centre.
Special Comments: Leaves can be affected by fungus, mould and rust. If needed are best sprayed with a copper based fungicide and pestoil or eco oil solution.
Harlequin. Photo - Stephen Prowse
Sacred Garden Pink Lily
This newly released hybrid between Plumeria pudica x pink P.rubra features pastel pink and white flowers with a rare golden yellow and red centre. Beautiful shape and colour. Lovely shaped semi deciduous or evergreen foliage.
Special Comments: Six hours direct sunlight daily is required for optimum / maximum flowering
Sacred Garden Pink Lily. Photo - Stephen Prowse
This is a very pretty medium to large flower with exquisite perfume and colour.
Special Comments: Stephen found this tree growing wild at the site of an abandoned Samoan-run church mission near Napranum in the Gulf country. The tree is thought to have originated in Samoa.
Queen Napranum. Photo - Stephen Prowse
An unusual shaped pure yellow flower emerges a very deep golden yellow and fades to pure butter yellow. The back of flower is yellow and pink.
Special Comments: Australia's biggest and deepest pure gold frangipani - a world class variety
Mayan Gold. Photo - Stephen Prowse
Pure and dense orange flame coloration. A distinct pure orange colour - very rare!
Special Comments: Frangipani's are very drought, salt and fire tolerant plants. They respond well to pruning and grow well in large pots. Do not water in winter once established.
Flame. Photo - Stephen Prowse
Where to buy?
Available mail order from Sacred Garden Frangipanis (07) 4097 0065 where Garden Clinic members receive a 10% discount.
Keep an eye out for rust pustules, which look like bright orange dots on the underside of the leaf. Rust is more likely in areas of high humidity. Spray with Ecofungicide at the first sign.
Collect frangipani? Collectors might like to join the Frangipani Society of Australia. This non-profit organisation is dedicated to promoting the development and improvement of the frangipani in Australia. Details at www.frangipani.org.au/