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Two flowering trees: plumeria and frangipani

April 11, 2014
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS ( ) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

A classic white bloomer, plumeria pudica, with a yellow center, is many times mistaken as a frangipani; they are both trees.

The frangipani also has a white bloomer with just a touch of yellow in the center called bridal white. The frangipani goes dormant during the months of December, February and March.

The plumeria podia is evergreen, meaning it is deciduous, and blooms continually during the warm months. The china-white blooms are spread throughout the tree's lush green leaves.

The frangipani grows to a towering, nicely mounded spread with the blooms at the end of a thick round branch. There is no mistaking these two trees.

We do tend to see many more of the large flowering frangipani trees than the tall vertical plumeria podia. You just have to decide how much space do you have for a beautiful tree.

The plumeria podia fits into a lot of spaces that will not allow the spreading frangipani.

The frangipani blooms are very fragrant and one spray of blooms will fill a nice slender glass vase. The plumeria podia will allow for more greens with blooms and has a very faint scent.

Plumeria belongs to the family Apocynaceae, genus Plumeria. Frangipani is believed to originate from one of two sources: the French word franchipanier, which means coagulated milk because of its milky sap. However, there is also the Marquis of Frangipani, who used a perfume which reminded people of the plumeria fragrance. It seems his fragrance actually came from red jasmine and there are no perfumes historically noted from any actual plumeria blooms of any kind.

Without a historian around taking notes, a lot of the world's horticulture is subject to hearsay, or even worse, a wise botanist who often decides to change plants from one family to another - after years of study, of course. These changes do tend to enlarge one's library of botanical knowledge, and sell large books.

The name plumeria comes from Charles Plumier, a 17th century French botanist. Not a big player in the botanical world.

These trees are drought tolerant as they mature - great for our dry seasons. Frangipanis are now just beginning to put out some leaves and flowers. There are about 100 colors of frangipani trees, the podia is only white.

To propagate the podia, you use cuttings hard wood or soft, short length or up to 10 or 12 inches. Cut off leaves, which will bleed white sap. Use gloves as the sap may be irritating. I have never had any problem, but not liking any sap, I usually carry a damp towel when I do any sappy cutting. I do have gloves but work better without them.

Dip in some rooting hormone if you like. Place in some damp potting medium about 2 to 4 inches deep. The cutting will probably root within two weeks time, especially if temps are in the 60s. The cuttings are placed in a shady spot, as all cutting should be. They will tolerate temps as low as 40s and even into 30s as they mature.

They, of course, like well drained soil. As they start to branch out they can take more sun and like to be moist but not wet. Our summer rains should do well.

Fertilize lightly with a 1:1:1 ratio after planting where you want it to grow, as they start leafing out. They will probably grow to 12 feet at maturity.

You can propagate by seeds but why bother.

The frangipani propagation is by the thick round limb. Cut at a joint section of the tree. Farmers markets often sell the bumpy limbs that are all bare and sure do not look like anything but a bare limb. Right away mark which end is up.

When we were just visitors to sunny Florida years ago, we always took a few of these bare limbs back to grow a magic tree full of blooms. I never grew any kind of tree. I could grow a nice fat stick with some nice green leaves but was not smart enough to

keep it inside long enough during the winter. South Jersey has way too many winter weather days under 30 degrees.

I was real happy when I moved here to learn that we could really grow a beautiful tree with a bare limb. Now the problem is what color will I be growing? Sellers do not mark their limbs well or even fib a little about colors, or maybe they are all color blind. But you will grow a beautiful tree of some color, very easily.

I do not fertilize mine much, a couple of palm trees nearby and lawn fertilizer has done well and I certainly do not need it to be any bigger.

You can cut these trees after blooming or during winter, that is not real cold.

The sprinkler system does well and my frangipani is about 14 feet tall and wide.

I do have to watch that I keep new limbs cut, which start at the bottom and tend to be a hazard to the lawn cutter. I hate to throw them away so I stack several nicely so they can dry off and then pot them up for a Garden Club sale or sometimes sadly they just go into the horticulture trash.

You do not have to plant it in the soil first, mine, a gift from a fellow gardener, lived in a big black plastic planter for 5 years before being planted. A lanai plant.

When you cut your own limbs, cut close to the trunk and let them dry off for at least a week. They can stay dry for several weeks, then just do some scoring or crisscross cutting or light shaving on the proper end when you are ready to plant.

I do not have a place for a podia tree but do have gardener friends who have them and they are very happy that they do. Hopefully these will become more popular in local landscapes. So easy; a fun easy way to start your own tree.


The super market grabbed my attention again this week with a spectacular, brilliant orange potted plant. Orange star, orinthogalum dubium. It has dark green thick leaves. The flower stalks are about 4 or 5 and look something like an open tulip.

It is a perennial, a native of South Africa, and likes bright light if grown indoors. It likes to be moist and is really for Zones 9-10. I bet it would do well on lanai. Will our humidity do it in during hot summer? Probably not if kept moist and not any direct sun, in a breezy space of lanai. Fertilize lightly every other month. Such a brilliant orange.

Palm Sunday coming up, this would be a nice Easter plant with a pale blue Easter egg lying among the stalks. There are a lot of colorful plants available right now. We tend to like the flowers best but there are many attractive green shades with variegated leaves also. Just the place for a secret Easter egg surprise tucked underneath.


This can be a real dry time of the year around here. The fact that we have just had some good heavy rains is great for lawns, trees and everything growing. Now is the time to check and see where puddles of water are laying so that you can arrange the soil to drain well. Most gardeners do not say "arraigning" soil but I have been doing flower designing lately and I tend to be arraigning everything in sight.

A good thing to do is check your watering system. We do not want to waste water this summer and there are several ways to make your watering system more efficient. Please make sure you have your sprinkling system set for the proper day and time you are scheduled for.

Remember sidewalks, roadways and driveways do not need to be watered. You may need to buy new sprinkler heads or at least aim them where they will do the most good.

Enjoy having the lanai doors and windows open before it gets too hot. It may be my imagination but there seems to be a lot of happy birds singing away out there, now is the time to listen. Watch for morning doves to be nesting in any handy nesting place around the house. Every year I am mindful that at any time one may settle itself in an empty bucket, clay pot or is sharing a large potted plant. They do not sing out a warning, just become startled, flap out of their nest and scare the heck out of anyone passing to closely.

Happy gardening till we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral



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