better homes & gardens

Heaven Scent

Have a fling with frangipanis. They'll cast a tropical spell - and a sweet perfume - over your garden. The dreamy perfume of frangipanis makes them universally loved - and constantly sniffed! Most familiar in their creamy yellow form, they also come in fabulous 'tropical sunset' colours. And to add to all their other attractions, frangipanis are also tough customers when it comes to surviving neglect and heat. What more could you ask for in a tree? The flowers make lovely cut blooms for float bowls, so you can enjoy their wonderful scent inside as well as out. Either pick up freshly fallen blooms from under the tree or carefully snip off unfurling flowers.

A great small tree

Frangipanis are compact growers (about 5-6m in height), have a well-behaved root system and are great survivors. They are also deciduous. Unlike some flowering trees which offer their blooms for just a fleeting moment, frangipanis go on giving. Flowers appear from December to April and even longer in warmer climates.

What they need

Frangipanis need a sunny position and well-drained soil. They grow brilliantly in sandy soils. Native to tropical parts of South America, they're most at home in the tropics and subtropics, but they also flourish in warm temperate areas. Frangipanis will tolerate light frosts, but in cooler climates give them the warmest, sunniest spots in the garden.

Growing at a glance

  • Plant frangipanis in full sun.
  • Warm temperate to subtropical climate. Best zones: 6, 7, 8 and hot, sun-bathed spots in Zone 3. See Garden diary for zones.
  • Feed three times a year with a slow-release fertiliser - in early spring, during summer and then again right at the end of the flowering season.
  • Water moderately in summer, especially when the trees are young and becoming established. Old established trees can survive quite happily on natural rainfall. During winter, when the trees are bare, leave the watering to nature.

Growing cuttings

The optimal time to take cuttings is just as the trees are coming out of dormancy, in late spring or early summer. You can cut any size piece, so choose something manageable, about 30-50cm, and remove any leaves and flower buds. Leave the cuttings to dry out before you actually put them into potting mix. The rationale here is to allow the cut end to develop what is known as a callus - a hardened dried-out surface. You can leave them for any length of time between 1-8 weeks. While they are drying out, leave the cuttings in a lightly shaded spot. Water the cuttings after potting, then don't water them again until new leaves appear.

Try Them In Pots

  • Though it's not commonly done, frangipanis are also perfectly adaptable to growing in containers. Because they respond well to pruning, they're easy to keep under control and can be encouraged to form a nice umbrella-shaped tree. Choose a large container, as you would for growing a citrus tree, with a diameter of at least 40cm and plenty of volume. If over time the tree becomes pot-bound, lift it out and prune back the roots before re-potting into fresh potting mix.
  • Place a potted frangipani near an outdoor living area and enjoy its exotic fragrance on a warm evening. A tub placed against a hot, sunny wall would offer the best environment for growing a tree in cooler climates. Feed them occasionally with a soluble fertiliser and remember that potted plants need more frequent watering than those in the ground - they're dependent on you.

The most commonly grown frangipanis are forms of Plumeria rubra. The classic white-flowered frangipani remains one of the favourite forms.

Want to know more?

If you love frangipanis, you may want to get in touch with the Frangipani Society of Australia, PO Box 357, St Clair, NSW 2759. Or visit


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