The Plumeria Genus

Also known as Frangipani, or the Hawaiian Lei flower, plumeria are fantastic flowers belonging to the dogbane family, Apocynaceae. 

Plumeria are shrubs or small trees which hail from Brazil, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America, but they are grown in warm climates across the world for their striking and fragrant flowers.

At A Glance: What You Should Know About Plumeria

Plumeria is known for its vigorous growth, producing seas of blooms which can flower from spring all the way through to autumn if the weather allows.

The flowers themselves are usually a combination of white and yellow, but you can find them in ivory, pink, or crimson, too.

A plumeria is capable of producing 60 flowers per plant, depending on the size of the plant and its growing conditions.

The flowers will invite plenty of beneficial insects into your garden, which is another added bonus.

Depending on what species you go for, plumeria can get up to 32 feet tall, but it may also be much less than this, as you can get dwarf cultivars, too.

Plumeria flowers, despite their beautiful appearance, don’t produce nectar to entice pollinators to the blooms.

Instead, plumeria gives off a powerful perfume at night, which attracts moths to pollinate the flowers.

Behind The Name: What Does Plumeria Mean?

Often, the meaning behind a plant genus honors a figure in history, and the plumeria is no exception.

Plumeria is named after the Catholic monk and French botanist Charles Plumier.

In the 17th century, he traveled to the New World to discover new wonders in the natural world, recording the plants and animals he found.

Plumeria Meaning And Symbolism

In parts of Mesoamerica, you’ll find plumerias in relief in temples which date back centuries, depicted next to deities, signaling their importance in these cultures. 

They were also worn by the Aztecs, where the flowers were a status symbol.

In the Pacific Islands, several species of plumeria are frequently included in lei making.

These gorgeous flowers symbolize immortality, opportunity, grace, beauty, charm, and protection, but this depends on the color of the bloom, and the cultural lens you might look through.

In the Philippines and Indonesia, plumeria is grown in graveyards, as the plant is believed to protect the dead and other spirits, and keep them happy.

Through many parts of Asia, plumeria flowers are left at temples as offerings. In Laos, every Buddhist temple has a plumeria planted outside, and the bloom is also their national flower.

To find out more about the symbolism behind these flowers, visit our Plumeria Flower Meaning Guide

A Note On Toxicity

As plumeria shrubs and trees are part of the dogbane family, this means that they also inherit some of the toxicity that the plants belonging to this family are known for.

The sap within the plumeria shrub is considered toxic. Allowing your skin to come into contact with the sap will cause irritation.

If you are unlucky enough to ingest the sap, this will cause poisoning such as diarrhea and vomiting, so best to seek medical advice if you think you may have done so.

Uses of Plumeria

Plumeria flowers have been used in perfume for hundreds of years, and this is where the common name frangipani comes from.

Some species are used in herbal medicine to treat a number of complaints, including respiratory problems, digestive complaints, tumors, and blood disorders.

These flowers also have applications in aromatherapy as an essential oil, widely used to help alleviate stress, tension, mood disorders, and to improve wellness.

As the wood of the plant is strong, it is used in making furniture and musical instruments.

The flowers are sometimes employed in religious ceremonies and rituals, too.

Plumeria Growing Requirements

 Plumeria plants need a warm climate in order to thrive, therefore they are suitable for gardens in USDA zones 9 through to 11.

As you might imagine, they don’t tolerate frost at any level, but what’s interesting is that these plants can resist fire, making this plant a good option if your area is prone to wildfires. 

If you live somewhere colder, and you’d like to enjoy the beautiful flowers of the plumeria, you may want to plant it in a container, and bring it indoors when the temperature drops, so that it can survive the winter.

Depending on the climate and the species chosen, plumeria may bloom through spring, summer, and fall.

These striking plants require at least partial sunlight, but do better in a very sunny position with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day, which also helps to prevent disease.

Plumeria shrubs and trees aren’t demanding when it comes to water, but they do need soil with a good amount of drainage in order to survive.

You will need to water them regularly during periods of drought, however.

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