There are about 9 species of plumerias and all of them originated from Mexico and other regions of Central America, says N.Chandramohan Reddy
The Plumeria, otherwise called frangipani, pagoda tree, temple tree and West Indian jasmine, is a beautiful plant that adds inimitable grace to any garden. It is a large shrub or tree and can be grown in tropical and sub-tropical climates.
There are nine species of plumeria, all of which originated in Mexico and other regions of Central America. The popular plumeria species are Plumeria rubra, Plumeria obtusa, Plumeria pudica and Plumeria alba .
Many cultivated varieties have been developed in the horticulture trade and now more than 1,000 colours are available in the international market ranging from pure white to deep red, pale pink to butter lemon to vibrant shades of yellows, gold, oranges, peach, mango, lilac, and blood red.
They also come in double-colour or tricolour variations with striped petals. Now, many varieties have been developed with various shades of leaf variegations. Petal shapes can also vary from thick, overlapping scalloped petals to thin, elongated ones.
The Plumeria has many fragrances, ranging from coconut to jasmine, including citrus, rose, honeysuckle, raspberry, spice, apricot, and peach. Each frangipani variety has a unique fragrance. The flowers are typically used for making perfumes. Fresh Plumeria flowers set afloat in pools and bowls make a lovely decoration piece.
Plumerias are slow-growing with swollen, succulent limbs with milky latex (The latex is not deadly except when taken in large quantities). The large, thick leaves are whorled around the tips of woody branches.
All varieties are prolific bloomers and their flowers bloom like bouquets at the tips of branches. Each flower is made of five waxy petals, secrete no nectar but are pollinated by moths attracted to the fragrance. Mature frangipanis can grow to around 10 metres high and 7 metres wide. Plumerias grow well with little maintenance, are easy to propagate and look magnificent with large clusters of sweet-scented flowers almost throughout the year.Optimum growth
They are ideal for home gardens, water gardens, patios, courtyards, planter boxes, roof-top gardens, balconies, as well as in groups, for privacy screen, hedge, as specimen plants, beside a wall or in a bonsai form.
Plumerias need at least six to seven hours of the sun everyday. No special care is required in peak summer. They flourish in light soil with good drainage but struggle in clayey soil, where it is hard for water to drain away.
Old container plans must be shifted to a larger pot if they’ve filled out the previous one. Do top-dressing every year replacing two to three inches of soil in the pot with fresh soil mixed with manure.
Plumerias need a lot of water but the top soil should be dried out before the next watering. On the onset of winter the frequency of watering shall be reduced and totally stopped after all the leaves are shed in deciduous varieties and resumed in the spring as new growth begins.
Plumerias will flower bigger and better, with the application of fertilizers during spring and summer. Try high nitrogen fertiliser during spring when growth begins and switch to phosphorous fertilizer in two or three doses from April to September.
The size of the plant can be controlled by pruning, and by doing so more branching out and thereby more blooming occurs. Pruning operation can be done in late winter or early spring. While pruning, make a sharp and slant cut just above node. Thinning out about 20 per cent of the canopy of the mature plant is good to do every few years; it opens up the branches, allows light in and reduces stem rot.
Pests and diseases
Plumerias are very hardy and have very few insect or disease problems. During wet, cool weather frangipanis can be at risk of root / stem rot, caused by fungus. To reduce the risk, remove the spongy branches, reduce watering and spray fungicide.
In cool and moist regions Plumerias are also susceptible to scale (insect) and rust (fungus) problems, which can be solved with minor doses of insecticide and fungicide sprays.
Propagation of Plumerias is easier when compared to many garden plants. Take about one foot long stem tip cuttings in spring, allow them to dry for 4-5 days, and plant them in potting medium.
The cuttings will start rooting in 15-20 days. They can also be propagated through layering, grafting and from seeds.
(The author is a forest officer and can be contacted at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’)