Plumeria Flower-The sole mention of Hawaii probably makes you think about fragrant and beautiful plumeria flower. Although they grow rampantly across all Hawaiian Island, many people are very surprised to learn they are not actually a native flower.
German botanist introduced the plumeria to Hawaii on 1860. These flowers thrive in volcanic soils and tropical climates, and they exist in several varieties.
For example, Hawaiian women use the exotic plumeria (also known as frangipanis) on their hair to sign their marital status. Or the plumeria plants, also known as Lei flowers, which are small trees native to tropical regions use to make the traditional Hawaiian leis.
Plumeria colors are highly fragrant and bloom from spring to fall in multiple colors such as white, pink, red, and yellow. These flowers are very noticeable on large-leaved foliages, which may be deciduous or evergreen.
1. The History of Plumeria Flower
Plumeria flowers have a rich history that provides them various meanings, including:
- New Beginnings
Plumerias were born in Central & South America, although some researchers claim they hail from the Caribbean islands and were taken to the New Continent by Spanish catholic priests.
Steven Prowse from the Sacred Garden Plumeria’s says frangipanis arrive in Australia from South America thanks to Polynesian people who mixed with the Melanesian culture and created villages in the Melanesian region known today as New Guinea.
Frangipanis came to Australia via two routes. The first one is through the Torres Strait Islands between New Guinea and Australia, less than a day’s paddle in a canoe.
Torres Strait people traded with Australian and New Guinea people and brought plumeria to Torres Straits and Australia. The islanders consider the exotic plant sacred.
The second route happened from late 1800’s to the 1920’s via Polynesian missionaries and slaves. The Polynesian church missions went to remote northern tropical Australian regions. The Christians brought coconuts and frangipanis to survive the journeys.
The missionaries eventually banished in the tropical journey due to dangerous animals and harsh weather conditions, and only the plumeria survived.
Then, European settlers had to clear the land by hand for the sugar cane and gold mining industries, and the work was difficult and hot. They turned to Polynesian slaves to establish the mines and the plantations, and many of them came with varieties of their sacred plumeria.
Nowaday,s frangipanis are found in most Australian regions as they can tolerate a broad range of weather conditions.
2. Etymological Meaning of the Plumeria Flower
The name “plumeria” comes from French botanist Charles Plumier, who first described the exotic plant in the 17th Century. The scientific name (frangipani), comes from a more interesting history.
Some historians claim Italian noblemen named the frangipani flowers when he created plumeria-scented gloves in the 16th Century because the fragrance of the flower is similar to the scent used gloves.
Other claims explain the name comes from the French word “frangipanier,” which means coagulated milk because the flower looks like plumeria milk.
3. How Different Cultures Know The Plumeria Flowers
On Hawaii, they know the flower as “melia,” although the common name is still “plumeria,” but other cultures have given other names to the flower.
In Malayalam is called “chempakam,” in Cantonese, the name is “gaai daan fa” (egg yolk flower tree); and in Sri Lanka, they refer to plumeria as “araliya” (Temple Tree).
In Persian, the name is “yas” or “Yasmin;” in Marathi is known as “Chafa;”in Hindi, the name of plumeria is “champa;” in Tengelu is known as “Deva ganneru” (divine nerium), and in Meitei is known as “Khagi Leihao.”
Tha culture named the flower as “liliwadi;” on Indonesia, where the flower is associated with Balinese culture, it’s called “Kamboja.” Finally, in French Polynesia, they call the frangipani as Tiara tree.
4. Facts about The Plumeria Flower
Plumeria flowers grow on plumeria trees. Some tropical varieties reach heights of 30 feets and more, while others are smaller.
Frangipanis blooms have five waxy petals in various colors. The eye of the flower is usually yellow and creates a contrast with the petals. Yellow frangipanis are often the longest, while white flowers are with the shortest lifespan.
Hawaii is the world’s largest supplier of plumeria seeds, trees, and flowers.
5. Botanical Characteristics of Plumeria Flowers
Plumeria flowers have medicinal uses as the fragrance has desintoxicating qualities. Ancient Indian healing techniques considered plumeria oil effective to treat anxiety, fear, insomnia, and tremors.
Vietnamese people believe the plant has healing powers and they use it to treat inflammations on the skin. It’s also used to treat high blood pressure, dysentery, coughs, indigestion, fever, and hemophilia.
Plumeria essential oils are an effective conditioner for the skin and the hair. And a plumeria massage oil does relieve pains and inflammation associated with headaches and back problems.
Furthermore, the scent of the plant relieves anxiety and stress and elevates mood. Some people believe it also promotes sensuality.
It’s worth noting that although the oil is safe to use on pregnant women and directly on the skin, but children should not use it.
6. Types of Plumeria
Plumeria is members of the dogwood family, Apocynaceae. The frangipani genus consists of seven different species characterized by their fragrances, leathery leaves, and flowers.
The genus family is named after the 17th Century French botanist Charles Plumier, but the common name “plumeria” refers to a 16th Century Italian perfume.
The most common plumeria species are nosegay (Plumeria rubra), pagoda tree (plumeria obstusa) and frangipani (Plumeria alba).}
- White franginpani: the white frangipani grows up to 25 feet tall. The tree has a rounded crown made by 20-inch leaves and white flowers clusters. The white frangipani secretes a milky latex when is wounded.
- Nosegay: they grow from 15 to 25 feet and have a narrower spread. These trees produce 8 to 16inch dark green leaves and the flowers bloom in reds and pinks.They are native to Central America and Venezuela.
- Pagoda Tree: they are native to the Greater Antilles, the Bahamas, and Central America. Pagoda tree is shorter than white frangipani and nosegay as they reach average heights of 10 to 15 feet. They produce spiral-shaped and fragrant white blooms with yellow throats.
7. Plumeria Care
These plants prefer bright sunlight, although they can tolerate light and small shades. Thye will bloom their best on rich, well-draining, and evenly moist soil. They tolerate salty conditions, so they can be a good choice for tropical coastal gardens.
Sixspotted spider mites cause significant damage to these plants if they are not controlled because they disrupt flower formation and cause premature leaf drop. Mites can be eliminated with horticultural oil coating or with insecticidal soap.
Regular watering also prevents pests, according to the Integrated pest Management Program of the University of California Statewide.
8. How to Grow Plumeria
Although you don’t necessarily have to live in tropical regions to grow plumeria in your home’s garden, you should know of the plant’s requirements beforehand.
They often grow in gardens as small trees or ornamental shrubs, and they need well-draining soil with acidic properties. They also need a minimum of six hours of daylight every day.
The plants may tolerate salt and windy conditions, but they wither very quickly on a cold and must be protected. If you live in a cold region, keep them in containers.
If you live in areas that are warm most of the year but still have cold winters, you can dig up the plumeria and put it indoors; or you can sink plumeria containers in the ground. When the warmer temperatures return in spring, you can put the plants back outdoors.
If you’re growing the plants in pots, a well-draining potting mix, and coarse. Perlite or cactus mix and sand are recommended.
9. How to Take Care of Plumeria
Plumeria care is minimal. You’ll only need to water them regularly and allow them to dry before pouring water again. They also need fertilizer every two or three weeks during their active growing season. High phosphate fertilizers (such as 10-30-10) will encourage plumeria bloom.
You should reduce watering during mid-fall and stop it completely during winter. Once the warm temperature comes back, resume regular watering.
If you give them too much nitrogen you’ll get more foliage growth and fewer flowers bloom. Plumerias may be pruned up to 12 inches from the ground during early spring or late winter (before a new growth). However, drastic or hard pruning reduces flowering.
These plants are propagated by seeds or cuttings during the spring. As cuttings are the easiest and most preferred mechanism, just insert cuttings about 2 inches in a potting mix and water them thoroughly.
10. Plumeria Fertilizer
Plumeria plants require lots of phosphorous. Phosphorus is the middle number on the fertilizer labels. You’ll also have to avoid fertilizers with too much nitrogen, wich is the first number on the labels.
Plumeria flower fertilizer with a lower first number will make more compact trees with a healthy flower blossom. Nitrogen overuse will discourage the flowers and enhance the tree instead.
Constant fertilization may raise acid levels as well. If this happens, add Epsom salts to neutralize the soil. One or two tablespoons every month should be enough.
11. How to Fertilize Plumeria
Plumerias benefit from regular fertilizing during all summer, one time per week. Fertilizing styles vary person to person, but applying a soil fertilizer is enough to meet fertilizer needs of the plumeria plants growing in your garden.
However, if you¿re watering your plumeria once or twice per day to keep its root ball moisturized (keep in mind plumeria are fast drinkers), you might see all of the nutrients in the fertilizer are just washing away. If such is the case, choose foliar fertilizer.
Stay on top of your weekly routines but apply your new foliar fertilizer on both sides of the leaves. Do it at night, when there’s no sunlight scorching the leaves.