Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Plumeria rubra

 The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney - February

Common name frangipani
Scientific name Plumeria rubra L.
Family  Apocynaceae

Genus: Plumeria is attributed to Charles Plumier, a 17th Century French botanist.

Species: rubra - Latin for red.

Distribution Native to continental central America, Mexico and Venezuela. Now widely cultivated throughout the world in tropical regions; there are many cultivars.
Native habitat Grows wild in mountains and offshore islands on either rocky soils or sandy beach environments.
Description The tree grows in a 'candelabrum' shape typical of Plumeria with a single trunk and multiple branches of a similar length that support an open spreading canopy. Grows to 8 m tall and 3-5 m wide. The sap of all parts of the plant is a milky latex.

Produces fragrant flowers with 5 overlapping petals, ranging from yellow to pink depending on form or cultivar, in summer to autumn.

Plumeria rubra ’Bali Whirl’ (bed 54) is the world’s only double with 10 petals instead of 5.

Location in Garden

Beds 31, 41a, 41c, 54,112, 131, 141. Click here for map of garden beds & grid.


Reproductive flower parts are hidden deep within the narrow floral tube. In the Caribbean, the hummingbird has evolved alongside the frangipani, and acts as a pollinator. While in Costa Rica Plumeria rubra is pollinated by a number of different hawkmoth species. Pollination of this species is achieved through 'floral mimicry'; no nectar is produced in the flowers as a reward for pollinators. Hawkmoths are attracted to the flowers of Plumeria because they mimic the floral cues, including scent and visual cues, of nectar-producing flowers.

There are no specific pollinators in Australia, and growers generally pollinate flowers by hand using fishing line. Bean like seeds pods are produced within 2 weeks of pollination, but take 9 months to mature.
Plumerias do best in slightly acidic soil, and warm temperatures. They do not need a lot water to survive. They are frost tender, so in Australia grow best in warm coastal climates.

The latex of Plumeria has been utilised in tropical regions for medicine for the treatment of itches, swellings, and fevers.

Not generally known to be weedy.

Sometimes available from Growing Friends Nursery.