During my week long vacation in Hawaii, I had the chance to see some incredible sights. Dolphins swam with our snorkel boat, turtles lounged on black sand beaches, and geckos abounded. However, when I uploaded my photos, 90% of my photos were of plants! (You know you’re a plant person when this happens.)

One of the plants that caught my eye (as well as the attention of my nose) was the gorgeous and sweetly scented plumeria. It bears colorful flowers on large trees and is native to tropical America. It can also be found growing in the Philippines, Bangladesh and India. If you’re a gardener living elsewhere and have experiences with this plant, please comment and share!

Plumeria tree trunk

Plumeria is also known as frangipani, melia and “temple tree.” In modern Polynesian culture, the flower is used to indicate a woman’s relationship status. A flower worn over the right ear means the woman is single and available.  In other cultures, the white colored flowers are associated with funerals and death. Some Asian cultures believe plumeria trees provide shelter to ghosts and demons. In Malaysian culture, it is associated with a beautiful but deadly female vampire called a Pontianak. Warning, don’t read these legends after dark or you may get the heebie jeebies!

Plumeria blossom color can be pink, red, white, yellow, or combinations of white and the colors listed above. Blooming occurs in late winter and early spring.

Yellow Plumeria

And, although most tropical plants cannot be grown outside in cooler climates, they can flourish as houseplants. I haven’t personally grown plumeria as a houseplant, and am curious to try it someday. Right now I’ve put myself on restriction from buying new houseplants, as I can hardly take care of the ones I own now!

If you can’t locate plumeria at a local nursery, ask if they can special order it for you. If they are unable to find it, try other sources like Dave’s Garden or Garden Web. Often there are generous fellow gardeners who have cuttings or plants to share in exchange for something neat that you may have too many of in your garden.

USDA Zones: 10-11
Height: 25-30′
Width: 15′
Sun/Shade:Partial shade in hottest climates
Water Requirements: Moderate water.
Pruning: Can be pruned anytime during the year to maintain size and shape.




  1. Ooh! I love the smell of plumerias. Now I’m tempted to try to grow one too, but my apartment gets so cold in the winter. I don’t know if it would like that…

    Really liked all the facts in here. I had no idea that they were also known as frangipani. I had heard that and based on the name only, I envisioned this rather knobby shrub for some reason.

  2. Hi..I grew up in Honduras and my Mom planted two frangipani trees..that is what we always called them. Anyway, beautiful in bloom and in the summer they dropped all their leaves. They also had some huge 4-6″ caterpillars that were stripped black and yellow. No bird ate them because the plumeria has sticky white sap and by eating the leaves the caterpillars became toxic. My brother and I used to adorn ourselves with them and see how many we could put on our body just to freak our mother, ha, ha. She didn’t really mind she just would not go near us. Anyway, plumeria needs warmth and lots of light in order to flourish. I was able to grow one from a cutting but I had it in a greenhouse. The tree I got the cutting from was in someone’s solarium here in Colorado and the three years I maintained her plants, it never bloomed. It was in a Southern exposure but I just don’t think it was warm enough.

  3. Amazing article. Nice flowers I love the smell of them. In Kerala, they are commonly seen in temples. Frangipani or plumeria is beautiful in bloom and in the summer they dropped all their leaves. Thanks for the share.

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