Plumeria are large flowering shrubs or trees that are also commonly known as frangipanis. These striking plants originated in Mexico and Central America and now grow prolifically in tropical and subtropical climates.
It’s common to find plumerias in tropical island destinations like Hawaii, Seychelles, Mauritius, and other regions across the US, including Southern California. They are still found widely throughout South America as well, where they have been lovingly cultivated by gardeners for many hundreds of years.
Plumeria Varieties for Every Gardener
There are numerous different variants of plumeria that you can grow today. These plants’ variations are based largely on the shapes of their leaves and the colours of their sweet-scented blooms. Each variant has a distinct leaf shape from the next, and the size of their flowers can also vary widely.
The most common colour combinations for plumeria flowers are cream and yellow, yellow and pink, and pink and red. However, certain newer varieties have more exotic bloom colour mixes that include red, yellow and sunny orange flowers. Frangipani plants can grow up to 40 feet in height, and they will bloom throughout the year under the right conditions!
Here are the 10 most beautiful types of plumeria to plant in your garden to grow stunning frangipani flowers.
Plumeria rubra ‘Candy Stripe’
Plumeria ‘Candy Stripe’ is a gorgeous hybrid with broad leaves and utterly eye-catching blooms. The fragrant petals of its 5-6-inch blossoms are slightly inwardly curved at the sides, and feature a lovely combination of white, yellow and deep pink radial stripes.
Plumeria rubra ‘Vera Cruz Rose’
This type of plumeria is also known as Lilliana. It boasts large 4-inch flowers that are pale canary yellow with white borders and dark pink bands along the front and back of each petal. Plumeria ‘Vera Cruz Rose’ produces huge clusters of blooms in bouquets of 30-50 flowers each.
The varietal also produces a signature red rose fragrance that’s one of the strongest of all plumeria plants. Gardeners who have one of these frangipani trees in their yards report being able to smell its blooms from anywhere in their gardens and homes on warm summer evenings.
Plumeria rubra ‘Sundance’
Plumeria ‘Sundance’ produces completely unique blooms with a trademark, strong scent of cinnamon chewing gum. These plants have rich pink flowers with rounded petals spanning 3 to 3.5 inches.
Each petal features orange and pale pink streaks, and orange flower centres with maroon streaks. The trees also have distinct grey-green leaves. This variety was named by Marilyn Cohen of Marilyn’s Gardens, and is ideally suited to growing on the coast.
Plumeria rubra ‘Thailand Red’
This variety boasts rich reddish-mauve blooms with petals that curve inwards in a classic frangipani style. The blossoms have a fragrant and unmistakable smell that tends to be most pronounced on balmy nights. As its name suggests, this plant grows prolifically in Thailand and other parts of tropical Southeast Asia.
Plumeria rubra ‘Diva’
‘Diva’ produces beautiful 3-inch yellow and white flowers with particularly thick, ruffled petals and leaves. This variant can be slow growing, but its blooms with stubby, ruffled petals and an awesome fragrance are well worth the weight. This variety is easy to distinguish from other types of plumeria; its petals are at least 5 times thicker than those of regular plumerias.
Plumeria rubra ‘Toba’s Fire’
This variety is also known as ‘Embers’ in certain parts of the world. It produces 4-5-inch flowers with vibrant yellow, orange and white petals that have deep pink edges and tips. Its name was derived from the fact that the hues of its petals resemble the jewelled tones of burning embers. This is also a particularly fragrant plumeria that blooms prolifically all throughout the year, making it perfect for a show garden or even a public space.
This unique species of plumeria is native to Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It has an extremely sweet and captivating smell that is strongly reminiscent of jasmine, and produces elaborate blooms with thin, wispy, curled white petals. The limbs and leaves of this variety are both thin, and its size can easily be controlled with regular pruning.
Plumeria rubra ‘Makaha Sunn’
Plumeria ‘Makaha Sunn’ is also sold as ‘Inferno’ or ‘Sunkist’ varieties. Either way, it boasts magnificent tricolour flowers in shades of orange, yellow, pink, and occasionally white as well. The flowers are 3-5 inches in size, feature delicately curved, rounded petals, and form in large bunches of 20-40 blooms each. This plant also has broad, yellow-green leaves that distinguish it from other similar types of plumeria.
Plumeria rubra ‘Gabrielle’
Plumeria ‘Gabrielle’ is a compact plant that produces pure white, feminine-looking flowers. The blooms have broad, overlapping petals with wide pink edges and large, pale yellow eyes. They also have a sweet and persistent scent. These plumerias are well known for their impressive flowering capabilities.
Plumeria rubra ‘Elizabeth Thornton’
This plumeria cultivar was first grown in Hawaii by Jim Little, and was named for Elizabeth Thornton, one of the original founders of the Plumeria Society of America. The flowers of this variety range from deep pink to mauve, and its petals are delicately lined with fine maroon streaks.
The blooms also have rich orange eyes that blend into their pink petals at the centre of each flower. These frangipani plants have one other uncommon characteristic aside from their unusual foliage colour: their flowers are malodorous!
Surprising Symbolism of Plumerias
Frangipani flowers are often used to make Hawaiian leis and are also braided into Hawaiian women’s hair to indicate their marital statuses. If a woman is wearing a plumeria over her right ear, she is single; if it is worn over her left ear, she is married or engaged. These flowers also have deep and culturally significant symbolic meanings. In Hawaiian culture, frangipanis symbolize optimism and positivity, and are often used to celebrate special occasions.
Plumerias represent the celebration of new beginnings and new life, which makes them perfect gifts for events like baby showers, weddings and engagement parties. Different types of plumeria also symbolize the regeneration of springtime, as well as grace and classic beauty, too.
The Hindus believe that plumerias symbolize devotion and dedication to the Hindu faith. They also represent the concept of immortality in Buddhism. The Mexicans believe that plumeria flowers opened and gave birth to the gods, and for the Mayans, the fragrant blooms represented the miracles of life and birth. That’s a lot of meaning behind a pretty, fragrant bloom!