Pink plumeria flowers
Photo courtesy of John Roberts, UF/IFAS.

Our thanks to John Roberts, Residential Horticulture Extension Agent and Master Gardener Volunteer program coordinator with UF/IFAS Extension Orange County, for the contents of this article.

Plumerias, or frangipani, are a group of closely related flowering plants that are synonymous with “tropical.” These plants can be grown from cuttings, and often look like sad, defoliated sticks upon planting. However, they grow fast and often outshine their mature peers in the landscape. If you’re hoping to add a tropical aesthetic and a spectacular floral display to your landscape, plumeria may be the plant for you.


Humans have probably had a much greater impact than natural forces on the selection and distribution of plumerias in recent history. There are at least 12 scientifically accepted species of plumerias, and many can hybridize. Flowers bloom between May and November and range from pure white, to yellow, orange, pink, red, or some combination of these colors. The flowers are highly aromatic with a scent many would describe as floral, tropical, and pleasant. Despite certain moths being attracted to the flowers, these coquettish plants offer little to no nectar to would be imbibers.

Due to their aesthetics, ease of propagation, and cultural significance, these plants have extended their range far beyond their original geography throughout the course of human history. Often mistaken as a Hawaiian native due to their common use in leis, the plants are actually endemic to much of the Caribbean Basin. There is evidence that plumerias have been in cultivation throughout disparate corners of the tropical world prior to documented transoceanic travel.

In Florida, most plumeria tend to be dormant and lose their leaves in the winter months. However, once the leaves reestablish, the plants are prolific bloomers. With a trick taken out of the succulent playbook, the stems can remain green and carry out photosynthesis when the leaves are not present. Despite dormancy in winter months, these plants grow vigorously and will eventually range in size from shrubs to small trees.

Planting and Care

A small tree like plumeria plant with pink flower in a South Florida landscape
Photo courtesy of John Roberts, UF/IFAS.

Plumeria grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. They are fairly drought- and salt-tolerant once they are established in the landscape. Plumerias are best suited to tropical climates, USDA Hardiness Zones 10B-11. These plants can be susceptible to cold damage, but thanks to their weed-like vigor, some level of regeneration is often possible if the plant has not been killed to ground. Further north, this tender plant can be grown in containers and brought inside when cold weather strikes.

Most of interior Central Florida is within USDA Hardiness Zone 9B where tropical plants will be continually threatened by frost. This has not deterred many gardeners in the area, however. Many Central Florida residents have grown plumerias in protected areas of their landscapes. A combination of climate change, urban “heat island” effect, and microclimate protection can potentially push the range of this plant outside of its recommended zones, but gardeners and landscapers should make their peace with nature and the potential for heavy damage or death of these plants.

Rust is another persistent problem for many plumeria plants. This foliar fungal disease typically builds up on the underside of leaves throughout the growing season. To reduce levels of rust in the next growing season, collect dead leaves and removed them from the site in the fall. Some level of control can also be attained via chemical fungicides.

Close view of the underside of a leaf covered in raised orange spots
Rust on the underside of a plumeria leaf. Photo courtesy of John Roberts, UF/IFAS.

A member of the dogbane family (Apocynaceae), the sap of these plants contains harmful irritants. Some consideration should be given to landscapes with pets and children, but this plant would not be considered to be particularly poisonous relative to other landscape plants (oleander for example). There are no recorded cases of death from exposure to or ingestion of plumeria plants.

For more information on plumeria, please contact your county Extension Office.

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