A small flowering tree. It has a vase-shaped habit, often multistemmed. The grey trunk is succulent like, fleshy, and a white sap exudes out when scratched or broken. Semi-deciduous, it loses its leaves and goes semi-dormant in the wintertime. Elongated leaves are alternately arranged, they grow in clusters at the branch tips. Flowers sprout from the branch tips, often in bunches. Five petals are attached to a hollow tube, a perfect blossom for stringing lei.
Plumeria flowers are the perfect size for tucking behind the ear or in a hair arrangement. The fragrance is most potent in the morning and at night. They slowly wither and die on the branch, then fall to the ground. A carpet of plumeria flowers is a beautiful sight to behold.
A crucial non-native introduction. Plumerias are a botanical symbol of Hawaii. Visitors and residents are greeted with the scent at airports and hotels. Many locals can identify plumeria by smell alone. Like the coconut tree, they represent an exotic, tropical feel and relaxing vacations.
Hailing from Mexico to Colombia and Venezuela, plumeria is grown all around the tropical world. Dr. Hillabrand imported the first plumeria tree in 1860, the white petaled with a yellow center variety. Planted in what became Fosters Botanical Garden, it is still thriving today. Other introductions continued, and many cultivars were created, CTAHR lists 40.
Keep pruned for easier flower harvesting. Or let them grow tall and plant along a walkway, driveway, or road, so the canopies are touching. The result is a plumeria tunnel that smells so good, and it’s beautiful! Keep in mind; it does drop flowers and leaves. They bloom all year long peaking from April to September. Prune in the winter when the tree is dormant. Seed pods are rare. They take eight months to ripen.
- Container plant
- Cultural significance
- Cut flower
- Lei flower
- Toxic to animals and humans