Attractive Frangipanis
Published on: Sunday, December 01, 2019
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THERE are many fantastic bloomers in town including the seasonally blooming trees such as Tabebuias, Golden Showers, Angsanas, among others. The plus point is that these trees are some of the most profuse bloomers one can ever see anywhere, but the negative side is that the flowers appear in a flash and can disappear just as quickly.  

Among the three varieties, the blooming period of Angsanas is the shortest, which is usually over after about 3-5 days.  The fantastic wonder is that while they are in full bloom, almost the entire tree becomes shrouded in colour, which is a good time for birds and humans.    

And, when it is over, the ground below the canopy would be carpeted with an appreciably thick layer of faded and fallen flowers.  

Sad that a once-attractive and colourful mantle of flowers high up in the canopy, has now descended to the ground to face decomposition, but that is the reality of the cycle of life.  

When the flowers have gone, it is back to square one for such trees to recover its beauty in the foliage and regeneration of the next crop of new flowers. 

For the non-seasonal flowering trees, the Common Frangipanis are one of the most often to be seen dotting the landscape in urban greens, roadsides, large home gardens, or other open spaces.  

They flower on and off throughout the year to produce varying quantities of blooms, sometimes with as little as a few specks and at other times, as voluminous as large masses of white, pink or maroon.

Known in botanic terms as Plumeria rubra, the common frangipani is easily differentiated from the more traditional variety, that is, the great frangipani.  

The former has leaves that are more pointed and leaf colour is of a paler green, while the great frangipani produces dark green, waxy leaves that are more rounded at the tips.  

In the past, great numbers of the latter variety could be found in areas designated as graveyards, and as such, great frangipanis were sometimes also known as graveyard trees.  Even to this day, such trees can still be found in many cemetery grounds, which add lush greenery and colour to a sombre location.

Flowers of the two varieties are also different.  The petals of the common frangipani are smaller, slightly elongated and more oval in shape whereas the great frangipani has more rounded petal edges which are much like the flowers of the allamanda.

Being a small flowering tree, the common frangipani can attain a height of up to five metres and width of 4.5 metres if grown on the ground without any obstruction, but it is normal for such trees to reach a height of only three to four metres and a spread of 3 metres.  For this reason, it is widely used as a plant for beautification purposes, which includes plantings in gardens, parks and other green open spaces.

For shade quality, the common frangipani is not the best of trees, but neither is it the worst.  The crown is reasonably compact, and when it is at its lush green stage, the shade is beautiful.  

But occasionally, the tree tends to ‘winter’ thereby shedding a substantial amount of its foliage.  Fortunately, as the leaves are long and large, they tend to twist and curl to varying degrees as they dry up upon falling onto the ground, and this makes collection and removal an easy job.  

Such abscission of foliage is only a temporary phenomenon after which new growths may emerge in the form of large numbers of flower buds.  Soon, the entire tree may appear to be splashed in colour again in a canopy of pink or white coloured blooms, and that is really a sight to behold.

Popularity of the common frangipani

The common frangipani is now widely cultivated because of its compact crown, good flowering habit, high flexibility and adaptability. 

Everyone loves a plant that is seasonally covered with plenty of flowers in its main blooming period to be followed by continuous but intermittent production of flowers.  Apart from frangipanis, there aren’t many trees that fall into this category, but of course, our local bougainvilleas and adenium obesum (desert rose) have similar awesome qualities that can be just as profuse in the production of flowers.

With the common frangipani, the characteristics of flowering are to certain degrees quite similar in that the entire structure at times become nearly bare of leaves except for flowers.  This can happen at any time, more so during the dry season when many other plants are struggling just to get by.

Like an old caudex of an ageless desert rose, an old tree structure of the common frangipani can sometimes grow into a very odd-looking gnarled frame as it ages. Such an appearance which may not look nice to everyone, may appeal to many gardening enthusiasts who have a knack for singling out the rose from among the thorns.  

When well-armed with skills, proper know-how and suitable tools, selective pruning may result in a very outstanding tree bonsai.  This is achievable as common frangipanis are essentially very malleable trees which can be ‘moulded’ without difficulty.

There is no question about its suitability for use in the outdoors, but this does not mean it cannot be used indoors.  

For the pot-bound plants, it is best to be moved indoors when the flower buds are beginning to open.  This allows for maximum advantage to be extracted from the highly visually impactful blooms when the pot is placed at strategic spots indoors. When rotating them outdoors again, a short period of hardening is necessary to reduce or prevent scorching of the foliage.

Common frangipani as a home ornamental

As mentioned above, common frangipanis are easily grown outdoors.  Indoors, there is no problem but it needs to be given adequate light, including direct sunlight if possible. Then there is a need to rotate them outside again after a period of about one to two months.  

As an ornamental, common frangipanis need to be regularly pruned to keep its size and especially height, in check when regularly brought indoors.  There should not be much hassle to train its height to be at below two metres, or perhaps higher if required.

Usually, rooted sections of the plant can be bought in large polybags of 15’x18’ size.  Sometimes, the smaller plants can be had in as small as 6” x 9” polybags.  Before planting, the polybag needs to be removed by trimming with a pair of scissors or slitting with a sharp garden knife.  

There are instances where landscape contractors, in an effort to cut cost, just did the unimaginable, that is, planting without the removal of the polybags.  This is very, very unethical indeed.

After planting, the plant may need some form of support, and this may be easily provided by the use of a vertical stake. For very tall specimens, such as the 10-15 footers, the use of tri-poles should ensure that the tall plant remains securely in its place.  

Sometimes, in an effort to cut cost again, only di-poles are used to secure the plant, which is not effective as the firming effect is only in one plane.

Unless ground-grown as a garden ornamental, pot-bound common frangipanis have the advantage of being able to display its flowers wherever it is moved to.  

The purpose it serves may be to cover up an ugly or dim corner, or to brighten up and enliven the living or working spaces within homes or offices, or just to add some greenery or flowers in an otherwise staid and dull space.  Once the flowers begin to show, then that is the time to bring out the bottles and cuppas.

Multiplying frangipanis by using cuttings

It is easy to procure the ornamental frangipani – just fork out a few bucks and the plant can be lugged home.  But the real fun lies not in the buying but in putting in some effort and multiplying the plant. Therein lies the challenge of making things grow and multiply, and in the process, enjoying the fruits of your own effort.

So why not multiply the frangipani your own way, that is, the cuttings way?  It is a simple, light and neat task which can also afford you plenty of breaks for a cuppa or two.

First of all, choose a healthy, disease-free section about 30-45cm long. It is recommended that a straight piece be chosen from among the terminal sections that are slated to be pruned away. In this way, there is no wastage and little leftovers for the garbage collectors to struggle over.  

With a pair of clean secateurs or pruning knife, sever the wanted section neatly without leaving any jagged or split ends so as to reduce the possibility of infection or decay.  

If the flow of sap is heavy, mop it off with a clean piece of tissue paper. Wait a while for the flow to be reduced to a trickle or dry up, and then apply a thin layer of rooting powder to the cut end. If at that particular moment the powder is not available, then just leave the cut end to dry up. The cutting is now ready to be inserted into the rooting medium.

For rooting the common frangipani, it is best to use coarse river sand as a rooting medium although other planting media may also be used. The sand should be cleaned of all foreign debris after which it can be used to fill up a pot or wooden box to a depth of about 20-30cm.  

With your index finger, or perhaps a bamboo stick or any suitable piece of tool, poke holes in the sand to a depth of about one third of the length of the cuttings to be rooted.

Then insert the cut ends into the hole at one piece per hole. Compact the sand at the base of each cutting to ensure stability.  For tall cuttings such as the 6 or 10-footers, it is necessary to create a support system to ensure firmness and stability for the rapid induction of root growth.  

At the end of the poking and insertion, it is important to keep the rooting medium moist at all times so that the production of roots may be hastened.

Once the cuttings have sufficiently rooted, they may be removed and then planted separately.

So, time now for a break. Jom kupi-kupi dulu ba.

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December 20, 2014