My frangipani (otherwise known as Plumeria) is one of my favourite plants. I got it from the nursery about 8 or 9 years ago when it was only about half its current height. Back then it was only a trunk with 2 branches. We put it in a dark coloured pot right outside our front door which is north facing, which in our case is very sunny and sheltered from the wind, so it’s in a very warm position.
Vistors to our place at this time of the year always marvel at how well it’s doing and how much they love it. This is probably because so many have tried growing them but have been unsuccessful. The flowers give off a lovely sweet fragrance at night in the summer producing a real tropical atmosphere on those warm summer nights.
A couple of years ago we noticed it had stopped flowering and didn’t seem to be doing so well so I concluded it must be root-bound and needed re-potting. The leaves also seemed to be under attack by some kind of parasite. So after hunting everywhere for a bigger version of the same style of pot I undertook the difficult task of getting it out of it’s existing pot and into the new one without damaging it.
It’s deciduous, so I waited until it lost all it’s leaves and then at the first sign of new growth I repotted it making sure I used a good quality potting mix. It didn't flower much the first year after doing this but this year it’s getting ready to bloom all over.
One thing we’ve learned is that the plant will not branch off and produce new limbs unless it flowers first. And it won’t flower unless it’s happy in it’s position and getting enough nutrition. So we feed it with slow release 'plant food spikes' which we just poke into the soil. Each new limb has the potential for growing a flower head. The picture at the top shows one flower head which can produce as many as 40 individual flowers. They only produce a maximum of one flower head per limb, per year.
So my objective has been to encourage as much flowering as possible. My frangipani is now a 12 pointer and 8 of those 12 limb ends have produced flower heads this year, which I think is the best it’s ever done, so re-potting it has certainly helped.
What this means is that next year it will grow 8 new limbs meaning that next year it will be a 20 pointer, each with the potential to produce a flower head.
This photo (left) shows how after the flower head has formed, the limb that has flowered then branches off in 2 directions. You can see 2 new limbs beginning to form at the base of the flower head. Next year each of these limbs which might grow several inches long, in turn has the potential to flower.
Some of our female friends, particularly the pacific islanders like to pluck off one or two flowers and wear them in their hair.
It really is a beautiful plant — if you can get it to grow right.
Update Dec 2018
My frangipani plant was originally in the perfect place, but because a nearby tree kept growing bigger, the shadow it cast eventually started impacting the amount of light and heat the frangipani was getting. As a result it stopped flowering for 2 seasons in a row, despite my feeding it as usual.
I realised I needed to either find a new position for the frangipani or remove the tree that was casting the shadow. I decided to move it. So the main criteria for the new location were: 1. North facing in full sun (Southern Hemisphere), 2. Against a wall – creating a sun trap. It's pretty simple — it just likes it HOT!
Interestingly, by the time I first realised it wasn't going to flower last year (the second year in a row), that was when I decided to move it, which was still early summer when it was just putting forth new leaves. However, it was too late to have any effect that season as it would not immediately start flowering. This year, however, having sat in it’s new position since last summer, it has sprung into life with 9 flower heads forming, which is almost 50% of its 20 tips. You can see 2 of the flower heads forming in the pic below.
I believe the black ceramic pot it’s in helps to draw in and retain the heat which also leads me to draw the following conclusion: That the plant decides, even before it starts shooting leaves (during spring) whether or not there is sufficient light and heat to flower. It’s usually evident quite early on in summer when the new leaves have just sprouted whether or not it’s going to flower that year.
Due to there being 9 flower heads this year, each limb with flowers will branch off turning it from a 20 pointer to a 29 pointer for next season.