This method of frangipani propagation is becoming popular with readers, and one of our readers, Margaret, has been kind enough to share some photos of her very successful efforts.
Why choose this method of propagation? Frangipani grown from seed grow more quickly than trees grown from cuttings and, in the same way a family of children or animals can inherit different combinations of their parents’ genes, plants grown from seed may demonstrate different characteristics of parent plants, sometimes resulting in spectacular new varieties. Plants grown from cuttings are an exact copy on one parent. Not only may the flowers vary in colour or form, we have found that the perfumes of different-coloured frangipani also vary.
We have multiple trees of four different frangipani and the orange one reminds me of the smell of ripe peaches, while the deep pink one has a sweet citrus smell, and the pale pink one hardly any perfume at all.
If your frangipani tree has produced a seed pod or two and you would like to try this method of propagation, you can find more information here: Frangipani trees from seed.
I often receive e-mails with questions about growing frangipani trees, and some readers may like to try growing them from seed. Paula Pugh Schipp of the Frangipani Society of Australia says that frangipani trees grown from seed grow much faster than those grown from cuttings because the root system starts to form when the seed germinates. Another advantage of propagating these lovely (Plumeria) trees from seed is that trees grown from cuttings will always be the same as the parent tree, but trees grown from seed are, like children, not usually exact duplicates of their parents. You may grow a tree with flowers with an entirely different colour combination if you have a variety of frangipani trees in your area.
Frangipani flowers do not always produce seed as the self-pollinating flowers do not always release their pollen. You can try hand-pollinating flowers with a piece of thick fishing line. Place the end of the line deep into the flower and wriggle it very gently to release the pollen. You have to be gentle as it is easy to knock the flower from its stem.
Seeds develop within a pod, often a double pod in a ‘T ‘ shape, which looks rather like two thin 17 cm zucchini in the early stages – changing over time to brown/black when mature (see photo, lower left). Pods can take up to 8 months to mature depending on the local microclimate.
When the seeds are mature, the pods become brittle and begin to split open revealing up to 60 seeds in each pod. Collecting the seed takes a bit of good timing because each of the seeds has a small ‘wing’ attached and, when the pod completely opens, the seeds can be spread far and wide on the breeze (see photo, below right). If the pod is in a position where you can easily observe its development, when the pod is just beginning to split, place a large basin under the pod structure and carefully cut the adjoining stem from the tree. If the pod is high in the tree and hidden by foliage, then when the pod starts to change colour, make a bag from nylon netting large enough to hold the pod structure with some room to spare. The will prevent the seeds from blowing away when the pod opens.
If you would like to try growing frangipani from seed, for best results sow them soon after they are collected.
This excellent Frangipani website provides a detailed guide to propagating frangipani, including an interesting method of germinating seed in paper towels: Frangipani Society of Australia
One of our readers, Sam, has shared some photos of his very successful efforts.
A New Zealand gardener is having trouble with her potted frangipani. I am posting my reply separately as other gardeners may have had a similar problem:
I live in Auckland NZ. I have white frangipani over 1.5m tall in a large pot. It last flowered about 4 years ago which was it’s first year in the pot. Now we are getting good leaf growth and new stems in the summer but the new stems rot in the winter and we have to cut them off.
There are several reasons why new growth on frangipanis can rot in winter – (1) water-logging of the mixture while the tree is dormant. (2) Lack of nutrients, such as potassium, which strengthens cell walls as well as promoting flowering. Have you given the tree any fertiliser? (3) Its position in winter is too cold for a tropical tree.
Remedies for (1) and (2): If your tree has been in the pot for 4 years, it is quite possible the roots have blocked the drainage hole/s, and that is causing the softer, new growth to rot when the tree is not using the moisture in the pot. Or, perhaps the holes have become blocked if the pot is in direct contact with the ground. Frangipanis form lots of roots and they must have good drainage.
As their roots are rather brittle, if you can’t remove the root ball from the pot easily, lie the pot on its side and hose out the potting mixture. Then carefully re-pot it into a larger pot with fresh potting mix that contains some complete fertiliser, and gently water it to settle the mix around the roots. If you can’t find a larger pot for the tree, trim the longest roots (so that they will have to grow about 5 cm to fill the pot) and re-pot in fresh mix in the same pot. Sit the pot on some pieces of tile so that the drainage holes remain clear of the soil.
Remedy for (3): Even the white frangipani (which is the hardiest) will not do well if temperatures are too low or they are in windy positions. When growing frangipanis in temperate zones, on the north side of a wall is a good position for them. A brick or concrete wall is best because the wall absorbs heat during the day and releases it slowly at night, keeping the air around the tree slightly warmer.
Now is the perfect time of year to take Frangipani cuttings
Bill has e-mailed me about growing Frangipani in north-west Victoria – and his question may be of interest to other readers.
Frangipani trees are tropical plants, and your area of Victoria is not an ideal climate for them, because minimum temperatures for most of the year are not high enough. Plants grown outside a suitable climate zone are more prone to diseases. There can be, within climate zones, microclimates in protected areas where temperature variations are not as extreme as those in the general area, and plants that need warmer conditions can be grown in these positions – if you prepared to give them extra care through autumn, winter and spring.
The only variety you could possibly grow is the hardier white Frangipani, and you would need to grow that in a position that is protected from wind, and against a north-facing brick wall where the thermal properties of the bricks keep the air around the plant slightly warmer at night. If you find someone in your area who is successfully growing a white frangipani, and is prepared to give you a cutting, now is the perfect time to take frangipani cuttings. See my post on how to prepare frangipani cuttings for planting.
Otherwise, I think it might be wiser to choose a different tree that is more suited to the local climate.
Frangipani trees do not require regular pruning. If a branch is inconveniently placed, it can be removed during winter while the tree is dormant. Frangipani trees will bleed sap if pruned during a growth period. Do not shorten branches of frangipani trees, or dieback will occur. On all trees and shrubs, a thickening of the stem forms where the new branch begins to grow. This is called the ‘collar’, or ‘wrinkle’. On frangipani trees, remove the entire branch, cutting through the branch at the outer edge of the collar. If you remove the branch flush with the trunk, scar tissue that forms will damage the phloem layer that transports carbohydrates in plants.
If you want to take cuttings from your frangipani, the best time to do this is at the end of winter. Remove a lateral branch for each cutting, as described above. Keep these in a dry spot, out of direct sunlight, for a couple of weeks to allow the cut end to form scar tissue. If you take the cuttings during Last Quarter phase, they should be ready for potting during the following Full Moon phase.
For each cutting, half fill a 20 cm pot (with plenty of holes in the base) with well-washed coarse sand that has a little moistened coco peat or compost mixed through it to help keep the mixture damp. Avoid using a normal potting mix for frangipani cuttings because they will rot if the mixture stays too moist. Anchor the cutting in the sandy mix, and gradually fill the pot with the same mix, you may need a short stake to keep it upright. If the cutting is very large (1.5 m), you will need a larger pot with plenty of drainage holes and 3 stakes to support the cutting. Gardening Australia has an excellent video of this method: https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/staking-a-tree/9493998
I find strips cut across old T-shirts or men’s singlets make could flexible plant ties. Gently water the mix to settle it around the cutting. A drink of seaweed extract tea can help stimulate root growth. Place potted cuttings in a warm, well-lit area, out of direct sunlight, and keep the cutting mix just damp. During spring, when white roots appear at the holes near the base of the pot, your cutting is ready for transplanting.
Frangipani roots are very brittle, and may snap if you tip the plant out of the pot. Gently remove the mix from the top half of the pot, and then use a hose to gently wash the rest of the sand away. Transplant into well-drained soil in a sunny position. Mature frangipanis are quite drought-tolerant but young plants will require a weekly watering in dry weather until they are making good growth. Organic mulch is beneficial if it is kept well clear of the trunk. These trees only require a light application of complete organic fertiliser in spring (but not at planting time).