One of the most breathtakingly prolific plants out there is the Plumeria tree. A genus of 11 species (with a few more candidates currently being reviewed) has taken over the world.
These plants are native to the Caribbean and Central America down to Brazil, yet they seem to have found their way to every major continent.
The most popular species is Plumeria rubra, the national flower of Nicaragua, is the parent to a large number of cultivars.
However, most of the plumeria cultivars out there aren’t even officially named yet, so many growers tend to sell mainly the core species and rubra cultivars as a result.
Plumeria Plant Uses
Plumeria’s colorful, fragrant blooms provide a lasting impression when grown as a small tree or ornamental shrub.
The fragrant flowers are used to make leis and have special significance for both Buddhism and the Hindu religion.
They’re used in weddings, funerals, and even as a show of relationship status.
Its heavy yields of flowers attract pollinators as well as people.
Pair it with blackfoot daisies (Melampodium leucanthum) or a silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea) for even more impact.
While it was later proven that these flowers aren’t related to the perfume frangipani (from which it gets one of its common names), they are used to make champa perfumes. In addition, some plumerias have even exhibited potential medicinal value.
13 Popular Plumeria Varieties
As mentioned, there are currently 11 known species of plumeria but countless cultivars and hybrids.
Here are some of the most popular.
Plumeria alba (White Plumeria)
Native to Puerto Rico, white plumeria’s flowers provide beautiful white flowers with yellow at the center.
Unlike most plumerias, there’s not even a hint of red anywhere on or near the flower.
Its flowers are edible, and the wooden heart is used in Cambodian folk medicine as a laxative.
It’s capable of growing to an impressive 40′ feet tall in ideal conditions.
Plumeria obtusa (Singapore Graveyard Flower)
One of the smaller species, Singapore Plumeria, is native to Cuba and Hispaniola.
It’s a shiny-leafed evergreen that sports white or pink flowers. Both the leaves and petals are rounded.
The heavily scented flowers are used for both necklaces and Cambodian offerings.
Plumeria pudica (Fiddle-Leaf Plumeria)
Boasting white or pink flowers with a yellow center and rounded petals, this species is popular at weddings.
It has unique leaves that resemble spoons and tends to have more branches than other plumerias while being medium-sized.
A notable variegated cultivar is ‘Golden Arrow.’
Related: What Fertilizer for Plumeria?
Plumeria rubra (Common Frangipani)
Plumeria rubra is perhaps the best known and most beloved of all plumerias, this plant is parent to many cultivars and offers tremendous variation.
Its flowers may be solid, bicolor, or multicolor and are usually red-tinged, leading to many common names with “red” in them.
The oval petals may display orange, pink, red, white, and yellow of varying shades.
These deciduous trees have a potential height of 25′ feet.
Plumeria rubra ‘Candy Stripe’
This wonderful plant has broad leaves and impressive 5 to 6″ inch blossoms.
The flowers have radial stripes of deep pink, white, and yellow.
Rubra’s trademark fragrance compliments this unique appearance.
Plumeria rubra ‘Diva’
Bearing some of the most unique flowers of the genus, this cultivar is a slow-growing but worthwhile addition to any garden.
The flowers are five times thicker than other plumerias, with a stubby, ruffled appearance that shifts midway from yellow to white.
These 3″ inch flowers also bear a wonderful scent, just in case the visual appeal wasn’t already enough to snag you.
Plumeria rubra ‘Gabrielle’
Sporting rounded, pinwheel-shaped blooms, ‘Gabrielle’ is one of the more compact plumeria cultivars out there.
The sweet scent and prolific blooming are only part of the appeal, however.
The white flowers have a pale yellow center and wide pink edges, giving them a soft, feminine appeal.
Plumeria rubra’ Penang Peach’
The beautiful multicolor flowers are orange with hints of red and white that may come as splotches, bands, or edging.
A popular lei flower, it has a heady clemony-peach scent.
Plumeria rubra ‘Polynesian Sunset’
One of the more stunning cultivars in coloration, this fragrant plant features 3″ inch multicolor blooms.
The outsides are mauve to pink with orange interiors and an occasional touch of white as an accent.
These colors can fade into many pastel variations, such as coral, gold, and peach, while the scent closely resembles a gardenia.
Plumeria rubra ‘Toba’s Fire’
It’s hard to find fault with a cultivar that looks like it’s on fire.
That’s precisely what this wonderful plant provides, earning it the nickname ‘Embers.’
The 4 to 5″ inch flowers come in orange, yellow, and white hues with deep pink tips and edges, giving it the appearance of glowing embers.
Even more remarkable is the fact that this plant blooms all year round, complemented by a heady plumeria fragrance.
Plumeria rubra ‘Vera Cruz Rose’
Sometimes referred to as Lilliana, this heavy bloomer features clusters of 30 to 50 flowers measuring 4″ inches each.
The petals boast a pale canary yellow color with white borders, further accented with pink bands.
It gets its nickname due to the unusually strong (even for a plumeria) scent, closely resembling a rosebush.
Plumeria x stenopetala
This is a hybrid of Plumeria stenophylla with an unknown second parent.
It’s native to Cuba and the Dominican Republic and has a heady, jasmine-like scent.
The blooms feature thin, almost wispy white petals that curl, while the branches and leaves bear similar thinness.
Hailed as one of the most fragrant plumerias, it’s also one of the smallest, often topping out only 5′ feet tall.
When you want a lovely, small plumeria for your home, the 8′ foot tall stenophylla is one of the best choices.
The white flowers have five narrow petals in a roughly pinwheel arrangement.
This species stands out because it now has a dwarf cultivar that grows to a mere 2′ feet tall.