How to Grow White Frangipani (Plumeria)

White frangipani plant with yellow-white soft flowers clustered with buds closeup

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Famous for their appearance in Hawaiian leis, the white frangipani adds a burst of tropical flair to the garden and has a pleasant floral fragrance. Their plump, soft, five petals partially overlap each other and gently swirl outward, giving these blooms a sculpted appearance. The white frangipani has a soft yellow center that fades to pure white near the tips of the flower. 

Also known as a white plumeria, this tree has thick, gray-green, succulent branches and long, leathery green leaves. The tree often forms into an umbrella shape. Though they can grow to be quite large, white frangipanis are slow growers. They can be kept in pots for easy moving and to keep them more compact.     

Common Name White Frangipani, White Plumeria
Botanical Name Plumeria alba
Family Apocynaceae
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 20-25 ft. tall, 20-25 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Loamy, sandy, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Summer, fall
Flower Color White, yellow
Hardiness Zones 10-11, USA
Native Area North America, South America, Central America, Caribbean

White Frangipani Care

Once established, white frangipanis are quite easy to care for. They thrive in hot, humid, tropical climates and do not demand much attention. The occasional watering, fertilizing, and pruning will keep these trees looking gorgeous. 

Common pests and diseases include the frangipani moth and caterpillar, scale, mealybugs, nematodes, and frangipani rust. Plumeria trees are tolerant of drought, heat, salty air, and sandy soil. This makes them ideal plants for areas near the salty coastline. 

White frangipani plant with soft swirl-like flowers with white petals and yellow center closeup

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

White frangipani plant with swirl-like flowers with yellow petals and white edges closeup

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

White frangipani plant with yellow-white flowers on thick stem with long, leathery leaves

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Light

These tropical flowers can be grown in sun and partial shade, but fare the best in abundant sunshine; at least 6 hours per day is ideal.

Soil

The white frangipani is tolerant of a wide array of soil types, as long as it is well-draining. Soil that does not drain well can cause root rot. It does the best in loamy, rich, well-draining soil that is neutral or slightly acidic. 

Water

These trees have average watering needs and do well with about 1 inch of water per week. Water deeply, then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering. When in dormancy, do not water outdoor frangipanis. Water indoor frangipanis about every two or three weeks during their dormancy. Established plants are drought tolerant.  

Temperature and Humidity

These famous tropical trees only thrive in hot, tropical climates. Anything colder than USDA zone 10 will not allow these trees to thrive, as they cannot handle frost. As for humidity, they do well in the high humidity often present in tropical areas.   

Fertilizer

White frangipanis require high-phosphorus fertilizer. Avoid giving these trees too much nitrogen, as this will produce more foliage than flowers. Feed this tree every month during the growing season for the best results. Established trees may not require yearly fertilizing. 

Pruning White Frangipani

Pruning in the late winter or early spring before new growth appears can help this tree maintain its desired shape. When pruning, it is important to remember that the tips of the branches produce the tree’s famous flowers. Cut branches will not flower until the following year, so prune carefully. It is also important to wear gloves and protective eyewear, as the milky sap inside the branches can cause skin irritation. 

To create a taller tree with a central trunk, prune away all lower branches near the trunk. For a shorter, denser shrub, prune all the branches back to around half of their length.  

Propagating White Frangipani

The white frangipani is very easy to propagate with cuttings. This is best done in the spring. Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Using clean, sharp garden snips, trim a stem tip that is between 12 to 18 inches long. Cut at a 45-degree angle. Ideally, try to find a cutting with a bit of mature, gray bark. 
  2. Strip the leaves from the cutting, leaving only those at the top. 
  3. Leave the cutting to dry in an upright position for around a week or more. This will allow the cut end to seal. 
  4. After this, moisten the cut tip of the cutting and dip it into rooting hormone. Shake off the excess powder.  
  5. Prepare a small pot with rich, well-draining soil. A mix of potting soil and cactus soil or pumice does nicely. Plant the cutting 3 to 4 inches deep.
  6. Set the cutting in a sunny, warm location. 
  7. Water deeply and allow the excess water to drain away. You will not need to water again until the soil feels dry several inches down. Too much water will rot the cutting. 
  8. Once healthy roots develop (gently tug the cutting to check for resistance), plant the white frangipani cutting in the garden in a sunny, rich, well-draining spot. This will take around 6 to 8 weeks. 

How to Grow White Frangipani from Seed

Growing these trees from seed is possible, though the seeds will almost never produce a plant identical to its parent. If you would like to try this method, it is best to test the seed’s viability before putting in the work of growing it. Simply place the seed in water and let it soak for a few hours. Seeds that sink are most likely viable, while seeds that float are most likely dead. After testing the seeds, follow these steps: 

  1. Keep the seeds moist. It is important that they do not dry out. 
  2. Plant the seeds in moist, rich, well-draining soil with the thick end down and the wing (or thin, papery top of the seed) pointing upwards slightly out of the soil. 
  3. Place a plastic covering over the seeds to keep in heat and moisture. Water the soil when it begins to dry. 
  4. Germination should occur in one to three weeks. Remove the plastic cover when this occurs. 
  5. If the seed husk stays attached to the new leaves, you may need to gently remove it. 
  6. Once the seedlings are several inches tall, transplant it to a larger container and begin hardening them off, slowly adjusting them to direct sunlight. Plant them in the garden once they are hardened off. 

Potting and Repotting White Frangipani

A shallow root system makes the white frangipani an ideal potted plant. This is great for areas just outside of the frangipani’s growing zones as the pot can be taken indoors before temperatures begin to chill. Choose a large, wide pot to accommodate the plant’s shallow roots. This will help prevent the tree from becoming top-heavy and toppling in windy conditions. Be sure the pot has adequate drainage holes. 

Because white frangipanis are slow-growing, they will not need to be repotted often. When the plant does outgrow the container, gently loosen the roots from the pot by tapping the outside of the pot. Gently slide the tree out, being sure not to knock the branches against anything and cause damage. Move the tree to its new, larger container and fill it with well-draining soil. 

Overwintering

When frangipanis are cultivated within their growing zones, overwintering is simple. Allow the plant to enter dormancy and withhold watering. For those grown outside its growing zones, these plants will need to be taken indoors before the colder temperatures arrive. Allow these plants to enter dormancy inside, only watering every two or three weeks. 

How to Get White Frangipani to Bloom

This tropical plant is famous for its waxy, long-lasting, sweetly fragrant blooms. Plumeria alba flowers are around 3 inches long and are white with yellow centers. They grow in beautiful clusters near the tips of the plant’s branches. They appear yearly during the summer months after the plant is about 3 years old. 

To encourage blooming, provide the plant with at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Give it high-phosphorus fertilizer monthly during the growing season, and water once the surface of the soil feels dry. When flowers are spent, deadhead the blooms to encourage more flowering and discourage seedpod production.

Common Problems with White Frangipani

The white frangipani is usually easy to care for and is not prone to having problems. However, there are a couple of common issues that may pop up when caring for this tropical tree. 

Wrinkly, Spongy, or Soft Branches

This is often caused by a fungus in the roots or branches and is normally brought on by cool, wet weather or overwatering. To help avoid this, do not water the frangipani in winter. If you experience this problem, cease watering and spray the plant with an anti-fungal treatment. If possible, remove affected branches. 

Yellowing Leaves

This is a sign of root rot, also caused by overwatering. If the frangipani is in a pot, make sure the drainage holes are not blocked. Cut back on watering until the soil is completely dry and set the pot in an area that easily allows excess water to drain away, such as on rocks or a plant stand. If it is planted in the ground, cut back on watering. If the soil is holding too much moisture, amend the soil with sand or another fast-draining material. 

FAQ
  • Is there a pure white frangipani?

    Not exactly. All white frangipanis have yellow centers, but most of the flower petals will be white.

  • What do white frangipanis smell like?

    Most people describe the white frangipani’s pleasantly sweet aroma as being similar to roses, pineapples, bananas, ginger, coconut, or spices.