To the Apocynaceae family belong different kinds of plants, among them the plumeria, also called pomelia or frangipani. Present in nature with seven species, many varieties and about 300 hybrids, it is a particularly long-lived shrub, originating in the tropical areas of America, particularly the Caribbean ones such as, for example, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico.
The Plumeria rubra or Frangipane is a shrub native to the Caribbean and Venezuela, but widespread in most tropical countries, which in nature can take on the dimensions of a tree; the leaves are deciduous, but many species are evergreen.
This type of plant has a fleshy stem, which becomes woody in adult plants; the leaves are large, lanceolate, pointed, of different shades of green depending on the species;
The leaves, of a more or less intense green, are oval, sometimes pointed, deciduous or persistent.
From them, when they are prematurely detached, as well as from the withered stems eliminated and from the cut branches, a whitish, sticky and toxic latex gushes out.
The flowers are the main reason why the plant is cultivated, in fact in summer it produces numerous very large flowers, with 5-7 petals, of white, pink, red, yellow color, usually with the center of a different color from the edge. In the early hours of the day the flowers of plumeria rubra are very fragrant.
The stem, fragile, green and fleshy, with the passage of time becomes stronger, becomes darker and undergoes a process of lignification.
The roots are well developed and the growth rate is slow, but while in the countries of origin it can reach 10 meters in height, in other climatic conditions it does not exceed 2 meters. In Mexico there are majestic and centuries-old specimens.
Flowers and fruits
The flowers, whose diameter can reach 8 centimeters, give off a scent that varies according to the species; it can be intense and fruity or recall fragrances of lemon, honeysuckle, jasmine and rose together recalling the aroma created by Count Maurizio Frangipani at the court of Caterina de 'Medici in the 16th century. Sometimes, as in the case of Plumeria Pudica, the perfume is absent.
The corolla is generally formed by 5 or 7 fleshy petals of white, red, pink, yellow, orange color, but also, for example, cream and lavender.
The fruits are represented by pods that can contain from 20 to 100 seeds, about 1-2 centimeters long, which take 8/9 months to mature; in areas characterized by dry summers and rainy winters, these shells are not numerous and indeed should be eliminated because their growth would overwhelm the plant at the expense of flowering.
The Frangipane plants love the sunny positions, which favor an abundant flowering, it is advisable in any case to avoid direct exposure to sunlight in the most torrid summer months; they fear the cold, so in autumn they must be sheltered in a protected environment, with at least 15-20 degrees of temperature. Since the plant is in complete rest in autumn and winter, it can also be sheltered in a dark or shady place, such as a garage or a closed veranda. Repair the plants from the wind, especially if it is cool as air currents can damage plants of this kind.
In the vegetative period, from May to September, the plumeria rubra it needs abundant watering, leaving the soil to dry slightly between one watering and another; spray the leaves with distilled water for too dry periods. In winter plumeria they do not need a lot of water, so rarely water them once a month; if kept in a dark place, stop watering completely until spring. From May to September provide a fertilizer for flowering plants with the water of the watering every 10-15 days.
To plant the Frangipane plants use a balanced and very fertile compote; avoid soils that are too heavy, and guarantee excellent drainage, even adding coarse material such as perlite or pumice stone to the compost so as to have a light and balanced compound.
The frangipani can be grown both in pots and in dry, sandy or stony soils; in both cases the drainage must be excellent, without water stagnation. Since this plant does not survive at temperatures below 5 ° C, the ideal climate is mild or warm, without wind, generally between 24 ° C and 29 ° C.
Fertilization, in spring and summer, must be constant and periodic, ie every 2-3 weeks.
Pomelia is multiplied by seed or cuttings; in the first case, starting from the parent plant, different varieties can be created, in the second identical plants are obtained. The reproduction fragment can be taken at any time of the year, but the rooting takes place in spring or early summer. Thanks to the grafts, the same shrub produces flowers of different colors. Pollination takes place thanks to wind or insects.
It takes place by seed in spring, using the fresh seeds produced from the flowers of the previous year, placed in containers filled with a mixture of sand and peat in equal parts; the compote should be kept slightly moist, without exceeding the watering: the plants produced by seed usually do not produce flowers for at least 3-4 years, moreover the flowers are hardly the same color as those of the mother plant.
The multiplication can also take place by cutting cuttings at the end of the dormancy period, at the beginning of spring; the cuttings should be kept in a dry and warm place for at least ten days before being buried in a compound rich in sand, even in this case the soil should be kept moist, but not too drenched, to avoid harmful root rot of the new plants.
Pests and diseases
The plumeria they are often attacked by the cochineal; for this reason, before the flowering period it is good to provide a preventive treatment with the use of special insecticide products that will protect the plants from possible attacks.
The plumeria, although delicate, is not subject to particular diseases, however during the life cycle some pathologies can occur.
Dark spots on the lower part of the leaves are usually caused by a phytophagous insect, the brown or cottony cochineal. Yellow or brown speckles could signal the presence of red spider mite, a very harmful mite to the plant. Small stains of rust derive from a fungus that causes the premature fall of the leaves. In all these cases the condition must be promptly treated using specific products.
Frangipani - Plumeria rubra: Variety of Plumeria
The most known and widespread variety is the Plumeria rubra, native to Mexico and Guatemala;
also known as Antilles jasmine, it is particularly suitable for Mediterranean climates. The scent of flowers, white rose with yellow fauce, is similar to that of jasmine and tuberose.
According to some inappropriately, La Plumeria is the symbol of the Sicilian capital; it has sharp, light green leaves, white petals and a yellow heart; smells of lemon and vanilla.
The plumeria obtusa, from Colombia, is an evergreen like the plumeria pudica with thin and lanceolate leaves.