ArtisTree Plantopinions: Plumeria Can Be a Stick in the Mud

Plumeria (also known as Frangipani) is often associated with botanical gardens. But drive around Sarasota or Venice in the summer, and you’ll see it popping up in many neighborhoods. It can turn a residence into an instant tropical showplace with its bright blooms and large leaves. (In Hawaii, the flowers are used to make leis.) But come winter, it loses its foliage and looks like a bunch of sticks in the ground. Some snowbirds even cut their Plumeria down, thinking it’s dead. So should you plant some? Our ArtisTree experts weigh in.

Plumeria tree

“I’d like to see your landscape designers discuss the pros and cons of Plumeria in their next Plantopinions debate. I’m interested in adding some to my landscape but not sure if it will be a good fit!”

– Dorothy D.

Plumeria does best in full sun and well-drained soil. It’s cold sensitive and susceptible to rust, but otherwise it’s quite manageable in Sarasota and Venice areas.

Joe Mantkowski, VP Landscape Design, thumbs up:

I just used Plumeria on a couple of recent projects and have always regarded it as a good ornamental choice. The foliage and flowers (between May and November usually) are beautiful with many different color options available. I like it when it’s used properly, though – placed among layered ,lush shrubbery so it doesn’t look like it’s just jutting out of the ground. Plumeria does go dormant, so it’s bare in the winter months. Still, even then it can be eye-catching when illuminated by landscape lighting.

Clinton Lak, Landscape Designer, thumbs down:

I actually installed two Plumeria trees in my own landscape but eventually replaced them. They looked really nice when blooming, but we entertain a lot and I should have selected something that was showier throughout the year (I ended up replacing them with Dwarf Jatropha). Unless a customer specifically requests it, I don’t include Plumeria in my landscape designs. I know it’s pretty much low maintenance, but I’m just not fond of its stick-like structure.

Plumeria Casey Key
Gorgeous Plumeria trees growing at a Siesta Key residence.

Brian Clouser, Landscape Designer, one thumb up & one down:

It’s a very cool plant if you are okay with bare stems for about six months. I don’t use it much because we have so many seasonal residents. I have a lot of customers wanting them removed because they prefer to see foliage year ‘round. But Plumeria can still provide good visual interest during winter when pruned to create multiple branches. It requires an involved owner, though. Very colorful flower options and easily shaped to fit an area or create a full canopy look.

Plumeria in Florida winter
Plumeria trees are deciduous and will lose their foliage in Florida’s winter months.

Chris Culp, Landscape Designer, thumbs up:

I’m on the fence about Plumeria. On one hand, it’s a nice aesthetic choice and blooms prolifically once established. The size spans from shrubs to small trees, and its shape can be controlled with proper pruning. I also really don’t mind that it’s bare in the winter months, either. That’s just the way the plant is. But the thing is, it’s seldom artfully placed in the landscape. If you’re going to plant Plumeria, give it some careful thought as though you’re “punctuating’ an area in an artful way for best results.

Conan Michel, Plant Purchaser, thumbs up with a caveat:

Overall, I give Plumeria a thumbs up if you can keep it warm. I suggest planting in southern exposure, maybe along the wall of your home, so radiant heat from the wall can keep it warm during cooler winter months. To be honest, ArtisTree doesn’t order Plumeria very often because it’s a deciduous, seasonal selection. That means you’re going to see leafless “sticks” during winter months. New leaves will emerge around April/May with flowers soon after that. But I love the flowers and fragrance. It can be cross-pollinated to produce different colors and is very easy to propagate.

These Plumeria trees grace a home on Venice Island in Florida.

ArtisTree “Plantopinions” is a roundtable debate between multiple ArtisTree experts on the virtues of various plant specimens. Sometimes there’s consensus and sometimes not. In the end, you are the judge.

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ArtisTree Landscape Maintenance & Design has proudly served Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties since 1990.


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