Everything You Need to Know About the Symbolic Meaning of Frangipani Flowers

Whether you know the flower as Frangipani or by the alternative name Plumeria, this flower is striking in both its beauty and rich scent. As a tropical bloom that has inspired plenty of perfume formulations over the years, Frangipani is familiar to many who have never received it as a cut flower in a bouquet. This guide will cover everything you need to know about Frangipani flower meaning and its uses, symbolism, and cultural significance around the world.


The Meaning of Frangipani Flowers – The Essentials

In the language of flowers, Frangipani (Plumeria) carries the symbolic meaning of welcome, support, and wealth in many cultures. In its native range, the flowers were used to symbolize the fertility of deities.


About Frangipani (Plumeria) Flowers

About Frangipani (Plumeria) Flowers

Frangipani is a tropical flower you may have seen in Hawaiian leis or island-themed centerpiece arrangements. If you’ve never seen the flower, you’ve likely smelled its fragrance as a component of popular perfumes like Stella McCartney’s Pop and Mon Guerlain’s L’Essence Guerlain.

Family, Genus, and Taxonomy

Frangipani’s scientific name is Plumeria, which is an entire genus of closely related flowering trees and shrubs. Plumeria is part of the Rauvolfioideae subfamily and the Apocynaceae family. It’s related to dogbane, a group of plants that are often much smaller than the tall-growing Frangipani plants.

Botanical Characteristics, Colors, Fragrances

Frangipani varies in height, foliage color, and flower color. However, they all tend to feature bold and creamy-looking blooms with strong fragrances that smell of citrus. The plants are easily propagated from cuttings. 

Most varieties lose their leaves over the winter and look bare before suddenly becoming covered in new foliage, followed by profuse blooming in the middle of summer. These plants are tropical and require a warm climate to survive the winter outdoors.

History & Origins of Frangipani Flowers

Native to Central America, the Frangipani wasn’t described in European botanical records until explorers arrived in the 17th century. The genus name is derived from the monk who first described it upon visiting the New World. 

However, varieties also grow in Southeast Asia that have been recorded as religious iconography for centuries. It’s unclear when the plant actually arrived in Asia or Polynesia, two places it is widely grown for symbolic value and perfume production.

Popular Types, Species, and Cultivars

There are hundreds of unique cultivars grown around the world, but some of the most popular varieties for both landscape use and cut flower production include:

  • Plumeria acutifolia Rubra, which comes in many colors and provides a steady citrus scent that’s strongest at night
  • The Plumeria obtusa, which is also known as the evergreen Plumeria because it doesn’t lose all of its leaves in winter
  • Plumeria pudica, which is called Golden Arrow because of its white tubular flowers with golden centers
  • Climbing frangipani varieties, make a good choice for covering arbors and pergolas with a fragrance that lasts all night long.

Etymological Meaning

The Plumeria name was inspired by Charles Plumier. He was a monk from France who traveled to the New World in the 1600s and recorded the details of the plant’s botanical characteristics. He was the first to introduce the shrub to the European world, so he earned the recognition as the namesake of the entire genus. 

The common name Frangipani is far less straightforward. It’s currently attributed to an Italian family of the same name who claimed to have invented a perfume capturing the flower’s scent. Records from the time show that the marquis marketing the perfume claimed to have used the real flower, but in fact, it was a synthetic form that only mimicked the citrus-like scent.

What Regions are Frangipani Native to?

Frangipani is native only to Mexico, Brazil, the Caribbean Islands, and other parts of Central America. It has naturalized in many other parts of the world, including Hawaii, Southeast Asia, and other warm regions of the world.

When is Frangipani in Season?

Most Frangipani varieties don’t start blooming until summer begins in earnest in the region where they’re planted. Some varieties start in late spring and stop blooming early. Most Frangipani only blooms in the middle of summer and stop long before autumn arrives.


Uses and Benefits of Frangipani Flowers

Uses and Benefits of Frangipani Flowers

Aside from being a source of fragrant perfume, Frangipani flowers are commonly used in the floral necklace known as a lei in Hawaiian culture

They’re used in many arrangements for their bright colors and delicate scent. Frangipani is used as an ingredient in sacred incense formulas throughout Southeast Asia, as well as being used as an offering directly in temples throughout Bali and India. 

Plumeria is not considered toxic, but it can be irritating if consumed. Some species are being studied for potential medical benefits.


The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Frangipani

The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Frangipani

For a plant that was once only found in a limited part of Central America, Frangipani has spread worldwide and established rich symbolism in far-flung cultures. From being a symbol of love in Swahili poetry to representing the meaning of welcome and Aloha in Hawaiian, Frangipani means something different everywhere you go.

Common Frangipani Flower Colors and What They Mean

  • Red: Passion, intensity, courage, strength, and romance.
  • Pink: Friendships, budding romance, personal growth, and hope.
  • Cream: Elegance, maturity, good luck, and devotion.
  • White: Purity, innocence, clarity, cleanliness, and recovery.
  • Orange: Energy, friendship, support, growth, and good luck.
  • Yellow: Optimism, hope, joy, cheerfulness, and fun.

National Flower of Laos and Nicaragua

Both Laos and Nicaragua have selected the Frangipani bloom as their national flower, although neither country primarily uses that term to refer to it. 

In Laos, the same flower is known as Dok Champa in most cases. If you visit Nicaragua and appreciate the beautiful Sacuanjoche blossom, you’re still looking at a beautiful Plumeria blossom. 

No matter the name, the beauty, and fragrance of the flower are the same.

Mayan Symbolism

As the native home of the Frangipani plant, it’s no wonder that the Mesoamericans used it symbolically in their religious art. 

Both Mayan and Aztec cultures left carvings behind depicting the Frangipani flower as a symbol of deities of all kinds. In particular, it’s linked to the birth of deities or the gaining of new powers. 

It was also clearly a sign of fertility and female beauty. Plumeria groves were grown specifically for Aztec nobles to stroll through and enjoy. One can only imagine how the strong fragrance of the flowers was likely associated with wealth, nobility, and strength.

Hinduism and the Frangipani

Hinduism and the Frangipani

While Frangipani once didn’t grow in Southeast Asia, it was introduced centuries ago and has featured in religious art since then. Folk beliefs attribute a link between the flowers and ghosts or other supernatural entities. 

In India, Hindu temples often rely on incense blends featuring a strong note of Frangipani. These incenses are often designated by the name champa, such as nag champa, because it’s the common term for the flower in India. 

For Bengali people, the flower is a symbol of death and grieving, while Balinese Hindus use it as an offering in temple services.

Hawaiian Leis

Hawaii is another area where the Frangipani flourished after being introduced. Polynesian Islanders call the flower melia and use it for creating the lei necklace that is given to visitors as a symbol of welcome. It’s considered to embody fertility and sexuality as well, much like in its original native range. 

Modern residents of Hawaii and other Polynesian islands often wear one of these blooms over an ear to indicate if they’re single or not.

Buddhist Symbolism

Buddhist temples throughout Southeast Asia feature dense plantings of the Frangipani tree or shrub. It can be associated with graveyards or used as an entrance area to encourage the right religious mindset before entering the temple. 

Some Buddhist cultures also use the Frangipani as a bridal flower, but only in cream or white colors. Red Frangipani is only ever used for grave offerings or during funerals due to the color’s association with death.


Suitable Gifting Occasions for Frangipani Flowers

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Frangipani Flowers

Consider giving a bundle of fragrant Frangipani blooms during a challenging time in your friend’s life, such as the loss of a loved one or an unwanted change in career. 

Colorful Frangipani send a message of support easily tailored with the selection of the right color. Red blooms can send a romantic message, but keep in mind that’s not common to all cultures.


Frangipani Flower Meaning FAQs:

What does a Frangipani flower symbolize? 

Frangipani symbolizes fertility, strength, growth, and romantic love. They can also be associated with ghosts in some cultures.

Are Frangipani lucky? 

In the language of flowers, frangipani blooms are considered a sign of good luck in most cultures around the world.

What is the difference between frangipani and plumeria? 

Plumeria is simply the scientific name of all Frangipani varieties.

Is a frangipani a flower of love? 

In bright red or pink colors, Frangipani can definitely symbolize love.

Do Frangipani come back every year? 

When planted in a warm climate, Frangipani plants are perennials.

How long do Frangipani flowers last? 

Cut Frangipani can look beautiful for two weeks or longer with fresh water.

Do Frangipani flower more than once? 

Frangipani tends to set all their buds and bloom at once each summer, but they can release a few flushes of blooms before fading.


Frangipani Flower Meaning – The Final Word

Don’t just admire Frangipani as a perfume ingredient. Give the creamy blooms a place of honor in your floral arrangements as well, thanks to their aesthetic beauty and rich meaning and symbolism.


Author

I’ve long been fascinated with the world of flowers, plants, and floral design. I come from a family of horticulturists and growers and spent much of my childhood in amongst the fields of flowering blooms and greenhouses filled with tropical plants, cacti, and succulents from all over the world. Today, my passion has led me to further explore the world of horticulture, botany, and floristry and I'm always excited to meet and collaborate with fellow enthusiasts and professionals from across the globe. I hold a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and have trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris.

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