What are Plumeria - Frangipani Meanings & Symbolism

The Plumeria and Frangipani Flower: It’s Meanings & Symbolism

Few tropical flowers are as delicate and pure looking as the Plumeria. Also commonly known as frangipani, this flower is native to South America and the Caribbean Islands. Even if you do not live in a climate zone warm enough for growing your own Plumeria outside year around, you can grow them in pots and protect from frost and winter cold. Even if you don’t grow Plumeria you can appreciate the rich scent and inspiring meaning of this bloom. Explore the history and power of this flower to find out how to use it as a potent symbol for personal development or making meaningful arrangements.

What Does the Frangipani Flower Mean?

A few different cultures have assigned meanings to the Frangipani flower, including modern American culture. These meanings include:

  • The strength to withstand tough challenges
  • Connecting with spirits and ghosts
  • Welcoming guests and inviting them to stay, due to its use in Hawaiian leis
  • Intense love and a lasting bond between two people
  • Immortality and spiritual devotion spread over multiple lifetimes

The Mayans and other Mesoamericans held this flower in very high esteem, as evidenced by the extensive carvings and paintings found that feature the blooms. However, it’s not currently known what exactly the plumeria means to them. The flower is still used today in religious rituals from Hindu, Buddhist, Balinese, and Swahili cultures.

Etymology and Common Names of the Plumeria Flower

All Frangipani varieties fall under the scientific name of Plumeria. The Frangipani title was derived from a 16th century nobleman named Marquis Frangipani. He created an unique perfume that became very popular for scenting gloves, so when the flower arrived in Europe shortly afterwards and produced a scent very similar to his perfume, the name stuck.

The genus is named in honor of the seventeenth-century French botanist Charles Plumier, who traveled to the New World documenting many plant and animal species. The common name "frangipani" comes from a sixteenth-century marquis of the noble family in Italy who claimed to invent a plumeria-scented perfume, but in reality made a synthetic perfume that was said at the time to resemble the odor of the recently discovered flowers. Many English speakers also simply use the generic name "plumeria".

In Persian, the name is yas or yasmin.In Bengali the name is "Kath Golap", in Hindi, champa, in Gujarati language, "Champo", in Marathi chafa, in Telugu deva ganneru (divine nerium), in Meitei khagi leihao. In Hawaii, the name is melia, although common usage is still 'plumeria'. In Malayalam it is called pāla and chempakam. In Sri Lanka, it is referred to as araliya (අරලිය) and (in English) as the 'Temple Tree'. In Cantonese, it is known as gaai daan fa or the 'egg yolk flower' tree. The name lilawadi (originating from Thai) is found occasionally. In Indonesia, where the flower has been commonly associated with Balinese culture, it is known as kamboja, in Bali especially it is known as jepun. In French Polynesia it is called tipanie or tipanier and tīpani in the Cook Islands. In the Philippines it is called kalachuchi.

Symbolism of the Plumeria Flower

Modern florists often recommend the Plumeria as a gift for someone who has endured many challenges because this plant must be heated over 500 degrees F to catch alight and start burning. Aside from a natural toughness, the delicate look of the flower makes it a symbol of grace, wealth, and perfection across Asia. However, many people in China and Vietnam consider it unlucky because of a folk belief that ghosts and other spirits live in the branches of the bush. As a wedding flower across southern India, it symbolizes the lasting bond between a married couple. Chinese people also use it to indicate affection and love when it’s inappropriate to speak about those feelings openly. Swahili poets also use it as a symbol of love, while Buddhist and Hindu followers consider it a sign of immortality and the continuation of the soul after death.

Plumeria Flower Color Meaning

This plant can produce flowers ranging from pure white to yellow, pink, red, orange, violet and multi-colors (no Blues). Most of them share the same meanings, with the notable exception of the white flower in Indian culture. Red flowers aren’t used for weddings, so only white and cream colored Plumeria are considered appropriate for declaring love between two people.

Meaningful Botanical Characteristics of the Plumeria Flower

The Plumeria is mainly used as a source of perfume oil and for decorating around houses and temples. However, some researchers are using plumeria as potential treatments for a variety of health problems, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Special Occasions for the Plumeria Flowers

Give the gift of a fragrant Plumeria for:

  • Weddings, especially between two very compatible people
  • Cheering up a friend after a difficult time
  • Honoring the spirits of loved ones
  • Reminding yourself of the immortality of the soul


The genus Plumeria includes more than a dozen accepted species, and one or two dozen open to review, with over a hundred regarded as synonyms.

Plumeria species have a milky latex that, like many other Apocynaceae contains poisonous compounds that irritate the eyes and skin. The various species differently in their leaf shapeand arrangement. The leaves of Plumeria alba are narrow and corrugated, whereas leaves of Plumeria pudica have an elongated shape and glossy, dark-green color. Plumeria pudica is one of the everblooming types with non-deciduous, evergreen leaves. Another species that retains leaves and flowers in winter is Plumeria obtusa; though its common name is "Singapore," it is originally from Colombia. 

Accepted species:

  1. Plumeria alba - Puerto Rico, Lesser Antilles
  2. Plumeria clusioides (Synonym of Plumeria obtusa L. - Cuba
  3. Plumeria cubensis (Synonym of Plumeria obtusa L.) - Cuba
  4. Plumeria ekmanii (Synonym of Plumeria obtusa L.) - Cuba
  5. Plumeria emarginata (Synonym of Plumeria obtusa L.) - Cuba
  6. Plumeria filifolia - Cuba
  7. Plumeria inodora - Guyana, Colombia, Venezuela (incl Venezuelan islands in Caribbean)
  8. Plumeria krugii (Synonym of Plumeria obtusa L.) - Puerto Rico
  9. Plumeria lanataBritton (Synonym of Plumeria obtusa var. sericifolia (C.Wright ex Griseb.) Woodson) - Cuba
  10. Plumeria magnaZanoni & M.M.Mejía- Dominican Republic
  11. Plumeria montanaBritton & P.Wilson(now a synonym of Plumeria obtusa L.) - Cuba
  12. Plumeria obtusa- West Indies including Bahamas; southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Florida; naturalized in China
  13. Plumeria pudica- Panama, Colombia, Venezuela (incl Venezuelan islands in Caribbean)
  14. Plumeria rubra- Mexico, Central America, Venezuela; naturalized in China, the Himalayas, West Indies, South America, and numerous oceanic islands
  15. Plumeria sericifoliaWright ex Griseb.(Demoted to Plumeria obtusa var. sericifolia (C.Wright ex Griseb.) Woodson) - Cuba
  16. Plumeria × stenopetala
  17. Plumeria × stenophylla- Mexico and Central America
  18. Plumeria subsessilisDC.- Hispaniola
  19. Plumeria trinitensisBritton(Synonym of Plumeria obtusa var. sericifolia (C.Wright ex Griseb.) Woodson) - Cuba
  20. Plumeria tuberculataLodd.(Synonym of Plumeria obtusa var. sericifolia (C.Wright ex Griseb.) Woodson) - Hispaniola, Bahamas
  21. Plumeria venosaBritton(Synonym of Plumeria obtusa L.) - Cuba

Formerly included in genus:

  1. Plumeria ambiguaMüll.Arg. = Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
  2. Plumeria angustifloraSpruce ex Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus attenuatus (Benth.) Woodson
  3. Plumeria articulataVahl = Himatanthus articulatus (Vahl) Woodson
  4. Plumeria attenuataBenth = Himatanthus attenuatus (Benth.) Woodson
  5. Plumeria bracteataDC. = Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
  6. Plumeria drastica = Himatanthus drasticus (Mart.) Plumel
  7. Plumeria fallaxMüll.Arg. = Himatanthus drasticus (Mart.) Plumel
  8. Plumeria floribundavar floribunda = Himatanthus articulatus (Vahl) Woodson
  9. Plumeria floribundaacutifolia Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
  10. Plumeria floribundacalycina Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
  11. Plumeria floribundacrassipes Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
  12. Plumeria hilarianaMüll.Arg.= Himatanthus obovatus (Müll.Arg.) Woodson
  13. Plumeria lancifoliaMüll.Arg.= Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
  14. Plumeria latifoliaHimatanthus obovatus (Müll.Arg.) Woodson
  15. Plumeria martiiMüll.Arg.= Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
  16. Plumeria microcalyxHimatanthus articulatus (Vahl) Woodson
  17. Plumeria mulongoHimatanthus attenuatus (Benth.) Woodson
  18. Plumeria obovataMüll.Arg.= Himatanthus obovatus (Müll.Arg.) Woodson
  19. Plumeria oligoneuraMalme= Himatanthus obovatus (Müll.Arg.) Woodson
  20. Plumeria phagedaenica ex Müll.Arg. 1860 not Mart. 1831= Himatanthus drasticus (Mart.) Plumel
  21. Plumeria phagedaenica 1831 not Benth. ex Müll.Arg. 1860= Himatanthus phagedaenicus(Mart.) Woodson
  22. Plumeria puberulaMüll.Arg.= Himatanthus obovatus (Müll.Arg.) Woodson
  23. Plumeria retusaTabernaemontana retusa (Lam.) Pichon
  24. Plumeria revolutaHuber= Himatanthus stenophyllus Plumel
  25. Plumeria speciosaMüll.Arg.= Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
  26. Plumeria sucuubaSpruce ex Müll.Arg.= Himatanthus articulatus (Vahl) Woodson
  27. Plumeria tarapotensisSchum. ex Markgr.= Himatanthus tarapotensis (K.Schum. ex Markgr.) Plumel
  28. Plumeria velutinaMüll.Arg.= Himatanthus obovatus (Müll.Arg.) Woodson
  29. Plumeria warmingiiMüll.Arg.= Himatanthus obovatus (Müll.Arg.) Woodson

Additional information is available and references are Wikipedia.