A Guide to Growing Plumeria From Seed

I’ve been using FlexiPlugs by Grow-Tech for the last four years to germinate seeds and grow seedlings for the first phase of root growing, with very good results results. I would like to share my experience with this Guide. Click on this linke to find out more about how I use them. My methods may need to adjusted to your growing environment. https://plumeriaseeds.com/guide-growing-plumeria-seed/

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A Guide to Growing Plumeria From Seed

Germinating and Caring for Plumeria Seeds and Seedlings

Plumeria Seeds

When germinating plumeria seeds at home or in a greenhouse, the first thing to remember is plumeria seeds may be started indoors, but should be transplanted and moved to a location that provides plenty of light as soon as it has 3 or 4 real leaves. Leaving a seedling in small containers may result in disrupted growth, which can lead to unfavorable results. However, starting plumeria indoors is a great way to get an early jump on the outdoor growing season. When choosing a medium in which to germinate plumeria seeds, look for one that says something along the lines of, “seed starting mix.” This type of growing medium will likely have a moderate elemental fertilizer charge, which will benefit the newly sprouted seedlings. Seeds can be germinated in many different styles of trays and containers, so choose the type that best fits your space needs. If starting just a few seeds, a simple, flat starting tray or small individual containers will work great. When planting many seeds at once, it may be wise to use trays that are divided into separate growing chambers. This will cut down on the amount of transplanting needed as the plants grow. Remember, all a plumeria seed needs to germinate is warm temperatures and moisture. Some growers do use heat pads underneath the starting trays. Most plumeria seeds will germinate at temperatures between 65-90 degrees Fahrenheit and the added warmth in the growing medium can speed up the germination process. Using supplemental lighting, like a T5 fluorescent bulb, can also help provide extra heat. Though seeds may not need light in order to germinate, the seedling will need light, so having a light source ready is a good idea. I would use caution when starting seeds in a bright window sill because direct sunlight through glass can alter the intensity and the seedlings may stretch and become ‘leggy.’ (There are many good plumeria seed germination methods, I suggest you research each one and use the one or ones that fit you situation.)

When preparing to germinate seeds indoors it is a good idea to soak the seeds overnight or at least 4 hours in a warm place. Also moistening the growing medium before planting any seeds. This will help to ensure that the medium is not over saturated or water logged and that the moisture is spread evenly throughout. Using a tray, spread the seeds so they have about an inch between each, this will help minimize the root damage when transplanting.  I have found using plugs is much easier to handle and preserves the roots when transplanting. There are many good planting methods and you should examine each to see which fits your situation and may help result in higher germination rates. If planting is occurring in a flat starting tray, space seeds at least an inch apart, either in rows or in a grid pattern and cover lightly with 1/4″ of growing medium (remember oxygen is important during germination, so don’t pack the medium down to much). Then, spray the entire tray lightly with a hand held mister. The soil should be kept moist not wet long enough for the seeds to germinate, it may need to be sprayed with the mister occasionally to maintain even distribution of moisture. Some growers use starting trays that have plastic, hood-type lids. This will keep the humidity around the seeds at higher than average room levels and may help increase the chance of successful germination. Be sure to check the seeds daily to maintain an optimal environment.

Environmental Considerations

As the plumeria seedlings begin to pop up through the soil, there are a few environmental aspects that should be given proper attention right away: light intensity, humidity, and air flow. Remember the seeds of different cultivars may germinate in different lengths of time. Usually plumeria seeds will germinate in 5-10 days, but I have seen it take up to 30 days if conditions aren’t right. Plumeria seeds can sprout in total darkness, but, once the seedling breaches the soil, a sufficient light source is imperative. Those first “true leafs” will need a light source to perform photosynthesis and create carbohydrates, which will help sustain both normal plant growth and, most importantly, root growth. Without proper lighting, the early vegetative growth of a plant can be negatively affected and could cause long lasting problems.

Humidity can be helpful during the initial germination process but, as the seedlings begin to grow, high levels of humidity can spell disaster. As internal process burn up the seedlings energy sources, the plants will need to release oxygen as a gas through their stomata (a process called transpiration). As the oxygen leaves the plant, water and elemental nutrients are pulled up through the roots. In a humid environment, the stomata will remain closed and the roots will not take in water. If the growing medium is wet without proper aeration, the water will have nowhere to go and the roots will likely suffocate and die.

Air flow and humidity almost go hand in hand. A nice flow of air through the plants canopy will encourage the flow of carbon dioxide to the leaves and, subsequently, oxygen away from them. This is not just true for seedlings, but for plants in all stages of growth. A small fan on medium or low can help keep humidity levels low and the heat from any supplemental lighting to a minimum. Be sure to keep the rooting medium moist, but not too wet. Seedlings need water and going to long without can result in serious damage. However, if the medium remains too wet for too long it may impair root growth. As the seedlings grow, they will eventually exhaust any nutrient charge that the growing medium had to offer, so light fertilization may be needed while waiting to transplant into a different container.

As the seedlings grow, with proper care and attention, they inch closer and closer to fulfilling their own unique destiny. Every plumeria seeds has it’s own DNA structure and will not be exactly like any other. As we stand by, eagerly awaiting the flowers of our labor, it is important to remember that every plumeria we grow has entered into this life as a small, almost insignificant looking thing, that so many refer to as simply, just a seed.

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How to Identify Plumeria Colors

Identifying Plumeria

Cultivars by Flower Color

The following key to 40 major plumeria cultivars and is based on the most prominent color in the petal. Additional information on each cultivar, including descriptions of the petals and leaves, is presented afterward. Color determinations were based on the Munsel Hue Scale of the Nickerson Color Fan. When synonyms occur, the more frequently used name is given first, with the others in parentheses.


Strong Red

Dark red center and moderate reddish brown bands on back.

  • Scott Pratt (Kohala)
    • Flower: Dark Red with black-red radiating from center, 21⁄2 inch diameter; narrow petals moderately overlapping, average thickness; slight spicy scent; thick texture, keeping quality good
    • Leaves: 8–9 inches long, dark green with dark red veins. Tend to stay upright.
    • Tree: average grower, grows 1-2 foot per year.
    • Propagation: rarely products Seedpods, can be hard to root
    • Registration # 093
  • Hilo Beauty –
    • Flower: Dark Red with gold center. 31⁄2–4 inch diameter; wide petals slightly overlapping; slight spicy scent; medium texture; keeping quality excellent.
    • Leaves: 11–12 inches long, dark green with blue green look.
    • Tree: Tall upright grower, well branched, branches cut tend to die back to branch
    • Propagation: should be grafted, hard to root.
    • Registration # 132
  • Schmidt Red – 21⁄2 inch diameter; narrow petals moderately overlapping; slight spicy scent; leaves 8–9 inches long, green with dark red veins.

Moderate Strong Red

Small, brilliant yellow center and strong red bands on back

  • Cerise – 31⁄4 inch diameter; narrow petals slightly overlapping; slight sweet scent; leaves 12–13 inches long.
  • Japanese Lantern (Flower Basket) – 3 inch diameter; narrow petals slightly overlapping, tips twisted downward; slight sweet scent; leaves 13–15 inches long.
  • Donald Angus – 3 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; mild sweet scent; leaves 13–14 inches long.

Small, pale orange-yellow center and moderate reddish-brown bands on front and back

  • Irma Bryan – 21⁄2 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; slight spicy scent; leaves 12–13 inches long, green with dark red veins.
  • Keiki (Miniature Lavender) – 2 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; grainy pigmentation; slight spicy scent; leaves 10–11 inches long, green with red veins.

Strong Reddish-Yellow

Large, brilliant yellow center and moderate red bands on back;

  • Kauka Wilder – 3 inch diameter; narrow petals slightly overlapping; strong sweet scent; leaves 16–17 inches long.

Blend of Strong Red, Strong Pink

Small, brilliant yellow center and strong red bands on front;

  • Duke- 31⁄2 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; strong sweet scent; leaves 18–19 inches long.


Deep pink

Large, brilliant yellow center and strong red bands on back;

  • Kaneohe Sunburst – 33⁄4 inch diameter; narrow petals slightly overlapping; mild sweet scent; leaves 13–14 inches long.

Small, brilliant yellow center and strong red bands on back;

  • Plastic Pink (Royal Hawaiian) – 3 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; mild lemon scent; leaves 16–17 inches long.

Moderate Pink

Small, brilliant yellow center and strong red bands on back

  • Grove Farm – 41⁄2 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; slight sweet scent; leaves 15–16 inches long
  • Moir – 31⁄4 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; mild lemon scent; leaves 15–16 inches long Mela Matson – 31⁄4 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; slight lemon scent; leaves 13–16 inches long.
  • Dean Conklin – 31⁄2–41⁄2 inch diameter; long, elliptical petals slightly overlapping; base color salmon-orange; faint spicy carnation scent; leaves 15–16 inches long.

Pale Pink

Small, brilliant yellow center and moderate pink bands on back;

  • Tillie Hughes – 31⁄4 inch diameter; narrow petals moderately overlapping, slight sweet scent; leaves 18–19 inches long.

Blend of Moderate Pink and White

Small, brilliant yellow center and deep pink bands on back

  • Espinda – 31⁄4 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; slight sweet scent; leaves 16–19 inches long.
  • Maui Beauty (Manoa Beauty) – 31⁄4 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; slight lemon scent; leaves 15–18 inches long.
  • Loretta – 21⁄2–3 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; slight sweet scent; leaves 17–18 inches long.
  • Tomlinson – 3 inch diameter; wide petals, grainy pigmentation, white venation, moderately overlapping; slight sweet scent; leaves 17–18 inches long.
  • Carmen – 21⁄2–3 inch diameter; wide petals extended straight out or slightly downward, moderately overlapping; slight sweet scent; leaves 13–14 inches long
  • Ruffles (Vanda) – 2 inch diameter; wide petals, wavy margins, moderately overlapping; slight sweet scent; leaves 13–14 inches long.


Brilliant Yellow

Narrow, strong red bands on front and back

  • Puu Kahea (OSullivan, Fiesta) – 41⁄4 inch diameter; long and narrow petals, twisted and slightly overlapping; mild lemon scent; leaves 15–16 inches long.
  • Nebels Rainbow – 31⁄2 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; slight sweet scent; leaves 16–17 inches long.
  • Lurline – 31⁄2–4 inch diameter; long, reflexed petals moderately overlapping; orange throat; spicy fragrance; leaves 14–15 inches long.

Wide, strong red bands on front and back

  • Pauahi Alii – 31⁄4 inch diameter; narrow petals slightly overlapping; lemon scent; leaves 13–14 inches long

Wide, strong pink bands on front and back

  • Kimo – 3 inch diameter; wide petals highly overlapping; slight lemon scent; leaves 13–14 inches long.

White margin around petals

  • Celadine (Common Yellow, Graveyard Yellow)Wide margin; 31⁄2 inch diameter; narrow petals slightly overlapping; strong lemon fragrance; leaves 15–18 inches long with long acuminate tips.
  • Gold (Petersons Yellow) – Narrow margin; 23⁄4 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; slight lemon scent; leaves 13–14 inches long



No color bands on front or back

  • Sherman (Polynesian White) – 41⁄2 inch diameter; wide petals slightly overlapping; slight sweet scent; leaves 17–19 inches long.
  • Singapore – 31⁄2 inch diameter; wide petals, no overlapping; strong lemon scent; leaves 13–14 inches long, dark green, glossy, with obtuse tips.
  • Dwarf Singapore – 11⁄2 inch diameter; wide petals highly overlapping, forming a cupped flower; lemon scent; leaves 6–7 inches long, light green, semi glossy, with acute tips.
  • King Kaläkaua (Miniature White) – 11⁄2 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; scent similar to gardenia; leaves 15–16 inches long.

Pink bands on back

  • Hausten White (Willows White) – 31⁄2–4 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; slight sweet scent; leaves 17–19 inches long.
  • Elena – 33⁄4 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping; slight sweet scent; leaves 14–15 inches long.
  • Samoan Fluff (Tahitian White) – 31⁄2 inch diameter; wide petals highly overlapping; slight sweet scent; leaves 16–17 inches long.
  • Daisy Wilcox – 41⁄2 inch diameter; wide petals slightly overlapping, with pink tips and strong yellow center; light pink band on back of petal; spicy scent; leaves 16–18 inches long.

Strong red bands on back

  • Madame Poni (Star, Corkscrew, Curly Holt, Waianae Beauty) – 31⁄2 inch diameter; narrow petals with twist along length, sometimes trough-shaped; slight sweet scent; leaves 14–15 inches long.
  • White Shell – 1 inch diameter; partially opened bud; base color white; narrow petals partially unfurled; strong sweet scent; leaves 12–13 inches long.
  • Peachglow Shell – 1 inch diameter; partially opened bud; base color yellow-orange; narrow petals partially unfurled; strong sweet scent; leaves 12–18 inches long.



Orange and Pink

  • Madame Poni (Star, Corkscrew, Curly Holt, Waianae Beauty) – 31⁄2 inch diameter; narrow petals with twist along length, sometimes trough-shaped; slight sweet scent; leaves 14–15 inches long.



Violets and Light Purples

  • Black Purple – 31⁄2 inch diameter; wide petals moderately overlapping: slight sweet scent; leaves 12–14 inches long.



Orange and Pink

  • Madame Poni (Star, Corkscrew, Curly Holt, Waianae Beauty) – 31⁄2 inch diameter; narrow petals with twist along length, sometimes trough-shaped; slight sweet scent; leaves 14–15 inches long.

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The Plumeria Root System

The Plumeria Root System

The plumeria root system constitutes a major part of the plant body, both in terms of function and bulk. In plumeria, the root system is the subterranean or underground part of the plant body. Roots are branching organs which grow downward into the soil, a manifestation of geotropism. Branching occurs irregularly and not from nodes as in stems.

In contrast to shoot, the plant root has no leaves, nodes, internodes and buds. With rare exception, roots also lack stomata.

Other morphological and anatomical features which are distinct to this plant structure are: 

  1. a hard, protective root cap at the tip of the root; (2) absence of the pith; 
  2. presence of endodermis; and 
  3. presence of pericycle next to the endodermis.

These features are found in the root apex which is divided into three regions:

  1. region of cell division which includes the apical meristem protected by the root cap,
  2. a short region of cell elongation where individual cells elongate and force the root tip to move forward through the soil, and
  3. region of cell differentiation and maturation.

In general, the plumeria root system either consists of a taproot system (with primary root found on seedlings) or fibrous roots (adventitious roots found on cuttings) with attached branch roots and finer rootlets having root hairs close to the tip.

Functions of the Plumeria Roots

Despite being inconspicuous because they are normally hidden underground, the plant root system performs various functions which are essential to growth and development. The extent of underground expansion of this plant structure serves as limitation in the growth of the plant. Thus potted plants usually exhibit slow growth but once the roots leak out from the bottom of the pot and penetrate into the ground, growth rate accelerates.

The functions of the plumeria root system include:

  1. Anchorage and support. The plumeria root system anchors the plant body to the soil and provides physical support. In general, however, taproot system provides more effective anchorage such that they are more resistant to toppling during storms.
  2. Absorption and conduction. The plumeria root system absorbs water, oxygen and nutrients from the soil in mineral solution, mainly through the root hairs. They are capable of absorbing inorganic nutrients in solution even against concentration gradient. From the root, these are moved upward. Plants with a fibrous root system are more efficient in absorption from shallow sources.
  3. Storage. The root serves as storage organ for water and carbohydrates. Fibrous roots generally store less starch than taproots.
  4. Reproduction. Plumeria do not reproduce from their roots.

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Leaf Shape


Leaves functions

Manufacture food through photosynthesis

This is possible due to the green pigment in them called CHLOROPLAST, Leaves are the chief food producing organ in MOST not all plants, and because they create food via photosynthesis they are typically arranged in convenient ways to allow maximum absorption of sunlight.

Gas (air) exchange, Respiration

Leaves use our bi-product carbon dioxide for photo synthesis! This co dependent relationship is required for survival for not only them but for everything here on earth that requires oxygen to live.

Protect vegetative and floral buds

Some plants are unique in terms of how they’ve adapted to protecting themselves by growing their own defenses. Example: the artichoke has grown a protective wall over the entire bud to allow it to safely grow!

Water transport, transpiration

Plants lose a relatively large amount of water through transpiration through their STOMATA, in fact its estimated that the loss of water via stomata through the process of transpiration exceeds over 90 percent of the water absorbed by the roots!

Leaf Shapes


Lanceolate leaves are significantly longer than wide and widest below the middle, gradually tapering toward the apex. Type 1


Obanceolate leaves are significantly longer than wide and widest above the middle, gradually widening toward the apex. Type 2


Elliptic leaves are about twice as long as broad. The broadest part is in the middle and the two ends narrow equally. Type 3


Spatulate leaves are broadly rounded at the apex and gradually curve down toward the base. Type 4


Linear leaves are more that twelve times longer than wide. They are long and narrow with more or less parallel margins or sides.


Needlelike leaves are then and long like needles. filifolia is the only Plumeria know to have this type of leaf.


Round leaves are broadly rounded at the apex and the base.


Cordate leaves are shaped like hearts. The stem is attached at the wide end of the leaf.


Ovate leaves are shaped like an egg, with the broader end of the leaf nearest the petiole.


Obovate leaves are shaped like an egg, with the broader end of the leaf farthest from the petiole.


Oblong leaves almost resemble a rectangle, except that their corners are rounded. They are at least twice as long as they are wide.


Oblong leaves almost resemble a rectangle, except that their corners are rounded. They are at least twice as long as they are wide.


Obcordate leaves are shaped like hearts. The stem is attached at the narrow end of the leaf.

Plumeria Leaf Tip Shapes

Type 1 emerginate

Type 2 obtuse or rounded

Type 3 obtuse or blunt

Type 4 acute

Type 5 acuminate

Leave Structure


leaf-structureLeaves are organs to the plant, they come in many different shape, sizes and arrangements all varying on the different conditions each plant must survive in.

An important part of leaves is the role of STOMATA or STOMA. Stoma consist of a pore that surrounded by 2 sausage shaped epidermal guard cells. These pores open and close as they regulate the flow/amount of gases and water to and from the leaves. 

They are typically found on the underside of leaves but in some cases they are found on other organs of the plant like the stem or fruit.



Legend of definitions



A plastid that contains chlorophyll and in which photosynthesis takes place


Stoma consist of a pore thats surrounded by 2 sausage shaped epidermal guard cells. These pores open and close as they regulate the flow/amount of gases and water to and from the leaves.
Photosynthesis    The process by which green plants and some other organisms use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water.

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What food do seeds need?

A typical seed has the following parts and the functions.


  1. Radicle = It is embryonic root system.during seed germination it begins to grow and goes down in the soil to form the root system.

  2. Plumule = It is the embryonic shoot system. During germination it begins to grow and form the shoot system; viz. stem,branches and leaves.

  3. Cotyledon/s = These are the godowns of reserve food that is required during germination. The stored food is largely in the form of starch, proteins and oils.
    All the pulses i.e. peas and beans are good examples of this; and that is precisely why they are cultivated by mankind.

  4. Endosperm = This is also a godown of reserve food for the same purpose mentioned above. It is mostly found in the cereals like rice,wheat, maize,oats and barley,and that is precisely why these are cultivated.Thus, a seed gets stored food for its growth from cotyledons or endosperm; but both these parts are never functional simultaneously. In those plants where the cotyledons store reserve food, the endosperm is non-existent,examples are all the pulses (see above)

    When the endosperm stores reserve food , the cotyledons are non-functional,examples are all cereals (see above).In short both of them are never functional in the same plant.

    The reserve food is just sufficient to let the seedling become independent. When the first green leaves appear it no longer requires the food from the godown.

The seed of a higher plant is a small package produced in a flower or cone containing an embryo and stored food reserves. Germination and early seedling growth require the mobilization of food storage reserves within the seed. A major portion of almost every seed consists of food reserves. Angiosperms fall into two groups regarding the placement of stored food in their seeds: the monocots which store most of their food in the cotyledons or seed leaves; and the dicots which store their food in extraembryonic tissues called endosperm (Gottfried, 1993).


Under favorable conditions, the seed begins to germinate, and the embryonic tissues resume growth, developing towards a seedling. The first step in germination of a seed occurs when it imbibes, or takes up water. Once this has taken place, metabolism within the embryo resumes (Gottfried, 1993). The part of the plant that emerges from the seed first is termed a radicle or young root—which anchors the seed and absorbs water and minerals from the soil (Gottfried, 1993). In some definitions, the appearance of the radicle marks the end of germination and the beginning of “establishment”, a period that ends when the seedling has exhausted the food reserves stored in the seed. Then, the shoot of the young seedling elongates and emerges from the ground. These are critical phases in the life of a plant. The mortality between dispersal of seeds and completion of establishment can be so high, that many species survive only by producing huge numbers of seeds (wikipedia.org, 2006).


Seed germination depends on a variety of environmental factors, the most important of which is water. However, other factors such as the availability of oxygen (for aerobic respiration in the germinating seed), suitable temperature, and sometimes the presence of light are also necessary (Gottfried, 1993).

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Pumeria Characteristics

This page describes general observations and characteristics of cultivars of genus Plumeria. The plumeria genus is composed of five or more species although nearly all cultivars are considered part of species P. rubra or P. obtusa. We are concerned with the flower, the leaf, and the plant as a whole. There are certain characteristics considered when assigning to a species or in recognition of a variety. We document many of those characteristics for each variety in Cultivars and Varieties.

Growth Habit

Plumeria seem to have a fairly well defined growth habit, but will sometimes exhibit peculiar behavior. Compare plumeria to cats: they excel in doing things they are not supposed to do! Nearly every generally accepted rule of plumeria culture will from time to time be proven incorrect. For example: plumeria require full sun to bloom (what about the one in the garage in full bloom during the winter?); plumeria need to bloom in order to branch (What about this one with over 30 tips that’s only bloomed three times!)

Almost any part of a plumeria tree can be propagated by cutting, see How to Grow Plumeria from a Cutting for a procedure that will usually produce successful results. Though there are other ways to propagate plumeria; the plant whose habit we are describing was usually begun from a cutting, no matter how large or small.

The plumeria branch tip is where new growth including leaves and flowers occur. The branch and its tip are interesting since the tip is usually the same diameter as the rest of the branch. The young branch and its tip more closely resemble a broomstick than a young tree branch. The young branch and its tip are of a soft, but brittle, herbaceous material, full of the white milky latex plumeria sap. As new leaves are grown, the branch extends by adding tissue to the end of the tip. When an inflorescence (flower bud or stalk) is produced the tip divides into one or more new tips that continue to grow with as much vigor as the original tip. The new tips usually grow at a predictable angle with respect to the original branch tip. This is how a plumeria branches. Obviously, if it only divides into one new tip no branching has occurred. The normal branching habit, or average number of new tips produced, is probably two or three. This process continues indefinitely with each tip branching on the average once every year or two. The length of tip growth per year is based on factors including: variety, growing conditions, and nutrition. Once a particular bit of plumeria branch has dropped its leaves, it will never replace them as new leaves are always produced by new growth at the tip of the branch.

The plumeria’s annual growth cycle has evolved to accommodate a dormant period to coincide with months of drought in the arid tropical regions of Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean Islands where it is indigenous. This corresponds to the Winter season in the Northern Hemisphere and permits storing the plant indoors, out of light, out of sight, and out of mind when outdoor weather conditions are likely to include frost or freezing temperatures. While dormant, the plumeria requires no care and most varieties will loose all of their leaves.

As the sun’s intensity and temperatures increase during the spring, plumeria begin to break dormancy by producing leaves and an inflorescence on many tips. Many plumeria will be in full bloom before the spring rains and before producing a single leaf!

Active growth occurs after spring rains as long as temperature and sunlight requirements are met. Most vegetative growth occurs under these conditions. This includes revitalization or regeneration of a desiccated root system, new leaf growth, and stem and branch elongation. Many varieties will continue to bloom and initiate new inflorescence during the vegetative period. Most varieties will set seed pods during this period as well.

As fall approaches, drought, less sunlight, and cooler temperatures all contribute to plumeria entering its dormant period. Many lower leaves will turn yellow and drop, flowering will be significantly reduced or stop altogether, and overall plant growth will dramatically slow or come to a stop. The fully dormant plumeria’s requirements are few: temperatures above freezing and conditions on the dry side. Dormancy lasts from one to five months depending on environmental factors.

Characteristics Overview


Plumeria flowers have five petals, although flowers with four, six, seven or more petals are not uncommon. Some types of flowers do not fully open and are referred to as shell, semi-shell, or tulip like. Most flowers have a strong pleasant fragrance that is most intense during the early part of the day. A great many different fragrances have been described, but since smell is so subjective and varies for environmental and nutritional reasons, we do not attempt to be comprehensive in its description. We try harder with colors. There seem to be several basic plumeria color schemes: white with a yellow center, yellow, multicolor, pink and red. There is speculation that red is a special case of multicolor. Most of the reds can be more properly referred to as red-purple.


Plumeria leaves are generally green. What a surprise! However, when examined closely, they can exhibit remarkable variation that is species and variety dependent. We limit our leaf description to shape, color, size, and texture.


The plumeria is more appropriately considered a tree. In the tropics it can grow to heights over thirty feet. A mature plumeria has very strong hardwood and can be safely climbed by the average person so long as the limbs are at least three inches in diameter. Remember to keep your weight where the branches intersect or be sure there are plenty of cushions below!

We are concerned about the general growth habit of a plumeria variety, how well it branches (IE what is the usual number of new tips produced from a tip when it blooms), its history, its seed bearing potential, and its use as a container, ornamental, or landscape plant.

Characteristics in Detail


Measurements of plumeria flower varieties are with respect to other plumeria. When a universal standard can be applied, such as a ruler or color chart, we use it; otherwise the comparison is among peers.

    • Petal Colors: We have done our best to obtain the closest color possible using state-of-the-art desktop digital imaging hardware and software in the production of the images we present.
      Please remember: ambient temperatures play a significant role in the intensity of the plumeria red and red-purple pigmentation. For the most part, our images were made in California and Hawaii when ambient temperatures ranged from 70°F to 90°F. In Florida and Texas when ambient temperatures range from 80°F to near 100°F, expect the red-purple pigments to be significantly exaggerated. We will be adding more images from around the world as time permits.
    • Size: The size of the flower recorded represents an average floret. It has been stretched out to its maximum width without risking pulling it apart. The distance between the two most distant petal tips is then measured. Please be aware the this average can be off by as much as 100%! A great deal depends on the plant’s maturity, environment, and the point in the flowering cycle. Many varieties will produce larger flowers early in the flowering cycle.
    • Petal Texture: This is a subjective measurement of how one variety’s flower measures up to another. When the measurements were taken, we used a zero to three scale, with zero being fragile, one being delicate (typical of most plumeria), two being strong, and three being rigid. Generally strong and rigid flowers will last longer and be somewhat better lei flowers than those described as delicate.
    • Fragrance: This is a very subjective measurement. Most plumeria enthusiasts know what a plumeria smells like. It smells like a plumeria! What a surprise! The scent is wonderful, but indescribable. Sometimes we call it floral sweet and other times we describe it as simply plumeria. When another description can be applied, in our opinion, we use it.
    • Intensity of Fragrance: Another subjective measurement, made within the context of plumeria. We rated each variety on a zero to three scale. Zero was used when we could detect no fragrance, one for a light to mild fragrance, two for moderate to strong, and three for heavy.
    • Tendency to Fade: When a difference is noted in the colors of older flowers compared to newer flowers on the same plant, it is usually due to bleaching by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. We refer to this effect as its tendency to fade. Fading is most apparent in the red-purple pigments, but can also effect the pinks and yellows. We rated this tendency as: none, slight, moderate, or dramatic.
    • Petal Type: Petals are described according to their overall shape, their tip, and any unusual characteristics they may possess. Plumeria petals fall into either elliptical, obovate, and rarely spatulate categories. They can be further described as wide or narrow. Occasionally, we find petals with other characteristics such as reflexed or twisted. Petal tips are described as round or pointed. When we get the illustrations in place this will be much clearer.
      • Elliptical: The widest part of the petal is close to the middle.
      • Obovate: The widest part of the petal is close to the tip.
      • Spatulate: Special case of obovate, where the petal is spoon shaped.
      • Wide: Petal somewhat round.
      • Narrow: The petal is more than four times longer than it is wide.
      • Reflexed: The fully open petal will nearly form a semi-circle where its tip may be pointing down or back to its base. See Singapore for an example.
      • Twisted: The petal is convoluted in any of a number of ways that give a curled or even a fluted appearance. See Madame Poni or Celadine for examples of twisted and fluted.
      • Round tip: The tip does not come to a point.
      • Pointed tip: The tip comes to a point. Sometimes we use somewhat pointed where the tip appears pointed, but may also be considered rounded.
  • Flower Type: This description applies to the plumeria blossoms that fail to open or open in a peculiar way. Some varieties frequently will not open into a flower, but remain as a partially open bud resembling some types of small spiral seashells; these are referred to as shells. Others open more fully than shells but not fully retaining a cupped or tulip like appearance; these are referred to as semi-shells. Since most plumeria florets open fully, this description is only used for those that do not.


The emphasis is on the flower. There are, however, some interesting items observable in plumeria leaves that can aid in identification of varieties in or out of bloom.

    • Color: It should be no surprise that most plumeria leaves are described as green. There are, however, variations of green; some showing a purplish tint or even a blackening. Generally, we describe them as simply light green, or green unless there is really some other aspect worthy of note.
    • Texture: A measurement of plumeria leaves usually describing how rigid the leaf is compared to other varieties of this species. Since this measurement is probably influenced by environmental factors, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Generally we will describe the leaf as flexible or rigid depending on how easily it is bent. Consider a leaf held by its petiole (stem) being waved back and forth slowly through the air, one that shows significant distortion from its plane from air resistance is described as flexible, one that retains its shape is described as rigid. Since nearly all plumeria leaves can be described as glabrous (smooth and not hairy (pubescent)), we only mention the rare exceptions. The bottoms of nearly all plumeria leaves are also considered glabrous, even though they are bumpy with exaggerated veins.
    • Leaf Border Color: The extreme edge of the plumeria leaf may show some color other than green, frequently red. This may be an indication of the variety’s heritage.
    • Petiole Color: The petiole is the leaf stem. It is usually green or green with a reddish tint. This may be an indication of the variety’s heritage.
    • Leaf Shape: We are concerned with the shape, size, and type of tip of the plumeria leaf. This may be an indication of the variety’s heritage and can aid in identification. Plumeria leaves are described as elliptic , oblanceolate, and rarely lanceolate. These descriptions can be refined as wide or narrow as necessary. The tip of the leaf is described as acuminate, acute, or obtuse.
      • Elliptic: The widest part of the leaf is near its center.
      • Oblanceolate: The widest part of the leaf is nearer its tip than its center.
      • Lanceolate: The widest part of the leaf is nearer its petiole than its center.
      • Acuminate: The curve of the leaf edge will abruptly change as it narrows near its tip.
      • Acute: The curve of the leaf edge will not significantly change as it narrows near its tip.
      • Obtuse: The leaf will have a very blunt tip that does not usually come to a point.
    • Leaf Length and Width: A typical mature leaf is measured. The measurement does not include the petiole. The width is measured at its widest point. While no studies have been performed to our knowledge, the ratio of length to width may be more significant than the length and width measurements themselves.
  • Varigation: A few plumeria varieties will show light to moderate random changes in the coloration in different random areas of a single leaf. This is referred to as varigation. Since it is so unusual it is only mentioned when observed.


Measurements and observation of the overall plumeria tree are interesting as they can relate to its suitability as an ornamental, container grown, or a landscape plant. They can also be of interest for growers for their genetic information and possible use in hybridization.

    • Pollen Parent: The name of the male parent if known.
    • Seed Parent: The name of the female parent if known.
    • Deciduous or Evergreen: Deciduous plumeria usually drop most if not all of their leaves during a dormant period. Evergreen plumeria either retain most of their leaves while dormant or do not experience an annual dormant period. In the sub-tropic climates where evergreen plumeria are stored indoors for the winter, most evergreen varieties do go dormant and do drop their leaves.
    • Seed Production: This is based on our experience, observation, and advice from others. Seed production is rated as: none observed (not known to had ever set seeds), rare (once), seldom (unusual but occasional), average (at least once a year), or profuse (much more than average). It relates to how many seed pods will be produced by a mature specimen under ideal conditions.
    • Branching: Based on the observation of how many new tips grow after an inflorescence is produced. For this measurement we examine a specimen of the given variety and note how many new tips are usually produced. This frequently falls into the range of one to five to which we apply our opinion of the variety’s branching habit:
      • Poor:
      • Fair:
      • Good:
      • Excellent:
    • Growth Habit: This is a subjective description of our opinion of the plants stance. Since this is probably influenced by environmental and nutritional factors, it should not be taken too seriously.
      • Dwarf: Refers to the shortest and most compact growing of the plumeria with small leaves and usually small flowers.
      • Compact: Usually a smaller plant with better branching habit and minimal stem elongation before blooming and branching again.
      • Upright: Refers to the attitude of the plant. More specifically, to the angle that new tips emerge from an old tip after blooming. The angle is the wide angle that the new tip makes with respect to the original branch. When this angle is wide, the plant appears more upright. For example, if a new tip emerged at a 180° angle from the original tip, it would be in perfectly straight allignment with it. No plumeria exhibit this characteristic, except in the case where the plumeria blooms without branching. Yet, the closer this angle approaches 180° the more upright its character. An upright plant is considered the opposite of a rangy plant.
      • Rangy: Refers to the attitude of the plant. More specifically, to the angle that new tips emerge from an old tip after blooming. When the angle is narrow, sometimes approaching 90°, the plant takes on a rangy appearance. This characteristic is exaggerated when the new branches curve, sometimes down, before blooming and branching again. Rangy plants frequently have significant stem elongation before blooming and branching again. A rangy plant is considered the opposite of an upright plant.
      • Lanky: Usually a larger plant with more stem elongation before blooming and branching again. Normally applied to upright plants rather than rangy plants since rangy plants frequently exhibit this characteristic.
      • Dense: Refers to the relative closeness of branches to each other and can be used with other growth habits in seemingly contradictory ways such as Rangy, dense. This is a subjective opinion rather than a measurement
      • Trunk Circumference: This measurement is taken approximately 300 cm from the ground. It is provided to indicate the relative maturity of the specimen examined.

The Standard Reference

The standard reference used is The Royal Horticultural Society Colour Chart . The society is recognized worldwide and presumably their color chart is available worldwide. See Obtaining the standard reference below to acquire a copy of the color chart.

Using the Standard Reference

The color chart should always be used in daylight, not in direct sunlight, but a bright shady spot. Most plumeria reds will be found in Fan 2 in the Red-Purple Group.

Start by selecting the blossom to be examined. It should be fully opened, but not so old that significant fading has occured. Usually this will be one or two days after it begins to open. Certain varieties will have already have begun to fade; this can not be helped. Start by tearing a single petal from a plumeria blossom. Lay the petal on a clean sheet of paper top side up and petal tip pointing to the top of the sheet. Draw its outline with a pen or pencil. Flip the petal over someplace else on the same sheet and repeat this process. Examine the petal closely, determine its significant areas of banding, striping, and differing colors. Without getting too carried away, draw those areas within the petal outlines on the sheet of paper. Many plumeria blossoms possess some of these characteristics:

  • Top side of petal from left to right
    • Slight to pronounced curl
    • Color intensification from the left to right side
    • Red pigment granularity decreasing from left to right
    • Stripe of color on the right side
    • Color shifting from yellow to white from base to tip
  • Bottom side of petal from left to right
    • Stripe of color on the left
    • Subsequent bands of lessening color intensity, becoming grainy
    • Tendency for color shifting to white toward to right petal tip
    • Tiny patch of yellow or orange at the extreme right base

Using a pair of scissors, cut the petal into pieces containing only one significant color. Don’t attempt to get every graduation of color, just two or three areas of different, representative, and uniform color. Perform this process for the top and bottom of the petal.

Dealing with a single piece of petal at a time, flip through the fan that probably contains the matching color. Use a “narrowing down” process of elimination by selecting several close matches, then finally choose the one that seems to be the best match. An exact match is a rare occurrence. Keep in mind that hue is more important than intensity. Annotate the drawing with the color chart code for that petal area. An example color chart code would be Red-Purple 61A.

After all areas are marked, the petal is described in narrative form incorporating the appropriate color codes. Color descriptions used in Cultivars, and varieties use this technique.

Obtaining the Standard Reference

The Plumeria Place has no affiliation with the Royal Horticultural Society. This information is believed to be correct, but can not be guaranteed. Given the aforementioned, the Colour Chart can be obtained by snail mail order. The cost is about $35.00 US and it is believed Visa and Master Card are accepted. Send request and credit card information to:

RHS Enterprises
Wisley, Woking,
Surrey. GU23 6QB

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Plumeria Cultivars and Varieties

What’s the difference between Cultivars and Varieties?

It is important to use the right terms the right way (at least most of the time). Variety and cultivar are two terms often abused by gardeners and horticulturists.

Both are part of the scientific name. Both appear after the specific epithet (second term in a scientific name). Both refer to some unique characteristic of a plant. However, this is where many of the similarities end.

Varieties often occur in nature and most varieties are true to type. That means the seedlings grown from a variety will also have the same unique characteristic of the parent plant. For example, there is a white flowering plumeria that was found in nature. Its scientific name is Plumeria var.alba. The varietal term “alba” means white. If you were to germinate seed from this variety, most, if not all would also be white flowering.

Cultivars are not necessarily true to type. In fact cultivar means “cultivated variety.”  Therefore, a cultivar was selected and cultivated by humans. Some cultivars originate as sports or mutations on plants. Other cultivars could be hybrids of two plants. To propagate true-to-type clones, many cultivars must be propagated vegetatively through cuttings, grafting, and even tissue culture. Propagation by seed usually produces something different than the parent plant.

Varieties and cultivars also have differently naming conventions. A variety is always written in lower case and italicized. It also often has the abbreviation “var.” for variety preceding it. The first letter of a cultivar is capitalized and the term is never italicized. Cultivars are also surrounded by single quotation marks (never double quotation marks) or preceded by the abbreviation “cv.”. 

Can a plant have both a variety and a cultivar? Sure. One good example is Sunburst Honeylocust. Its scientific name is Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis ‘Sunburst’. The term “inermis” means without thorns and “Sunburst” refers to the bright golden spring leaf color.

In today’s world of horticulture, cultivars are planted and used more than varieties. Yet we often still refer to a type of plant species as a variety instead of what is actually is a cultivar. Let’s kick off the New Year by being more accurate and start using the term cultivar.

Year of Publication: 2008
Issue: IC-499( 2) — February 6, 2008
By Cindy Haynes, Department of Horticulture

The book Heliconia an Identification Guide by Fred Berry and W. John Kress offers formal definitions of genus, species, cultivar and variety. 

Cultivar registration is the responsibility of the appropriate International Registration Authority, for plumeria this is The Plumeria Society of America, Inc. The Plumeria Place recognizes the registered cultivar name. Other names, if known, for the same cultivar will be listed aka (“also known as”). Unregistered cultivars and varieties will be listed in the manner deemed most appropriate.

Cultivar names must conform to certain naming conventions. They are traditionally enclosed in single quotes (apostrophes) e.g. ‘Blue’. They may not contain numbers or abbreviations unless those abbreviations are part of a recognized formal name. Certain words may not be used in cultivar names such as: hybrid, variety, cross, seedling, form, etc.

Named Cultivars and Varieties

This list has not been updated. The omission of a name should indicate the information is incomplete rather than non-existence of the cultivar or variety. The information presented is believed to be correct. In cases where we have some information, but lack bits and pieces here-and-there we indicate n/a meaning that this bit of information is not available at the present time.

Links will be added to the name linking to a picture and description of the variety.

(Note: This information is so incomplete). 

  • ‘Aztec Gold’
  • ‘Bill Moragne, Sr.’
  • ‘Carmen’
  • ‘Carter # 4’
  • ‘Celadine’, aka: ‘Common Yellow’, ‘Graveyard Yellow’, ‘Hawaiian Yellow’
  • ‘Cerise’
  • ‘Conch Shell’
  • ‘Courtade Pink’
  • ‘Cranberry Red’
  • ‘Cyndi Moragne’, aka: ‘Cindy Moragne’
  • ‘Daisy Wilcox’
  • ‘Dean Conklin’
  • ‘Donald Angus’, aka: ‘Donald Angus Red’
  • ‘Duke’
  • ‘Dwarf Singapore’
  • ‘Dwarf Singapore Pink’, aka: ‘Petite Pink’, ‘Pink Singapore’
  • ‘Edi Moragne’
  • ‘Elena’
  • ‘Espinda’
  • ‘Giant Plastic Pink’
  • ‘Gold’, aka: ‘Peterson’s Yellow’
  • ‘Grove Farm’
  • ‘Hausten White’, aka: ‘Willows White’
  • ‘Heidi’, aka: ‘Pure Gold’
  • ‘Hilo Beauty’
  • ‘Iolani’
  • ‘India ‘
  • ‘Intense Rainbow’
  • ‘Irma Bryan’
  • ‘J.L. Bridal White’, aka: ‘Compact White’
  • ‘J.L. Pink Pansy’
  • ‘J.L. Trumpet’
  • ‘Japanese Lantern’, aka: ‘Flower Basket’
  • ‘Jean Moragne’, aka: ‘Jean Moragne, Sr.’, ‘Moragne # 9’
  • ‘Jeannie Moragne’, aka: ‘Jean Moragne’, ‘Jean Moragne, Jr.’
  • ‘Julie Moragne’
  • ‘Kaneohe Sunburst’
  • ‘Katie Moragne’
  • ‘Kauka Wilder’
  • ‘Keiki’, aka: ‘Miniature Lavender’
  • ‘Kimi Moragne’
  • ‘Kimo’
  • ‘King Kalakaua’, aka: ‘Miniature White’
  • ‘Kona Hybrid # 26’
  • ‘Lei Rainbow’
  • ‘Loretta’
  • ‘Lurline’
  • ‘Madame Poni’, aka: ‘Corkscrew’, ‘Curly Holt’, ‘Star’, ‘Waianae Beauty’
  • ‘Mango Blush’
  • ‘Mary Moragne’
  • ‘Maui Beauty’, aka: ‘Manoa Beauty’
  • ‘Mela Matson’
  • ‘Mele Pa Bowman’, aka: ‘Evergreen Singapore Yellow’, ‘Yellow Singapore’
  • ‘Moir’
  • ‘Moragne # 27’
  • ‘Moragne # 93’
  • ‘Moragne # 106’
  • ‘Nebel’s Rainbow’
  • ‘Pauahi Alii’, aka: ‘Angus Gold’, ‘Donald Angus Gold’
  • ‘Paul Weissich’
  • ‘Penang Peach’
  • ‘Peachglow Shell’
  • ‘Peppermint’
  • ‘Pinwheel Rainbow’
  • ‘Plastic Pink’, aka: ‘Royal Hawaiian’
  • ‘Puu Kahea’, aka: ‘Fiesta’, ‘O’Sullivan’
  • ‘Reddish Moragne’
  • ‘Ruffles’
  • ‘Sally Moragne’
  • ‘Samoan Fluff’, aka: ‘Tahitian White’
  • ‘Schmidt Red’
  • ‘Scott Pratt’, aka: ‘Kahala’
  • ‘Sherman’, aka: ‘Polynesian White’
  • ‘Singapore’
  • ‘Slaughter Pink’
  • ‘Sunshine’
  • ‘Thornton Lemon’
  • ‘Thornton Lilac’
  • ‘Tillie Hughes’
  • ‘Tomlinson’, aka: ‘Tomlinson Pink’
  • ‘White Shell’
  • ‘Yellow Shell’

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What is a Plumeria Center Cut?

Center Cuts are an often-overlooked cutting that deserves a place in your garden! A center cut is a branch or branches without any growth tips. Treat center cuts as you would any cutting. When a center cut is planted buds will form towards the of the cutting from old leaf nodes and a new growth tip will form. Often several new tips will appear!

Because the single cutting forms multiple tips so quickly, center cuts are sometimes preferred to single tip cuttings. Another benefit to center cuts is the diameter is typically much larger than a tip cutting because of its age. It will makes a larger tree base than a tip cutting in less time.

Very few sell center cuttings because of the perceived value of center cuts. The lack of the smooth growth tip makes them less physically attractive at first – but given time! A center cut will produce a fuller plumeria tree in a shorter time.

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Plumeria Fragrance

Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service

Horticulture Digest #102


In the proof-reading phases of the University of Hawaii’s Plumeria Cultivars in Hawaii bulletin 158, the editor disagreed with the authors on the nature of the fragrance of several of the plumeria cultivars. It brought to mind the differences that people come with in describing odors. Plumeria flower fragrances can be described as weak, mild or strong, with the strongly scented ones characterized in terms of other fragrances: citrus, coconut, rose, cinnamon, carnation, jasmine, gardenia, fruity, or even woody.


‘Common Yellow’

In ‘Common Yellow’ 73 different compounds were identified by comparing their mass spectra and GC (gas chromatography) retention times with those of reference chemicals, while 67 were identified in ‘Irma Bryan’. It is possible that differences such as thes e could be used sometime to help distinguish between other cultivars which are closer in appearance.

‘Common Yellow’ has as major components the compounds phenylacetaldehyde and linalol (16.1 and 14.1 percent, respectively). Also present are:

  • trans, trans farnesol (11.0%),
  • beta phenylethyl alcohol (8.8%),
  • geraniol (5.4%), and
  • alpha-terpineol (2.8%).

Two other compounds, neral and geranial, with lemon-like fragrances were present (comprising together 0.9%) which help account for the characteristic citrus scent of this flower.

 ‘Irma Bryan’

‘Irma Bryan’ had a very different makeup, although phenylacetaldehyde (12.1%) was still present. Beta-phenylethyl alcohol comprised 31.6% of the essential oil, about 3 times as much as in ‘Common Yellow.’ It has a mild, warm, rose-honey-like odor. The phe nylacetaldehyde has a powerful and penetrating, pungent-green, floral and sweet hyacinth-type odor.

Other volatiles that were present in the ‘Common Yellow’ flowers were either absent or present at much lower levels in ‘Irma Bryan,’ while methyl cinnamate (1.0%) and 2-methylbutan-1-o1 (10.5%) were found in the red ‘Irma Bryan’ flowers and not in the ‘Co mmon Yellow.’ Methyl cinnamate has a powerful fruity-spicy odor and seems to characterize ‘Irma Bryan’ while the 2-methylbutan-1-o1 does not seem to contribute to its scent.

Does it make the wonderful plumeria fragrance the less exquisite to know that 12 hydrocarbons, 21 alcohols, 13 esters, 8 aldehydes, and 20 miscellaneous compounds were detected?

So, when asked what creates the wonderful plumeria scent, you can reply authoritatively and quote the chemical names. On the other hand, you can paraphrase Joyce Kilmer and state that only God can make a plumeria.


In the summer of 1991, Japanese researchers collected plumeria flowers in Hawaii to analyze them. The cultivars chosen were the ‘Common Yellow’ and ‘Irma Bryan’ forms of Plumeria rubra L.

Nearly a pound of flowers of each cultivar were subjected to steam distillation and extraction with organic solvents to derive a mere 70 milligrams (0.002 oz) of essential oil. Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry analyses were carried out to characte rize the various volatile components.

Chinn, J. T. and R. A. Criley. 1983. Plumeria cultivars in Hawaii. HAES Research Bulletin 15 8. (Out of Print)

Omato, A., K. Yomogida, S. Nakamura, S. Hashimoto, T. Arai, and K. Furukawa. 1991. Volatile components of plumeria flowers. Part I . Plumeria rubra forma acutifolia (Poir.) Woodson cv. Common Yellow. Flavour and Fragrance Journal 6:277-279.

Omato, A., S. Nakamura, S. Hashimoto, and K. Furukawa. 1992. Volatile components of plumeria flowers. Part II. Plumeria rubra L. cv. Irma Bryan. Flavour and Fragrance Journal 7:33-35.

Richard A. Criley, criley@hawaii.edu
Department of Horticulture
University of Hawaii

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