About Plumeria Colors

The Problem With Colors

There is perhaps nothing so ambiguous as a description of color. For example, when is the color red more correctly described as pink, cerise, carmine, rose, or any of a seemingly endless series of names applied to its shades, tints, mixtures, intensities, and hues? How can this information by conveyed?

A photograph goes a long way but is subject to variations in film, age, processing, digitization, and even the monitor where an image is viewed. Overcoming these shortfalls requires a more formal color description. One where a standard reference has been physically compared to a sample, and the comparison documented.

This is especially important for the plumeria red shades because they are the most difficult to reproduce and describe. Complicating matters, the red shades are sensitive to environmental factors and are frequently grainy, as if tiny dots of red pigment were applied to a white or yellow background. Plumeria floral whites and yellows are more straight forward and in many cases can be simply be referred to as white or yellow. The greens of plumeria leaves are by and large shades of green or purplish green. Since leaf color is not the primary purpose of The Plumeria Place, their description will not be as formal.

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 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

Copyright © 1996 by John Murray. All rights reserved.
John Murray, Box 924091, Houston, TX 77292, USA

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