Plumeria lei flowers used in Hawaii are native to Mexico

Plumeria is one of the most popular flowers used for leis in Hawaii. They are bold and bright with a sweet fragrance. In fact, plumeria flowers are endemic to Mexico and Central America. These unique flowers are native to tropical and subtropical Mexico and were introduced to other countries centuries ago.

Plumeria is also known as frangipani. Plumeria flowers have a sweet scent and are universally loved.  

close up shot of frangipani flowers

Plumeria is also known as frangipani.

Plumeria flowers have a sweet scent and are universally loved.  


Plumeria rubra is a deciduous plant species belonging to the genus Plumeria. It is originally native to Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and Venezuela.

The plumeria was important to ancient Mesoamericans. For over two thousand years, plumeria flowers have held a strong symbolic significance. Among the Maya, they were associated with deities representing life and fertility. During the Aztec Empire, they were used to signify elite status, and plumeria trees were planted in the gardens of nobles.


Plumeria rubra was a species first described by Carl Linnaeus. There are more than 300 varieties of frangipani. Plumeria grows as a tree. They are deciduous. They grow to about 25-30 feet high and 15 feet wide. The tree grows as a spreading tree with a wide, broad canopy and grows about 1 foot a year.

The shape of the leaves varies per the species. The leaves usually have a glossy texture and dull green shade. As a deciduous plant, the leaves fall off in the winter and new leaves appear in spring.


The fragrant flowers appear in clusters, at the ends of the branches. Each flower has 5 petals that are around 2 to 3 inches in diameter. They do not have any nectar.

Flowers appear in various colors, white, pink, red, and yellow. The most common plumeria are white in color with yellow centers. The plant produces seeds occasionally, usually at the time of pollination. About 20-60 seeds are found in two narrow pods.

Special Features

Plumeria blooms throughout most of the year in tropical areas. Plumeria are easy to grow in hot, dry areas. They can survive in dry seasons, where they can flower on bare branches, or in more humid conditions, remaining green. They are also found in rocky areas, mountain slopes, plains, and savannas.


The native range of Plumeria range extends from Baja California to central south Mexico. Plumeria generally inhabit hot and rocky areas. Plumeria tolerate a wide variety of soils, from acid to alkaline and sandy to clay. They grow best in sunny areas, in dry to medium moisture, and well-drained soils. They can grow in elevations up to 2,000 feet.


Plumeria have been widely cultivated in subtropical and tropical climates worldwide. They are a popular garden plant, and are commonly seen in temples and cemeteries.


In the state of Zacatecas, there is a ritual that takes place at the time of the flowering of plumeria (cacaloxóchitl).

Other Facts

The Plumeria flower is named after a French botanist named Charles Plumier. The plumeria was also spelled as the Plumiera. In Mexico, it is known as the crow flower (cacalloxochiti) by the Nahuas; nicté by the Mayas. 


Vecinos verdes (

Author: AllGoodsOnline