Plumeria Colors and Fragrance Continue to Enchant

By Napua Heen

Hawaiian Plumeria

The plumeria flower’s sweet fragrance and vibrant colors easily make it one of Hawaii’s most iconic symbols. Whether you wear the pua melia (Hawaiian for plumeria flower) around your neck as a lei, up in your hair as an adornment, or over your ear to indicate your relationship status (over your left ear means you are “taken” and over your right ear means you are “available”), be sure to experience the beauty and fragrance of this Hawaiian flower.

The indulgent scent and beauty of the plumeria can be captured in plumeria-shaped scented floating candles, luxurious body lotions, and even elegant island jewelry. These items make great souvenirs and gifts to take home. Just don’t miss the chance to experience the real thing!

Colors and Scent

Plumeria come in a variety of colors. They are a happy yellow, deep crimson, chaste white, and a range of pink and orange sunsets. The pure yellow plumeria are the longest lasting and have the deepest scent. The white plumeria have the shortest lifespan, but you can still enjoy the delicate scent.

plumeria colors

Pure yellow plumerias stay fresh the longest. There are many varieties of pink and orange, each reminiscent of a Hawaiian sunset. The white plumeria give off a beautiful delicate scent. Photos courtesy of Drew Avery, ooohsnap, and Hafiz Issadeen of Flickr creative commons, left to right.

Where to Find Plumeria

Believe it or not, the once ubiquitous plumeria lei are harder and harder to find. The purple and white dendrobium orchid has taken the place of the yellow plumeria as the standard airport greeting lei. However, the airports are still the best places to find a plumeria lei. There are lei stands at the Honolulu (Oahu), Kahului (Maui), Hilo (Big Island), Kona (Big Island), and Lihue (Kauai) airports.

plumeria lei

Photo credits left to right: Hawaii Tourism Japan (HTJ) , Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson, Hawaii Tourism Japan (HTJ).

Growing Plumeria in Colder Weather

If you are still dreaming of Hawaii and won’t be here soon, try growing them yourself! The plumeria are hardy plants and can grow almost anywhere in temperatures above 40-50 °F. Some companies will ship you cuttings and seeds that you can plant and grow yourself. If you don’t have outdoor temperatures above 40-50 °F year-round, no problem. You can plant them in a pot and keep them indoors during colder months. Consider this a way to bring paradise to you.

Delicate white plumeria in full bloom.  Photo courtesy of CAL.

Delicate white plumeria in full bloom. Photo courtesy of CAL.

History of Plumeria in Hawaii

Plumeria are not native to Hawaii. They were brought here in 1860 by a German botanist. The exotic, introduced flower thrived in Hawaii’s warm climate and volcanic soil, giving rise to the plethora of wonderful varieties born in Hawaii: the magnificent Royal Hawaiian, the deep crimson Hilo Beauty, and the sunset colored Lei Rainbow just to name a few.

pink plumeria

A gorgeous pink plumeria covered in early morning dew. Photo credit: TANAKA Juuyoh of Flickr creative commons.

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