Why does my frangipani plant have small leaves?

Healthy frangipanis produce green tips on all crowns which in turn produce attractive leaves. Too many leaves and green tips which are too long is probably the result of too much fertilizer in spring or summer. While this looks good for a while, too much growth too fast can lead to several possible problems.

A small number of small leaves on all branch tips is a sign the frangipani plant is not happy. The roots are most likey not feeding well. Frangipanis like heat and a few hours or more each day of direct sunlight is preferred. Frangipanis do not like wet feet. If surrounding plants are watered everyday, the ground is flat and low or the ground is in shade all day, there is likely to be too much water for the frangipani roots. This is likely to stunt growth and can even lead to rot. If rot spreads, the frangipani will eventually die. (see rot check article). If you’re happy the ground is dry enough, the sunlight is enough and there is no rot, it’s likely the roots will slowly get stronger and start feeding properly.

How do I know if my frangipani has rot?

Rot can start in the roots, the tips, a wound or in the heartwood anywhere. If rot is near a branch tip, the branch will have no or very small leaves, even in summer. If rot is in the roots, branches will still get energy from the healthy wood for a while but the whole plant will slowly get weaker and weaker. Rot often triggers the reproductive system to produce flowers which will use up the remaining energy even faster.

To check for root rot, poke the trunk lightly just above soil level with a thin sharp tool. If white sap comes out quickly, the trunk and, in almost all cases, the roots are healthy.

To check for rot elsewhere, look for the branch with the smallest leaves. Squeeze the branch. If it’s very soft and has black liquid inside, that part is already dead. If it’s a little soft, it’s unhealthy. It’s neither healthy or dead, it’s struggling. You can poke the branch lightly with a thin sharp tool to see how fast the sap appears.

If you poke frangipani wood and no sap appears, poke deeper, poke higher and poke lower to get an idea where life is and where rot is. Any branches that have rotted and are dead should be cut off. Try to make the last cut in healthy wood and try to make it vertical or on angle.

If you find root rot early and the branches are firm and healthy, cut all the leaves and flowers off and cut the branches off and grow them as cuttings.

What is frangipani rot?

Frangipani rot is a bacterial fungus which can attack and can eventually kill frangipanis. Stem rot is when rot turns the inside of healthy frangipani wood into brown soft wood and eventually into black liquid. Root rot is when rot turn living white roots into dead brown or black roots.

What is frangipani rust?

Frangipani rust is a fungus which survives on the underside of frangipani leaves.

It first appears as a few very small gold spots on the underside of old frangipani leaves but the spores quickly multiple and turn into hundreds of gold spots. The spots look similar to rust spots on metal so the name has stuck. When disturbed, the spores take a powdery dust form and easily float through the air to infect nearby frangipanis.

Because frangipani rust multiplies rapidly and is easily transferred to other frangipanis,
it’s important to treat the frangipani rust as early as possible and as often as possible to ensure the rust does not spread.

There are many fungicides which are affective against frangipani rust and one is a fungicide by Yates. Many fungicides can be found the Bunning’s garden section.

Which species of frangipanis are affected by frangipani rust?

While some species of frangipani appear to be resistant to frangipani rust, it’s our theory that frangipani rust is constantly evolving and continuously producing new strains of frangipani rust. Observing one species of frangipani in one location is not a completely accurate way to determine the vulnerable and resistant of a frangipani species.

In our experience, about twelve or thirteen years ago, the common rubra species was the only species affected by the frangipani rust fungus. All the other frangipani species appeared to be resistant. At the time, obtusa frangipanis were becoming very popular because they appeared to be resistant to the fungus. Three years later, unfortunately, some of our obtusa species started to get rust and wherever it was left untreated, nearby obtusa frangipanis got infected as well.

The following year, we found one frangipani obtusa tree with rust which was amongst many uninfected rubra frangipanis. This indicated to us that frangipani rubras were resistant to the frangipani obtusa rust.

A couple of years later, we noticed some pink pudica frangipanis badly infected and worse than all the surrounding species. Although it would have been better to notice and treat these frangipanis earlier, we were able to eliminate the rust in that area quickly effectively.

About five or six years ago, we received a load of white pudicas from northern Australia which had until that time appeared to be completely resistant to frangipani rust. To our surprise, a few leaves on one plant had rust. We checked all the plants, cut off and meticulously burnt the infected leaves and we have not seen rust on our frangipani pudicas since. Another effective strategy for us to fight rust has been to keep large quantities of pudica and propagate our own cuttings.

It’s our belief that when frangipani rust travels from one plant to another, that rust is very unlikely to infect different species of frangipanis. However, when rust is left untreated and allowed to increase, the rust is more likely to have a greater chance to evolve and adapt and survive on similar but different species of plant.

If you think frangipani rust is an important factor in choosing a frangipani species, our advice is to focus more on the foliage, flowers, hardiness etcetera and if it gets rust, treat it as early and as often as possible until it disappears.

How do I check if my frangipani is dying?

If you are worried about the health of your frangipani, you should cut off all flowers. Flowers do nothing to improve plant health and strength but use up lots of the plant’s energy. You can also cut off all old leaves so that only small leaves growing from the tips remain.

Before a frangipani die, rot attacks the weak parts of the plant and spreads until the whole plant is dead. you can find how healthy and unhealthy your frangipani is by checking how much rot there is and where the rot is. See the article on checking for rot.