I have already written a guide on buying seeds but as there are a lot of sellers out there now selling seedlings I thought this would be a good idea to help those of you that are not sure about Frangipani Seedlings. I am the biggest grower of frangipani seeds in Australia, planting up to 5,000 a year and then planting them out on the farm after their first winter, most sellers have no real hands on experience of more than 1 or 2 years as they grow only for sale on ebay and the seedlings never reach flowering age for these growers. All of their experience is gained from other people or they just repeat what they have been told.
Before you begin to read this, here is something that happened recently on ebay. A buyer looked at the seedling picture shown and put in his bid, almost $400 as it was a very rare frangipani & was 18 months old, the seller told him it had been imported from Thailand. The seller then told him they could do the sale outside ebay to save him money but it still was $350 odd for the seedling which he paid. The frangipani flowered this year and it was just a common fruit salad, they sell for $15 at most nurseries. This is not the first time buyers have been ripped off so just be very careful in who you buy from, look for sellers that have been growing & selling seedlings etc for a few years not just in the last 12 months(from 2007/8) or so as this is when all the get rich quick sellers appeared.
1. Colour: A seedling can NEVER be exactly the same as its parent, they may contain many of the same genes but can only be similar at best, although they may look extremely similar if you are lucky. Most of the time they will show some of the same features, colours, petal shape, where the parent may be slightly pink the seedling could be a deep pink. This is what you have to expect, some sellers suggest that only 50% of the seeds will be similar in some way & the rest will be white but if the parent tree has very strong genes this can vary up to 90% plus in your favor.
2. Sellers: There are a lot of seed & seedling sellers that are only selling on ebay to make money, they do not have any background knowledge of these plants at all and some of their advice is not right. You can pick these sellers out as they often miss spell the names or give them a totally new name, look at the names and you can see those that call them just totally wrong names or add letters or leave letters off, some make 1 word into 3 or 3 into 1, they buy from dubious sellers in Thailand then sell seedlings that are only a few months old at best so they have no idea what colour the actual seedling will be as they have never grown them to flower. Remember, sellers buy the seeds for only a few cents each, at most maybe around $1 but mostly a lot less, then just put them in a seedling mix for 6 weeks or so then sell them to you for quite a big profit margin, this can be done by anyone at all, there is no hard work involved. Remember, a lot of the seedling sellers are only growing seeds into seedlings for profit, their technical knowledge is very limited and their growing methods are just a repeat of what they were told by someone else, otherwise they would have no idea how to do it.
3. Size: Seedlings should be at least 10cm tall preferably 15cm and as thick as a pencil, smaller than this can lead to a lot of dying seedlings as they are not strong enough to handle all the travel & temperature changes. When the sellers say they are sun hardened be wary, seedlings should not be put in full sun in the first few months as they will burn, having only a few leaves does not give it protection and the thin stem cannot support the heat stress, I never allow my seedlings to go into full sun until after their first winter or they are 15cm tall with several sets of leaves & a solid trunk. I keep them under shade cloth & and in a hot house, all they need is heat, light and good mix with a bit of water, the only people that put them into full sun are either those that are unsure what they are doing or those that grow them directly in the ground & are prepeared to loose a few. A seedling in full sun will shrivel and die very quickly, especially if it is hot, so always keep them in dappled sunlight until they have gone through their first winter. Even then they need to be introduced slowly and never in full sun when it is extremely hot.
4.Flowering: Seedlings will not flower in under 2 years in most cases unless you have them in ideal conditions, they really need to be in the ground to flower quicker as their growth rate accelerates with them in the ground. I know people that have had seedlings flower in 18 months in Australia but this is not the norm, most seedlings will take 3 years plus, some maybe 10 years and others never. It all depends on the way they are grown and taken care of, dont believe anyone that tells you they will flower any quicker than 3 plus years unless they are full size seedlings 40cm plus and have been kept growing through winter and have not gone dormant.
5. Confirm: Again as with seeds be very careful of any seedlings with unbelievable colouring, if it looks just to good to be true it usually is. Doctored photos are becoming more and more popular to exagerate the colours, pinks turn purple or blue and some even have spots etc added. Most of the rare types are documented, if you cannot find them by googling the name be very careful indeed, you can always check the US plumeria website, PSA(plumeria Society of America), they have a list of virtually all of the real frangipani available, those ones that are registered and those not registered. If you cant find it, email a frangipani group and ask about it, most will help you. Beware of any frangipani with a black background as this is used to cover the colour change in the leaves, the leaves can turn bright green or even dark green once a photo has been re touched.
6. Names: a registered frangipani is limited to 3 words in the name, anymore than this and you know it is not a registered flower. Names are also changed by sellers to fool buyers into thinking it is a new variety, Vichanu Gold can appear as vishnuugold, pissanu gold etc. as dodgy Thai sellers do not know the correct names and the aussie sellers have no idea either as they are just in it for the money. There is a mettalic purple that pops up every so often too, this has definitely been photoshoped along with many others the person sells, if you look close you can see that the flowers are super imposed onto leaves/plant, true sellers do not need to do this, it is done so that you cannot see the change of leaf colour caused by photoshoping the flower colour.
7. When to Buy: Seedlings planted through winter do very poorly compared to those grown from Spring, they also will suffer a lot more in the heat. Seedlings offered for sale in September through to November have more than likely been planted during winter so be careful. You can also tell by the size, anything under 10cm is definitely a winter plant, personally I would not buy anything under 15cm as the chances of them growing succesfully are slim. Also remember that a winter plant can not be sun hardened as they are too small.
8. Price: I would never pay over $10 for a seedling, the reason being that the chances of it being just a white or pastel are very high, even then it would have to be at least 15cm tall. A seedling under 10cm has a very poor survival rate, anything over a few dollars is too much. If you really want frangipani in good colours you should try a registered nursery as they have to deal honestly, they also grow from quality seeds from leading sellers. Remember, the sellers on ebay are in most part, first time growers and only in it for the money and they have no real technical knowledge of the plants nor have they ever grown the seedling to flower to even confirm the colour sao you as a buyer are taking a lot of risk in your purchase.
I hope this article will help you all understand more about these beautiful plants, I am always ready to help anyone with any questions on growing these plants or any diseases etc they may suffer from, frangipani are a full time job for me and I have several thousand growing and I am always planting more. I will only rarely sell mine as I grow them for my pleasure, I have worked in 2 frangipani nurseries and specialize in growing them from seed. I am currently setting up what will be the largest frangipani farm in Australia. I have been involved with them for quite a few years now (from around 2002 onwards) and I am always ready to help anyone that needs it. Since writing this guide some sellers are now saying that there are more chromosones in frangipani etc, be wary of them as they may be selling seedlings from unknown seeds, a lot of seedlings are from mixed seeds so you can end up with anything but usually white or a soft pastel. If you are really interested in growing frangipani then you should contact the FSA(frangipani society of Australia) and ask them about reliable sellers, they can guide you so that you will not be sold something false.