Lei Making Material

Did you know there are a number of different Hawaiian Flowers and other materials used to make Hawaiian Leis?

Flower Leis

Flowers are just one of the materials used to create the beautiful leis of Hawaii, but they are perhaps the best known. Flowers come in so many shapes, sizes, colors and scent variations that every flower lei is a unique work of art. There are flower leis that have strong floral scents, those that have more subtle scents and those with no scent at all. Some flowers have large blossoms that are easy to see from a distance. Others are tiny and must be combined with hundreds, or even thousands, of flowers to create a lush lei full of color. Flower leis can be worn by men, women and children, and everyone appreciates the lovely and exotic flowers these leis are made from. Flower leis are worn in weddings, given as gifts for graduations and birthdays, worn to luaus and are often worn simply just to make a night more fun and special. Some of the flowers and leaves used in leis were brought to Hawaii by the ancient Polynesians who used them for medicinal purposes as well as in lei making. Others were native plants that the original settlers discovered on the islands and began to use for both functional and decorative purposes.


The orchid works perfectly in leis because of its long-lasting quality and overall durability. It’s one of the flowers in Hawaii that many people love to wear in leis because of the variety of colors and the lack of a scent. They are perfect for those who don’t like strong scents as well as those who want their lei to last for days of use. These Hawaiian flowers have graceful shapes and make leis that are lush and full of color.


The strong scent of the tuberose makes it a popular flower for leis. The white petals are luminescent and perfect for a white lei that will keep giving you its fragrance all evening long. The long, thin petals of this lovely flower can be combined with other flowers, or with leaves, to add their delicate color to the leis. They are also used in leis by themselves to create a solid white lei that can be worn by anyone to any occasion.


The carnation is one of the loveliest of all Hawaiian flowers. It works perfectly in leis because of its interesting shape and its long life. The carnation is highly durable and comes in a wide variety of colors. In Hawaii, red and white carnation leis are the most popular types to give. The red carnation lei is a symbol of respect and has been worn by everyone from one of Hawaii’s governors to Elvis Presley. Single carnation leis are garlands that keep both the blossom and its light-green stem showing. Double carnation leis are thicker and project a thick, lush look.


Ginger flowers have long been used to make leis because of their intriguing colors and their soft, sweet scents. Ginger plants were brought to the Hawaiian islands by the ancient Hawaiians who prized these blossoms for making meaningful leis. It has tropical flower names as well as its common name and is called the Ahwapuhi in Hawaii. These small, delicate blossoms are used to create breathtaking leis that often use hundreds of flowers to create the intricate, full look of these leis. Both white and yellow ginger leis are often worn in Hawaii and given as gifts to symbolize love, respect or appreciation.


The ilima has long been treasured by the Hawaiian people for its beautiful color, its ancient tradition of use in leis and its delicate look. Hundreds of blossoms are often used in an Ilima lei, and it was a favorite of royalty such as Hawaii’s Queen Emma. This small hibiscus was the symbol of Hawaii and was replaced as the state flower of Hawaii by the larger version of this same flower. Ancient Hawaiians cultivated this flower to enjoy its beautiful blossoms, and today’s Hawaiians love it for its lovely shape and color.

He’e Berry

The He’e berry isn’t indigenous to Hawaii, but it has become a common sight on the islands. This berry is long lasting and has a bright red color that makes it perfect for holiday leis. The He’e berry grows all year long and is found throughout the Hawaiian islands. The leis made from He’e berries may have flowers woven into them to introduce other colors to the lei. He’e berries are also used on their own to create a long-lasting lei with a lively color.

Cigar Flower

This small, tubular flower is brightly colored and free from fragrance. The flowers are so small that thousands of them are used to make a cigar flower lei. Like many Hawaii flowers names, there is also a Hawaiian name for this blossom. Also known as the pua kika, this flower is often used to make leis for men. This tiny, lovely flower comes in bright shades of yellow, orange and red. The common name for this flower, the cigar flower, comes from the tubular shape of each blossom that resembles a cigar.


The plumeria is highly prized for leis for its stunning color, large blossoms and its sweet, subtle scent. The white and yellow, and sometimes pink, of the plumeria flower make lovely leis that have a soft, lingering scent. These leis are one of the most popular types in Hawaii for their large size and soft color. The stunning, star-shape of the petals make every plumeria lei something special. They are popular for weddings and luaus and can be worn by both men and women for any occasion.


Like many exotic flower names, the pikake has a story attached to its name. It gets its name from the old Hawaiian word for peacock. Hawaiian Prin­cess Kaiulani loved this flower as well as the peacock, and the Hawaiian name for this lovely white flower was born. This small and delicate blossom has a big scent and is well known for its sweet smells that lingers. Because of the small size of each blossom, many pikakes are often woven together to create a full lei with a lovely color and a strong scent.

Ohai Ali’i

The ohai ali’i is a flower with a spectacular shape and no scent. The bright oranges, reds and yellows of this 2” flower have made this a popular lei flower in Hawaii. Originally believed to be imported from the West Indies, this flower is grown as an ornamental flower throughout the Hawaiian islands as well as in Tahiti. Its unusual shape with its feathery appearance and its bright colors have made it a popular garden flower as well as a sought-after lei flower.

Other Natural Materials

Many natural materials have been used in Hawaii over the centuries to create beautiful leis that are long lasting and fun to wear. The tradition of using local materials in leis has created a long history of using natural items such as nuts, shells, feathers and fruit to create beautiful leis that bring the beauty of nature to the wearer. Some of these materials, such as the kukui nut, were once revered in leis and served as symbols of the wearer’s rank.


One of the most renowned leis is the maile. This lei has a long tradition of respect and admiration as it was once the lei worn by male members of the royal family. This lei is made from a dark, shiny leaf and has a fragrant smell. It’s perfect for men who want a non-floral lei or for anyone who wants to be a modern part of ancient Hawaiian lei traditions. The maile leaf may be used by itself to create a green garland, or it can be interspersed with flowers to create a varied look from multiple Hawaiian materials.

Ti Leaf

Ti leaves are a perennial favorite for Hawaiian leis because of their long tradition and their robust green color. Native Hawaiians prize the ti plant for the good luck it brings, and ti leis are often given to wish the recipient good luck. Ti leis are created both closed and open ended, and they are often paired with flowers to add pops of color to the lei. While a ti leaf lei was once a symbol of rank and power, it is now worn by anyone who wants a bright and vibrant lei.

Kukui Nut

This large nut is polished and used in leis that are full of tradition and meaning. A favorite lei among men, the kukui nut lei was once worn exclusively by Hawaiian royal chiefs. Kukui nut leis last a long time and still represent the peace and protection they represented long ago.


Hawaiian shell leis are made from the native shells that Hawaiians have long enjoyed for their lovely shapes and beautiful colors. Some shell leis use other materials to give variation to the lei and to introduce other colors to the garland. Natural shells have a timeless look that Hawaiians have long used for decorative purposes.


Fruit can be used to create colorful leis that have ties to the beautiful plants that have sustained Hawaiians for centuries. Using the hala fruit in leis is a tradition that often brings the lovely oranges and yellows of this fruit together with the greens of local leaves.


Feathers are one of the materials that have long been used to make Hawaiian leis. From the traditions of ancient Hawaiians to the present, feathers have been chosen for their beauty and woven into leis to create interesting garlands that are always fun to wear.

Artificial Material

An artificial lei may be made from plastic or fabric. These leis use artificial materials to recreate the look of Hawaiian flowers, but they last forever. These leis have no scent and come in a multitude of colors. Many people enjoy artificial leis for their bright colors and durable nature.

Modern leis are also made from a variety of materials that have created modern lei traditions. These new types of leis are fun for both the giver and the recipient. Creating artificial leis from silk, plastic, fabric and tinsel can recreate the look of a natural lei, and many people enjoy the colorful look and lightweight feel of these leis. The colors of artificial leis are limited only by the imagination as they can be created in any mix of colors. Other fun leis include those made from candy, money and even small alcohol bottles. Those with an artistic streak like making their own leis from yarn to imitate the look of Hawaiian flowers. Today, there is no limit to what leis can be made from and when and where they can be worn.


Silk flowers are used in silk leis that last forever and resemble fresh Hawaiian flowers. Silk flower leis are perfect for people who have flower allergies or who want leis that they can keep and wear to every occasion. These beautiful flowers are easy to transport and easy to re-wear.


The money lei is a fun tradition that replaces the flowers and other materials used to make leis with cash. This is a favorite among graduates and children who get excited by the money placed around their necks. These are fun to give as gifts, and they are always welcomed by the recipient.


Candy leis are fun to give, fun to look at and fun to eat. Hawaiian candy leis are especially fun for children, and they are often given as gifts to kids for birthdays and graduations. These leis use wrapped candy pieces in place of flowers to create a fun lei that can be eaten later.


Alcohol leis are made from mini alcohol bottles tied in a circular garland to create a fun lei that is great for parties. This mini liquor bottle necklace is a great gift for an adult having a birthday or for the holidays.


Tinsel leis use metallic strips to create a sparkle effect on artificial leis. These strips may be used to create a bright and festive lei entirely made from tinsel, or the tinsel may be interspersed with artificial flowers to add some shine to the lei.


Yarn is used to create modern leis that simulate the bright colors of Hawaiian flowers. A soft yarn called eyelash yarn is often used to create these leis that have a fuzzy and full look. This thin, fuzzy yarn emulates the look of hundreds of flowers being intertwined.