Plumaria blooms are easiest to work with when making a haku lei.
Plumaria blooms are easiest to work with when making a haku lei.

Haku leis are flower garlands that are created by braiding strips of banana or ti leaves over the shortened stems of flowers. This type of lei is traditionally worn on the head or wrist at weddings, graduations, birthdays or other special events in the Hawaiian culture. Large sturdy flowers such as plumarias, orchids, hydrangeas, roses and daisies are best to use in a haku lei because they are more durable. However, any flower with a sturdy stem can be used.

Measure around the head or wrist with a fabric measuring tape to determine how long to make the haku lei. The recommended length for a haku lei for the head is 21 inches, but the measurement may differ depending upon the age and size of the person who will wear the lei.

Gather fresh flowers with sturdy stems. Prepare each flower stem by removing all of the leaves. Cut the stems with a sharp knife, leaving a 2 to 3 inches length attached to each bloom.

Tear each banana or ti leaf in half lengthwise along the center vein. Remove the center vein of the leaf by tearing it from the rest of the leaf portion. Choose three strips and join them together by tying a knot at one end.

Braid the three leaf strips. To do this, cross the right strip over the middle strip. The right strip becomes the new center strip and the center strip is now the right strip. Next, cross the left strip over the middle strip. The left strip is now the new center strip, and the center strip is the new left strip.

Do two repetitions of the braid and then add a flower. Position the flower on top of the center of the braid with the bloom facing upwards. Angle the flower slightly to the right. Cross the right leaf strip over the flower stem to the left side of the braid. Bring the left leaf strip across the braid and over the stem to the right side. Pull the leaf strips so they remain as tight as possible without breaking to secure the flower in place.

Add a second flower to the braid. Position this flower so it is angled slightly to the left. Continue to braid the leaf strips and adding flowers. Alternate the angle of the flowers as they are added to create a full and even garland.

Add extra length to the leaf strips that become too short to braid. Tie the end of a new leaf strip to the end of the short leaf strip. Continue braiding and adding flowers until the haku lei has reached the correct length.

Tie the three ends of the leaf strips together in a knot. Bring both ends of the braided garland together and tie in a knot to finish the lei. Store the completed haku lei in a plastic bag in a refrigerator until it's time to use it.