Monday, February 21, 2011


I've grown Brugmansia, on and off, for years.  It's about the only tender or house plant I make the effort to overwinter.  The two (on the right) in this photo were last winter's victims of overwintering in the garage.  Victim as in died from the cold.  The pots containing mature Brugmansia plants were so very heavy they didn't get hauled to the basement or into the house. 

They may be cut down to make moving easier.  Done regularly, it will keep it more movable.  Do not prune until the plant has formed a "Y" stem (they bloom next year on stems above the Y.)   Otherwise, it will do well each year after pruning.  The roots may also be pruned to keep it in a smaller pot.  Not a small job. 

 A native of the subtropics of South American, they need the warmth and humidity of that climate to flourish and survive.

In full bloom, they are heavenly - which must be why they were nicknamed "Angel's Trumpet".  Not only the beautiful flowers but many have a very sweet strong fragrance, especially in the evening.  Once they start blooming, they are full of blooms for a couple of months.  Under the right conditions, they may bloom year round.   
They are offered in several different colors (yellow, peach, white, and pink) - the yellow seems the most fragrant.  Some are double and several have new color combinations such as the purple and white variety. The trumpet flower can be 12-20 inches.  They become a tree and are long lived in the right conditions.  My longest lived ended up touching our 8 foot ceilings (may top out at 20 feet). 

As with many tropicals, all parts of the plant are highly toxic.  It is a member of the nightshade family. It is used for shamanic intoxication but can often be fatal.  I don't recommend it if you have small children, puppies or cats.

My plants enjoyed their summer vacations outside.  As outdoor dwellers, they required daily monitoring and watering.  It's essential that the plant is in a large enough pot from the beginning because they become difficult to transplant later in life.  The tops will become so heavy, the pot will tip over if it isn't adequate in size. 

This beauty is located in the UC Davis Arboredum.

Pots need drainage holes - they need heavy watering but will rot if they stand in water.  They also need a very large saucer to sit in if they are in the house.  In an effort to keep them moist, they tend to overflow.

The perfect spot for this plant is near where ever you will be able to smell it during the evening hours.  By your porch, patio or outdoor seating is perfect.  They should be located out of high wind simply because of the damage wind can inflict on the leaves and flowers and the danger of tipping.

Plants need fertilized on a regular basis in the summer.  They will develop a large root system and are heavy feeders.  Although they enjoy full sun, they also need protection from the really hot sun during the middle of the afternoon in the hottest of summer - or in more southern climates.  If you are growing in hardiness zones 9 or warmer, they may be planted in the soil outside.  There are other instructions that will help you do this optimally.

As with any tropical and houseplant, they may have some pest issues.  Keep an eye on them and spray them with water before bringing into the house.

Do these sound too complicated or require too much work?  Not really.  They are much like every houseplant we may have up North.  If you like spectacular, perfumed and tropical looking plants - this is certainly a must have.  Most nurseries carry at least one variety - obviously the more mature specimens are more expensive.  A smaller plant may not bloom the first year although mine have.
Side Note:  The annual datura is not a Brugmansia although offered in many nurseries and has many lovely qualities.  It is also highly poisonous.   As a wild flower, it is known as Jimsonweed/thornapple and considered a pest weed and poisonous in fields if eaten by livestock.

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