Tuesday, April 1, 2014



Mike Pineau, Peterborough

For my money, the exotic and spectacular flowers of Brugmansia are a must have on the summer patio or border. This tropical American plant genus hails from the lowlands of Brazil and Ecuador and botanically belongs in the large Solanaceae family which includes Datura, potato, tomato, petunia and tobacco. The large 9" pendant, tubular and fragrant Brugmansia suaveolens X B. versicolor hybrids predominate in cultivation but other species are also involved in the genetics of some of the named types. The flowers come in pastel shades of pink, yellow and white on 5 to 8 foot plants and are ideal for tub culture in full sun to partial shade.
Cultivating Angel trumpet is very straightforward and rewarding (think giant tomato) and a stunning collection can be achieved quickly. They are easily started from stem tip cuttings with 2 nodes inserted into a soilless mix with extra perlite in a warm sunny spot indoors in early spring. Rooting takes only 10 days. Hormone is not needed. When new growth starts, move up into a 6" pot with a blend of soilless mix, perlite and rich compost. Use rain or naturally soft water (i.e. reverse osmosis) and let the top 1" dry between watering. Do not fertilize until roots fill the pot. At this point the plant will be single stemmed, 2 to 3 feet high and cloaked in leaves from top to bottom. The plant is now preparing for explosive vegetative growth.

At this point, the plant is ready for its summer quarters as long as frost has passed. Now is the time to transplant into a large pot with drainage. Angel trumpets become very top heavy so the larger the container the better; up to a half-barrel. These plants are extremely heavy feeders and the soil should be rich. One part compost/triple mix, one part sharp sand or perlite, one part peat works for me. I use natural lump charcoal for drainage. The plant quickly "catches" into this mix and it can grow 2" a day in warm weather of May and June. When the roots fill the tub, ample water must be provided, often daily, especially in hot stretches. Mix in Miracle Gro powder for tomatoes at 50% strength at EVERY watering till it runs  out the bottom of the pot. Keeping a barrel of pre mixed fertilizer water handy is a big help (ie garbage can sized).

The first year, the angel trumpet will bloom August to frost after it forms a framework of new growth. It will not set flowers until it branches and will bloom in flushes of 2 weeks on and off on the new growth. On a mature plant there will always be some bloom however. Spider mite is the main pest but frequent hosing of the leaves will help if detected.

The big question is: "How do I keep this Godzilla of a plant from year to year in our climate?. Firstly, one may treat it as an annual and grow new plants from purchased seed (start in February) or cuttings (April). However, this does not allow the plant to reach its full potential though still giving a spectacular flower show. In late summer, one may take cuttings of new growth, root in 1 or 2 gallon pots and keep as a green plant in a warm bright spot for the winter. Or bring the entire plant into the house using one of two techniques. Before moving at the end of September or October depending on frost, cut the plant back by one-third but leave a scaffold of main horizontal branches. Spray for insects (Safers soap and pyrethrum). Let the soil dry down and bring the entire plant into a bright position such as a sunroom and grow on during the winter as a houseplant. A simpler approach is to bring the plant into a cool dark basement or fruit cellar and allow to go semi dormant but not bone dry. These last two strategies preserve the entire mother plant, thus allowing the full bloom potential of a second or third year plant. A well grown 3 year old angel will produce as many as 100 fragrant blooms at once on an elegant horizontal framework of traffic stopping beauty.

sources for plants :  

  • Brugmansia Quebec
  • Flora exotica
  • Some garden centres sell starter plants.  I have seen them at Home Depot and Loblaws but named types must come from a specialty nursery such as the two above.
  • Seeds from Thompsom & Morgan or mail order such as Flora exotica 1 dollar seed store.
Description: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/images/cleardot.gif

1 comment:

  1. Well done, Mike! Very happy to finally see something about brugmansia posted here! I've been growing (and collecting them) for years! Would only add that I overwinter close to 100 brugs both in my basement and my cold storage room. The plants in the regular part of the basement are watered weekly, but, those that are "dormant", in the cold storage room, get 1 cup of water, per month, to ensure the roots do not dry out.