How to Grow and Care for Brugmansia

Miss Chen
The show-stopping hanging bugle-shaped flowers of brugmansia make this plant a delight for any garden. Grown either as a woody shrub or small tree, brugmansia is a tropical plant native to Central and South America. Brugmansia is best planted in mid-spring when temperatures outdoors no longer drop below 50 degrees at night. The plant will grow very quickly, often growing between 24 to 36 inches a year. All parts of the brugmansia plant are toxic to humans, dogs, and cats.1 It is also an invasive plant in Australia, New Zealand, Central America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands.
Common Name Brugmansia, trumpet of death
Botanical Name Brugmansia

Botanical Name Brugmansia
Family Solanaceae
Plant Type Perennial, shrub
Mature Size 6–20 ft. tall, 3–15 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Moist but well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Summer, fall
Flower Color White, yellow, orange, pink, peach
Hardiness Zones 8–10 (USDA)
Native Area South America, Central America
Toxicity Toxic to people, toxic to pets

Brugmansia Care
Brugmansia can take the form of a shrub or small tree, depending on the area in which it's grown. Its leaves are 6 to 8 inches long, arranged alternately on the stems, and it's known for its spectacular drooping flowers, which can grow up to 20 inches long.

In cooler zones, brugmansia can be grown as a container plant and brought indoors when temperatures drop. The flowers produce a strong, fragrant scent, most noticeable at night. Hummingbirds are also drawn to its flowers and fragrance.

Generally, brugmansia does well in a spot that boasts full sun. However, in especially hot or dry environments, it can stand to have a bit of shade, especially during the warmer afternoon hours. Regardless of the location, though, you should aim to allow the plant between six and eight hours of sunlight daily for it to thrive.

Brugmansia is perhaps least picky about the soil it grows in. It can exist happily in almost any blend, from sand and clay to loam and richly organic mixtures. The most important factor lies in the soil's drainage. Brugmansia does not like to be waterlogged but prefers consistently moist soil, so there's a delicate balance. If growing in pots, brugmansia will typically do well in a potting mix designed for azaleas and camellias.

This is a very thirsty plant that needs to be watered well—and often. If growing brugmansia in a pot, ensure there are ample drainage holes at the base so the plant doesn't get waterlogged. Root rot can occur if the soil becomes soggy. The exact watering cadence for your plant will depend on the weather and the method of planting (container vs. in ground). Brugmansia needs more water when the weather is warm. Plants housed in a container may need to be watered twice a day during the peak of summer. Ultimately, never let the soil dry out, and you should aim to grant your plant at least three inches of water a week.

Temperature and Humidity
Generally, brugmansia can withstand moderate to warm temperatures and should not be kept outdoors if the temperatures dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in an environment where fall or winter gets cold, plant your brugmansia in a container that you can move to a dark, frost-free place (like a garage) before the first frost of the season. You can allow it to go dormant.

Like many other plants with large, spectacular blooms, brugmansia should be fertilized at least once a week (larger plants can even be fertilized two to three times a week). Use a water-soluble fertilizer, and avoid slow-release formulas, as these do not work fast enough for the plant. Bloom-boosting fertilizers, such as 15-30-15 or 10-50-10 mixture, are best.

Types of Brugmansia
Brugmansia species have distinctive, drooping flowers, and most have sweetly scented blooms at night. The biggest difference between species is color.

Brugmansia suaveolens: Native to Brazil; this cream-colored blooming plant is one of the most popular species.
Brugmansia aurea: This plant sports yellow blooms and is often called a golden trumpet. It's native to Ecuador and Venezuela.
Brugmansia sanguine: This red-flowering species lacks a scent and is commonly pollinated by long-billed hummingbirds. It is native to Colombia and Chile.
Brugmansia vulcanicola: Native to the Andean Mountains range from Colombia to Ecuador, this salmon-colored specimen is considered the rarest of the brugmansia. Its 'Rosa Lila' hybrid is a rose-colored cultivar.
Brugmansia arborea: This plant features the shortest trumpet flowers, often a whiter cream color than most. This plant is native to the countries along the Andes Mountains range.
Although they do not require pruning, trimming brugmansia will keep the plant producing flowers constantly. If growing it as a small tree, begin to prune when the main trunk forms its first "Y" and choose a central leader as the trunk. Systematically prune away older branches and stems to encourage the plant to produce more branches. Flowers will eventually appear on the terminal ends of the stems. The best time to prune brugmansia is typically in the fall. Keep at least six to 10 nodes on the branches.

If your shrub is getting too tall, you can easily train a container-grown brugmansia tree into a smaller shrub size. Pruning your container brugmansia to a desired height or shape will not affect the size or frequency of the flowers.

Propagating Brugmansia
Brugmansia can be propagated through seeds and cuttings. The best time to get a stem cutting is in the morning. Attempt propagation in the spring for the best success. Stem cuttings are the best method because the plant matures quicker than from seed. Here's how to propagate from stem cutting:

You will need potting soil, a pot, gloves, pruning shears, and optionally, rooting hormone.
Don the gloves and cut a stem, measuring back 10 inches from the tip of the selected cutting. Make a cut 1/4-inch below a set of leaves using the pruning shears. Strip off the bottom set of leaves just above the cut to expose the leaf nodes.
Apply rooting hormone to the cut end and bury the cut end in moistened potting soil. Firmly pack the soil around the stem to hold it up.
Put the pot in a slightly shady spot, and cover the pot with plastic. Water the plant from the bottom by placing the pot with its bottom-set drainage holes in a tray of water.
After a few weeks, the cutting will develop a good root system and be transplanted into the garden or a larger pot.
How to Grow Brugmansia From Seed
Moisten a quality potting mix in a pot and lay the seed on the soil surface. Cover with about a quarter to one-half inch of soil. Keep the soil moist. Place the pot in a warm place and look for signs of germination. Germination can take from two weeks to several months, but most seedlings will emerge within a month.

Potting and Repotting Brugmansia
Brugmansias can grow well in containers and are the way to go if you plan to keep it outdoors in a non-tropical zone. You will need to bring it if the temperatures drop lower than 50 F. Plant brugmansia in a 24-inch diameter container. Keep your potted brugmansia thoroughly watered while outside. Potted plants need more water than in-ground plants. Expect to water your outdoor brugmansia at least twice a day at the height of the season's hot, sunny days. Most brugmansias will not grow to their full height if they are grown in a container. At the most, the typical container-grown brugmansia will reach about 12 feet. Keep the plant pruned to maintain that size. Potted brugmansia should be gradually repotted as it grows to its final container—about 20 gallons in size.

Once winter sets in and outdoor temps drop below 50 F, bring in your brugmansia. You can treat it as a houseplant or allow it to go into dormancy. As a houseplant, give it light and water. Water it when the soil dries out, like any other houseplant. It may not flower while inside, but the foliage will look nice.

If you decide to allow it to go dormant, place it in a dark garage, basement, or closet (not colder than 50 F). You can trim it back by one-third and not harm the plant. Only water it sparingly about once a month. It may lose its leaves and look dead, but as long as the trunk is green, it's still alive. As spring approaches, about a month before you can reintroduce the plant to the outdoors, gradually increase watering (about once a week). Put the plant in a sunny spot or give it a grow light for at least 8 hours. In about one week, you should notice some new leaves or branch growth. After you put the plant back outside, its growth will boom, and you will notice its signature flowers within weeks.

Common Pests
Whiteflies are a big problem for brugmansia.3 Cabbage worms, spider mites, and aphids are also common. Other pests that may appear include cucumber beetles (in the midwestern United States), slugs and snails, fungus gnats (inside), and mealybugs. To treat these pest infestations, use isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol on a cotton ball or cotton swab to dab the insects. Another option, make a spray solution of equal parts water and isopropyl alcohol and spray the plant. You can also treat the plant with neem oil or insecticidal soap to repel pests.

How to Get Brugmansia to Bloom
Only a mature brugmansia will bloom. If you started your plant from seeds, it could take up to five years before you see blooms. If you started your brugmansia from a cutting, it might speed up the process, but it can still take about four years. Brugmansia needs ample water to produce blooms and good drainage for good root health. Brugmansia is also a heavy feeder, requiring fertilizer regularly. If all of these factors are met, make sure that it's not root-bound. If it's in too small a container, it may not produce flowers. Move it to a larger container, water, and feed it.

Common Problems With Brugmansia
This plant requires little care and eventually yields some of the most noteworthy blossoms, however, brugmansia is susceptible to pests and diseases that can compromise the health and longevity of the plant.
Stunted Plant Growth and Blotches
Mosaic virus and tomato spotted wilt are common viruses that affect plants in the Solanaceae family. They both can cause stunted plant growth and irregular streaking or blotches. Though the plant may survive and bounce back with proper care, these viruses are permanent and cannot be cured. Avoid planting angel trumpets next to heirloom tomatoes or tobacco plants (Nicotiana spp.) to prevent these viruses.

Wilting Leaves
Fusarium and verticillium wilt are two fungal infections. Both fungi affect the roots and travel up the stem, stopping water from entering the plant and causes wilted foliage. Fusarium wilt usually occurs in warm weather, while verticillium is more common in cooler temperatures. There is no cure; you can only manage the disease. The fungi can live in the soil for a long time. The best bet is to start with new plants and new soil.

Blackening Leaves and Smelly Odor
Root rot is a common fungal disease caused by excessive watering. You can prevent root rot by keeping the potting mix moist but never soggy. Decrease watering when temperatures drop in late summer or autumn. Root rot can be deadly, but if caught early enough, you might be able to save the plant. Pull the root ball out of the container; cut away rotten, mushy roots; sterilize the potting container; and plant the healthy portion of root in fresh, well-draining soil.
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