Angel Trumpet: How To Grow And Care For Brugmansia

The Brugmansia (aka Angel’s Trumpet) is a semi-tropical flowering shrub that can be grown as either a bush or a tree. They are woody plants with large, fragrant pendulous flowers.

When people first encounter the beautiful Brugmansia they usually their jaws drop in awe of the exotic 10″ inch long flowers and powerful lemon scent.

Brugmansias are a perennial member of the Solanaceae / Nightshade Family (Calibrachoa) hailing from South America where they have been cultivated for thousands of years as both an ornamental and a medicinal plant.

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Under the right conditions, they can grow outdoors year-round and reach impressive heights of over 30 feet. The highly poisonous foliage of the plants make them deer-resistant.

There are seven different species of Brugmansia, along with a “cousin,” known as Datura. While these two types of plants are related, they differ in that Datura is a smaller, herbaceous bush. Additionally, its flowers stand upright rather than hanging from the branches of the plant.

Although considered extinct in the wild, they have successfully naturalized in many warm climates, such as Asia, Australia, Africa and North America. They have been a popular ornamental plant in these countries for about 200 years. Horticulturists go to great lengths to care for them even in the coldest climates.

In this article, we will share information about the angel trumpet care, cultivation, and propagation. Read on to learn more.

Is The Angel Trumpet Tree Poisonous?

Yes! Every part of the tree and its seeds are remarkably poisonous. They contain hallucinogenic alkaloids that produce violent and unpleasant (or even terrifying) hallucinations, along with convulsions, difficulty breathing, and sometimes death. [source]

Though the leaves, stems, and seeds do not seem to be appetizing to wildlife, it is always wise to keep these plants out of the reach of children, pets, and adventurous teenagers.

Is It Ever Safe To Use Brugmansia Medicinally?

Although the angel trumpet plant has traditionally been used medicinally in South American cultures, it is a hit-and-miss business. By all accounts, there is no safe dilution of the hallucinogenic alkaloids found in Angel’s Trumpet.

The levels of alkaloid present vary from plant-to-plant and from season-to-season, so it is always unpredictable. Even small amounts can produce a trancelike state that completely separates the victim from reality. Self-injurious behavior is common.

Side-effects and warnings raised by experts for homeopathic use of brugmansia include fever, respiratory weakness, audio-visual disassociation, intense thirst, changes in blood pressure, increase ocular tension in narrow-angle glaucoma patients and more.

Handle With Care!

Remember that both Brugmansia and its cousin, Datura which also bears the name devil trumpet or datura metel, are poisonous. You are unlikely to experience ill effects unless you ingest it, but it is wise to wear gloves when handling these plants and to wash up once your chores are done.

Avoid contact with injured skin, eyes, and mucous membranes, and never ingest any part of the plant. See a doctor in case of plant poisoning.

Why Do People Choose To Keep Angel Trumpet Trees?

Quite simply put, these “deadly” members of the Solanaceae family are enchanting. In all varieties, their trumpet-shaped flowers are quite large and showy.

The flowers vary in size from a few inches across and about six inches long to twice that. Most are strongly aromatic, but the scents can vary from one type to another, and there is at least one unscented variety (Brugmansia sanguinea). [source]

Angel Trumpet Flowers Come In A Dazzling Array Of Colors

The below list shows the range of angel trumpet flower colors.

  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • White
  • Pink
  • Red
  • Emerald
  • Purple

New colors and color combinations in both blooms and foliage are always under development.

Brugmansia has a strong, lemony scent; however, it can vary slightly from one variety to another with some types being sweeter and more cloying, while others are more tartly scented.

Most angel trumpet varieties open and emit their luscious scent in the evening as a way of attracting pollinating moths. The unscented Brugmansia sanguina is the exception. This red, unscented flower opens during the daytime to attract hummingbirds for pollination.

Trumpet coral pink differs as it falls under the maladorous type. They grow in hardy zones of 9 -13, propagates from leaves, cuttings and crowns, and possess toxic elements in their leaves.

Angel Trumpet trees are beautiful to look at, and the scent of their blossoms can literally fill your whole neighborhood, apparently to the delight of one and all.

How Many Types Of Brugmansia Are There?

There are seven basic varieties of Brugmansia and an ever-growing number of hybrids. The wild species all originate on the slopes of the Andes; however, none are classified as truly wild in this day and age.

Brugmansia Arborea

Brugmansia Arborea with seed pod

Brugmansia Arborea with seed pod – Image: Tom Hulse – Wikimedia.org

This variety comes from the Andes (Ecuador to northern Chile). It can take the form of a small evergreen tree or shrub when well-kept; however, left to its own devices, it can attain a height of 23 feet. It has oval leaves with coarse, toothed margins and a fine, velvety down that also covers the stems, flower stalks, and fruit.

The flowers range in color from pure white to slightly creamy. They are deeply fragrant and range in size from about 5” to about 7” in length. They are the smallest of all Angel Trumpet blossoms.

Brugmansia Aurea

Burgmansia Aurea

Burgmansia Aurea – image: Kurt Stüber – Wikimedia.org

From the Andes (Venezuela to Ecuador). This angel trumpet plant variety is sometimes called Golden Angel’s Trumpet. Until 2014, the golden angel is listed as being endangered in the wild, but it has since become extinct in the wild. This variety of Brugmansia can grow to be about 20 feet tall. It produces fragrant white or yellowish blossoms.

Brugmansia Insignis

Brugmansia insignis

Brugmansia insignis – via wikimedia

It comes from the foothills of the Eastern Andes (Brazil and Colombia to Bolivia). This is a smaller variety of Angel’s Trumpet that reaches a maximum height of about 13 feet. Its narrow flowers come in both white and pink and are marked by attractive tendrils.

Brugmansia Sanguinea (Red Angel)

Brugmansia Sanguinea (bicolor)

Brugmansia Sanguinea (bicolor) – image wikimedia.org

This angel trumpet plant type can be found from northern Chile to Columbia. This red variety of Angel’s Trumpet is relatively odorless and blooms during the day. It uses its red color to attract hummingbirds as pollinators. It also comes in other brilliant colors, such as green, orange, and yellow. This is a small bush with heights ranging between 4 feet and 12 feet.

Brugmansia Suaveolens

The brugmansia suaveolens type is a sweet, wild variety that grows in southeastern Brazil. This smallish variety (10’-16’) produces bounteous numbers of large, very fragrant white flowers that are sometimes called “angel’s tears.” The flowers can grow to be over a foot long and are sometimes seen in pale yellow or pink; however, white is the usual color.

Brugmansia Versicolor

Brugmansia versicolor in flower

Brugmansia versicolor – image: Wouter Hagens via Wikimedia Commons

This smallish variety from Ecuador usually attains a height between 10 and 16 feet. The leaves are oblong with smooth edges. The giant flowers can attain a length of almost two feet. At first bloom, they are white, but sometimes they transition into shades of apricot, peach, or pink.

Brugmansia Vulcanicola

flowering Brugmansia Vulcanicola

Brugmansia Vulcanicola – Image via wikimedia

This type of angel trumpet can be found in the Andes from Colombia to Ecuador. These small trees or shrubs attain a height of thirteen feet. They produce smallish (6”-9”) brightly colored flowers in shades of red, pink, and yellow.

In addition to these seven basics, there is an ever-increasing number of hybrids. Collectors can often boast having over two dozen different varieties. During the past two decades, many interesting traits have been developed, including creamy white edging on leaves of deep green, double blossoms, and variegated foliage.

What Is The Best Angel Trumpet Tree Growing Zone?

Although these plants are only entirely hardy in USDA zones 9-12, they are quite popular throughout the United States. Many people keep them in the far northern states and in Canada. In these settings, their growing season is very short.

Winter care of Angel Trumpet depends greatly upon your setting. If you live in Canada or the northeastern United States, you must bring them indoors as houseplants or to go dormant. Another option is to take cuttings to grow indoors in the wintertime. This will allow you to enjoy them as a small leafy houseplant through the winter and start fresh with all new plants in the springtime.

If you live in a climate that doesn’t freeze or only has light frosts, you can leave your Brugmansia outdoors year-round. They do especially well in southwestern, coastal settings such as the coast of southern California, where they make up vast and gorgeous gardens in public parks and arboretums.

brugmansia angel trumpet flowering

When Do Angel Trumpets Bloom?

In southwestern states and in the tropics, these enchanting shrubs produce richly fragrant blossoms throughout the spring, summer, and autumn. In very cold climates, they will bloom through the two or three summer months when they are allowed outdoors. They do not typically bloom when kept indoors.

They tend to bloom in waves, so you may find that you have a tree full of blossoms for a few days, and then they will all fall at once. Take heart! Subsequent flushes will soon follow.

The blossoms are short-lived (one or two days). Trim them off promptly when they begin to fade to keep your bush or tree tidy and stimulate more blossoms.

Because these trees do tend to throw down a lot of spent blossoms, they can be considered a bit “trashy.” Keep blossoms swept off walkways for the best appearance. You may wish to leave them in place in your garden angel trumpet bed, though. They decompose very quickly and feed the soil.

How To Prune Your Angel’s Trumpet

There are several different ways to prune this plant depending upon the desired results. If you want a shrub-like plant, you can leave the lower limbs in place and trim the tips of the limbs to create a bushier effect.

If you want a tree, you should lop off the lower limbs completely as the plant grows. This is a task you must stay on top of because the plant will continue to try to send out low-growing branches no matter how tall it becomes.

In both instances, you can create a fuller and bushier appearance by trimming back half of the “Y” formation of the limbs. As the plant sends out new limbs, you will see that each ends in a fork. Trim back the upper prong to cause thicker and more abundant growth.

These plants produce blooms on new wood, so you can and should prune throughout the growing season. Give a thorough pruning early in the springtime to shape the plant. Cut back old branches to about half-an-inch above growing nodes.

Watch your plant closely and trim it lightly and frequently throughout the growing season to limit height, stimulate blooming, and encourage thicker, lusher growth.

In autumn, you can cut the plant back to a foot above the base before over-wintering.

Don’t worry about overdoing it when you prune. Brugmansia are rapid and enthusiastic growers. Even if you buy a small potted plant, you can expect it to attain a height of six feet or more in its first growing season. If you over-winter it, it will gain more and more height as the years progress. Even when brought indoors to winter in dormancy, the plants can reach a height of 12 feet just in the span of a few warm months outdoors.

What’s The Best Way To Over-Winter Brugmansia?

There are several ways to over-winter Brugmansia. The method you choose may be dependent on a few factors including the amount of space, time, and physical strength you should contribute to the project.

Brugmansia are easy to find at garden centers and nurseries, and many people just treat them as annuals and replace them every year. If this is not acceptable to you, here are four good ways to carry your Angel’s Trumpets from year-to-year.

Keep Mature Plants In A Dormant State

While it is possible to keep a mature Brugmansia as a gigantic house plant in the winter, it is better to prune the mature plants back sharply, pot them closely, and allow them to go dormant in a cool basement or garage at temperatures ranging between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit if you wish to keep mature plants from season-to-season.

It’s best to bring the plant in after the first frost but before the first freeze. When you do this, you will find the plant easier to work with because all the leaves and flowers will have dropped. You can cut the limbs back to about a foot high.

After pruning, dig up the plant and trim back the root ball to coincide with the size of the remaining limbs. Over-winter the plant in a container just big enough to accommodate the root ball.

Once you’ve placed your plant in its winter container, bring it indoors to a dark, cool place that keeps a constant temperature of 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water it occasionally throughout the winter. The soil should be just slightly damp. Never allow it to dry completely as this will kill your resting plant.

Keep Your Mature Angel’s Trumpet As A Giant House Plant

Begin by trimming your Brugmansia to a size and shape that will fit through your door. When you plan to keep your plant alive as a house plant or in a greenhouse through the winter, go for a tall, slim silhouette by cutting back most side branches and keeping two or three upright central branches.

Even with vigorous pruning, your Brugmansia will need a great deal of space, consistent heat, and plenty of light through the winter. It will need a large container to stay alive and do well.

Caring for Brugmansia indoors through the winter isn’t especially hard. Treat it like any indoor container plant by keeping it lightly watered and watching out for whiteflies and other typical indoor pests. Even so, bringing a huge plant indoors and living with it through the winter can be rather trying.

Before you embark on this massive undertaking, you should know that your plant is unlikely to bloom or thrive through the winter when kept like this. That’s why it is better to over-winter mature Angel’s Trumpets in a dormant state.

Over-Winter Your Angel’s Trumpets Via Propagation

You can collect cuttings for rooting purposes throughout the spring and the summer or at the end of the growing season. Indeed, many people do this and start fresh new plants through the winter instead of bringing the parent plant indoors. Cuttings grow into attractive house plants quickly, and these plants make lovely gifts at the holidays.

When you choose to sacrifice the parent and begin fresh with new plants grown from cuttings, you can enjoy your Brugmansia as a manageable houseplant through the winter and keep it on the smallish side through the growing season.

This method of carrying your Angel’s Trumpets forward from one year to the next also eliminates quite a bit of backbreaking labor. There are so many easy options for propagation that you really needn’t be bothered with difficult digging and hauling these massive plants in-and-out-of-doors unless you simply can’t stand the thought of allowing the parent plants to die back over the winter.

Several Ways To Take Angel Trumpet Cuttings

You can get several “log cuttings” from a single limb. To do this, cut the limb into sections 5-8 inches in length. Each section should have three or four nodes on it. Dust each cutting with a rooting hormone like this and plant it shallowly with the nodes facing upwards in pre-moistened potting soil in a plant saucer or tray.

Be sure to keep the cuttings at a temperature of about 72 degrees Fahrenheit. You can achieve this by covering your cuttings loosely with plastic wrap and/or making use of a heat mat. Monitor the temperature carefully as you don’t want your cuttings to get too hot.

If you think all of this sounds like too much trouble, take heart. While these careful preparations will surely yield excellent results, the fact is simply placing the cuttings in a sunny window in a consistently warm room may be all that’s needed.

New plants will sprout from each of the growing nodes. Once these are well under way, you can separate the log at intervals and repot your new plants into their own pots for the winter.

Keep them as house plants at a consistently warm temperature with ample natural or artificial light. Because Angel’s Trumpet is a tropical plant, it appreciates ample humidity. You can provide this by placing your potted plants on a layer of gravel in a tray with an inch or so of water. The water does not need to touch the bottom of the pots. Its purpose is to provide ambient humidity.

Place Cuttings In Jars or Vases of Water

You can also grow Brugmansia from cuttings by placing the cuttings in jars of water. You can do this with leafless log cuttings or with cuttings that still have foliage.

Be sure the cuttings you choose have nodes to produce new growth. Place the cuttings in a jar or vase of pure, filtered water in a warm, well-lit area. Change the water every few days to prevent rotting.

When your cuttings begin to grow roots, plant angel trumpets to a container of well-draining potting soil with a bit of granular fertilizer.

Try Air Layering

This interesting method of propagation allows you to save the top half of your parent plant while still reducing its size significantly. When you do this, you can bring the parent plant in for the winter, leaves and all, and cut its stump down to the ground outdoors.

Try covering the stump and surrounding area with a heavy layer of mulch through the winter. If you’re very lucky, the parent tree may grow back. If not, you’ll have a spare!

See this interesting video for detailed instructions on air-layering.

Growing Angel’s Trumpets From Seeds

If you don’t have access to young plants or cuttings, you have no choice but to grow from seed. This can be challenging because it can take a long time.

Brugmansia seeds can take from two weeks to several months to sprout, so if you don’t see results right away, don’t give up in despair.

To grow Brugmansia from seed, you would follow standard seed-sprouting protocol. Begin by soaking the seeds overnight in warm water to soften the outer hull and hopefully create a split that will help the seed sprout faster and with greater ease. [source]

Prepare a seed tray or small pots with pre-moistened, well-drained potting soil or seed-starting mix. When planting, take care not to bury the seeds deeply. They need exposure to light to germinate. You can either press them gently into the surface of light, airy soil or cover them very lightly.

Sow the seeds indoors early in the springtime. Cover the trays or pots with plastic wrap and keep them in a warm (65-70 degrees Fahrenheit) place with good natural or artificial light. Keep them carefully at temperatures of 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Germination should take 2-4 weeks, but sometimes it takes much longer. If all goes well, you should see results in a couple of weeks, but remember to be patient.

Months could elapse before your plants emerge. Just keep your hopeful plants warm and provide them ample light and consistent moisture.

Growing Brugmansia from Seed – Angel’s Trumpet

Is It Better To Grow Angel’s Trumpet From Seeds Or Cuttings?

It is quicker and easier to grow Angel Trumpets from cuttings. Although these plants are extinct in the wild, the fact is Mother Nature has equipped them to naturalize and spread quickly and easily. They are vigorous growers and send out masses of adventurous roots.

When you prune your Brugmansia, you can grow multiple new plants from each limb you cut off. Whether you simply stick the cut limb into a container of well-drained potting soil or put it in a jar of water, roots will begin to grow within a couple of weeks.

If you throw your Brugmansia cuttings into your compost heap, you are likely to see new plants springing up shortly if the weather stays warm.

Preparing Your Angel’s Trumpet To Go Outdoors In the Springtime

No matter how you keep your Brugmansia through the winter, you will want to transplant it carefully to outdoor living in the spring. A few weeks before all danger of frost has passed, you can begin getting your Brugmansia ready to go outdoors.

Transition it gradually to going back outdoors. A few weeks before the last frost, you’ll want to repot your Brugmansia and move it into a warm area with good natural or artificial lighting. Increase watering gradually.

If you have kept a mature plant in dormancy, it may look dead when you retrieve it from its resting place. But if you look closely, you will surely see some small, pale green shoots at its base.

The stems will have died back some over the winter. Scrape the stems gently with a sharp knife blade in a few locations to locate green growth underneath. Trim off dead branch ends as needed.

When you unpot your Brugmansia after winter storage, you are sure to find it root bound, but don’t let that worry you. Massage the roots with your fingers to loosen them up.

Trim off excess roots and repot your Brugmansia in rich, fresh, well-drained potting soil with plenty of water and balanced granular fertilizer. Place your repotted plant in a warm, sunny area of your home to begin its recovery.

Once your plant has started growing, after dormancy, remember to fertilize weekly. A balanced, fish-based liquid fertilizer is a good choice.

No matter how you have kept your Brugmansia through the winter, as the weather warms up, allow your plants to sit outdoors in the sunshine for a few hours at a time over a period of several weeks before transplanting them to your garden or setting their pots in their summertime locations.

Watering & Fertilizing Angel Trumpets

Brugmansia are thirsty, hungry plants. You should keep the root ball evenly moist throughout the growing season and water over-wintering plants lightly about once a week while dormant.

Check houseplants frequently. The soil should always be kept lightly damp. As with all houseplants, you don’t want to over-water because this may cause root rot, but you should not allow the soil to become dry between watering. This is very hard on Angel’s Trumpets and may kill them.

Water outdoor plants regularly. If it is extremely hot and dry where you live, you may need to water every day. One way to help your plant retain water is to sink its pot into your garden soil. Alternately, you may wish to sink it into a larger container of soil. This provides it some insulation and prevents rapid evaporation.

What Is the Best Brugmansia Fertilizer?

Angel Trumpets are heavy feeders. Producing masses of large, showy, highly scented flowers consumes huge amounts of nitrogen. You can use a standard balanced slow-release fertilizer for flowering plants on Brugmansia, but you must apply it very generously.

Be sure to plant using a well-draining potting soil rich in mature organic compost. Fertilize weekly with a liquid water-soluble fertilizer, or apply a top-dressing of dry fertilizer weekly.

If you are anxious about over-fertilizing, you can simply use rich compost or choose a balanced fertilizer for flowering plants, and follow the instructions on the package. Most successful Brugmansia growers say that these plants need about twice the amount of fertilizer required by other types of flowering tropical plants.

The difference between an Angel’s Trumpet that gets standard fertilization and one that gets ample fertilization is apparent. These tough plants can survive well on standard fertilization, but they will not thrive and bloom abundantly. Look into this Brugmansia, Datura (Angel’s Trumpets) Liquid Fertilizer.

Is Brugmansia Subject To Pests And Disease?

Snails & Slugs

Seedlings and new growth are subject to predation by slugs and snails. Sprinkle the ground around tender young Angel’s Trumpets with diatomaceous earth on a regular basis to discourage these soft-bodied pests and provide a little boost of calcium and silica.

Spider Mites

When kept indoors, Brugmansia are subject to infestation by spider mites. To prevent this, be sure to wash plants or cuttings with insecticidal soap and rinse them clean before bringing them indoors. Keep an eye on them and treat them as needed indoors to keep these pests under control. While they may also cause a problem outdoors, it is less likely.

Caterpillars

Some caterpillars eat Brugmansia because they can convert the plant’s poisonous alkaloids into a natural defense mechanism to repel predators. Naturally, you do not want your Angel’s Trumpets overrun with caterpillars, but you also don’t want to kill off potential butterflies. Planting a butterfly garden nearby and perhaps equipping it with a few cast-off Brugmansia may help solve your problem. Just pick the caterpillars off by hand and relocate them when you see them or try using bacillus thuringiensis (bt).

Where To Keep Your Brugmansia For The Most Enjoyment

Brugmansia does well in a sheltered setting with ample sun and fertile, well-drained soil. It likes a slightly acidic soil, so be sure to strive for a pH level of 6.5-7.

These semi-tropical plants like full sun; however, if you live in a hot, dry, desert area, partial shade is appreciated. Steady, dappled sunlight is beneficial, so they do well when planted as an understory for taller trees.

Remember that all but one variety of Brugmansia blooms at night, so be sure to place your plants in a location that will allow you to enjoy them to the fullest. Placing your plants on a patio and/or near windows that will be open at night allows their delicious fragrance to waft into your home.

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