Is it the delicious fragrance or the positively tropical pendulous blooms that make Angel’s Trumpet flowers so hard to resist? Could be both! This stunning shrub is treasured the world over for its trumpet-like blooms and stunning scent. Read on to learn how to grow it in your own space.
All About Angel’s Trumpet
The handsome Brugmansia, more commonly known as “Angel’s Trumpet” is a pure delight for gardening maestros and plant enthusiasts alike. Whether you’re entranced by its pendulous, trumpet-shaped flowers, or its heavenly scent permeating the air on a summer evening, you’re not likely to overlook this plant.
Beloved by wildlife, Brugmansia shrub is one of seven species that originate from the South American tropics. These impressive trees grow beneath the canopy of taller trees and plants from Venezuela to Northern Chile and Southern parts of Brazil. This ensures they have lots of indirect sunlight, heat, humidity, and organic nutrients from the forest floor. The perfect growing conditions to literally bloom!
The Main Attraction
And what a treat it is. Brugmansia’s main attraction is its prolific flowering. This begins in late Spring, when all of the elements are just right. Its blooms can be white, yellow, apricot, pink, orange, and red. Flowers can be single, double or even triple, and as the plant matures, its flowers develop a richer, deeper and more pronounced color.
Although it’s a lovely idea to consider, Brugmansia’s intoxicating scent isn’t purely for our benefit and pleasure. It attracts pollinating moths and insects from far and wide. In fact, there’s only one variety which is unscented. Instead, it uses its brightly colored red flowers to attract the long-billed hummingbird. That bird has a dreadful sense of smell, but a well-developed eye for the color red.
I’m always amazed at how well nature works and adapts itself. When there is a job to be done, it just gets on with it. Simple.
A Little History
Angel’s Trumpet is a member of the “Deadly Nightshade” family—”Solanaceae” in its botanical name. Related plants include potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco, belladonna, capsicum peppers, eggplants, jimsonweed (Datura), mandrake, and petunias.
True to its name, the Solanaceae family is rich in alkaloids and regarded as toxic. Drugs within the plant include Scopolamine, which is still used within Western medicine, but can be fatal if ingested. The entire Brugmansia plant is deemed poisonous, but its leaves and seeds contain the most condensed form. When digested, damaging effects from the alkaloids include hallucinations, seizures, convulsions and eventually death. Make sure you wash your hands after handling the plants, and keep them away from inquisitive little hands.
Brugmansia gained its own classification, (or family name) in 1973. Before that, it was thought to be one of the Datura family. It’s easy to see why, as the flowers are very similar in shape. However, the defining differences between the two genera is that Brugmansia will grow for years and years—decades even. In contrast, Datura species are generally short-lived plants, being annuals and shrubby, woody perennials.
Another noticeable difference is that Brugmansia flowers hang downwards in a pendulous fashion from the offset. Datura flowers grow upright. Datura blooms are known as “Devil’s Trumpets” because the flowers look up to heaven, but Brugmansia or “Angels Trumpet” flowers look down to hell. Quite a novel way of remembering this, I think.
Angel’s Trumpet bushes are typically vase-shaped, branched, rough-barked and woody. These shrubs—which have a vigorous growth habit—are either semi or fully evergreen. This can be dependant on climate. Brugmansia will be happy all year through and continue to thrive in zones with milder winters (10F to 11F).
Brugmansia leaves are dark green, sometimes lobed, long and slender. The leaves range from 4 to 12 inches in length, and have a fine covering of tiny hairs. The spectacular hanging flowers can range from 6 – 20 inches long, and have fluted edges. In some varieties (which we’ll talk about later), the fluted edges are more noticeable.
Interestingly, in places such as Florida ,there are many more varieties and colors available. The plants there seem to love the amiable climate, warmth and humidity. These temperate areas are perfectly fitting to plant your Angel’s Trumpet directly into the garden, and expect a show all year round.
In colder climates, I would advise planting your Brugmansia into a suitable pot. Keep it outside in the summer months, and move it indoors over the chilly winter months.
Planting Medium and Soil requirements
Plant out your Brugmansia in well-dug-over, nutrient-rich soil. Ideally, it’s best to make a large hole—say, three times the size of your root ball—and incorporate a fair amount of loam-based soil improver into the existing soil. This will aid drainage and aeration. Should you have clay-type soil, it’s best to fill the hole with a lighter topsoil. Brugmansia’s roots won’t perform well in clay.
Once you’ve dug your hole and incorporated nutrient-rich soil improver, (which can be a well-rotted compost or manure), plant your watered Angel’s Trumpet with the top of the rootball at the same level as the soil surrounding it.
I always loosen the roots a little to allow them to escape and explore the new soil straight away. Refill the planting hole with your improved soil around your Brugmansia, until it’s full up. The plant can then be gently heeled-in with your feet, which will ensure good root-to-soil contact and provide stability as it grows.
A Note About Planting Out:
I wouldn’t advise planting a very young Angel’s Trumpet in the garden, as it can go into shock when first planted out. The plant needs to be big and healthy enough to sustain the shock, with good, strong root growth. Any pot over 3 litres should be fine to withstand the initial disturbance. It’s important to give the plant a good water once it is in place.
If you’re keeping your Brugmansia in a container year-round, it’s always good to use the best compost you can when re-potting. Mixing some soil improver, well-rotted compost, or manure through soil will all help add structure and nutrients to your potting mix. The ideal time to re-pot your Angel’s Trumpet is in Spring, just as new growth starts to appear.
Remember that the added nutrients in any bought compost will only last for a short amount of time. Feeding is a must if you want to get the best from your plant. As with any re-potting, don’t forget to give your plant a good drink when it has settled into its new spot.
Watering and Feeding
Water your plant well throughout the growing season, (Spring through to Autumn). Keep your Angel’s Trumpet’s soil moist. Give it a lot of water every couple of days when it’s really warm outside, then leave it to dry until the next time. “Little and often” is no good when watering, as the roots won’t grow strong. You want to produce a healthy, stable plant with adequate root growth.
Cut the watering schedule back a bit throughout the winter months, especially where there’s no new growth. Once or twice a week is adequate, but keep an eye out as every environment is different.
We know that all plants use a lot of energy to produce flowers, and Brugmansia is no different. In fact, they’re very heavy feeders and will require regular attention throughout the season. If you consider their prolific flowering, then the feeding requirements come as no surprise.
A soluble fertilizer will set your plant up for the flowering season, Look for a soluble feed with high Nitrogen, high Potassium and lower phosphorus levels. In fact, tomato plant feed is perfectly suited for use with Angel’s Trumpet, which makes sense really as they’re related. I would dilute the fee as per instructions, using it once a week for the first month, then cut it back to once every couple of weeks.
As mentioned earlier, the Brugmansia is most comfortable being in dappled shade or indirect sunlight, similar to its native environment where it grows under the high canopy of other plants. Avoid too much direct, hot sunlight, as it’ll cause distress to your plant.
The general rule is that Brugmansias dislike any temperatures below 45 – 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night. They also require daytime temperatures of 50 – 54 degrees Fahrenheit, or above. Leaf drop is a typical sign of distress when they get too cold.
Pests and Disease
Thankfully, there aren’t many outside pests that tolerate the Angel’s Trumpet. Snails and slugs seem to be the main offenders here. When grown indoors, however, keep a vigilant eye for infestations. Eradicate mealy bugs, red spider mites, and white flies by using a specific pesticide, as per instructions.
Make sure to keep the planting area tidy. Brugmansias tend to be a bit messy with leaf and flower drops, but regular cleaning up will help to alleviate any pest problems.
Pruning and Maintenance
Carry out annual pruning in October, and aim to create a balanced framework. Flowers are only produced on new wood and stems that have already “forked” and split. Only cut back to within 1″ of older wood that has already forked. This will guarantee you still have a good amount of flowers produced.
Keep your Brugmansia to an ideal height of 1.2 – 1.8 meters. Your flowers will remain within perfect visual height and still give you a nice shrubby plant.
My Top Angel’s Trumpet Varieties
Below I have listed some of the most attractive varieties, although this is difficult as they’re all pretty outstanding. Have a look for yourself and find your perfect variety!
B “Grand Marnier” – A lovely large, robust shrub with evergreen oval leaves. Its large yellow-to-peach trumpet-shaped flowers are flared at the bottom. This heavenly scented variety can grow to 3 meters in height and width, and tolerates a minimum temperature of 45-50 degrees F.
B sanguinea, bicolor – This semi-evergeen shrub has a more erect, rounded form with lobed leaves. The odorless flowers are thinner than the variety above, but what they lose in width they make up with color. Their long, yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers are slightly fluted and etched with deep orange-red. Long-billed hummingbirds love to pollinate this plant. This shrub will grow up to 4 meters in height and width, and tolerates a minimum temperature of 50 degrees F.
B suavolens “Flamenco” – Smaller and simply perfect as a patio plant, this semi-evergreen variety grows to around 2 metres in height and width. Its plentiful, pendulous, candy-pink trumpet-shaped flowers are well scented and bloom repeatedly throughout the summer. Fully hardy in Zones 8-10, but small enough to bring inside to over-winter should you need to.
B vulcanicola – this is a rare variety, with shiny, lobed, deep green leaves. Its strikingly beautiful tubular, fluted, hanging flowers come in shades of red, yellow, and pink. Although these flowers are shorter and smaller than the other varieties, it’s their contrasting flame colors and bright yellow insides that grab me! A truly Eden-like tropical plant with an erect and open habit. Tolerant of temperatures in zones 8-10 and grows to a height and width of around 3.5 meters.