On Gardening: The angelís trumpets are heralding across the South

October 3, 2016
Angel's trumpets, known botanically as Brugmansia, are from South America and come in a variety of colors.

The trumpets are sounding, well not really but it sure looks like it all across the south. Iím talking angelís trumpets known botanically as Brugmansia. No matter what the color, white, pink, yellow, apricot, or a shade of red the sight of these flowers hanging downward just seems to capture the imagination.

Fifteen years ago I wrote in Paradise Found Growing Tropicals in Your Own Backyard that the Brugmansia versicolor was only cold hardy to zone 8. Since that time I have seen them regularly thriving in zone 7 and an internet search will amaze you as to colder locations where gardeners give testimony that theirs are returning year after year. Despite what I have seen we best stick with cold hardiness zones 8-11 and marginally root-hardy in 7. But we will teach you to root cuttings below.

Brugmansia veriscolor is just one of a handful of species you are likely to see for sale. Yet with the countless hybrids, it is not always easy to know what you are looking at. The others you most likely will find for sale are B. sauveolens and Brugmansia x candida. Just to keep you on your toes only the Brugmansia x candida have the official common name angelís trumpet while the others are considered angelís tears. No one I know however uses the angelís tears common name.

You will see specialty catalogs selling Brugmansia sanguinea or scarlet angel trumpet but its look is decidedly different, smaller and orange-red plus it will most likely be happier in a cooler California coastal climate than the torrid heat of the Deep South. All Brugmansia, however, come from South America, some from the tropics and others from the Andes. Regardless they will become quite the treasure in your landscape whether it is grandmaís cottage garden or your little corner of paradise.

The incredibly beautiful blooms on angelís trumpets reach 12 to 18 inches in length making it hard for you to believe they are related to tomatoes and peppers. In mild years I have seen a few blooms in late spring or early summer but it is this time of the year that they really start to dazzle. Revel in their beauty, but remember the plant is poisonous when eaten.

Since these are such impulse plants this is the time of the year when garden centers make sure and load up with blooming selections. Though the warm soil of late spring is ideal for planting, this time of the year offers the best opportunity to buy a nursery grown product in bloom so you are sure it is the color you want.

When you find your plant select a site in full to partial sun and plant in well-drained, fertile organic-rich beds. The well drained criteria will be extra important during the winter helping to encourage a spring return.

Even in Savannah they normally freeze to the ground and if not we still cut them back. Once warm temperatures arrive they start growing vigorously. We have some in our Cottage Garden in close proximity to tibouchina or princess flower and the old fashioned summer phlox while in the Mediterranean Garden it is the picturesque backdrop for a pergola and bench.

During a hot dry summer like we just experienced in Savannah, supplemental water was essential for that lush tropical look. Angelís trumpets only require feeding with light applications of a slow-released, balanced fertilizer about three times during the growing season.

If you live in a colder region you may want to grow yours in a container and move to a frost free location or take cuttings to have plants ready for next spring. Rooting hardwood cuttings in water is an easy method. To do this, take an 8- to 12-inch cutting, removing all but one or two pairs of leaves. Place the cuttings in a jar or bucket containing about two inches of water. The Brugmansia Growers International suggests changing the water every day.

Keep the cuttings out of direct sun, in a warm, filtered light area. When you see white lenticels forming, pot the new plants in a good light soil mix. Do not over water. Rooting in potting soil and air layering are also very easy.

It was almost 10 years ago that I last wrote about angelís trumpets and back then I urged you to visit the website for Brugmansia Growers International, The International Cultivar Registration Authority for Brugmansia and Datura. Their site has blossomed and matured, and a visit to their gallery of images is sure to make you want to become a collector.



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