The Brugmansia will reward you with patience
I have found that plants with large features always draw attention into the yard or garden. One of these large unique plants that I adore is the Brugmansia.
This plant is not commonly known to most people because it is just that, uncommon. It is a plant from the tropics of South America that is not hardy for our colder temperatures, but it does thrive in our warm, humid summers. It is typically grown as an annual or brought in during the winter months each year to carry over for the following summer.
They have interesting lance-shaped leaves that have a tropical appearance in themselves, but it is the flowers that hold the true meaning of beauty. When this plant blooms, it develops long pendulous trumpet-shaped flowers that can range from 8 to 18 inches in length. They are truly amazing when blooming in mass and are available in shades of white, canary yellow, coral, brilliant orange, red and even a vivid pink.
When purchasing these plants in the nursery, be very careful that you are actually getting the true plant the label represents. More times than not, nurseries sell Datura plants under the name of the Brugmansia. They are different plants that are unrelated. Daturas, even when young, have grayish, heart-shaped leaves that begin blooming when only about 12 to 18 inches tall. Their flowers are upright and produce spiny seed pods. The Brugmansia has green, lance-shaped leaves, will not bloom until it is at least 3 feet tall and is grown as a small tree in its native environment. These plants are better chosen through a reputable nursery that specializes in these plants. I have only seen this plant growing in North Dakota in four gardens. This should give you a general idea as to how rare it is in the area.
You can grow these plants either by transplanting them in the garden or by growing them in a container. If you want to keep them from year to year, I opt to go the container route, as they are easier to move. Growing them directly in the garden takes an extra effort, as you have to dig these large plants up and pot them for winter protection. You can get the same amount of growth using either method.
In their native habitat, these plants can reach up to 15 feet tall and nearly as wide. If you ever see them in nature while in full bloom, you will be in complete awe at the hundreds of hanging flowers from its canopy. They are truly breathtaking.
In containers, they can grow as high as 8 to 10 feet, but take well to pruning to a shorter height. Trust me, a 10-foot Brugmansia in an 80-pound container is not that easy to move indoors come the fall time, especially if you have more than one.
Brugmansias prefer full sunlight and a lot of moisture. Typically they will begin blooming from the end of June until the time when nighttime temperatures drop below 50 degrees. They prefer to be fertilized two to three times a week during their growing season for best leaf color and blooming results.
It is not common to plant the Brugmansia via seeds as they take a long time to germinate. It is easier to start from an 8- to 12-inch stem cutting from a branch end. Give the stem a clean cut and plant it 3 to 5 inches in loamy soil. You can expect roots to develop within two to four weeks.
You can also take the stem cutting and root it directly in water. Once the roots are about 2 to 3 inches long, plant into a potting mixture with good drainage. These plants will begin to grow within weeks once the daytime temperatures are above 70 and the nights no longer fall below 50 degrees.
Carrying these plants over during the winter months is not as difficult as one would think. Since I do not have a sunroom or a large bright spot indoors, I winterize them in the basement. Place the plant in a cool dark area and water sparingly every three to four weeks. The plant will lose most if its leaves and will even have some stem tip dieback. As long at the main trunk of the plant remains solid and green, your plant is still very much alive. Like bulbs in the ground, it just goes into a sleep mode and awaits the return of warmer temperatures and bright sunlight.
In the spring, move these plants into an area that receives more sunlight and increase the watering frequency. Soon you will see many new growth buds appearing along the stems. Once it has warmed to the proper temperatures outdoors, you can move them to their permanent summer location for blooms to follow within four to six weeks.
Please be aware that all parts of this plant are highly toxic, so keep children and pets away from them if they are prone to eating leaves or flowers. It is just better to be safe in an environment that may contain these elements.
Check out some of the nurseries and pictures online for this plant. Once you see the photos, you will be taken away with a new love affair for this exotic plant. I promise you one thing, if you do develop a collection of them, people will visit you from miles around to see these wonders in bloom, even if that was not your intent.