It's hard to think of a more show stopping plant than brugmansia. In summer, this large shrub (which can reach at least 2m x 1m) is covered with huge, trumpet-like flowers in shades of white, pink, orange, red or yellow, that can reach 30cm long. Their shape gives the plant its common name, angel's trumpets. The flowers are deliciously scented, especially in the evening – in the wild in tropical south America, they are pollinated by moths.
Brugmansias are tender plants that can be grown indoors all year round, or outside from late spring to autumn. They can be grown as a focal point in a border, but are best grown in pots on the patio – somewhere sheltered, where you can enjoy the evening scent. Plants must be brought indoors for the winter – somewhere that doesn't go below 7–10˚C. They are best grown in a large pot, so you can move them around more easily.
Brugmansias are often confused with datura, which have similar trumpet flowers. However, brugmansia has woody stems and branches and pendulous flowers, while daturas are herbaceous and have upright flowers.
All parts of brugmansias are highly toxic and can cause serious illness or death if ingested. The sap can be a skin irritant. Always wear gloves when handling or pruning brugmansias. Keep them away from children and pets.
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How to grow brugmansia
Brugmansias are best grown in large pots, in John Innes No 3 compost. They can grow outside when all risk of frost has passed in late spring and summer, and need daily watering and plenty of feeding during the growing season. They are tender so must be brought indoors as temperatures fall in autumn. Keep somewhere that doesn't fall below 7˚C in winter.
More on growing brugmansia:
Brugmansia: jump links
- Planting brugmansia
- Caring for brugmansia
- Propagating brugmansia
- Growing brugmansia: problem-solving
- Buying brugmansia
Where to grow brugmansia
Brugmansias can be grown indoors all year round, or outdoors in late spring, summer and early autumn before being brought indoors for the winter.
Indoors, brugmansias need plenty of bright light. They make excellent conservatory plants and can also be grown in a greenhouse that's heated in winter, or near a large, sunny window.
Outdoors, brugmansias need a sheltered spot in full sun or part shade. If you're growing them in the ground, ensure that the soil is moist but well drained.
How to plant brugmansia
Plant your brugmansia in a large container – the larger the better, at least 60cm wide– that can be kept indoors or moved outside in summer. Plant into John Innes No.3 compost, which is best for plants that are going to live in a pot long term.
If you're planting your brugmansia in the ground over summer, make sure you have moist but well drained soil. Dig in plenty of organic matter, such as well rotted manure or garden compost, before planting. Mulch after planting to help lock moisture in.
Caring for brugmansia
Brugmansias in pots need watering at least once a day in summer. Reduce watering in autumn and water sparingly in winter, as the plant will not be actively growing. Plants growing in soil will need less watering but do not allow the soil to dry out.
In spring, feed with a balanced liquid fertiliser once a month, to help promote strong growth. Switch to a high-potassium feed in summer, such as tomato food, to encourage flowers.
Large plants in pots should be repotted every few years, into a slightly larger pot. This is best done in spring, when the plant is a more manageable size. If the plant is too big to repot, remove as much compost as you can from the pot and replace with fresh.
You can prune your plant in late summer if it has become overgrown or you don't have room to store it. Cut the stems back to within a few centimetres of old wood, and always cut just above a node. You can use the prunings to propagate new plants. Always wear gloves, as the sap can irritate skin.
Move your plant indoors in autumn before night temperatures drop below 10˚C. In winter, you can treat a brugmansia either as a house plant, or as a dormant plant.
If you want to keep brugmansia as a house plant, keep it in a conservatory, heated greenhouse or warm, bright room next to a window. Water once a week and it should stay in leaf – and may even flower – in winter.
If you want to store your brugmansia as a dormant plant, put it in a cool, dark place, such as a cellar or shed, that does not go below 7˚C. The plant will lose its leaves and go dormant. In spring, bring it into growth again by bringing it into a warm, bright place and starting to watering it regularly.
How to propagate brugmansia
Take softwood cuttings from brugmansia in spring and autumn, up to 15cm long. Insert the cuttings into free-draining compost and place in a warm spot.
You can also grow brugmansia from seed in spring. This is best done in using a heated propagator.
Growing brugmansia: problem solving
Dropping leaves are usually due to overwatering or waterlogged soil, especially in winter. This could also be a sign of nutrient deficiency. Check your watering and feeding regime.
Young plants may not flower for a few years – they generally start flowering when they begin to branch out from the main stem. A lack of flowers on a mature brugmansia is usually due to lack of food or water. Feed with a high potash feed to encourage flowers and water daily in summer. The plant may also need repotting.
Red spider mite
This can be a problem on brugmansias, especially those grown indoors as they thrive in hot, dry conditions. Look out for mottled leaves and webbing around the plant. Treatment includes improving air circulation around the plant and spraying with fatty acids or plant oils.
Dealing with spider mites
Tiny white flies on the undersides of the leaves are whitefly. They feed on the sap of the plant and weaken it. Spray with fatty acids or plant oils and put up sticky traps.
Mealybugs look like white, fluffy blobs on the leaves. They also feed on the sap of the plant, weakening it. They can be hard to control – try wiping them off with a cotton pad soaked in organic insecticde.
Advice on buying brugmansia
- You may see brugmansia on sale at the garden centre in early summer, but for the widest variety, buy online
- Bear in mind that brugmansias can become very large plants, reaching 2m tall, so check that you have the space for them outside in summer, and room for their large pot in winter
- Many brugmansias are simply sold by flower colour, eg. Brugmansia 'Yellow'