Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia)

Angel's Trumpet, Tree Daturas

Brugmansia is an eye-catching flowering plant native to Central and South America. The plant is also known as the angel trumpet due to its 10-inch (25cm) long blooms. Brugmansia angel trumpet is a monster of a plant and can grow up to 12 feet (4m) tall. These plants are not winter-hardy but can be grown as annuals in northern climates in the summer. Growing Brugmansia in the ground works well in USDA zones 9 to 12. Try a Brugmansia in the garden for show-stopping color and dynamic proportions.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Brugmansia is a genus of seven species of flowering plants in the nightshade family Solanaceae. They are woody trees or shrubs, with pendulous flowers, and have no spines on their fruit. Their large, fragrant flowers give them their common name of angel’s trumpets, adjacent to the nickname devil’s trumpets of the closely related genus Datura.

Brugmansia are native to tropical regions of South America, along the Andes from Venezuela to northern Chile, and also in south-eastern Brazil. They are grown as ornamental container plants worldwide, and have become naturalized in isolated tropical areas around the globe, including within North America, Africa, Australia, and Asia.

Brugmansia species are among the most toxic of ornamental plants, containing tropane alkaloids of the type also responsible for the toxicity and deliriant effects of both jimsonweed and the infamous deadly nightshade. All seven species are known only in cultivation or as escapees from cultivation, and no wild plants have ever been confirmed. They are therefore listed as Extinct in the Wild by the IUCN Red List, although they are popular ornamental plants and still exist wild outside their native range as introduced species. It is suspected that their extinction in the wild is due to the extinction of some animal which previously dispersed the seeds, with human cultivation having ensured the genus’s continued survival.

Brugmansia are large shrubs or small trees, with semi-woody, often many-branched trunks. They can reach heights of 3–11 m (10–36 ft). The leaves are alternately arranged along the stems, generally large, 10–30 cm (4–12 in) long and 4–18 cm (2–7 in) across, with an entire or coarsely toothed margin, and are often covered with fine hairs. The name “angel’s trumpet” refers to the large, pendulous, trumpet-shaped flowers, 14–50 cm (6–20 in) long and 10–35 cm (4–14 in) across at the opening. They come in shades of white, yellow, pink, orange, green, or red. Most have a strong, pleasing fragrance that is most noticeable in the evening. Flowers may be single, double, or more.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

The best place to plant angel’s trumpet is in a spot that boasts full sun. However, in especially hot or dry environments, it can stand to have a bit of shade, especially during the warmer afternoon hours. Angel’s trumpet needs between six and eight hours of sunlight daily to thrive and produce the best blooms.

Temperature and Humidity

Generally, an angel’s trumpet can withstand moderate to warm temperatures and should not be kept outdoors if the temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in an environment where fall or winter gets cold, plant your brugmansia in a container that you can move to a dark, frost-free place (like a garage) before the first frost of the season. You can allow it to go dormant.

Watering

Soil

Angel’s trumpet is perhaps the least picky about its soil. It can exist happily in almost any blend, from sand and clay to loam and richly organic mixtures. The most crucial factor is the soil’s drainage.

Brugmansia does not like to be waterlogged but prefers consistently moist soil, so there’s a delicate balance. If growing in pots, this plant will typically do well in a potting mix designed for azaleas and camellias. If planted in nutrient-poor soil, be prepared to fertilize the plant often, as brugmansia is a heavy feeder.

Fertilizing

Like many other plants with large, spectacular blooms, angel’s trumpet should be fertilized at least once a week (larger plants can even be fertilized twice a week). Use a water-soluble fertilizer, and avoid slow-release formulas, as these do not work fast enough for the plant. Bloom-boosting fertilizers, such as 15-30-15 or 10-50-10 mixtures, are best. For the amount to use, follow product label instructions.

Pruning

Although they do not require pruning, trimming brugmansia will keep the plant producing flowers constantly. If growing it as a small tree, begin to prune when the main trunk forms its first “Y” and choose a central leader as the trunk. Systematically prune away older branches and stems to encourage the plant to produce more branches. Angel’s trumpet flowers will eventually appear on the terminal ends of the stems.

The best time to prune brugmansia is typically in the fall. Keep at least six to 10 nodes on the branches. Wear gloves when pruning, as the sap can irritate skin. Pruning a container brugmansia to a desired height or shape will not affect the size or frequency of the flowers.

Propagation

Brugmansia can be propagated through seeds and cuttings. The best time to get a stem cutting is in the morning. Attempt propagation in the spring for the best success. Stem cuttings are the best method because the plant will mature quicker than from seed. Here’s how to propagate from a stem cutting:

  • You will need potting soil, a pot, gloves, pruning shears, and, optionally, rooting hormone.
  • Don the gloves and cut a stem of semi-ripe wood, measuring back 10 inches from the tip of the selected cutting. Make a cut 1/4-inch below a set of leaves using the pruning shears. Strip off the bottom set of leaves just above the cut to expose the leaf nodes. 
  • Apply rooting hormone to the cut end and bury the cut end in moistened potting soil. Firmly pack the soil around the stem to hold it up.
  • Put the pot in a slightly shady spot, and cover the pot with plastic. Water the plant from the bottom by placing the pot with its bottom-set drainage holes in a tray of water.
  • After a few weeks, the cutting will develop a good root system and can be transplanted into the garden or a larger pot.
  • You can also root cuttings in water. Place the cuttings in a jar with two to three inches of water, and change the water every two days to avoid bacteria growth. Pot up the cuttings into containers filled with potting soil once they have some root growth. More roots should appear in a few weeks.

How to Grow from Seed

  • Angel’s trumpet seeds are leggy so correctly planting them makes a big difference in the results. Depending on where you buy or harvest the seeds and their condition, pre-soaking them can help open up the seed coat.
  • Next, fill a container with rich, potting soil and place the seeds below the top soil line but not too deep. Angel’s trumpet needs sunlight to thrive, so burying the seeds too deep will inhibit the growth.
  • Water immediately after planting and cover the container to help keep the temperature and humidity high. Continue watering throughout the growing process, so the soil is never dry. (Don’t water-logged the seeds, either.)
  • Keep the container in a warm, sunny area for three to four weeks. The room’s temperature must be high enough for germination to occur. Using a grow light can help. (Place it a few inches above the soil.)
  • Add fertilizer to help promote growth. (Use an organic, rich fertilizer.)
  • Wait until after the final frost of the season before relocating the plant outdoors. You can start by placing the containers outdoors for a few hours daily to adjust them to the colder temperatures, but too much cold air too fast can shock the angel’s trumpet—plant them in a permanent location with at least six to eight hours of sunlight daily.

Potting and Repotting 

Brugmansias can grow well in containers and are the way to go if you plan to keep them outdoors in a non-tropical zone. Plant brugmansia in a 24-inch diameter container. You will need to bring it in if the temperatures drop below 50 F.

Keep your potted brugmansia thoroughly watered while outside. Potted plants need more water than in-ground plants. Expect to water your outdoor brugmansia at least twice daily at the height of the season’s hot, sunny days.

Most brugmansia will not grow to their full height if grown in a container. At most, the typical container-grown brugmansia will reach about 12 feet. Keep the plant pruned to maintain that size. Potted brugmansia should be gradually repotted as it grows to its final container—about 20 gallons in size.

Overwintering

Once winter sets in and outdoor temps drop below 50 F, bring in your brugmansia. You can treat it as a houseplant or allow it to go into dormancy. As a houseplant, give it light and water. Water it when the soil dries out, like any other houseplant. It may flower while inside if the temperatures are kept above 60 degrees, it receives adequate light, and it’s fertilized well.

If you allow it to go dormant, place it in a dark garage, basement, or closet (not colder than 50 F). You can trim it back by one-third and not harm the plant. Only water it sparingly, about once a month. It may lose its leaves and look dead, but as long as the trunk is green, it’s still alive.

As spring approaches, about a month before you can reintroduce the plant to the outdoors, gradually increase watering (about once a week). Put the plant in a sunny spot or give it a grow light for at least 8 hours. You should notice some new leaves or branch growth in about one week. Gradually acclimate the plant to the outdoors. After you put the plant back outside, its growth will boom, and you will notice its signature flowers within weeks.

Pests and Diseases

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Pests that affect angel’s trumpet plants include whiteflies, cabbage worms, spider mites, and aphids. Treat these pests with insecticidal soap by lightly spraying the plant.

Fungal wilts such as fusarium and verticillium wilt can infect angel’s trumpet through the roots, which then move up the stem, eventually wilting the leaves and preventing future growth. Maintaining healthy, disease-free soil will help avoid this from occurring.

Common Problems With Angel’s Trumpet

Curling Leaves

If a fungal infection, such as fusarium or verticillium wilt, attacks the roots and is left unmanaged, this will travel up the plant’s stem into the leaves, causing them to wilt. Planting angel’s trumpet in healthy soil is the best way to prevent this from occurring as there is no cure.

Leaves Turning Black/Brown

Angel’s trumpet can suffer from root rot if water intake is imbalanced. You want the soil to remain moist but never soaked or soggy. As the temperatures decrease, watering can be less frequent.

III. Uses and Benefits 

  • Historical uses

Brugmansia are most often grown today as flowering ornamental plants.

Brugmansia contains deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids (atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine) which cause delirium and hallucinations. In modern medicine, these tropane alkaloids found in Brugmansia and other related members of Solanaceae have proven medical value for their spasmolytic, anti-asthmatic, anticholinergic, narcotic, and anesthetic properties, although many of these alkaloids, or their equivalents, are now artificially synthesized.

Brugmansia species have also traditionally been used in many South American indigenous cultures in medical preparations and as an entheogen in religious and spiritual ceremonies. Medicinally, they have mostly been used externally as part of a poultice, tincture, ointment, or where the leaves are directly applied transdermally to the skin. Traditional external uses have included the treating of aches and pains, dermatitis, orchitis, arthritis, rheumatism, headaches, infections, and as an anti-inflammatory. They have been used internally much more rarely due to the inherent dangers of ingestion. Internal uses, in highly diluted preparations, and often as a portion of a larger mix, have included treatments for stomach and muscle ailments, as a decongestant, to induce vomiting, to expel worms and parasites, and as a sedative.

Several South American cultures have used Brugmansia species as a treatment for unruly children, so that they might be admonished directly by their ancestors in the spirit world, and thereby become more compliant. Mixed with maize beer and tobacco leaves, it has been used to drug wives and slaves before they were buried alive with their dead lord.

In the Northern Peruvian Andes, shamans (curanderos) traditionally used Brugmansia species for initiation, divination, and black magic rituals. In some Latin American countries such as Colombia and Peru, members of the genus Brugmansia are reportedly used by malevolent sorcerers or “bad shamans” in some ayahuasca brews in attempt to take advantage of tourists. The species that are typically used for these purposes include Brugmansia suaveolens and Brugmansia arborea among others.

Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia) Details

Common name Angel's Trumpet, Tree Daturas
Botanical name Brugmansia
Plant type Houseplant
Hardiness zone 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b
Growth rate Medium
Height 6 ft. 0 in. - 35 ft. 0 in.
Width 6 ft. 0 in. - 35 ft. 0 in.
Sunlight Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
Soil condition High Organic Matter
Flower color Gold/Yellow
Leaf color Green