Beginning with Brugmansias

Reading time 10 minutes

I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated with myself for posting so infrequently. Okay, so I no longer have a long commute to London and I can’t wait to get out from behind my laptop at the end of each working day, but surely there must be time to draft a post or two? Seemingly not. Then it came to me in a flash during my first post-lockdown haircut: I’ve been setting myself up for failure. My posts have been getting longer and more ambitious, to the extent that they now need a day or two to complete. I simply don’t have that amount of free time. The prospect of summarising a month in one go is so daunting that ultimately I have shied away from doing so. That’s not good. Hence I am going back to where I began with short, off-the-cuff posts, illustrated with decent pictures, that I can complete in a couple of hours. It works for me and I hope it works for you too.

My very first brugmansia, purchased in 2017 and growing stronger each year.

As you might imagine, plants have been flooding through The Watch House’s gates at the fastest rate ever. A tsunami would be a more accurate description of the flow. A glass of wine in one hand and a mobile device in the other is a recipe for shopping and I have not been found wanting in the impulse department.

At one time I owned just a single brugmansia (datura in old money, angel’s trumpet in common parlance), a sorry plant which I rescued from my local garden centre. It had been left for dead by the petunia-buying public: I generally have eye for plants other folk overlook. I didn’t really know what the plant required so it was consigned to the greenhouse where it produced a few enormous coral-pink blooms that were quickly mutilated by snails. Despite my ignorance, my first brugmansia survives to this day, which says something about how easy they are to grow provided a few key needs are met.

Brugmansia ‘Sunset’. Creamy-white flowers should follow later in the summer. For now that glorious foliage will more than suffice.

The Beau bought with him multiple specimens of Brugmansia x candida ‘Grand Marnier’, an old faithful, which looked to me like chubby sticks with a handful of anemic leaves sprouting from the top. They were shoved in the back passage for the summer and not a single one flowered. Then we spotted a variegated shoot at the bottom of one of the chubby sticks which The Beau recalled might be a cultivar named ‘Sunset’. We removed it, grew it on over winter indoors and then hardened it off in the greenhouse. Taking pity on the tiny shoot, I’ve meticuluously fed and repotted it until all of a sudden it has become a magnificent plant with enormous grey-green, ivory-edged leaves. Each one is the length of my forearm.

Brugmansia x candida ‘Super Spot’ (Photo Credit: Agnieszka Kwiecień, Nova, Wikimedia Commons)

Spurred on by my success with ‘Sunset’ and the rude health of last year’s ugly ducklings I turned to Jungle Plants to increase my collection. For starters I chose Brugmansia sanguinea and Brugmansia ‘Super Spot’. They arrived, beautifully packaged, a fortnight later. Happily B. sanguinea was already covered in buds (I feel like such a cheat!) so I potted it up pronto and positioned it by our outdoor kitchen sink on an upturned pot to keep it out of snails’ reach. Within days the first yellow trumpet had unfurled, blushing pale orange at the tip. The Beau reckoned the flowers should be much redder. Lo and behold, the next two blooms have had much stronger colouration. They are beautiful, mango and pineapple sorbet perfection. Although there’s no scent and I can’t claim to have grown it, I am chuffed to bits with my new Brugmansia sanguinea.

Brugmansia sanguinea

Anything from Jungle Plants tends to be a little pricey but worth every penny for the quality. It’s so true that you get what you pay for. Sadly Jungle Plants are not offering as many plants as they once did, but the seeds are always worth checking out. The instructions that accompanied my plants filled significant gaps in my knowledge. I did not know, for example, that brugmansias will not flower until their main stem has forked to form a ‘Y’ shape. I also didn’t know that organic pesticides containing pyrethrum will kill them. I’m glad I spotted that before I got trigger happy! I was aware that brugmansias were greedy feeders but not that I should feed them heavily, twice a week.

Brugmansia x candida ‘Grand Marnier’ forming the Y necessary for it to bloom

The results of copious amounts of liquid seaweed being applied are already clear to see. Those chubby, ugly, translucent-looking sticks are now vigorous plants covered with lush, felty leaves and promising flower buds. I wish I had known that it was so easy to turn my plants around. Unfortunately the incessant wind over the last fortnight, often laden with salt and sometimes sand where I live, has burned some of the larger and more exposed leaves, but this will be of little consequence since they grow back so quickly.

Epic brugmansias at East Ruston Old Vicarage in Norfolk (Photo Credit: Alan Gray)

Of course I am now considering where I might squeeze in another brugmansia or two and am imagining huge pots on the allotment with tree-like specimens like those at East Ruston Old Vicarage in Norfolk. What a dream that would be. Someone confiscate my credit card!

Naturally I would encourage anyone with a sheltered garden and an adventurous spirit to give brugmansias a try. Most enjoy our relatively cool summers, actually refusing to flower in hotter climes. They can be overwintered in a shed or garage without light until spring arrives, or kept going in a conservatory or greenhouse. However, it would be remiss of me not to point out that all brugmansias contain tropane alkaloids of similar toxicity to deadly nightshade, so they should be treated with caution and not eaten by adults, children or pets. I always wash my hands after touching my brugmansias, which doesn’t feel like such a chore when one is doing it every five minutes anyway.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this more pithy post. It’s been a breeze to write so I’ve definitely made the breakthrough I needed. See you soon. TFG.

The perfect angel’s trumpet, Brugmansia versicolor (Photo Credit: Tom Murphy VII, Wikimedia Commons)

Categories: Beautiful Strangers, Container gardening, Flowers, Foliage, Our Coastal Garden, Plants, Small Gardens, Tropical Gardens

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

Greetings Garden Lover! Welcome to my blog. Plants are my passion and this is my way of sharing that joyful emotion with the world. You'll find over 1000 posts here featuring everything from abutilons to zinnias. If you've enjoyed what you've read, please leave a comment and consider subscribing using the yellow 'Follow' button in the bottom, right-hand corner of your screen. You will receive an email every time I post something new.

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35 comments On "Beginning with Brugmansias"

  1. Good to see you back. Short and pithy and frequent is much better than long blogs very infrequently! Especially as lots of people have given up on blogging when us viewers need it most. So thanks and I look forward to the next one.

  2. Ive never opened an email so fast and what a great post!! Now I feel I need to go out and buy one, thanks for the time spent on this. Truly made my day!

  3. I agree, it’s not a good idea to get bogged down by a blog. This is a great post but you have lead me astray. I’ve just ordered two brugmansias.

  4. What a interesting post on Brugmansia I love them but so far have never been able to get one through the winter, I’ve always kept in in my heated greenhouse in the winter but they just rot. I’m inspired to try again. Isn’t that a fabulous one at East Rushton, such inspirational gardens

    1. I think you may be trying too hard over winter Chris. Many brugmansias are cool climate plants and they just need to be kept frost free and dry during winter, not warm or hot and humid. I think you should try again and treat them a bit meaner.

  5. Another reader enjoying your latest post whilst also rather glad to think that the allotment, the Beau, les chiens et al are keeping you engrossed in a life beyond the keyboard. Ceri

      1. Enjoy the now and take a few snaps, then regale your loyal fans with tales of gardening triumphs when the weather’s turned cold and the rain is beating down. Which probably will turn out to be next Wednesday but I was actually thinking of some time more Novemberish.

  6. Those are exemplary and so richly colored. Only my common ‘Charles Grimaldi’ is rich yellow. The unknown pink is rather pale, and lanky stems. The unknown orange is rather pastel and wimpy. White is my favorite, but the foliage is pale.

  7. Good to read you again ! I actually like this format of posts better. What beautiful leaves on your brugmansias, well done !

  8. I like the idea of a ‘plant of the month’ post. After all, it was the post on Geranium madeirense that led me to find you in the first place.

  9. Lockdown has been a peculiar time and I think many of us lost our motivation to do all sorts of things. Great you’re back and a pithy blog post is always a welcome read.
    Those trumpets are a blast!

  10. This brought back fond memories of my trip to Costa Rica. The hotel we stayed in had an 11 acre garden. I can’t remember how many Brugs they had but I don’t remember any as pretty as these you have. A good job keeping them alive, well and blooming.

  11. I also prefer your shorter but more often posts focused on just one or two plants. Glad to hear that all is well in The Watch House 🙂

  12. Post when you want, after all its your blog and shouldn’t add to stress. But oh how I love garden porn. Luscious first photo and inspiration for trouble.

  13. Another lovely post and you have inspired me yet again. I used to grow those fabulous plants when I had a small sheltered courtyard garden but since I came here, large open, frost pocket, I have not attempted to grow them. I think I must have a go again now. Keep the shorter posts coming they are looked forward to so much and always full of inspiration and gorgeous pictures.

  14. Great post and you can tell by the comments that we enjoy them so much whenever they appear. Far better that you post when you feel like it and then you’ll be as content as your followers!

  15. I’d never heard of Brugmansia before! They are beautiful! I’m planning to create a new bed in my little garden and have put these on the list for next year. Thanks for the blog. So interesting and great tips.

  16. I’ve caught the brugmansia bug as well. I have only one that I’ve trained into a tree and baby more than any other plant, container grown or otherwise, in my zone 5b climate. I simply can’t resist the allure of such gorgeous pendulous blooms. They perfume the evening air in my Chicago-area garden like none other.

  17. Time to put the nerd glasses on and say a couple of things. Brugmansia species can be split into hot-loving and “cold”-loving groups. B. sanguinea and vulcanicola don’t have a smell since hummingbirds are pollinating them, while the others are visited by moths and other flower-smelling creatures of the night. Literally had to do the homework and instead of a note on one species as assigned I reviewed them all, because why not. :p

  18. Interesting to read about your Brugmansias, and your report that organic insecticides containing pyrethrum will kill them. Having just put a large plant in my conservatory to enjoy the developing flowers, I’m expecting red spider mite to develop eventually, so was planning to use some Pyrethrum 5 EC spray to control them, but maybe not now!

    I’ve searched extensively for more info about this, however, but can find no other reference to such toxicity, and cannot find a web entry for Jungle Plants to ask them. Do you have any further information?

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