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Grow A Conversation Piece

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Grow A Conversation Piece
Growing tropical plants on the patio during the summer is a one of the more rewarding experiences that comes from enduring our sweltering St. Louis heat and humidity. There are an abundance of colorful, exotic plants available to choose from and growing in containers is one of the most versatile ways to bring beautiful tropical blooms to your landscape.

If you are looking for a big, bold, magnificent plant that looks amazing on a summer patio then try growing a tropical called angel’s trumpet. Common angel's trumpet (Brugmansia arborea), can be found for sale at selected garden centers. All brugmansia come from South America but the various species inhabit different areas, from the tropic coastal regions to the mountainous regions of the Andes.

Angel’s trumpet plants are large shrubs, which easily turn into small trees and stand head and shoulders above other plants in the garden. Their height, breadth and masses of large, pendulous, fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers never fail to impress – both the eyes and the nose. Grown overwhelmingly for their flowers, the trumpets can reach 6–20 in. long and 4–14 in. across at the opening and come in many shades from white to pink, yellow, orange, green and even red.

Here’s what you need to know if you want to grow angel’s trumpet in the garden:

Hardiness: Most grow in zones 8-10 so in the St. Louis area the plant must be brought in for the winter, container and all, or treated as an annual. An ideal area is a chilly basement or garage that stays at about 40 - 50°F and does not fall below freezing. They will go dormant and live happily through the winter if given just a little water periodically.

Light: Angel’s trumpets do best in this area when grown in partial shade. They love it bright but need to be protected from hot afternoon sun with dappled shade. In their native environment, they grow beneath the understory of taller plants.

Water: They like regular and deep watering to keep them looking their best. If kept too dry, they will have a rangy growth habit.

Soil: Grow in a large container in a soilless potting mix with good drainage. Top dressing with a generous amount of compost every spring will make your angel’s trumpet very happy.

Fertilizer: Angel’s trumpets are heavy feeders so start with a slow-release granular fertilizer in the spring. To successfully keep the huge flowers coming all summer, it is highly recommend to regularly supplement with a fertilizer formulated for tomatoes during the growing season.

Pests: Caterpillars, spider mites and whiteflies can be an occasional problem. They’re also susceptible to mealybug, beetles and broad mites.

Pruning: Angel’s trumpets are vigorous growers and will get large quickly. They flower on new wood so proper pruning helps bring on heavier bloom. These plants have an unusual habit in that they only flower above where the stems fork. If you have one that’s really leggy then go ahead and give it a good pruning but stay above the forks. Also, if you have a young plant, don’t expect it to flower until you see that “Y”. Be sure to remove all the leaves below that first fork because that will save your young plant some energy.

Size: Most will get 12-16 ft. by 12 ft. in time. There are a few which top out at 8 ft. (called dwarf brugmansias) and even newer ones which stay under 3 ft. but the flowers are smaller too.

Flowers: Huge and fragrant! Angel’s trumpets will flower abundantly if all their needs are met. The fragrance is particularly strong and heady at night to attract pollinators to the flowers. Some varieties have larger flowers than others. There are some with double and triple flowers which are extra showy. They can be white, yellow, coral, pink, orange, green and red. A word of warning: they do drop a lot of flowers and leaves so if you’re a neat freak, this may not be the plant for you.

Containers: Most varieties are suitable for containers but just make sure they’re large enough. You will need to water them more in pots especially the bigger they get.

Here’s the RED Flag: All parts of this plant are poisonous. Before you gasp, remember that numerous plants in our gardens are poisonous. Please use common sense – always wash after you work with them, never touching your eyes and most of all don’t eat them. If your pets like to munch on plants, then an angel’s trumpet isn’t a good choice for you.

Our summer evenings are warm and you can always tell if there’s an angel’s trumpet nearby – their scent gives them away. Enjoy the experience of growing this spectacular flowering tropical and all the attention it brings!

Jan Gowen

Kemper Center for Home Gardening

| Categories: Summer | Tags: Brugmansia, Angel's trumpet, container plants | View Count: (3438) | Return
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