Angel Trumpets are known for their huge, beautiful flowers that hang down in large clusters. Angel Trumpet (Brugmansia) is often confused with Devil’s Trumpet (Datura). Angel Trumpet is more like a semi-woody tree with one or more primary trunks that have branches which create a canopy from which large flowers hang facing downward. Datura is more like a dense shrub that grows to up to 4 feet or more in diameter and its flowers face upward.
Angel Trumpet’s fragrant flowers can be 6 to 10 inches in length and can have single, double or even triple flowers. Since it is a tropical plant, it is usually grown in a pot in regions that aren’t tropical. Depending on the pot size, it can grow up to 8-10 feet tall before the first frost. It prefers full sun but will tolerate part sun. The leaves will wilt during the heat of the day, but it recoups quickly in the late afternoon. It prefers moist (but not wet) soil and loves fertilizer, so feed it at least every two weeks.
Can You Plant It Outside?
Depending on your zone, you can plant it directly in the ground. It remains hardy in zones 9-11. For zones 8 and below, all growth will begin to die off after the first hard freeze. It sends out large tap roots, so as long as your zone doesn’t have a deep freeze (zones 6+), new growth will emerge once night time temperatures are steadily above 60 degrees. The downside to this is that the new growth in the following year takes longer to reach flowering height versus a plant that was kept inside over winter.
The primary benefit of keeping Angel Trumpet in a pot is that it can be brought inside as temperatures cool. Wintering an Angel Trumpet indoors allows you to have large, beautiful flowers sooner the next season. You can trim it to keep it manageable (read pruning tips first). Then place it near a south-facing window and keep it moist but not wet.
If you prefer to force it into dormancy, place the pot in the garage or basement. All growth will die back, but as long as temperatures don’t drop below 30 degrees, the plant will put out new growth once warmer temperatures return.
When Do They Bloom?
In zone 7a, we do both; we have Angel Trumpets planted directly into the ground as well as potted plants that are wintered over indoors. That way, we get flowers from the potted plants in late May and the Angel Trumpets in the ground have enough growth to begin blooming by mid July.
Angel Trumpet has a distinct growing pattern. It initially puts all its growing energy into forming one or more primary trunks with leaves. Once it reaches about 4.5 feet in height, the trunks will develop a fork (a “Y” shape). From there, it will continue to branch off. It’s at this point that plant growth is devoted to flowering. Everyone who loves Brugmansia is always looking for that initial “Y”; knowing that it won’t be long before the flowering begins.
This growth pattern is important to keep in mind when propagating. Cuttings rooted from the primary trunk (below the “Y”) will focus on reaching growth height (4.5 or more feet) before they begin developing flowering branches. But cuttings rooted from the flowering branches (above the “Y”) can put out flowering branches much sooner.
Angel Trumpet flowers tend to appear in flushes approximately 3 to 4 weeks apart. The earlier your plant puts out blooms in the season, the more likely you’ll get subsequent flushes.
Propagating Angel Trumpet From Cuttings
Propagating Angel Trumpet is the quickest way to get new plants and it is relatively easy to do. The ideal cutting size is 8 to 12 inches in length. Mark the top of the cutting with a permanent marker so that you know which end is the top. Place the cutting in a glass of water so that 1/4 to 1/3 of the cutting is submerged and keep it in a sunny window.
We put our Angel Trumpet cuttings in 2 liter soda bottles with about 3 inches of water. We root up both hardwood and green cuttings. The green cuttings take longer to root and frequent water changes to prevent bacteria build up.
If you prefer, you can let ends of the cuttings callus over by letting the cuttings dry for a day or so before putting them in water. Cuttings will rot if there’s bacteria in the water, so add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide; or 1 tsp per 2 cups of water. Change the water every few days, or if it starts getting cloudy.
The cutting will begin developing root buds from the sides within a matter of days, and the roots should be growing nicely by two to three weeks. Once these root buds begin developing roots, add a very light amount of fertilizer or growth hormone (seaweed extract) to the water. The fertilizer isn’t necessary, but does produce faster growth. Continue changing out the water as needed. Keep the cutting in water until the new root growth is at least 4 inches in length. Once the plant is well rooted, it can be potted and moved outside to a warm, shaded location to continue getting established.
If you plan on planting your angel trumpet in the ground and your zone is prone to winter freezes, plant the angel trumpet at least 3 months before the first frost to ensure the root system is well established before the first freeze arrives. Mulch the base of the plant heavily to provide additional protection for the roots over the winter. The vegetation and stalks will die back after a freeze, but if the root structure is strong the plant will likely start to grow back once evening temperatures are above 55 degrees.
Pruning Angel Trumpet
If you have an Angel Trumpet that is getting scraggly, has an uneven shape, or needs to be trimmed before being brought indoors, you can safely prune it to any size or shape you prefer. Just remember that any cuts below the “Y” will mean you’ll have to wait until the plant regrows to at least 4.5 feet before it will begin focusing on flowers. For a scraggly plant, cutting it back to 2 feet tall will encourage much more branching and provide a fuller overall appearance.
Like so many other pretty plants in the garden (azalea, foxglove, lantana, hydrengea, etc), Angel Trumpet is considered toxic if ingested. You should take caution to place it in a location inaccessible to small children or pets. You should also take measures (gloves) to reduce your exposure the plant’s leaves and sap during pruning.