Angel's Trumpets

This easy-to-grow flower will make your heart sing from now until frost.
Ellen Ruoff Riley

Everything about an angel's trumpet is dramatic: Pendulous floral bells sway gracefully from sturdy branches, perfuming the sultry evening air with fabulous scent. Its celestial color chart ranges from pristine white to peachy pink and creamy yellow, and mature specimens put on a truly stellar show in full bloom. But the drama stops with appearance--this is one easy plant to grow. And you can find it in bloom at many garden centers now.

An old-fashioned pass-along plant, angel's trumpet has long found favor in the South's coastal and frost-free climates. In these regions, mature plants reach 15 feet tall, with their heaviest flowering time extending from late summer into fall. Gardeners in cooler climates can have the same results by growing one in a container. Before the first frost, move the pot to a heated garage or basement to wait out cold winter months. It will drop leaves, so light is not a concern during this rest period.

 

The Specifics
Angel's trumpets ( Brugmansia sp.) are sun-loving, fast-growing plants. In the Lower South, they appreciate light afternoon shade, while in the Middle and Upper South, they welcome all of summer's warmth. Angel's trumpets need well-drained soil; when growing one in a pot, make sure the container has a large hole in the bottom to allow easy water passage. The growth rate is rapid, so plenty of water and fertilizer are necessary to keep these plants vigorous and blooming.

If planted in containers, angel's trumpets require daily watering. But resist the temptation to keep the pot in a saucer of water--although moisture is vital, soggy soil is not what this plant likes. Brugmansias are heavy feeders, and a liquid, blossom-boosting fertilizer such as 15-30-15 or 10-50-10 keeps them producing flowers. Water with plant food at least every other week, or more often if you'd like. Remember, you can't feed these plants too much, especially those in containers.

Coarsely textured, large leaves complement the enormous blooms. Wind can cause problems for the broad foliage and elongated flowers, so choose a protected location when possible. The show is spectacular, so be sure to place your plant in a prominent spot on or near a deck, terrace, or entryway.

 

It's Simple To Share
Angel's trumpets are available in nurseries and through mail-order catalogs. They are also easy to root, making them perfect pass-along gifts for fellow gardeners. Follow these easy steps to grow your own.

  • Cut new stems sprouting from the plant's base, or save older branches when pruning the angel's trumpet.
  • Trim each long stem into pieces that are 6 to 8 inches in length. Make your cuts directly above raised nodes on the stem. The first piece will have leaves, while the others may not.
  • Fill containers with moist potting soil, and gently push the bottom of each stem into the mix, submerging half of its length.
  • Place the pots in a shady place, keeping the soil moist. Within several weeks, roots will form and new leaves will emerge. Keep the plants in these containers until adequate root systems have developed. To test readiness, pull gently on the stems?they should be firmly anchored.
  • For all the excitement and drama this plant gives to the landscape, angel's trumpet is a must-have for the summer garden. Easy to grow, simple to share, and boasting fabulous flowers and fragrance too--what could be more heavenly?

"Angel's Trumpets" is from the August 2003 issue of Southern Living.