Angel's Trumpet Plant Profile

Flowering brugmansia
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The show-stopping hanging bugle-shaped flowers of angel's trumpet make this a delight for any garden. Grown either as a woody shrub or small tree, this is a tropical plant. In cooler zones is often grown as a container plant that can be brought indoors when the weather turns cool. Hummingbirds are especially drawn to the angel's trumpet. For container growing, plastic pots are preferred, since this is a large plant that is difficult to move if planted in heavy earthenware pots. The flowers produce a strong, fragrant scent, that is strongest in the night. Position the plant somewhere you can enjoy its smell.

This plant is toxic and exposure can be extremely dangerous and fatal. All parts of the plant are toxic and poisoning can occur from ingestion and even touching the plant. Gloves should be worn for everyday care of the angel's trumpet. Take caution if you have children or animals and seek medical attention immediately if you suspect exposure or poisoning.

  • Botanical Name: Brugmansia spp.
  • Common Name: Angel's Trumpet, Brugmansia, Tree Datura, Angel Star, and Trumpet of Death
  • Plant Type: Perennial shrub
  • Mature Size: 6 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide, depending on the variety
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, with afternoon shade in warmer climates
  • Soil Type: Acidic soil
  • Soil pH: 5.5 to 7
  • Bloom Time: Sporadically from spring until late fall, with the heaviest profusion occurring in fall; year-round in warmer climates
  • Flower Color: White, peach, pink, orange, or yellow
  • Hardiness Zones: 9 to 11
  • Native Area: Tropical regions of South America
Close up of brugmansia flower
Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Getty Images
Angel's trumpet hanging in a yard
Anna Yu / Getty Images

How to Grow Angel's Trumpets

Angel's trumpet is a vase-shaped shrub or small tree. Its leaves are 6 to 8 inches long, arranged alternately on the stems. Known for its spectacular drooping flowers, they grow up to 20 inches long. The flowers, which are especially fragrant in the evening, may be produced year-round in warmer climates. This plant produces oval fruits that are 3 to 6 inches long.

These plants can be brought indoors over the winter and allowed to go dormant. If they are stored in a cool, dark, frost-free place, they can survive all winter and regrow the following spring.

Light

In warmer zones, angel's trumpet prefers a location with shade in the afternoon. In cooler zones, it does fine in full sun.

Soil

Brugmansia grows best in acid soil, though it will tolerate alkaline soils. It does not tolerate salt and is not drought resistant. If growing in pots, angel's trumpet will do well in a potting mix designed for azaleas and camellias.

Water

This is a very thirsty plant that needs to be watered well and often. If growing it in a pot, make sure there is enough drainage so it doesn't get waterlogged but make sure the soil stays moist. Root rots can occur if the plant is watered too frequently or if garden soils are boggy. As long as the soil appears moist and there is no wilting, the plant is fine.

Temperature and Humidity

These plants can withstand moderate to warm temperatures. In the fall when temperatures start to drop near freezing, reduce watering and stop fertilizing. Prior to the first frost, move the plant into a cold, dark, frost-free place to store and cause it to go dormant. Water occasionally throughout the winter; the goal is to keep the root ball barely moist. Once spring temperatures are not dipping below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, bring the plant out and repot it.

Fertilizer

Like many other plants with large, spectacular blooms, angel's trumpet should be fertilized often: at least once a week. Larger plants can be fertilized two to three times a week. Use water-soluble fertilizers, and avoid slow-release formulas, as these to do not work fast enough. Bloom-boosting fertilizers, such as 15-30-15 or 10-50-10, are best.

Common Problems

Whiteflies can be a big problem for an angel's trumpet. Cabbage worms, spider mites, and aphids are also common. Other pests that may appear include cucumber beetles (in the midwestern United States), slugs and snails, fungus gnats (inside), and mealy bugs.

To treat pest infestations, you can use isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. Use a cotton ball or cotton swab dipped in alcohol and dab the insects. Another option is to make a spray solution of equal parts water and isopropyl alcohol and spray the plant. Treating the plant with Neem oil spray is another option to repel pests.

Potting and Repotting

A potted angel's trumpet grows fast and should be potted up regularly to a final container that is about 20 gallons in size (about 16 inches in height and 18 inches across).

Propagating Angel's Trumpet

Angel's trumpet can be propagated through seeds and cuttings. Short stem cutting will easily root if placed in potting soil and kept moist. After a few weeks kept in the shade, the cutting will develop good root systems and can be transplanted into the garden or into larger pots.

Varieties of Angel's Trumpets

Angel's trumpet includes several species of the Brugmansia genus, a member of the Solanaceae family, which also includes nightshade plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and tobacco. The original species are no longer found in the wild and are listed as extinct by the IUCN red list. It is thought that the natural distribution of the native Brugmansia species ended due to the extinction of wildlife species that dispersed the seeds. The cultivars of angel's trumpet have naturalized in many locations, so these modified varieties do exist in the wild.

Toxicity of Angel's Trumpet

Caution is required because this plant is extremely toxic. Every part of the plant is very poisonous from the leaves, flowers, and seeds, to the roots. Poisoning takes place when plant residue enters the bloodstream or gastrointestinal tract. This can occur through digestion or absorption in the mucous membranes (eyes, nose, etc.). For example, if a gardener has contaminated hands and then rubs his eyes or eats food, he will become poisoned.

Symptoms of poisoning include dilated pupils, muscle weakness, dry mouth, a rapid pulse, fever, and hallucinations. Convulsions and paralysis may occur and can lead to coma and death. Seek medical attention immediately if symptoms or exposure occur.

Pruning

Although this plant does not require pruning, trimming 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. Flowers will eventually appear on the terminal ends of those stems.

The Brugmansia Growers International advises: "The best time to trim your plant is in the fall. Always keep at least 6 to 10 nodes on the branches above the Y for flowers the following year. It's the branches that are above the Y which will produce next year's flowers."