The show-stopping hanging bugle-shaped flowers of angel's trumpet make this plant a delight for any garden. Grown either as a woody shrub or small tree, the angel's trumpet is a tropical plant, native to Central and South America. There are actually several species of angel's trumpet plants, and they're often distinguished by their size, preferring growing conditions, and flower color.
Angel's trumpet is best planted in mid-spring when temperatures outdoors no longer drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night. The plant will grow very quickly, often adding between 24 and 36 inches in height a year.
|Common Name||Angel's trumpet, Brugmansia, trumpet of death|
|Plant Type||Perennial shrub|
|Mature Size||6–20 ft. tall, 3–15 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-drained|
|Bloom Time||Summer, fall|
|Flower Color||White, yellow, pink|
|Hardiness Zones||8–10 (USDA)|
|Native Area||South America|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans, dogs, and cats|
Angel's Trumpet Care
Angel's trumpet can take the form of a shrub or small tree, depending on the area in which it's grown (and the desire of the gardener). Its leaves are 6 to 8 inches long, arranged alternately on the stems, and it's known for its spectacular drooping flowers, which can grow up to 20 inches long.
In cooler zones, angel's trumpet is often grown as a container plant that can be brought indoors when temperatures drop. The flowers produce a strong, fragrant scent, that is most noticeable at night—position the plant somewhere you can enjoy its smell, and keep an eye out for hummingbirds, who are especially drawn to the fragrance.
While angel's trumpet is fairly easy to care for, given the proper growing conditions, much of your time will likely be spent worrying about its toxic nature, which can be dangerous to both humans and animals.
Generally, angel's trumpet does well in a spot that boasts full sun. However, in environments that are especially hot or dry, it can stand to have a bit of shade, especially during the warmer afternoon hours. Regardless of the location though, you should aim to allow the plant between six and eight hours of sunlight daily in order for it to thrive.
Angel's trumpet is perhaps least picky about the soil it grows in. It can exist happily in almost any blend, from sand and clay to loam and richly-organic mixtures. The most important factor lies in the soil's drainage—angel's trumpet does not like to be waterlogged but prefers consistently moist soil, so there's definitely a balance to be achieved. If growing in pots, angel's trumpet will typically do well in a potting mix designed for azaleas and camellias.
This is a very thirsty plant that needs to be watered well—and often. If growing angel's trumpet in a pot, make sure there are ample drainage holes at the base so the plant doesn't get waterlogged, as root rot can occur if the soil becomes are boggy. The exact watering cadence for your plant will depend both on the weather and the method of planting (container vs. garden)—angel's trumpet will need more water when the weather is warm, and plants housed in a container may even need to be watered twice a day during the peak of summer. Ultimately, the soil should never be allowed to dry out and you should aim to grant your plant at least three inches of water a week.
Temperature and Humidity
Generally, angel's trumpet can withstand moderate to warm temperatures and should not be kept outdoors if the temperatures dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in an environment where fall or winter gets cold, plant your angel's trumpet in a container that can be moved to a dark, frost-free place prior to the first frost of the season and allowed to go dormant.
Like many other plants with large, spectacular blooms, angel's trumpet should be fertilized often—at least once a week (larger plants can even be fertilized two to three times a week). Use a water-soluble fertilizer, and avoid slow-release formulas, as these do not work fast enough for the plant. Bloom-boosting fertilizers, such as 15-30-15 or 10-50-10 mixture, are best.
Is Angel's Trumpet Toxic?
Caution is required when considering where (and whether) to plant angel's trumpet, as the plant is known to be extremely toxic. Every part of the plant is very poisonous to both humans and animals, 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 such as the eyes, nose, and mouth. For example, if a gardener has contaminated hands and then rubs their eyes or eats food, they will become poisoned.
Exposure to the angel's trumpet can be extremely dangerous and fatal, especially to young children or small, curious pets. Gloves should even be worn for everyday care of the plant. If you suspect exposure or poisoning or notice any of the below symptoms, contact the appropriate emergency services immediately.
Symptoms of Poisoning in Humans
- Dilated pupils
- Muscle weakness
- Dry mouth
- Rapid pulse
- Excessive thrist
- Difficulty breathing
- Memory loss
Symptoms of Poisoning in Animals
- Behavioral changes
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessively slow/fast heart rate
Although they do not require pruning, trimming angel's trumpet 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 best time to prune your angel's trumpet plant is typically in the fall; be mindful of always keeping at least six to 10 nodes on the branches, which is where followers will be produced the following year. Additionally, potted angel's trumpet should be potted up regularly to a final container that is about 20 gallons in size and then pruned to maintain that size.
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 in the shade, the cuttings will develop a good root system and can then be transplanted into the garden or into larger pots.
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 mealybugs.
To treat pest infestations, use isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol on a cotton ball or cotton swab to 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 is another option for repelling pests.
Kerchner, Andras, Farkas, Agnes. Worldwide Poisoning Potential of Brugmansia and Datura. Forensic Toxicology, 38,30-41, 2020, doi:10.1007/s11419-019-00500-2
Soulaidopoulos, Stergios et al. Anticholinergic Syndrome Induced By Toxic Plants. World Journal of Emergency Medicine, 8,4, 297-301, 2017, doi:10.5847/wjem.j.1920-8642.2017.04.009
Angel's Trumpet, Brugmansia. University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Horticulture