Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Angel’s Trumpet: Happier Indoors than Out

octobre 12
Brugmansia ‘Peaches and Cream’ blooming today in my plant room.

This was a tough summer for my angel’s trumpets (Brugmansia cultivars). Normally they bloom like crazy from August through September, but this summer was particularly cool and night temperatures starting dropping below 60˚F (15˚C) starting early in August. As a result, they looked awful, with small, often torn leaves and few flowers. With frost being announced for mid-September (we finally got it the night of September 18 to 19), I had to bring them indoors very early. And the photo gives an idea of how they reacted.

This is Brugmansia ‘Peaches and Cream’ in full bloom in my plant room, much more attractive indoors that it ever was outdoors this summer. The flowers are very fragrant at night: by bedtime, you can smell them two rooms away. In the plant room, the scent is so intense it would be nearly unbearable… but I spend no time in the plant room after dark, so that’s not a problem.

A lot of people put their angel’s trumpets into dormancy through the fall and winter, putting them in a cool, dark spot and withholding water, but when I tried this, I found that it took them so long to perk up again in the summer that I didn’t get much bloom. Of course, that would be quite acceptable in a climate where you have warm nights for months on end, but where I live, just about as far north as you can possibly garden, there are rarely more that 90 frost-free days, not enough for a dormant brugmansia to get up to cruising speed.

Of course, growing them indoors over the winter has its challenges too. First, they’re big plants and take up a lot of space. That’s why I only have two of them. Also, they stop blooming completely by late November, probably because of the very short days. And during the winter, I have to watch out for spider mites, which proliferate in dry indoor air (I get rid of the pests by giving the plant a thorough shower). Brugmansias need a lot of water, too, even in winter, because their huge, thin leaves transpire a lot. I fertilize all year long, because their foliage starts to yellow if I don’t. As soon as the weather warms up outdoors (usually around the 2nd or 3rd week of June here in Quebec City), I put them back outdoors, gradually acclimating them to more and more sun before putting on a patio in full sun for the summer. There they usually bloom abundantly by mid-August… at least, when there is a bit of summer heat.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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