By Morag Flight
Brugmansias are spectacular, easy to grow, and are commonly known as Trumpet Flowers. They are members of the Solanaceae family (sisters to the potato and tomato). They are large and woody with 20cm long flowers that dangle from the branches. Due to their hallucinogenic properties, it is best to ensure that pets and children do not ingest them.
Traditionally, they were grown in conservatories but they also take well in the middle of large beds. Their rounded form contrasts well with the spikes of palms. Trumpet Flowers can be grown from seed or from cuttings which can be easily rooted in water. The roots normally appear within a week. They can be easily trained as standards with pincing out to encourage branching.
Brugmansias usually flower easily but need to be fed well once a week during the growing season. They are particularly fond of seaweed fertiliser and enjoy good light but can suffer when in full sunlight. They give off a lovely scent especially at night which is apparently to attract pollinating moths which are active during the evening. There are many varieties with an array of colours such as orange, apricot, cream and yellow. The white variety is the most scented.
Trumpet Flowers have two main stages to their life cycle. In the initial vegetative stage, the young seedling grows straight up usually on a single stalk until it reaches its first main fork at 80–150cm high. It will not flower until after it has reached this fork, and then only on new growth above the fork. Cuttings taken from the lower vegetative region must also grow to a similar height before flowering, but cuttings from the upper flowering region will often flower at a very low height.
This flower is very susceptible to pests, particularly attacks by aphids, caterpillars, slugs, spider mites etc which love their soft growth. They are also prone to viruses and hence it is important to sterilise secateurs between plants.
Autumn is a good time to prune them when the flowering has stopped. They can be cut back hard as they normally flower on the new growth. If growing as a standard, cut back everything to the top of the stem each year.
Images provided by Kundai Chihambakwe
First published by Morag Flight on Ndeipi Magazine issue 101.