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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Flowering of plants, Seedlings--Transplanting, Germination, Brugmansia

Can you give me specific directions on how to germinate Brugmansia seed and care for the seedlings. Also, at what age or size do these plants flower?


The following information is quoted from the book Brugmansia and Datura: Angels' Trumpets and Thorn Apples (by Ulrike and Hans-Geog Preissel, 2002, p. 74):

The fresh seed should be sown as early as possible, at temperatures between 64--79 F. Cover the seed with approximately 1/5 (.20) inch of humus, which must be kept wet.

The seed is relatively large and is pressed lightly into the hummus to ensure contact with the moist planting mix. Initially cover the seed box with a glass plate to provide optimal humidity. At temperatures around 68 F, the various species of Brugmansia germinate very differently. As a rule, germination takes between 10 and 20 days. The young seedlings can then be planted out directly into small containers.Young plants that are grown from seed go through an immature phase, easily recognized by the change in leaf shape. The plants do not reach flowering maturity until the end of this immature phase. The length of time before the first flowering varies with the species. On average, most Brugmansia flower for the first time when the plant is between 2.5--5 feet in size. If they are well cultivated, then they will usually reach this size in six to nine months.

Plants grown from seed can look very different. They differ not only in leaf shape and size, flower shape, color and size, but also in other traits, such as susceptibility to diseases or willingness to flower. The possibilities are almost endless and many interesting and valuable discoveries are undoubtedly waiting to be made....

Date 2017-09-27
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Datura, Brugmansia

I have a purple Datura that I grew from seed. Do you have any suggestions on how best to overwinter this plant? Basically I have found some contradictory information online but some of it suggests cutting down this year's stalk (which seems a little drastic but I make no claims of being an expert). Any information you might have would be most appreciated.


Do you know for certain which genus and species your plant is? It sounds like it could be Datura metel, which is grown as an annual. Datura blossoms point up or outward, while Brugmansia is shrubby, and its flowers hang downward. Some Brugmansias will overwinter in the Seattle area and are semi-evergreen or evergreen. Others may die back to the ground and come back in the spring. They are longer-lived than Datura. Datura is more likely to act like a perennial or annual.

If you are growing an annual Datura, the best thing to do is save seed from the fruit capsules in summer. Exceptions are Datura wrightii and Datura inoxia, which can overwinter. In warmer winter climates, these can be covered in the fall with twigs, straw, or pine needles. Growth may resume in March or April. In colder winter climates, you would need to overwinter the fleshy rhizomes in a container, covering them with earth. Keep the container in a cool, dark garage or cellar. Expose the rhizomes to temperatures of 53-64 degrees and daylight beginning in March. This is much more difficult than simply planting new seed each year, but plants which sprout from rhizomes grow faster and flower better. (Source: Brugmansia and Datura by Ulrike and Hans-Georg Preissel; Firefly Books, 2002)

Date 2017-04-14
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Woody plant propagation, Brugmansia, Pruning

When should I cut back angel's trumpet and can I replant the part that was cut?


I've checked a book called Brugmansia and Datura: Angel's Trumpets and Thorn Apples by Ulrike and Hans-Georg Preissel. It has a whole chapter on growing angel's trumpets from cuttings as well as a section on pruning them, which should be done after they bloom. As you probably know, they can't take freezing temperatures, so people often prune them in the fall to make them easier to bring into a greenhouse (for overwintering warm) or 41-50 degree room (for overwintering cool). The important thing to remember is to confine your pruning to the flowering part of the plant, so you don't have to wait as long for more flowers. The book says you can tell the flowering part of the plant by looking closely at the leaves--the flowering part has an asymmetrical leaf base on each leaf, but the base of the "vegetative" leaves is symmetrical.

The cuttings you take can be used to start new plants, and the success rate will vary depending on the time of year (spring and summer cuttings work best) and the variety of angel's trumpet you have. Viruses can be a problem, so keep your shears very clean. You can often get them to form roots by placing them in a jar of water so that only the lowest 1.5 inches of the stalk are under water. Alternatively, place woody fall cuttings "about 10 inches long...in a mixture of peat and sand, in vermiculite, or in pumice... temperature between 53 and 64 degrees... Many of these cuttings will form roots by the following spring. For root development the cuttings need the same light levels as for good growing conditions... It is a good idea to pot all cuttings into a nutrient-rich soil as soon as possible after they have formed roots."

Date 2017-04-19
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Quirky, Brugmansia, Poisonous plants

I know that Brugmansia has toxic and intoxicating properties. I heard a story about a railway carriage in Europe that was filled with the Brugmansia flowers. When the doors to the carriage were closed, the fragrance of the blooms caused the passengers to lose consciousness, and their valuables were stolen. Plausible, or urban legend?


Brugmansia, like the related solanaceous plant Datura, contains tropane alkaloids throughout the plant, including the seeds and flowers. One of these alkaloids is scopolamine. There are many tales of "Devil’s Breath," a processed form of scopolamine (as powder), or scopolamine-rich seeds being used by criminals in various parts of the world to drug their victims into unconsciousness. There is an article in The Guardian (September 2, 2015) which suggests it's unlikely that this substance would have been used to "zombify" travelers in Europe. There are, however, travel security warnings from the U.S. State Department about its use by criminals in Ecuador and Colombia.

A scientific article, "Volatile compounds emitted from flowers and leaves of Brugmansia X candida (Solanaceae)" (G.C. Kite and C. Leon, in Phytochemistry, 1995) states that volatile tropane alkaloids could not be detected in the fragrance of either flowers or leaves; the main volatile organic compounds emitted by the flowers are terpenoids, benzenoids, and indole. Those compounds can cause headaches but it seems unlikely they would act like a sedative.

The book Plant Intoxicants by Baron Ernst von Bibra (Healing Arts Press,1995) describes use of Datura seeds by criminals in India to knock out their victims. There are many traditional medicinal uses of Brugmansia among the indigenous tribes of Colombia, but the hallucinogenic effects are especially frightening. One tribe describes the pleasant scent of the flowers but warns that the plant is inhabited by an evil spirit and all who sit at the foot of the tree "will forget everything." (Source: Plants of the Gods, Richard Evans Schultes, Healing Arts Press, 2001). However I cannot find any confirmation for your colorful story of a train carriage full of drugged passengers among the Brugmansia flowers.

Date 2018-04-05
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May 31 2018 13:14:08