Beautiful and deadly are two words commonly associated with Brugmansias (broog-MAN-zee-ah), also known as angel’s trumpet.
While extinct in the wild, the seven species and three variants have become highly popular showpieces in gardens worldwide, resulting in an explosion of new cultivars.
As the cultivars tend to be easier to raise than the original species, seed propagation isn’t usually a good option.
However, by taking stem cuttings from your Brugmansia plant, you can produce clones of your plant, ensuring what you get is the same as what you started from.
How To Grow Brugmansia from Cuttings
You can grow new Brugmansia using either new or old portions of the plant.
While the process is fairly simple, there are some things you need to keep in mind.
There are four things to consider before you get started with Brugmansia cuttings:
- How to handle the plant
- Where to cut
- When to cut
- Whether to use hardwood or greenwood cuttings.
Angel’s trumpets are highly toxic and also hallucinogenic.
Accidentally consuming even a tiny amount may lead to terrible hallucinations, which often result in self-mutilation or worse.
As a result, you should always wear gloves when handling a Brugmansia and wash thoroughly afterward.
Goggles are also strongly recommended, as the sap can damage your eyes if it splashes.
Understanding the “Y” on Brugmansias
A “Y” refers to any spot where the stem splits on most plants.
Not so for Brugmansia, which have a specific type of “Y” separate from regular branching.
This spot is where the flowers form, and you can clearly see new growth on both sides when it’s time to bloom.
Cutting above these “Y” spots will ensure the parent plant blooms faster, whereas cutting below this point may prevent that branch from blooming for a growing season.
Generally speaking, gardeners prefer to take from above the “Y” when growing indoor plants or if you are in more tropical zones.
However, those growing their Brugmansia outdoors in more temperate climates severely cut back their plants each autumn, making hardwood cuttings more practical.
When to Propagate
While cuttings may be rooted at any point of the year indoors, it’s best to take fall cuttings if you wish to plant them outdoors next year.
Softwood cuttings are best taken in spring to encourage fuller growth without hindering the blooms.
Autumn is usually better for hardwood cuttings, as you will likely be cutting back your plant for the winter and these cuttings take longer to bloom.
In either case, the parent plant will need to be at least a year old and preferably mature.
The best time to harvest cuttings is in the early morning so the plant will be less stressed by the sun’s intensity.
Pick a day when there’s going to be good weather and no drastic temperature changes.
Again, this helps reduce the amount of stress your plant will face after being pruned.
Greenwood vs Hardwood
Finally, there’s a bit of debate on whether you should use hardwood or softwood.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so it largely comes down to personal preference.
Greenwood cuttings (taken from above the “Y”) are generally easier to grow.
Harvesting greenwood cuttings will help ensure there’s enough new growth for the plant to bloom on time.
However, softwood cuttings don’t propagate very well using the log or water methods and may be more sensitive to changes in the environment until established.
Meanwhile, hardwood cuttings will take longer to grow and may not bloom the first year after planting.
The benefits to using hardwood cuttings include their availability, the number of methods available, and a slightly more hardy plantlet.
There are three possible methods for propagating stem cuttings: in soil, in water and using the log method.
These methods have similar care but require different preparation and handling.
Selecting Your Cuttings
You don’t want to harvest growth that’s too green, or it won’t have growth nodes.
You’ll need at least one growth node (which looks like a small bump) for new growth to form.
Hardwood cuttings may be anywhere from 2″ to 8” inches long, while softwood cuttings will need to be 4″ to 6” inches long.
Use sharp, sterile shears or a knife and cut at a 45° degree angle.
Preparing a Container
Choose a pot that’s large enough to lay the stem down in and fill it with good quality potting soil mixed with some coarse sand.
When using the water method, fill a clear glass with 2” inches of room temperature distilled water.
Remove all but the top two sets of leaves (if present) from your cuttings and dip in rooting hormone, if you so choose.
Planting Hardwood Cuttings (AKA the Log Method)
This method takes a hardwood cutting and lays it horizontally in the soil.
Begun by making a slight depression in the soil with your finger to lay the cutting in.
The piece of hardwood should be half buried and half exposed with the growth node or leaves facing up.
Water the soil lightly and keep it lightly moistened in a warm, sunny spot.
If multiple sprouts appear, they may be divided once they’re several inches tall.
Planting Greenwood Cuttings
Dampen the soil and poke a hole in the middle with your finger.
Push your greenwood cutting 1 to 2” inches deep and firm the soil around it.
Create a clear plastic tent over the pot to help prevent moisture loss and place it in a warm, sunny spot away from direct sunlight.
Keep the soil slightly damp, and new growth should appear in 2 to 3 weeks.
The plantlet will have established itself in about a month.
While water propagation is best reserved for hardwood cuttings, you can also have some degree of success with greenwood.
Sit your cutting in the glass, making sure the leaves remain clear of water, then set it in bright, indirect sunlight.
You’ll need to change the water every 1 to 2 days.
In about a week or two, you’ll see the budding of new roots.
You may then transplant the cutting to a container.
Note that it may droop a little at first due to transplant shock.
After a month or two, the roots will become established enough to begin feeding.
The first two or three doses of fertilizer should be at half the normal strength to encourage growth.