Originally native to the mountains and valleys of northern South America, Brugmansias are closely related to both tomatoes and datura.
These fantastic trees are now extinct in the wild but have become popular garden plants worldwide.
The trumpet-shaped flowers of these plants are often heavily scented and dangle down, lending to the common name of angel’s trumpet.
For most Americans, growing a Brugmansia means keeping it in a container either indoors or outside only in warm weather.
Florida is much more fortunate, as the climate in the southern half of the state is warm enough to grow one in your garden year-round.
Tips on Growing Angel Trumpet in Florida
The climate in Florida is nearly ideal for these plants, although drainage and winters at the northernmost portions of the state may be an issue.
The good news is a little planning can lead to a lasting relationship with your Brugmansias.
This is perhaps the most confusing aspect of choosing the right Brugmansia for your garden.
The seven species and three variants of Brugmansia are divided into warm and cold groups.
Cultivars can be a lot more tolerant of cold or certain other conditions, but you’ll have to do some research to determine the needs of your particular cultivar choice.
Warm group Brugmansia are often sensitive to frost and need to be planted in USDA hardiness zone 10b or warmer.
This means you’ll have to grow them in a container if you live north of Miami.
Cold group Brugmansia were adapted to the slopes of the Andes, so they tend to be more cold-tolerant.
However, they still don’t like frost and even the hardy Brugmansia arborea can only tolerate winters in zone 9b or warmer.
As a result, unless you have a more frost-hardy cultivar, you’ll have to keep your brug in a container if you live north of Orlando.
The good news is that growing angel’s trumpets in a container isn’t much different from growing one in the ground.
The biggest differences are that you will need to overwinter the plant indoors and repot it every two years or so.
Soil and Spacing
These trees will need a decent amount of space to grow when planted in the ground.
Try to space them 4 to 5’ feet away from walks, buildings, and other tall plants.
In terms of soil, average garden soil will be just fine, although – and this cannot be stressed enough – you will need to augment the soil to ensure good drainage.
When you go to pot or plant your Brugmansia, add a substrate of gravel or coarse sand.
This will create a buffer zone to ensure your Brugmansia isn’t sitting in water after the heavy summer rains.
You will also want to mix in some perlite, gravel, or coarse sand to help keep the soil from compacting.
Light, Water, and Food Needs
Your angel’s trumpet loves full sun throughout most parts of Florida.
Down towards the Keys, a bit of afternoon shade or dappled sun can help prevent the leaves from scorching in the midsummer sun.
Summers in Florida are somewhat notorious for sudden, heavy downpours.
These frequent rains can easily flood out your Angel trumpet plants, leading to root rot or fungal infections.
Thankfully, a proper substrate can help reduce the risk of standing water.
As Brugmansias prefer 3” inches of rainfall per week, you’ll want to use the soak-and-dry method to ensure they’re not getting too much or too little.
Simply test the soil with your finger and only water if it feels dry 1” inch deep.
There are several options for feeding angel trumpets, including fertilizers made explicitly for Brugmansias and Daturas.
However, an excellent alternative is a tomato fertilizer with an NPK of 30-10-20 provided 3 to 4 times during the growing season.
You may also wish to add a layer of organic compost or mulch for extra nutrition.
Just remember not to feed these plants during the winter months.
NOTE: These insect pests attack angel trumpets: whiteflies, aphids, spider mites, mealybugs
Know the Risks
As beautiful as Brugmansias are, they’re also deadly.
Every part of the Brugmansia plant is highly toxic to both humans and pets.
Unfortunately, the blooms are also a powerful hallucinogenic, leading teens and adults alike to try and consume the flowers.
Even a small amount of tea made using the flowers can have terrifying effects.
Those under the influence have been known to mutilate themselves and become violent or even suffer temporary bouts of insanity.
In extreme cases, consuming a tiny amount can even lead to death.
In 1994 alone, there were 85 cases of Florida youths becoming seriously ill after attempting to get high off of Brugmansia.
When planning to add angel trumpets to your garden, think about whether they will be visible or accessible to passersby.
If the answer is yes, consider planting your tree in a side or rear yard space instead of in front of your home.
While it’s tempting to display these incredible plants for all to see, safety should always come first.