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Linda Naeve, Reiman Gardens, (515) 294-2710,
Jean McGuire, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-7033,

Angel's Trumpet Adds a Touch of the Tropics

By Linda Naeve
Extension Coordinator
Reiman Gardens

"You can't fool Mother Nature!" That phrase was used for a margarine sales campaign a few years ago. It is also one that gardeners need to be reminded of this time of year. A mild winter and warm weather in early spring tease and tempt us into the garden earlier than the calendar tells us. A late-season snowfall always brings us back to reality.

However, there are ways gardeners can safely fool Mother Nature. To do that, they must respect and abide by "her" rules, such as knowing the proper planting time and recognizing what plants to handle as tender perennials or annuals. This week's Reiman's Pick – angel's trumpet – is a good example of fooling Mother Nature because this tropical plant can be grown in Iowa by setting it outdoors during the summer and bringing it indoors during the winter.

Angel's trumpet, Brugmansia x candida (formerly Datura x candida) belongs to the Solanaceae plant family, along with the tomato, pepper, eggplant, potato and tobacco species. It is native to South and Central America where it grows up to 30 feet in height. It belonged to the genus Datura until the early 1970s. At that time, the genus was divided to distinguish the smaller growing plants in the Datura genus from the taller growing trees or shrub species that were reclassified as members of the Brugmansia genus. Not only does the plant size and leaf form differ between these two genera, but the flowers and fruits of the two genera are also different.

Angel's trumpet grows 8 to 15 feet in height with large trumpet-shaped flowers nearly a foot in length. The flowers are white, yellow, pink or salmon. The fragrance of angel's trumpet flowers is almost as overwhelming as their size. They bloom all year in cycles of about six weeks, with the most stunning displays in summer and fall.
Angel's trumpet is usually propagated as stem cuttings and is shipped or purchased as a small plant. When it arrives, place it in a sunny window until the threat of frost is past. Set it outdoors in a shady, protected area at first and gradually increase the amount of light it receives. Angel's trumpet grows rapidly and vigorously in full sun to partial shade. By early summer, it will need transplanting into a large container, such as a 12- to 15-inch-diameter pot.

Keep angel's trumpet well watered or it will quickly wilt. The plant can recover from moderate drought stress, but the current buds and flowers will drop off. Apply a soluble complete analysis fertilizer about every two weeks.

Because angel's trumpet is native to tropical areas, the minimum safe growing temperature is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. When cooler temperatures are forecast, spray the plant with a forceful stream of water before taking it indoors to reduce the number of insect pests that may hitchhike their way into your home. Set the plant in a bright location and water when the surface of the soil is dry.

Although it is called angel's trumpet, this plant is only "angelic" in appearance. All parts of the angel's trumpet plant are toxic to people, including the flowers and seeds, so avoid them if you have small children in your home.

You can see the beautiful angel's trumpet now in the new tropical Conservatory at Reiman Gardens. Later this summer, they will be outdoors in the tropical garden where Reiman Gardens' horticulturists may fool you into believing Iowa is a tropical paradise – at least for a few months.

To learn more about the Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University visit us on the Web at:


Editors: Two color photos, suitable for publication, are available at right. Click on each thumbnail photo to go to the fullsized photo. The top picture's fullsize photo is 368K and the bottom picture's fullsize photo is 332K.

Caption: Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia x candida) 1.

Caption: Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia x candida) 2.

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