Trumpet of the Angels

Sounding a clarion for beauty and perfume, the tropical angel’s trumpet plant (Brugmansia) was once a stalwart presence on our summer patio. After a few years, however, I got tired of lugging the large pots up and down the attic staircase, so they fell out of favor and have been missing for the last several seasons. This year, I found a large robust specimen at Faddegon’s for a relatively reasonable price (they’ve gotten way too expensive for such an easily-propagated species) and brought them back into our summer fold.

Luckily, they bloomed, which isn’t always the case with this plant. (It usually takes a year or two to get them going.) Their lemony fragrance is a delight, particularly as it ripens and becomes most pronounced as the evening progresses. It’s a magical thing when perched beside the pool on a hot summer night, emitting its lovely perfume and filling the area with sweetness. The pendulous dangling form of its flowers are just as enchanting as its scent, enthralling with their trumpet-like form, beckoning for a closer inspection like most objects of mystery and beauty do.

Their care is simple – lots of sun and heat, lots of water and regular fertilizing, and then over-wintering indoors if you’re in the brutal Northeast. I’m pretty sure they’re only hardy to about zone 8 or warmer, but I’ve heard tales of plants surviving in unheated garages. That’s too risky for a grand specimen like this, so I’ll bring it in to the basement for a change. I can usually get two or three years out of a plant this size without needed to repot – just a top dressing of new soil and some additional fertilizer throughout the year usually suffices. After three or four years, you’ll need to repot or start over again with cuttings. The latter is often easier.

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