These beautiful fragrant plants are commonly known as Angel’s Trumpet. This week we will take a look at the Brugmansia family. Hailing from South America, these beauties love damp conditions with warm days and cool nights. They are in the Solanaceae family, which is the same family that tomatoes, potatoes and petunias are in. However, a word of caution: Brugmansias are toxic.
Over Wintering Brugmansia
If you live in zone 9, these are long-lived perennials, but if you are in zone 8 or lower and the roots should freeze, they will die. The best thing to do is over winter them in either a sunny window or by pruning them back and storing them in a cool, dark place such as a basement. Another option available if you have limited space is to save the seeds by placing a pantyhose or similar material over the seed pod and allowing it to open naturally. The liquid inside the seed pod is extremely dangerous, and should not be touched with bare skin. You can take a cutting, dip it in rooting hormone and roll it in newspaper before placing in a safe place. These plants have been known to root up to two years after they have been stored in this way.
Caring For Brugmansia
Now, you ask, I have a healthy Brugmansia, how do I go about keeping it happy? The first thing to do is make sure if you choose to grow yours in a pot that it is balanced so the wind cannot knock it over. The limbs of these plants break fairly easily. Remember to leave enough room at the top of the pot to water it. They love water and can handle a drink daily in the hot summer months. Another suggestion is to fertilize your Brugmansias with a good fertilizer at least every two to three weeks. A commonly used fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro, Peters, or Andersons 17-17-17 is a good choice. Another suggestion would be to give your plant some shade during the hot part of the day. Brugmansias love full sun, but the heat caused by it can result in slowed growth, sparse or no blooms and leaf loss to name just a few of the problems. There is no sight like that of a Brugmansia heavy with blossoms. It’s just gorgeous. The perfume that the flowers release is a sweet, intoxicating scent. Brugmansias will bloom abundantly year round if given the proper care.
Pruning Your Brugmansia
If you decide to prune your Brugmansia instead of allowing it to grow naturally, you must wait until it begins to “Y.” If you have purchased your plant, it may already have a “Y,” but if you are growing yours from a cutting or seeds, you will have to be patient. The purpose of pruning a Brugmansia is to force it to grow more limbs, thereby forcing it to produce more flowers. The proper way to do this is to cut all but the newest growth off. Let it grow a bit and snip it here and there remembering to cut as close to the trunk as possible without cutting into the trunk. If you prefer a bushy tree, then you must prune a lateral branch. The cuts here need to be made at the joint, and each joint can produce up to two new branches. If you prefer to get fancier with your Brugmansia, you can make a double or triple trunk tree and then proceed to twist or braid the trunks together, but you must start at an early age so that the trunks are soft and flexible. You will need to cut the leaves off the stems as you go and keep them tied with pantyhose as this will not cut into the stems. Using this method you can use one single colored plant, or two to three different colored plants. The results can be very unique and varied. Remember there is nothing like having a unique plant that no one else has. You don’t have to reveal your trade secrets either.
You can also prune the roots of a Brugmansia without hurting the plant. The purpose of this is so you can continue to enjoy your plant, without having to buy a new pot. Speaking of pots, a full grown Brugmansia will be perfectly content in a ten gallon pot as long as you keep the roots trimmed and occasionally replace the soil.
A watering can is a must-have in every home and garden where live plants are growing. It is recommended that you purchase one with a narrow spout to ensure adequate watering. However, even with adequate watering plants can receive too much or two little water depending on a number of factors such as soil temperature, root mass and watering frequency, so the finger test may come in handy. Insert your index finger into the soil near the center of the pot up to the first joint. If you feel that the soil is damp, don’t water it. If the soil is dry, go ahead and give the plant a through watering. Most houseplants unless they are from a rainforest region do not need to sit in water so go ahead and use saucers under their pots, but dump the excess water out of the saucer 10 to 15 minutes after you water the plant.
Foliage plants prefer a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. For flowering plants a phosphorus-rich organic fertilizer is needed. Fertilizers such as the slow release ones can be mixed with compost and applied as a top dressing or mixed right into the soil. However, some plants like cacti and orchids need special fertilizers at specific times such as when they are in flower. Feed plants during height of their active growth. I prefer to not fertilize my plants at all during their rest period. For most plants this is the winter months but there are exceptions. Plants like the Christmas cactus or amaryllis need fertilizer during the winter months because this is their normal bloom season.
Plants like Sanseveria and Aspidistra can handle darker areas of your home, so they can be placed away from a window. Spider plants need semi-shade. You can put plants like these near a window that does or does not get sunlight but it is best if the windows do not get direct sunlight as this could burn your plants delicate leaves. Most houseplants have tags in them that say how much light they need. In the event your houseplant does not have this tag look the plant up online. In the event you do not know the plants name, here are some things to watch for to let you know if your plant is receiving the correct amount of light. Brown, burnt looking spots on the leaves often indicate too much light – or too little humidity in some cases. Plants whose leaves look more white than green are not getting enough sunlight unless the plant is supposed to have light colored leaves.
Houseplants can survive in temperatures a little bit higher than 15 – 25 Celius or 55 – 75 Fahrenheit. Drastic fluctuations of temperature are good for them. Plants also prefer warmer temperatures during the day and cooler temperatures at night. I try to keep my house plants room temperature around 65 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime and 50 degrees fahrenheit at night during the winter months and they do fine. Again, look at the tag if at all possible and see what temperature the plant prefers. Keep in mind, this is only a guideline. The key is to make sure to always keep your plants soil temperature at or above the minimum temperature requirements. A specialized heat mat for plants can help with this.
Some houseplants require a humid environment. One tip to maximize humidity is to put the pot inside a larger pot and fill in the gaps with stones or compost to keep in the moisture. Another tip is to place the pot in a saucer filled with pebbles covered in water. Make sure the water level is low enough that the pot is not sitting in water but rather on the pebbles. Plants are capable of creating their own climate if grouped together. If you want, you can spray them with water once or twice a day depending on the day’s temperature or run a humidifier in the room your plants are in but be sure to position it as close to your plants as possible.
Plants require repotting for optimum growth but be sure you know the name of your plant as some plants must be repotted without root disturbance. Another issue may be that the plants’ root system is too small to really need potted up into a larger container. One way to check if your plant needs repotting is to turn it upside down. Tap the pot to release the plant and check its roots. If roots are all you see, then repot. For plants that do not like root disturbance, allow the soil to dry slightly so it does not fall off the roots when you replant. This can be tricky but I have successfully done it – and you can too.
You just need to learn the right way to care for your plants and in turn, you’ll reap the benefits. You will not only have a garden that can add to your house’s beauty you also learn how to respect and nurture life in its varied forms. While this article did focus on houseplants, the tips also apply to garden plants. These are the basics of plant care.
Fall is here which means winter isn’t far off and it’s time – once again – to bring your tropical plants indoors. We all know the drill – move the plants out in spring, redecorate, then panic once the nights begin to cool down. If you’re like me, not only have the plants you moved outdoors last spring grown drastically but you’ve added more plants to the list. Space is tight here and sometimes I truly wonder how the heck I managed the winter before – even with a greenhouse – because as we all know, in cold climates like Indiana you just can’t rely on keeping your greenhouse hot enough to keep the really tropical plants alive. Never mind the ice and heavy snowfalls that often knock the power out – and believe me, a greenhouse cools down real fast when it’s dark outside and the heater quit working.
So, what’s a plant lover to do? Make room of course. Donate or store the stuff you can’t use or don’t need. After all, the plants deserve a place in your house. The other option is to get creative. Choose indoor decor that looks good with or without plants. Now, you may be thinking what the heck does she mean. Bird cages are a great example. You can decorate with them by themselves or fill them with live plants, nicknacks, candles or even silk flowers.
I chose to put some of my smaller plants into some rustic looking metal birdcages this year. I found them at an end of the season clearance sale for 90% off. That’s a fantastic deal in itself. I then went to our local hardware store with the greenhouse attached and found plastic square shaped plant saucers that fit perfectly in the bottom of the bird cages. Best of all, the ones I chose were just 62 cents each and had star indents in the bottom to hold a little water for extra humidity. We all know plants like humidity and the house can be a little dry over winter. These plant saucers were a perfect choice and ideally priced.
Once I was home, I set two plant saucers in the bottom of the metal bird cages, watered my plants well, let them drain and then set them on top of the saucers. I closed the lid and set my birdcage in front of a window. Besides looking really cool, the cage has a fastener on it. What a great way to keep tiny hands and pets away from my smaller plants.
When summer quickly starts coming to an end, many of you will be bringing your plants back into the house or to go in search of houseplants that you would like to grow this winter. If you are bringing your plants back indoors, it is a good idea to put some new dirt in their pots, possibly trim their roots a bit, fertilize and thoroughly water them before bringing them in.
Even if you don’t put new dirt in your plants this year, it is a good idea to pull each plant out of their pot, trim their roots and break the soil up a bit. This helps them grow, plus it will give you a good idea of whether they are root bound or not.
Doing this will also give you the chance to sell off some of those extra starts before winter sets in.
This a good time to buy those last minute exotic house plants that may need to be shipped. Many greenhouses stop shipping right around October, depending on the weather, so although you can still purchase the plants, you can’t get them until spring. What plant nut wants to wait all winter to get their plants?
Another thing you may want to do is check your existing plant lights to make sure they are working or buy new grow lights before winter sets in.
Before bringing plants into the house for the winter, check them for pests and disease. If you find a problem, try to rid the plant of the problem before bringing it indoors for the winter. The healthier the plant is when you bring it in, the better the chance of it over wintering.
The holidays are just around the corner and who can resist the brightly colored blooms on the holiday cactus? Flowers in shades of red, purple, pink, white and yellow seem to glisten as they dangle, first as tightly closed buds, then as fully opened flowers, from the end of the green segments of stem.
Schlumbergera truncata, the Thanksgiving cactus, aptly named because it begins to flower in November, which is a month before Schulmbergera bridgesii, the Christmas Cactus begins to flower.
When you first purchase your plant, look for ones that are already in bloom or at least have little buds forming. To convince your plant to bloom in consecutive years you will need to make sure nighttime temperatures are below 68 degrees F but above 60 degrees F. If the temperature is too low the flower buds may fall off. Temperatures that are too high at night will cause a delay in flowering.
Schlumbergera prefer full sun in the winter months. In the summer, move your plant to an area where it will be shaded. The hot summer sun can scorch the leaves of these plants.
Holiday cactus are epiphytic plants which means they typically grow in decaying matter in their native environment. When they are grown in container culture they need a potting mix that drains well. The ideal potting mix would be a combination of perilite, vermiculite and peat moss in equal amounts.
Proper watering of your holiday cactus is important. Improper watering, too much or too little, is one of the main reasons why most houseplants die. Water your holiday cactus early in the day so the foliage will dry before the night temperatures begin to fall. Try to keep the soil evenly moist. Make sure the container you use has drainage holes and if not, put some in the container. Allow water to sit in the saucer for a couple of hours after you have watered the plant, then dump any remaining water out of the saucer. The temperatures that your plant are subjected to will determine how often you will need to water. Touch the soil, if it feels moist, you are ok. If it is soggy or dry, you need to correct that problem immediately.
Finally, once your plant is done flowering, you can share your plant with friends and family. Simply cut off a leaf segment that has four joints, allow it to lay and dry for a day or so, then dip it in rooting hormone and place it in a well draining potting medium, out of direct sunlight and wait. Within three to four weeks your cutting should begin to root.
Holiday cacti are very easy to care for plants that require very little time. By applying these basic techniques your plant will continue to bloom year after year. You will also end up with lots of small plants to share with others or decorate your home with from your original plant.
In my never-ending search to brighten up the dull days of winter, I have come across a group of winter blooming plants. After all, if you can have beautiful blooms in the summer, why not in the winter? It makes perfect sense, and with the holiday celebrations right around the corner, what better way to spruce up your house? It should give your guests something to talk about for quite a while!
Most of the plants I am going to cover today are rather rare. However, a few more common ones may appear along the way. The first plant I came across caught my attention because of the apple-scented foliage. A definite plant to add to your scented garden collection! The Angelonia Salicariaefolia is a tropical flowering shrub that prefers to be grown in a warm greenhouse with temptures of 60 to 65 degrees. The best method of propagation for this plant is with softwood cuttings due to the rarity of seed. It must be grown in moist soil. I was struck by the beautiful variegated flowers of this plant! Very unique! This plant is a late winter or early spring bloomer.
Another late winter or early spring bloomer that caught my eye was the Babiana or Baboon-Root as it is commonly called. Hailing from South Africa, this cormous plant is from the Iris family. It is a low-growing plant and the blooms come in shades of pink, lilac, red or purple, with clusters of six or so on each plant. This plant prefers temptures of 50 to 55 degrees.
Moving on, I came across a shrubby creeper from the Lobelia family the Centropogon . You just have to see this one! It is commonly called the Handsome Crimson Basket Plant. One look and you will know why! This plant is excellent for edging around benches or other similar sized items and is also excellent for use in hanging baskets. An idea to try is to spread out the stems and support them with bamboo or other plant stakes. It is also a winter bloomer, and prefers temptures in the 60 to 65 degree range. Propagation is done by cuttings in the spring and it must have temptures of 70 to 75 degrees to root. It also needs shade during the hot summer months.
Another winter bloomer is the Brunfelsia (Franciscea), grown mostly for its intense night fragrance. Commonly called “Lady-Of-The-Night,” this native shrub hailing form the West Indies is known to bloom from fall to spring. This plant will reach three to four feet, and prefers temptures of 60 degrees. Propagation is done with cuttings of ripened wood in the spring or fall.
Finally, a not-to-be missed winter blooming plant is the Hardenbergia, or Miniature Wisteria. These small beauties come in purple or white and reach only twelve to fifteen feet tall, and flower from winter to spring. They prefer temptures of 50 degrees, and can be propagated from either seed or cuttings. Definitely a few good choices for an abundance of winter blooms are out there. Rather you prefer rare plants, exotic plants, or just plain tropical plants, with a little bit of looking around you are sure to find the perfect plant for your situation and tastes.