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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.