Angel’s Trumpet ( Brugmansia )

Angel’s Trumpet
Angel’s Trumpet
Angel’s Trumpet
Angel’s Trumpet

This will grow as a shrub but can be coaxed into a tree form by the usual pruning of lower branches. If you protect the trunk in cooler months ( insulated pipe wrap works very well ) it will grow faster and develop a tree form quicker. In time it can reach 20′ in height.

Grow this plant in full sun ( except Houston afternoon full sun ) to filtered shade.

If exposed to a light frost you’ll lose the leaves, if exposed to an extended frost, or several like in the winter of 2009-2010 it will die back to the ground. Mine came back to life in March.

During the July and Aug the brugmansia will wilt in the afternoon heat.

The flowers come in white, pink, red, yellow or orange.

Do not cut this plant to make it bushy, it will do so on its own. When the limb branches, flowers will form on the new growth. If you must prune it, do so while it is not flowering. If yours is not growing bushy and blooming prolifically water it more and protect it from afternoon sun.

The base of this plant gets scraggly looking with time. You’ll either want to prune it to tree shape or plant something in front of it to cover the bottom.

This plant is easily propagated from cuttings. To propagate you cut off a limb, cut it into 1′ chunks and stick the sticks in the ground. I find it propagates better from hard wood cuttings, soft cuttings don’t usually survive. One person told me she had done that. Two years later they had climbed to the second floor of her home. So this is a be sure you love it before you plant it plant.

These plants are native to the high Andes where they grow as a scrub brush. The high trade in Brugmansia has made it endangered there.

Some say the name comes from the trumpet shaped flowers. I’ve also heard that the leaves are highly toxic and if you ingest it you’ll hear the angel’s trumpets calling for you. The leaves when dried and smoked are also an extremely strong hallucinogenic, don’t smoke them. Despite the toxicity the plant is used as a medicine in the Sibundoy Valley of Columbia. It is also used in witchcraft by the men of the local tribes. Tropane alkaloids (atropine, hyoscyamine, scopolamine) are the culprit, the same chemicals found in belladonna and henbane.

It has also been known to send more than a few gardeners to the ER with pupils so dilated the irises were hardly visible. The toxins easily pass through the skin. Wear gloves when pruning.

These do not do well in droughts. If if looks like we’re getting a hard freeze, I take cuttings and plant them in pots inside until the weather warms up a bit so I can start new plants in the spring. While most of these died in the great freeze of 2021, a few didn’t. They died back to the ground but are returning.

Datura have upright facing flowers, green stems and seed pods with spines. They are less cold tolerant than Brugmansia.
Brugmansia have downward facing flowers, harder, woody stems, grow taller and more tree like than Datura which prefer a shrub like shape. Brugmansia have pea pod like seed pods


For more information:
Brugmansia Growers
Brugmansia Forum – Garden Web

Aglaonema aka Chinese Evergreen

{Emerald Beauty}

Aglaonema grows in the rain forests in south eastern Asia. This is a low light plant and great for cleaning pollutants out of the air. Place them in north, east or west windows. They will not tolerate direct sunlight. They also need warmth preferring temperatures above 75′. They will show damage at 55’F.

The plant in the picture is in a north-west window that is shaded partially by a porch that runs out next to the window. I missed getting a picture of it in bloom, it bloomed in the winter. The flowers are very much like those of peace lilies.

Keep it slightly dry, water when the soil is dry for about the top inch, but do not allow it to dry out completely. I fertilize about once a week with a fertilizer at about 1/4 strength. It will comfortably handle both dry and humid environments, but prefers humid environments.

Propagate these like you do an ivy plant. Cut off a stem of leaves and place the stem in a glass of water until roots appear. Then plant in soil. Keep the soil damp at first and gradually work up to treating it as you do your other Aglaonema.

This plant will grow to between 2′ and 12′ depending on conditions, but most will stay under 3′.

This is an excellent houseplant for the darker areas of your home.

Watch for root rot, mealy bugs and spider mites. I had no trouble with this plant, it is unlikely you will either.

Swale Garden

What can you do with the soggy mushy parts of your property? How about planting some plants that love water? Known down here as Swale Gardens these are gardens planted in areas that either remain damp or flood after a rain and remain wet for a while.

The first thing to do was to dig a trench about 8″wide x 4″deep along the edge of the wet area and fill it with gravel. This takes the water off the lawn and funnels it into the swale garden.

Now all the water runs into the swale garden when it rains, leaving the grass drier. I lined the area between the trench and the lawn with larger rocks.

The irises were here when we purchased the home. I’ve added curly rush, Papryus, Umbrella flower, Spider lilies, Agapanthus and all have done well so far.

Other recommended plants for rain or swale gardens in the Houston area include: Cardinal Flower ( Lobelia cardinalis ), Lizard tail ( Saururus cernuus ), Spider lily ( Hymenocallis liriosme ), Pickerelweed ( Pontederia cordata ), Leatherwood, Titi ( Cyrilla racemiflora ), Horsetail ( Equisetum hyemale ), Buttonbush ( Cephalanthus occidentalis ).

More information:
Rain Gardens Sprouting up Everywhere
Going native with plants: A new-old direction for water conservation

Cattleya and crosses

Cattleya orchids are the orchids you see in corsages. Some are scented, some are not. They come in an endless selection of colors.

Cattleya orchids need lots of light so after blooming put them in a south facing window. They like it to be fairly warm aim for a day temperature of 75-85’F and a night temperature of 55′-60’F. They need a temperature difference of about 15’F to put them into a blooming cycle. So put them outside in the spring or fall or put them near a door or drafty window. If you put them outside put them in the shade. Bright sun inside your home is like shade outside your home.

Pot them in sphagnum moss not dirt or bark if you are keeping them as houseplants. Your home is too dry for them to grow on bark as they do in the wild. If they are planted in moss water when the top of the moss is totally dry. I find I need to water once a week if it’s been a sunny week and about once every ten days if it’s been cloudy.

If you do plant them in bark check them daily they will need to be watered several times a week. If you are not sure when to water them and they are planted in bark, place a wooden skewer deep in the middle of the pot. Leave just a little showing. Pull out the skewer to see if it is wet or dry in the pot.

If the orchid is getting enough water leaves will not flop or be wrinkled, roots will be green. Wrinkles on leaves, white roots mean the plant is getting too little water. Do not let it sit in water, but water more frequently being sure to let excess water drain out. If the plant is getting too much water, the roots will turn black and rot.

I fertilize them when I re-pot them and don’t bother much otherwise. Orchids love root fertilizer and hormones as well. Several companies sell these fertilizers.

These may be divided when they out grow the pot. Separate the pseudo bulbs with a sharp knife, be sure to have several in each section.

I belong to an ‘orchid of the month club’. Which means that before too long I have orchids coming out of my ears and no place to put them. Last winter I decided the cattleya orchids were on their own. ‘Live or die’, I declared, the choice is yours.

Surprisingly they did survive the mild winter later in a colder winter with several real freezes they died.

To grow cattleya orchids outside in Houston year round you need a wet spot in the garden. They love to be damp and it just can’t be too humid for them.

Despite being sun loving plants, full sun in Houston was too much. I find 2-3 hours of sun is enough to keep the leaves kelly green and give them enough food for blooming.

If the weather gets cold protect them when you cover your other tender plants.

Cattleya plants first arrived in the new world from South and Central American unexpectedly. They arrived in England with a shipment of ferns and were used as packaging for the ferns. William Cattley potted some up out of curiosity. In 1818 they bloomed and have been the love of flower lovers ever since.

Despite attempts to grow and local more they were lost to the new world until they were re-found in 1889.

Their popularity decreased their numbers in the wild and continues to do so today.

No bloom – plant needs more light
Root rot – they love water but be sure they are not sitting in water. Move them to a new better draining location.
Virus – their is no hope, destroy plants before virus can spread ( leaves get yellow blotches and streaks that turn brown. Leaves may have rings of yellow dots. )
Scale – physically remove scale, treat with insecticide oil.
Mealy bugs – wash off with soap and water.

Propagation is easiest by division.

Soldier’s Orchid (Zeuxine strateumatics L. Schlecter )

Soldier’s Orchid
Soldier’s Orchid

Sunday the sun came out and the temperature climbed not just over 50′ but clear up past 65′. I was able to get out into the garden and pull a few weeks and found this plant in several beds. Thanks to the experts at The Garden Web Forums I found out this is a Soldier’s Orchid.

Native to Asia it is now found here starting in Florida, and working its way over to Texas. It appears in December or January, blooms a couple of weeks and disappears till next year. It will re-grow from the roots and appear in a different location next year.

Considered by lawn fanatics to be a weed, gardeners know better.

These orchids failed to show in 2008 but reappeared in January 2009.