Beauteous Brugs

– Posted in: Miscellaneous

I’ve got hundreds if not thousands of plant species out back, but a few times a year one in particular captivates me. It’s exotic, hallucinogenic even. (Though I cannot personally vouch for that). It has giant flowers, and big, jagged-edged leaves. Best of all, it boasts a fragrance so intoxicating it’s nearly psychedelic. I’m talking about Brugmansias. I first saw them while hiking in the Ecuadorean Andes, where villagers in some of the hamlets around the town of Otovalo planted them at the corners of their houses. “They protect our dreams,” a villager told me. Plants are easy to grow, even here in Connecticut, where I have them in containers and in the ground. Mine overwinter in a dark cool basement and recieve zero attention from me from late October to early May. Outside, once they launch into growth, they pump out several flushes of bloom that are just a marvel for the senses. I get about four flushes a season, each one bigger and better. Tonight’s one of those magical evenings. The brugs are absolutely stellar. Transporting even. Tonight, I’m going to make a mojito, sit under the brugs while their fragrance builds in the dwindling twilight, and drift away on a wave of fragrance. My dreams will be very well protected.

Steve Silk

Steve Silk

Steve Silk

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Ewa August 29, 2008, 2:29 am

ooohh… they look so great in your garden – well fitting the other planting. Sometimes they look just weird if not well composed with other elements in the garden.
This post makes me even more sure, that get one for my garden. But I hesitate: should I pick white or yellow? Which one has stronger fragrance?

Hi Ewa–I think every garden could find a place for a brug. A container in a seating area makes a good spot. In addition to white and yellow, there are also pinks and a whole range of peachy colors. I’ve gown about a dozen cultivars, but my favorite for vigor and fragrance is ‘Charles Grimaldi.’ A yellow, ‘Inca Sun’, is also excellent–it blooms more regularly than most others.–Steve

Frances August 29, 2008, 5:53 am

Ah, what beauties. My neighbor has several, I think the yellows are the prettiest. They are not as tall this year due to our drought but are blooming now too. He cuts them down to about three feet in the fall, surrounds the stalks with wire cages and fills that with leaves, topping up as necessary. He used to take them into a heated outbuilding until they got too large to move in the pots. We are zone 7a in TN. Yours do look perfect in your garden of earthly delights.

Hi Frances–Thanks. I like the yellows and, because of my love of orange, any of the peachy ones. I don’t thnk mine could survive being outdoors in winter here, so inside they go. It’s major effort hauling them in and out, but for big plants there’s no option. They are also easy to root-just put a small cutting in a glass of water, in several weeks little roots appear, then you can carry it through winter as a houseplant. ‘Charles Grimaldi can easily reach 4 feet or more in a single season, so long as it gets lots of water and plenty of fertilizer, which they all love. One good way to bulk plants up quickly is to start taking them outside–for the day only–in early spring whenever temps are above 60 or so. They are tropical plants, but typically grow at altitude, so they like cool weather.–Steve

Kim August 29, 2008, 7:21 am

They are beautiful! I have a neighbor, a real plantsman, who cares for one and puts it in the ground each year. I’ve been afraid to try, but if you can grow them in Connecticut, I should be able to grow one in Maryland. I have a basement . . . . .

Then make use of that basement, Kim! These things really hang on. Once I went to check my basement plants in early February, when these things are usually just sticks, and there in the darkness was a single albino flower dangling from one of the branches. That’s determination.–Steve

our friend Ben August 29, 2008, 10:55 am

Ooh, yes, mojitos and fragrant brugmansias and a relaxing sit-down in the evening garden. Go for it!!!

Hi Elly–I did. And you know what? I think I’ll do it again tonight. Cheers!–Steve

lawremc August 29, 2008, 1:33 pm

I got my first two this year and while they have bloomed, not nearly as profuse as your photos. do you find they are heavy feeders?

One note they are poisonous so perhaps not a good choice for gardens with small children.

Hi–Yes, Brugmansias are the kind of plant people are talking about when they are talking heavy feeders. Mine get planted in compost rich soil and fertlized whenever I think of it; those in pots get a drenching with liquid soluble 20-20-20 weekly. To get really dramatic displays you do need a larger plant, and that usually entails overwintering them for a year or two.
Yes they are poisonous, and hallucinogenic. Garden designer and author Gordon Hayward once told me he has a friend who made a long car trip with brug in the vehicle, and that the guy got quite sick. That said, I’ve had no ill effects from working with them. I do have one friend who made a psychedelic compound that he ingested; said it was very unpleasant. They are discussed inthe Carlos Castaneda books.
Anyway, I’m the father of a 10-year old and have gardened full tilt through his whole life, and I wonder: Do people really have problems with kids eating their plants? And do they get rid of all their foxgloves and other common but toxic plants? But yes, I suppose theit toxicity is a good thing to note.–Steve

Gail August 29, 2008, 6:54 pm

They are fantastic looking Steve and fragrance on top of the good looks makes them tempting to try. Friends grow them here in Nashville, Zone 7a and each year they take them inside to wait until frost danger is past.

Thanks Gail-I’d think brugs would love Nashville.–Steve

ESP August 29, 2008, 11:34 pm

All I can say is “wow”! those are amazing. I wish they grew like that in Texas! mine struggle through the summer then put on a brief show (nothing like what you posted) in the fall, then die back again…some years are better than others.
Amazing, I am jealous.

Thanks, after years of trying to grow these as heat-loving tropicals I realize they actually prefer somewhat cool conditions-which must be in short supply in Texas. Might be worth looking around to see if there are any cultivars better suited to heat.–Steve

Blackswampgirl Kim August 30, 2008, 8:59 pm

Okay, I’ve wanted to grow these for a couple of years now and resisted… but since I already have the makings for mojitos I think that I might as well add the brugs, too! So I’m guessing I need a fairly good-sized pot for one of these… 20″? 24″? Bigger?

Karrita August 31, 2008, 1:03 pm

Your Brugs are spectacular! I love the meaning the villager gave to you about them, ” They protect our dreams” beautiful sentiment. I have 4 different varieties so i must be really protected 🙂 . There is nothing like seeing and smelling this bloom on a summers full moon evening, a gift from above.
What a great garden and blog you have created!
Karrita of

catzgarden September 1, 2008, 12:31 am

My god! What a beautiful garden~ your brugmansias are fantastic.

As to toxicity – I do know they are related to jimson weed – or “loco weed” as it’s known in the West. Every year, there are high school kids around here who try using the seeds (of jimson weed), and end up VERY sick in the hospital.

That said- it’s a hypnotically beautiful plant, and yours are wonderful specimens….thanks for a great post.

lawremc September 2, 2008, 10:14 am

Mine are several years old I think. Bought them at at plant sale with inch thick plus stems already 3 ft. tall.

I expect mine need more fertilizer to bloom like yours but they have been lovely all summer.

I have an 8 year old and a garden full of things that should not be ingested—lantana, brugs, and solanum jasminoides to name a few.

I always supervised her outdoors when little. Now at 8—she knows not to taste anything unless approved by mom unless it something in the veggie containers.

Vertie September 3, 2008, 6:11 pm

When I traveled last fall to Iguazu Falls in Argentina, the brugmansia were growing 15 to 20 feet high. That’s when I learned about their hallucinogenic properties–from the tour guide, not from personal experience.

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