Datura are fragrant white flowers that grow on vine-like plants. In northern areas they are grown as annuals and in warmer southern areas they are true perennials. Native to the Americas, datura has long been associated with magic and shamanism. Their fragrance will perfume your entire yard on calm evenings as their scent is stronger after dark.
Start seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before your average last spring frost. Soak the seeds overnight to help them germinate faster. Another option is to refrigerate them for six weeks and then rub them against an emery board or fine grade sandpaper to scarify, which helps speed germination.
Sow seeds in individual 2-inch pots filled with a commercial seed starting mix. Water so the soil is moist but not wet. Provide the pots with bottom heat to help with germination; datura need temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer in order to germinate. Set them on top of the refrigerator, a heating pad set at the lowest heat setting or a heated germination mat.
Move seedlings under artificial light as soon as they germinate. Keep the lights three inches above the tops of the plants and raise the lights as the plants grow.
Acclimate to outdoor conditions for a couple of weeks before planting in the garden. Put datura plants into the shade for a few hours each day, increasing their time outdoors every day. Cover or bring indoors if temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plant in full sun in rich garden soil that has been improved with compost and peat moss. Spread an inch of both on the surface of the soil and turn over with a garden shovel. Rake the area smooth before setting the datura plants out.
Space datura transplants 6- to 8-inches apart. Firm the soil around the roots gently and water each plant individually as you set them out. Plant on a cloudy day or in the evening to give them a chance to recover from transplanting before the hot sun beats down on them.
Mulch the soil around your datura plants with shredded bark, buckwheat hulls, straw or hay. Place a 3- to 6-inch layer of mulch around the plants and in the areas between the rows.
Provide datura with the equivalent of at least an inch of rainfall per week. They like moisture and will tolerate prolonged rainy spells quite well. Their roots like to be moist but their leaves like to stay dry. Water with a soaker hose laid on the ground threaded among the plants.
In areas south of Zone 7, datura will grow as a perennial. The plants will die down to the roots in the fall and grow from them again in spring. Cover with a 2- to 3-inch layer of autumn leaves before cold winter weather sets in.