The angel's trumpet tree is a member of the genus Brugmansia. These small tropical shrubs or trees reward the grower every year with giant colorful flowers that will get noticed in the landscape. Although they are tropical, they can be used in cooler areas with a little special winter care.
Angel's trumpets are native to the high-altitude remote Indian village of Sibundoy and the surrounding Sibundoy valley in Columbia. It grows in the south of the valley in a forested area called Cerro Patascoy, which has not been completely botanically described. Since its introduction into cultivation, numerous hybrids have been produced and it is primarily grown as a greenhouse plant or landscape shrub in very warm areas such as South Florida.
Angel's trumpet is a woody stemmed shrub that grows to 15 feet tall with about a 15-foot spread. The leaves are large and oval shaped. They can reach about 8 inches long. The trunk is green when new, but ages to brown. The pendulous flowers are the most striking characteristic of the Angel's trumpet. It produces abundant amounts of white, yellow or pink trumpet-shaped flowers in summer through fall. Flowers can reach up to 12 inches long.
Angel's trumpet likes full sun in northern climates and light shade in southern areas. It prefers a fast draining organically rich soil with a slightly acidic pH. It can use copious amounts of water and fertilizer during the growing season. Although it only is hardy to USDA zones 10 and higher, it can successfully be used as an annual or a container plant that is taken indoors over the winter in cooler climates. Some gardeners have had success with letting it die back to the ground in winter and mulching it heavily.
When growing it in cool climates, it is best to winter it in a warm greenhouse where it can continue to grow. It can be forced into dormancy until spring in a cool basement. To force dormancy, put it in an areas that is about 40 degrees and reduce water to just enough to keep the pot from completely drying out. When all danger of frost is gone in spring, bring it back outdoors and slowly acclimate it from shade to full sun over a few weeks.
Angel's trumpet is a great plant for specimen shrubs in the middle of a lawn or near walkways. It can be left to grow as a bush or the lower branches can be removed to make it look like a small tree. It can also be used as a container plant and will withstand heavy pruning to keep it small.
The native people in its habitat have used it for religious ceremonies. The plant produces narcotic chemicals that are extracted by local medicine men. Ingesting these chemicals can lead to death--all parts of the plant are considered toxic.