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How to Prune Brugmansia

By Jacob J. Wright ; Updated September 21, 2017

A beautiful tropical shrub that can attain a size that is tree-like, the angel trumpet (Brugmansia spp.) is a fast-growing plant renowned for its trumpet-like flowers that release fragrance at night. Tender to cold, the angel trumpet will suffer leaf and branch die-back when temperatures flirt with the freezing mark, eventually being killed outright if prolonged subfreezing cold also penetrates the soil around the roots. Tip pruning is easily done when the plant is actively growing, and strategic removal of branches can improve the structure of the plant and increase flowering and resistance to storm winds.

Allow the angel trumpet to grow upright until the stem or trunk naturally branches, forming a 'Y'. Avoid pruning new growth that is soft and green in color.

Remove any competing suckers, or leggy new growth stems, from the base of the plant as desired. Removal of suckers focuses the plant's energy on the selected desired stems already growing. If a multi-trunked angel trumpet is desired, select two or three suckers to grow from the base, but give them space so they do not grow into each other.

Tip prune any dead or soft, rotting stems during the growing season. Make the pruning cut with the hand pruners back into firmer, healthy stem tissue. The cut can be made anywhere on the beige stem growth, as an angel trumpet will form new grow buds from many locations on its stem after a pruning.

Select the new growth to retain on stems after pruning. The results from pruning vary. Sometimes there is die-back; other times, a massive sprouting of new stems. Pinch or cut away new growth as desired to train branches to grow in locations where you wish to create an impressively-shaped plant.

Prune after a flush of flowers. In regions with year-round warmth and no frosts, the bloom cycle of the angel trumpet follows the lunar phases. Maximize the flowering by pruning branches after flowering so new growth can quickly grow back and flush new blossoms a month later.

Severely cut back stems that are overly lopsided, bending or becoming damaged from a thunderstorm event. Make a crisp, one-motion cut across the stem at an appropriate height to remove the branches or stem. Use loppers on large stems to make a clean cut. Consider chopping away upper branches to lessen the weight on the trunk that is to be removed.

Avoid painting the pruning wounds on the angel trumpet. Allow the plant to naturally air dry and callous the wounds. If there is a threat of stem rot and fungus, sprinkle the stem wounds with cinnamon or anti-fungal powder after the wounds have calloused and dried.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Hand pruners (secateurs)
  • Loppers

Tips

  • If you want more branching, do not prune new stem growth that is soft and still green in color. Encourage new branches by cutting into the tan, semi-wooden stems and wait for new growth buds to form and break.
  • The plant's branches droop more from the weight of the flowers. Allow trunks and main stems of the angel trumpet to become semi-woody and sturdy.

Warnings

  • Do not prune the angel trumpet when there is potential for frost.
  • Wash your hands after contact with the juice from the angel trumpet.
  • Prevent pets and children from playing with or eating the leaves or flowers of the angel trumpet as well as pruning debris.

About the Author

 

Jacob J. Wright became a full-time writer in 2008, with articles appearing on various websites. He has worked professionally at gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Wright holds a graduate diploma in environmental horticulture from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware.