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Brugmansias: Newbie

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ted5310
Brea, CA
(Zone 10b)

June 11, 2012
6:53 PM

Post #9161335

Just bought a Charles Grimaldi. Admired Brugs from a distance for a long time and decided to take the leap. I grow begonias, cacti/succulents and orchids. Now I have been looking on the web for care info and I have to admit, it is almost as confusing as orchids. Any one have any tips for the new guy? A good web site? Anybody from Southern California with local advice?

TIA
bettydee
La Grange, TX
(Zone 8b)

June 14, 2012
9:42 PM

Post #9165762

Ted,
There are two great books on Brugmansias:
Brugmansia and Datura: Angel's Trumpets and Thorn Apples by Preissel and Preissel and Engelstrompeten with English translation by Monica Gottschalk There is a third one about to be released, but that will retail for over $100.00. I belong to the two organizations devoted to Brugmansias
http://ibrugs.com/
http://www.brugmansia.us/
There are also several Brug forums.

When you have some time to spare, go to the tagged Brugmansia pages or search through Dave's Garden's older topics on Brugs. There is a wealth of information in a lot of those old threads. What kind of information are you after? It's far easier to address specific questions so we know what your concerns are.

In general, Brugmansias need moist, but fast draining soil. Those large leaves transpire large amounts of water which needs to be replenished sometimes on a daily basis. If it is a hot summer day, you may have to water to keep the leaves from wilting or to revive wilting leaves. Fast draining soil or potting mix is imperative otherwise waterlogged roots will rot. They are heavy feeders when they are actively growing. At lease once a week, fertilize with a complete fertilizer containing the micro-nutrients. Do not use a bloom booster since Brugs are phosphates. Their leaves turn yellow and drop off leaving bare stalks with small tufts of leaves at the tips.

Brugs have two types of growth: vegetative and flowering growth. When Brugs grow from seed, or are started as a cutting from below the original "Y" on the mother plant or from shoots coming from ground level, they go through a vegetative growth stage. This stage is characterized by straight, single stalked growth which will not branch until that stage is complete. How tall the Brug gets before it "Y"s (branches) is determined genetically. Pinching the tip will not encourage flowering. Any new growth will have to start the vegetative cycle all over again delaying blooming. Once the vegetative growth cycle is complete, that stalk "Y"s and starts to produce flower buds. From that point on, that stalk will only produce flowering growth. It will continue to produce "Y"s and more buds. Brugs bloom in flushes then they rest for a few weeks before producing another flush.

Brugs started as cuttings from above the mother plant's "Y" continue to act as if they were still part of the mother plant. Thus producing flowers much faster. That is why you sometimes see fairly small plants with a large flower or two hanging from it. As the rooted cutting's root system matures, the buried portion of the trunk will send out vegetative shoots.

In your area, you should be able to plant your Brug in the ground and let it overwinter outdoors. Brugs will freeze, but can stand light freezes if they don't last too long. If the Brug is large, the outer branches may suffer damage, but they often protect the inner branches from harm. Of course, some Brug cultivars are more sensitive to freezing weather than others. The really sensitive ones may freeze completely and not come back the following spring. Most double and triple Brugs fall into this category. In that case, you would be wise to take cuttings and overwinter the cuttings indoors. Alternatively, you could keep your Brug in a pot and overwinter it indoors.

I hope this helps you a bit. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask.
ted5310
Brea, CA
(Zone 10b)

June 17, 2012
8:44 AM

Post #9168659

It helps immensely. Do Brugs need to be repotted yearly or only when they get root bound. And what about sun. Full, Morning, Shade. Right now mine gets morning sun and bright shade the rest of the day and it seems to be healthy
bettydee
La Grange, TX
(Zone 8b)

June 17, 2012
11:40 AM

Post #9168825

When you renew the potting mix and give the feeder roots new "soil" to grow into, you can see the difference in growth and health in your Brugs. How often they need to be repotted depends on the size of the pot and how vigorous the growth is. I would let the roots fill the pot, but not to the extent that they get root bound. If the Brug gets root bound, it becomes almost impossible to untangle the roots without damaging them. I found it surprising how quickly the roots get and large it gets. Don't over pot a Brug so that you don't have to pot on as often. You might lose the Brug to root rot to which Brugs are very sensitive. Don't go on to a pot larger than 2" all the way around.

If the Brug is only a few years old and you are potting onto a bigger pot, all you really need to do is to untangle the roots circling the outside of the rootball. Repotting takes a bit more effort since the plant is going back into the same pot. Old mature Brugs may have to have some of the anchor roots removed to give more growing room to the feeder roots.

If you are starting off with a small pot, you may have to pot on more than once a year. As you get closer to the 25 gallon pot size, once a year for most Brugs will be all it needs. Some Brugs are slow growers and they might be able to stay in the same pot for a longer period.

Your Brug is getting ideal conditions. Some Brugs can handle all day sun if they are planted in the ground, but in general, morning sun with after noon shade is best. The heat that accumulates in the potting mix during the hotter parts of the day tends to damage the delicate feeder roots. Also the leaves tend to wilt because the heat is more intense. You'll find that you'll have to go out and water the pots again to rehydrate the leaves.
ted5310
Brea, CA
(Zone 10b)

June 17, 2012
2:11 PM

Post #9169006

I really appreciate the help. Let's talk fertilizer. I understand that Brugs like to be well fed, but is there a typr of fert that is better? High nitrogen, urea free nitrogen, heavy in the NP or K. Or just a general like Osmocote
bettydee
La Grange, TX
(Zone 8b)

June 17, 2012
7:54 PM

Post #9169432

When you have time to look at old threads, look for Monica Gottschalk's (posted as monica) photo threads. Her Brugs are gorgeous! She is a leading Brug hybridizer from Germany. The fertilizer she recommends is not sold here in the states. The closest we come to is a hibiscus fertilizer, but given that specialty fertilizers are very expensive for what you get, any fertilizer with a NPK ratio of 3 - 1 - 2 that also includes all the micro-nutrients would be the preferred one. Miracle Grow comes fairly close, is cheap ( important when you get addicted to Brugs and find yourself the proud owner of dozens and dozens of them), easy to find and use. Osmocote can be used, but the release is relatively slow so many of those that use it also end up using some Miracle Grow.
ted5310
Brea, CA
(Zone 10b)

June 18, 2012
7:13 PM

Post #9170830

I'll check it out. That's for all the help. I'm sure I'll have more questions as time goes by
ted5310
Brea, CA
(Zone 10b)

July 29, 2012
7:59 PM

Post #9223105

Another question. My Brug is doing wonderful. Tremendous fast growth and this is already the third time around with blooms Maybe too much so? It is in it's original black plastic pot from the nursery. Tried to move it today and the roots have grown thru the drain holes and into the ground. The pot still drains well when I water. I guess it's root bound? Or maybe just searching for water that overflows/drains from the pot. It is in bloom and with additional buds. Do I re-pot? If so do I wait for the flowering to end as with other plants?

Thumbnail by ted5310
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bettydee
La Grange, TX
(Zone 8b)

July 31, 2012
7:27 AM

Post #9224648

Ted,
Given the room and the opportunity, Brugs will produce a huge root system in one season. Your Brug might have been potbound when you purchased it. If the pot was in direct contact with the ground and the ground under the pot remained damp, the roots happily spad out into uncrowned territory. That is the reason your Brug put out such fast growth. If you pull the roots out now, you will have to prune the top heavily or you may lose the entire plant. I would leave it as it is and enjoy all the blooms it will produce this summer and early fall. Brugs naturally send out new growth and "Y"s followed by the production of new flower buds. The new leaf growth is perfectly capable of supporting all the new flowers it produces. If the plant were stressed out, it would quite blooming.

In late fall, a few weeks before your first frost (If you get one.), prune back the top and dig out the root ball. Cut off the black plastic pot trying not to damage the trunk. If you are going to replant the Brug back in the ground, be sure to set it deep enough to cover the roots that were growing in the pot. Once the have re-established themselves, the Brug will send out new growth. In your zone, you even enjoy winter blooms, as long as it doesn't freeze. If you plan to pot the Brug, wash off as much of the soil from the roots and use a well draining potting mix or add perlite to whatever potting mix you use. Just don't use moisture retaining mix.

Brugs in the ground will attain a greater size, but potted plants are easier to protect if you get frequent freezes. A happy medium is to get the Brugs up to at least a 5 gallon pot that has some fairly large drain holes. In the spring, place the pot in direct contact will the ground and allow the roots to grow out the bottom. The larger drain holes will allow the roots to grow to a greater girth. In the fall, cut off the roots that have grown out of the pot even with the bottom of the pot. Prune the top down to 2-4 main branches leaving 2 or 3.layers of "Y"s on each branch. Every few years, you will have to pull the Brug out of the pot and prune off some of the large anchor roots to give the feeder roots a chance to expand into the new potting mix in the pot.

Long explanation, many options.
ted5310
Brea, CA
(Zone 10b)

July 31, 2012
9:01 PM

Post #9225580

There have been rare days in the past where it gets down to 30 in Jan-Feb. So I don't have that to worry about. I'll just wait until the fall and move it then. Now that I have one, I notice a number of Brugs in the ground around here. I plan on planting it in the ground. There is a fairly large area between a Bird of Paradise an oak tree and a growth of smaller sagos. perfect morning sun and protected from the afternoon sun. Just that there are a lot of roots in this area, but I think the Brug will do fine. Really appreciate you taking the time to help me out.

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