wintering over

bunyipSeptember 25, 2011

HI brug lovers! I don't think I've posted here before, but have read lots of your posts and gained a lot of knowledge about brugs. They are such beautiful plants, and I am envious of all who can grow them in the ground. Which brings me to my question:

I live in zone 7a, getting more like 7b these days. I have a neighbour who has a thriving grove of banana trees which she winters over in the ground with heavy mulch of leaves, wrapping of stems, etc. and it makes me wonder if I could do something similar with my brugs, of which I have 6. They winter over OK in the garage but would do better if some people in the household would remember to close the garage door. Always. No exceptions. But it takes them a long time to recover in the spring, and I would like them to get a better start.

Any thoughts would be welcome. Meanwhile, I am going to read the threads. Too wet to go work in the garden this morning.

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Some bananas are cold-hardy, so what your neighbor manages to keep alive over winter in zone 7 might actually be hardy to zone 8 or so. I think *some* brugs are occasionally hardy to zone 8. However, I don't think there are any brugmansia varieties that are able to survive a hard frost that penetrates into the ground, so there's some risk of losing them. Whatever you try, take cuttings!

You can try planting them right up against the house (particularly a stone, concrete or brick wall) which radiates a little heat all the time and keeps the ground from getting as cold as it does otherwise, then mulch heavily. I think you'll almost definitely lose them all the way to the ground but they may return from the roots!

If "recovery" time is an issue for you, though, there are a few options that have been successful for me to keep them inside and still get earlier blooms:

1) Out of your 6 brugmansias, take the smallest and keep it as a houseplant in a South-facing window. It may not bloom as much in the house (or then again, it may!) but will have ready green leaves in the spring and catch up with flowers more quickly when you move it outside than the others that are coming out of dormancy. Then you will have at least one in the group that blooms early. If they're all too big to keep as houseplants, you can take a cutting (with brugs. you can take huge cuttings if you want; 3-foot branches make an immediate 3-foot plant) to make a smaller houseplant.

2) If you can't stand the leaf shedding/insect infestations/ratty appearence brugs. may get as houseplants, you can keep them in not-quite-dormancy in a warm but dark place in the house. That would be places like a basement with a small window. You will find that some branches farther from the window go completely dormant but the ones nearer to the window will have some small, growing leaves. They will return to growth more quickly when you set them out.

3) As for brugs in the garage: 3 weeks before it's time to set them outside, remove them from the cool garage and keep them in a warmer place, like a basement. Give them a good watering. They'll be just beginning to come out of dormancy when you set them out, which gives them "momentum."

4) If heat/water/wilting is not a problem for you, do not trim them back at all until you set them out, and then only trim back to living, green tissue; in other words, keep the plants as big as possible. A large plant will start to create its "Y" joints and bloom almost immediately after beginning to grow. However, I find that big plants in small pots wilt very easily during the summer so sometimes you have to cut them back to keep them from drying out and getting crispy edges on their leaves. That depends on your climate's humidity and whether or not wilting/dryness during hot days is usually a problem for you.

5) Hit them with a dose of fertilizer as soon as you set them outside, before they come out of dormancy, to get an immediate flush of big leaves, which speeds the growing/blooming process.

Any of these options, or some combination of them, could work for you!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 12:20AM
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Pizzuti, thank you so much for that long and detailed response, which I am printing out to keep for future reference! I do have several places in the basement where I could give them a little light and fairly cool temps, so I will distribute them around there, and keep the two smallest ones in the sunroom. I have a lot of plants in there usually, but a small brug would fit (I think!).

So much good advice, and I really than you for taking the time and trouble to respond.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 3:50PM
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You're welcome!

If you do choose to keep them in the sunroom, just be aware that brugmansias in the home are prone to spider mites and whiteflies. The best way to treat mites, in my experience, is with neem oil mixed with water in a spray bottle. White flies bring a wider range of options since they are killed by more things that are systemic. Hopefully you won't encounter those problems but they do occur.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 12:38AM
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