Save Me From a Crime

wellspringOctober 4, 2012

Hello, folks-

I'm a long time GW poster, lurker, learner. I know absolutely nothing about brugmansia, but have gardened in a basic way with a certain amount of good effect for many years. I'm particularly passionate about fragrance, so I guess it's strange that I waited so long to get to know a brug. I have exactly one. Not dozens. Not 100s.

I purchased in the spring from Select Seed. It's a 'Charles Grimaldi´┐Ż.

I am longing to experience flowers. Figure I haven't lived until I do!

If anyone knows me from the Landscape Design forum, you may have stumbled across the fact -- I don't mention it too often -- that I'm blind.

I mention it here because someone may ask, "Well, what color are the leaves." Or may suggest I post a pic.

Here's the deal. I sort of figured I should giveCharlie good basic care this summer. I kept him in a container. Fertilized, watered, even through drought and water restrictions. Prayed that he might grace me with a bloom or two in his youth. No luck. But the plant has "felt" healthy. You know, sort of feeling the strength in the stem and leaf growth. It has appeared to grow well. I may have under-fertilized, but in the record heat didn't think extra fert was a good idea.

We have now just finished a record cool September.

And, for the first time, Charlie is showing stress. I have a dozen or so plants that come in for the winter. This is my first with a brug. Now it has these curling leaves. What to do? What to do?

I've read several threads about how to overwinter. I live in a raised ranch, which means no basement and also no crawl space. I'm concerned that the garage in my zone 6 won't stay at 42 degrees. But I think keeping this pot on top of my garden desk in the garage is my best bet. The desk is close to the inner wall of the house, so I think it could sleep there for the winter.

So, here are the specific questions:

1. Are the curling leaves possibly the plant's response to some chilly weather?

2. Should I just cut charlie back and bring into the garage for the winter?

Please don't let me kill him before I experience brug blooms. (Oh, I know, I know. I may have to try this all over again, right?)

Thanks for any help or encouragement you can give. I'm eager to learn.


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Hello Wellspring,

Normally I do not reply to posts because someone with more experience than I will usually beat me to it, although their explanations can be a little too detailed for my liking.

But your post intrigued me, AND nobody beat me too it. haha!!

Not just the fact you are blind, but also you typing your post begins to run questions through my head. (ie Did you do it on your own? via Sound? via Brail? Did someone help you? (Although none of this really does matter)

So, back to the Brug. I am pretty new at this as well, but I have done very good with my short experience. Let me tell you what I went through and maybe it will help you with your questions.

My 1st Brug was given to me by my brother last June. It was a sad looking twig growing out of a small pot with maybe 1 or 2 leaves. In all honesty, I didn't really want it or know what it was. But, I said yes anyway.

Brought it home, took it out of pot and it was rootbound. So, I planted in a larger pot, gave it some water, and BOOM. The thing started growing at rapid speeds. Leaves, Height, deep green color. New branches. Everything.

I then started reading into it and learned it liked a lot of fertilizer (aka "Bloom Booster" or Miracle Grow) I was thinking this was why it had not flowered yet, so maybe I would feed it every other day, or twice per week. The brug reacted. Started curling leaves. Some spots. But I could tell the overall health was deteriorating.

I stopped the feeding, the plant got healther, but still no blooms. October came, leaves started to yellow & fall to the ground. I didn't get any flowers last year :-(

Now the question was what to do with it? I read and asked in here. I do not have the option of bringing it in the house, for my cats WILL eat it and they are very poisonous. Many said to cut it back and stick it in a dark corner of the basement, but I did not like the idea. My cats would likely still find their way to it. I thought about lights, but still, I would now be growing them, with leaves, in the basement where my cats would eat it.

My final decision was to surely cut it back. I spoke to my brother and he agreed to take it back for the winter and keep it in his house so it doesn't die. But before I brought it to him, I cut it back. I then cut the pruned branches into 6" lengths and just put them in a cup of water.

A week went by and I could tell roots were beginning to grow in the water, and leaves were beginning to sprout. I waited another week, and the roots & leaves were getting bigger!! I couldn't let them die, so I planted them into small 4" pots and found a small high window in my basement where my cats can't get to.

I had 3 plants. They did not grow much for most of the winter while the days were getting shorter. They got some morning sun, but that was really it. They maintained their green leaves, but no growth. Minimal water every few days.

I think the most anticipated day was December 21st. After that, I knew the days were going to begin to get longer, and the plants sure did there. Before the new year, I could already begin to see just a little bit of growth. More & more as time went on. I did lose 1 plant, not sure why. But the other 2 I had were doing well. At one point in Feb I even had to plant them up to a larger pot. They were filling in the entire window at this point.

After finally learning how aggressive the growth was, I could not wait to bring them outside. As soon as the days were regularly above 50 degrees, I planted them in a much larger pot to let them explode. I would bring out during the day, bring to the basement at night. By the time the nights would not drop below 45-50, I again planted them up into a HUGE pot and could leave them outside. At this point, they were maybe 2 feet tall?

Throughout the summer, they have just grown & grown. Mid-July they were about 6ft tall and I finally had seen my first bud. Within a week after that, I had maybe 40-50 buds on each brug and they continuously bloomed until mid-August.

Eventually, the bottom leaves started to yellow & drop and the blooms stopped coming. :-(

But now, with the cooler temps, the 2nd wave has come. Each plant curently has about 30 buds and they are just beginning to open!!

To finish a long story (lol) and to maybe finall answer your question, My view is to give them a lot of root space to make sure they grow to their fullest potential. I think the plant might not want to bud or flower with restricted root growth. Also, don't feed too much. I think once per week might be sufficient. I like to reun the plants dry between watering, but not dry enough to wilt.

And lastly, my apologies for the long story. This past sept I had already cut a few branches off and cut to 6" pieces, put in water, and planted in clear plastic cups (to see the root growth. They have already grown maybe 6" and I can see the roots are starting to fill the cups. Maybe about 15 of them getting ready for next year. I am going to give most of them to friends who stared in awe at the beauty of the brug in full bloom

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 10:59AM
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Wellspring, it would help us help you if we knew your climate zone. If you are in zone 8b or above, your Brug will do much better if planted in the ground. If not, then a big pot can work. They love fertilizer, bright light and water.

To keep pets out of flower pots, put rose stems with thorns in the pots or cover the root area with chicken wire.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 4:00PM
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Hi Kayjones,

Wellspring mentioned Zone 6.

And i'm not bringing Rose Stems or Chicken Wire in the house for the winter. And if I did, it wouldn't be worth the risk of losing a cat.

I am more than happy with my procedure. It seems to work for me :-)

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 4:25PM
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Thank you, Rubby and kayjones.

Yeah, I know. I'm too lazy to fill in the zone thing in my profile. Probably also need to update my email address. But Rubby's right. I'm zone 6 ... barely. You know, one of those places where they've told us we are no longer this zone but that.

Rubby- Here's the super quick answer on how I do some things. Lot's of voice synthesized technologies. When I type, the voice program on the computer peaks it back to me. I "read" pages on the internet by arrowing down through text on the page, which my JAWS program re-orients for audial coherence. In other words, when you look at a page you may have things in columns or various blocks. The JAWS program makes it read as though it is in a linear, top down format, like a standard single column page of text. TMI, right?

As for gardening, most folks who are blind can figure out a way to continue a passion. I know my garden really well, so I wander about out there doing pretty much the same things other gardeners do. I even try to picture it in my head, hence my particular interest in landscape design. When I first got into gardening, I was just as surprised as anyone else how I was able to identify plants by means other than sight.

That being said, it is because brugmansia is so poisonous that I haven't tried it before.

I am now betting that my brug is very root bound. I almost re-potted it 6 weeks ago, but didn't find a pot I liked at the stores. So Charlie's probably root bound, under fertilized, and cold.

I don't have a basement. My raised ranch has a lower level and a corner where I overwinter my palms, gardenia, colocasia esculenta, etc. I suppose I could keep the thing growing, but think dormancy would be easier.

So, I've read various suggestions in other threads. Would the following work:
1. Re-pot -- prune roots; cut top growth leaving about 20" since it's a first year.
2. Slightly larger pot, but making sure either through pot size or root trimming that there is soil around the root ball. At least 2 inches. For insulation as much as for growing room.
3. Keep in the warmest corner of garage. Up off of the garage floor on my gardening desk. I could surround it with big old towels or figure out some other ways to protect from any possible truly cold periods.
4. Even though it may be pouting from recent low fert, I'm guessing that I shouldn't fertilize now if I want it to go to sleep. New potting soil will feed it some.
5. Water lightly about once a month.

Am I on the right track?

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 10:50PM
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Very Interesting.

Well yes, that all sounds good to me. But before it gets too cold, try to root some of the cuttings too, as a back-up plan in case your brug doesn't make it.

My brother will literally take cuttings before winter, put them in a jar or vase of water in a kitchen window, and let them sit there all winter. The vase will eventually fill with roots, but the plants stay alive until he is ready to plant in the spring.

This way, if your main plant does not make the winter for some reason, you have a backup plan.

One of my 6" cutting will grow to 7 or 8 feet in one growing season. I am going to try and overwinter my 2 big brugs' this winter, but if not I know I have my 15 cuttings ready to go in the spring

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 9:47AM
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Hey, Rubby-
Didn't catch your response until this evening.
I was just in the garage visiting my brug. After I moved it inside the other night, and just sat it on my gardening desk, I started posting here to figure out what to do next.
Meantime, the silly thing starts blooming. Here's where not being able to see occasionally tricks me! The things that were pointing downwards, sort of soft, which I took to be curled up leaves, have turned out to be Charlie's first blooms.
And ...WOW!
Came into the garage and caught the fragrance. investigated, and this young plant has half a dozen blooms going on.
Go figure. Temps at night here are skirting freezing. Last night 38 deg. Mostly in the mid forties.
So, I simply wasn't thinking blooms.
Now I've checked them out and can easily "feel" the trumpet shape. Fragrance is very sweet, powerful. And it's blooming in my garage!
If it's warm during the day tomorrow, I think I'll put it back out in the sun.
Now what do I do? Can I wait for it to finish blooming?
Oh, I think I'm in love with this beauty!

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 12:42AM
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HA. Good to hear.

There are probably many buds there but very small. When they bloom, they bloom!!!

So, now I really don't know what to do. lol. You are pretty much in the same position I am in. This is the first time I have had my plants bloom.

Just this morning, I have had 15-20 blooms per plant open, and another 15-20 buds behind them. Tonight is going to be real cold in the 20's, but them back to 70 on Monday.

I will bring in breezeway for the night, then back out tommorrow. I think at this point, the only thing to watch is temp. I will try to keep protected at anything 45 or lower.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 11:27AM
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Robert (zone 7a, Oklahoma)

Hi wellspring!

It's a shame we're not neighbors. I primarily grow things for fragrance and I could share plants with you. :)
The fragrant forum is my favorite though this year I've become obsessed with plumerias so now I lurk on that forum quite a bit. Laugh.
I saw your Charles Grimaldi (we call him Chuck) post and just had to comment. I've grown brugs for years and so far Chuck is my fav for scent. I'm so glad yours finally bloomed for you.
This year I tried New Orleans Lady and it just bloomed for me as well. The scent is similar to Charles Grimaldi however it's a higher, sweeter, slightly harsher note to my nose than Chuck. I also have tons of blooms on my Betty Marshall brug. She has a spicer note than Chuck but you might also enjoy her.
I think your idea of keeping Charles in the garage off the ground and wrapped should work though as Rubby suggested cuttings are always a good idea. They root readily in water. Speaking of roots I also root prune Charles every spring and if you pot up some of the fat roots they too will sprout shoots to give you new plants.
If you ever want to know about other fragrant plants like jasmines, brunfelsias, hoyas, Chinese Perfume Plants, sweet olives, etc. just ask. I'd be happy to share my knowledge. :)


    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 3:20PM
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I haven't been on this forum in a while, but this thread is fascinating. Congratulations, Wellspring, on your first blooms! And hi, Robert!

A very nice neighbor gave me my first brug--no idea what it was other than yellow--and it also bloomed once in the garage after it was brought in for winter. (I guess they like the cold nights to set buds.) The smell was heavenly! My friend who stopped by said it smelled like an expensive perfume. Sadly, that one died and I could never get a single cutting from it to survive more than a few weeks, even rooted. Brugs are definitely not my strong suit!

So my question is: is it too late to try to water-root some cuttings now? I have a Strawberries-and-Cream that dear Albert gave me that has gotten very tall; I'd like to force some branching on it and to make some back-ups with the cuttings. Is it a bad time of year to prune?


    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 10:36PM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

Jen, I live in North Texas, and this is the time of year I cut my inground brugs as near the ground as possible and mulch them. The cuttings can be kept in water someplace where they will not freeze, and be planted out in the Spring.........either in containers or inground. Guess I wrote all this to say that NOW is a GOOD time to prune and root.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 9:21AM
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Carrie, thank you so much for the advice! Will go out and cut this afternoon and keep the cuttings in water under grow lights.

How often do you normally change the water for rooting? And do you just use tap water?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 12:04PM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

I don't use growlights, just water and let the roots grow all winter.....once in soil in the Spring, the leaves will grow quickly............matter of fact, I strip the leaves from my cuttings. I never let the water get cloudy. Sometimes it does in a few weeks, and sometimes not at all.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 2:09PM
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Okay, I stripped all but the top couple of leaves and made a couple of center cuts since the stems were so tall. According the Marantha nursery description, this variety grows "like a rocket". I'll make sure they stay warm, and the water fresh, all winter. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 8:21PM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

They really prefer a little cool, just not freezing.

Good luck, I know they will do fine for you.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 10:18PM
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Charles is a feisty fellow when happy but frail when not. Easy to lose in the ground if the tropical conditions Brugs thrive in aren't prevalent. But I grow three types in my garden despite being in freezing cold blustery Northern California. Charles does not do great indoors for me. I've noticed trying to winter indoors brings spider mites so misting is required. I won't use pesticides but you can try diluted dish soap in water with a few drops of peroxide or Cell Food for oxygenation. Cool room with dim light is fine. I also rotate cuttings out if there is a loss. Brugs planted in ground will usually produce roots that will come back yearly. I cut my plants to the ground and sell cuttings for others to start. And they all come back when it warms. The most hardy girl I have is Frosty Pink. She goes from zero to sixty in a season and hits the roofline of the house before I tame her. Betty Marshall is my other favorite. She was my first love of Brugs but I've had trouble getting a specimen going in my climate. Frosty Pink is my die hard darling. Good luck with Charles, his blooms are willfully wicked with that little curl at each corner.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 2:17PM
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