The Q&A Archives: Moonflowers in Cold Climates

Question: After searching for years, finally have moonflower plant (not vine). Do not know what to do with plant now that fall has arrived. I am in Michigan and have removed the seed pods from my plants have a lg bucket full! (approx 50 pods).

I do not know if these plants are annuals or perennials? Should I cut them back? My stalks are at least an inch in perimeter, plants are four feet tall and as large around, Should I just let them be? Should I reseed some now and see if they come up in the spring, or should I cut back and cover to protect from the snow?

Answer: Moonflower is a common name applied to several different plants, and since you said it's not the vine, I'm going to assume that you have Brugmansia, also called Datura or Angel's Trumpet. Angel's trumpet is a bushy annual with upright flaring trumpets of white flushed with a little lilac on the undersides and buds. Each flower is about 9 inches long and 6 inches wide at the mouth.

I think in your climate these plants will be annual. In some areas they can act as perennials but will suffer frost damage. I'd suggest testing them just to see what they'll do. I'll include info on overwintering perennials below. Snow actually acts as an insulator; it's the freezing temperatures that you need to protect plants from.

Brugmansia seeds are best sown in spring when temps. reach 68-77 degrees F. Keep soil moist until they germinate. Good luck!

Here's some pointers on overwintering from "Perennials for Dummies" by Marcia Tatroe and NGA.

1. Cut back on watering as temps. cool. This signals plants that it's time to go into dormancy and helps "harden" them off.

2. If you had any insect problems, remove any plant debris and mulch from that area so eggs and disease won't overwinter.

3. Place a fresh 4-6 inch layer of organic mulch around the base of the plants.

4. If your temps. are regularly below 0 degrees Farenheit, don't cut back the perennials until late winter or early spring. The dead foliage helps protect them from cold.

5. After the ground freezes, cover the whole bed with a loose layer of straw or hay. Leave it until early spring and then gradually remove it as temps. warm. Don't remove it all at once.

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