The Q&A Archives: Overwintering Brugmansia

Question: Do I need to cut back a brugmansia this fall? It's my first year owning one and I don't know if I should cut it back or not.

Answer: Most brugmansia, also called datura, are not adapted to cold weather (colder than zone 7a), so if you want to survive the winter, you'll have to bring it indoors before hard frost hits. If you don't feel like digging it out of the bed it's growing in and potting it up (which can be a challenge!), then you can root some cuttings to keep as houseplants over the winter. If your brugmansia is already in a pot, you have a couple of options. In either case, before frost hits, gradually acclimate the plant to indoor conditions in a reverse hardening off period. Start by cutting the top back to fit the space you have available indoors. Then move the pot into dappled shade for a couple of days. Next, take it indoors at night for a few nights keeping it indoors for an hour or two longer each night, and return it to shade during the day. After 7-10 days of acclimation, you can keep the brugmansia indoors. Despite this care, it will probably still drop some leaves, but don't worry, it should be fine.

You two overwintering options are:

1) Keep it alive and growing: place the plant in a bright location; fertilize lightly once a month; let soil just barely dry out between waterings;

2) Keeping a dormant plant
a. Forcing dormancy: Put the potted brugmansia in a dark, frost-free place for the winter (basement, dark garage, or dark room in your house). Cease fertilizing, and water sparingly. Just don't let soil dry out completely. The plant will lose all its leaves.

b. Bringing it out of dormancy: In early April, bring the potted brugmansia into a bright room (indirect light) and provide it with water. You can start fertilizing it again when the leaves emerge, and move them to a brighter location.

When the danger of frost has passed, you can start hardening off your brugmansia. Reverse the process described above for adjusting the plant to indoor conditions, and shelter the plant from wind until it gets good and sturdy. Enjoy!

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