American Brugmansia & Datura Society Inc.

Guide to Growing Datura   ©Rich Sanders 1999-2003
©American Brugmansia & Datura Society (ABADS) 2003
 
Germination:

Datura seed can show high or low germination rates and
seeding emergence can be quite irregular. Species such as D. stramonium (jimsonweed) tend to sprout readily, while others like D. quercifolia may not germinate for 9 months to a year after the seeds have matured and fallen from the seed pod. To germinate datura seeds, place in a sterile seed-starting mix and keep moist, but not overly wet. Bottom heat, producing a soil temperature of about 80 degrees may speed the process. Alternatively, plant the seeds in the flowerbed after danger of frost and when the soil has warmed (at the same time when one would also plant peppers and eggplants). Expect seeds to sprout in one to six weeks from sowing, but don't assume the seeds are not viable if they haven't appeared after that time. In more than one occasion, I have relegated datura seeds and growing mix to the compost pile, discarded in frustration after months of trying to get them to germinate. A week later healthy sprouts push up, and almost seem to be laughing in my face. Little stinkers!

Datura species that germinate easily include stramonium (e.g. "la fleur lilac"), inoxia (including wrightii/meteloides - known as toloache) and metel (hindu datura). 


Datura discolor (desert thornapple) can be slower to germinate than the previous species, but still yields seedlings relatively freely. Datura ceratocaula (torna loca, a semiaquatic species), ferox (chinese thornapple), leichhardtii (australian thornapple), and quercifolia (oak-leaved datura) seem to be the most "patient". For the truly fanatical, treating these seeds with gibberellic acid often improves germination rate and percent.

Growing on:

Once the seeds sprout and have developed two sets of true leaves, feed with a balanced soluble fertilizer (such as Miracle Gro) at half- strength. Transplant before plants become rootbound. Daturas destined for containers should be placed in any well-drained potting mix which is rich in organic matter. For plants in the ground, ensure that the soil is fertile, rich in humus, and well-drained. Daturas enjoy deep waterings but should not be left with "wet feet". Many daturas are from desert regions and will stand rather dry conditions. However, datura ceratocaula is an exception. It may be grown in shallow water (marshy conditions) but also thrives in regular soil with "normal" watering. In all cases, give daturas full sun and plenty of balanced fertilizer for best flowering.

 

Blooms, capsules and setting seed: 

After a short vegetative period, daturas begin producing a flower at the node of each branch. Flowers are short-lived (one to several days), fragrant in some varieties, and are almost always followed by a developing fruit. Fruits are round, upright or nodding, and spiny, knobby, or smooth. Daturas are self-fertile, meaning seeds are produced through fertilization of the flower from its own pollen or from pollen of a flower from the same plant. However, certain species of datura can be hybridized. This fact should be kept in mind by growers of more than one type. To maximize flowering, seedpods should be removed as they appear. It is wise to allow one or several to develop in order to ensure that a supply of seeds will be available for the following year. Seeds are ripe when capsules open and release them. Capsules will often split into four regular sections, or may just "fall apart" and drop the seeds. Gather seeds and allow them to dry thoroughly before packaging.

Propagation:

Daturas are most easily propagated from seed each year. However, cuttings will also root if clones are desired. I have rooted cuttings of metel and inoxia species, but find it easier to grow new plants from seed.

Overwintering:

Daturas are either annuals or short-lived perennials. In mild climates, they can be left outdoors for their entire life cycle. In areas that experience frosts and freezes, plants can be over wintered in the greenhouse, but they will not flower or grow like they do in the summer. However, they will resume growth once longer day length and stronger sun returns. All in all, it's probably easiest just to start new plants from seed in early spring for cold-winter areas. The inoxia species produce a perennial rootstock. The herbaceous stems will re-grow from this portion each spring in mild climates. If mulched and/or grown in a sunny location against a foundation, these plants can be hardy to zone 4 or 5. daturafrogs-pr-abads.jpg (104420 bytes)

Other notes:

Daturas are poisonous if eaten and should be kept out of reach of people (young or old) who cannot, do not or will not understand their danger.
Domestic and wild animals don't seem to bother the plants….except, of course, for insects….Datura are loved by white fly, spider mites, leaf borers, and other pests of the nightshade family (tomato hornworms and cutworms for example) if conditions are right for their growth. Use standard and safe
practices to minimize pests. Interestingly, hornworms become hawk moths (or sphinx moths) which feed on datura nectar. These moths are quite large, and resemble hummingbirds in size and flight habits. Although hornworms are despised as they will seemingly devour branches at at time, it is a wonderful experience on a warm evening to smell the fragrant daturas and see these large moths busy at work. Moths or not, enjoy your angels trumpets!

©Rich Sanders 1999-2003

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