This year I tried a new plant for use in outside pots – datura or “angel’s trumpets.” I have to say that this plant is a keeper.

Ballerina Purple Datura

Datura is a member of the solanaceous family which includes tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. It’s also related to brugmansia, a large plant with hanging flowers which is often grown in greenhouses and conservatories. Datura traditionally has large white trumpet-shaped flowers. But thanks to the wonders of plant breeding there are now double-flowered datura that come in white, purple and yellow.

The datura plant when grown in the soil can reach 4′ or taller; when grown in pots it’s usually 2-3′ tall. In warm climates it’s a perennial but here in the Northeast it’s a summer annual. Datura does come with a warning; it is very poisonous. All of the plant parts contain the alkaloid hyoscyamine which can cause delirium, hallucinations, rapid heart beat and even death. This might seem like a reason not to grow this flower but as long as you don’t eat the plant, there’s no need for worry.

I started the datura seeds inside about 4 weeks before the last frost. Once the weather had warmed I put three plants into a large pot and placed them in full sun. Datura doesn’t like to be transplanted so it took a little time for the plants to recover from transplanting shock but once they did, they grew like crazy. Like other solanaceous plants, it seems that the hotter it is, the better the datura grows.

I did notice some damage to the plants from flea beetles. Any insect spray or insecticidal soap would work to control this pest. I used a systemic pesticide and since applying it, the flea beetles are gone and there have been no other problems with insects.

Datura Close-Up

I’ve seen the single white blossoming varieties of datura in the past and they’re OK but nothing too exciting. However when this Ballerina Purple variety of datura started to blossom, I was amazed. The double trumpet blossoms are upright and the petals have a white front and a purple back. The swirl of the petals makes the datura blossom look like an abstract work of art.

I don’t know how long the plants will keep blooming but I do know one thing – for a tropical look in the garden, datura is a great choice. I look forward to growing these in the future and also trying the double white and yellow varieties. Finding a plant like this is why I like trying new plants in the garden. Sometimes they’re a miss, sometimes they’re a hit and once in a while, as in the case of datura, they’re a home run.


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