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Growing Datura Moonflowers

Sean has been in the industry of gardening and landscaping since 2006. He is also a certified arborist that specializes in plant health.

The large trumpet flower of the Datura

The large trumpet flower of the Datura

What Is Datura?

Datura metel belongs to the genus of Datura that consists of several herbaceous flowering plants. Datura metel is commonly referred to as Angel's Trumpets and Moonflowers. It has become naturalized in temperate and tropical regions around the world. There are annual and perennial types depending on species and climate.

Datura metel has a distinctly large trumpet-shaped flower with large green leaves that grow in an alternating pattern. The majority of the flowers are open in the late evening until mid-morning.

The seed pods of Datura metel are recognizable spiky balls similar to the pods of Sycamore trees, but with fewer, more prominent spikes.

Growing Datura metel takes some patience but yields beautiful results. Warmth and moisture are key throughout the growth of the plant. Transplanting requires delicate care and attention. Datura metel doesn't seem to mind what type of soil it grows in, and it has been known to grow through cracks in concrete.

Datura flowers are very large.

Datura flowers are very large.

A ripe Datura seed pod.

A ripe Datura seed pod.

Datura Germination

Datura metel seed pods are spiky balls that release many seeds when ripe. The seeds can be gathered and prepared for future germination. Moisture is key throughout the life cycle of the plant—including during germination. Before they germinate, it's useful for datura seeds to undergo the processes of stratification and scarification.

Stratification & Scarification

Stratification is the process many seeds endure during winter months. The seeds are frozen throughout winter and thaw upon the arrival of spring. This process of freezing and thawing benefits the seeds of datura. Scarification occurs when the seed coat is scratched or scarred before germination. This weakens the tough seed coat enough for the seedling to break through. Both of these processes benefit the germination of Datura metel seeds.

Germinating Datura Moonflower

Datura metel seeds must be kept moist for three to six weeks within a temperature range around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Peat pods are easy to keep moist and transplanting pods will put less stress on the vulnerable seedlings. Place the sown peat pods in a sunny area. Remain patient while waiting for seedlings to appear. Do not let the peat pods dry out.

Young datura plant ready for transplanting.

Young datura plant ready for transplanting.

Datura spreads more laterally than vertically. Space out plants accordingly.

Datura spreads more laterally than vertically. Space out plants accordingly.

Transplanting Datura Seedlings

Datura metel seedlings are fragile and cannot withstand rough handling and conditions during transplanting. Knowing when to plant, where to begin growing, how to transplant, and space estimation of datura metel will reduce transplant shock and increase the success rate.

  • When: Transplant once the last frost has subsided, usually around late April and early May. Regions that experience little to no winters can plant earlier, while regions that experience winter are better off waiting until May for good measure against a late frost.
  • Where: Select an area that receives full sun during the majority of the day. Datura metel are sun-loving plants and never seem to get too much sun. The more sun, the larger the plant will grow as long as moisture is kept in check. Moist does not mean "wet." Select an area that does not dry out quickly or is susceptible to becoming waterlogged.
  • How: Datura metel do not like to be disturbed once the roots have taken hold. Keep the peat pod intact when transplanting to reduce transplant shock. Water thoroughly once transplanted, and carefully press the soil around and on top the peat pod. Keep the soil moist, but not wet as stated above. Some varieties can withstand waterlogged soil for a short period of time due to their tropical habitats that experience torrential rainfalls, but saturated soil should be avoided when possible.
  • Spacing Between Plants: Datura metel spread out laterally and become dense with foliage, up to 4 to 6 feet wide. Spacing is key; otherwise, overcrowding will occur. Spacing too far apart will disrupt the attractive flow of the large white flowers. Estimate accordingly.
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Soil for Datura

Datura metel do not seem to be very picky about soil. Many times datura metel will grow through the cracks of concrete while remaining seemingly healthy and stable. A loamy soil is ideal due to moderate drainage and nutrient content. Amendments of organic matter can be thoroughly worked into overly sandy or clayey soil to provide nutrients, moisture, and drainage.

Knowing how to prepare soil for planting is always beneficial. Datura metel will flourish when provided ideal soil conditions.

Pest damage on a datura metel leaf.

Pest damage on a datura metel leaf.

Datura Pests

Insects do not seem to bother datura metel very much, but slugs may dine on the juicy leaves. Slugs can be simply plucked off and killed with salt. The Datura genus contains many species, so insects and pests in some regions of the world may cause major problems for datura metel. Pay close attention and take note of possible pests. Try to avoid pesticides and herbicides as much as possible. Insecticides may harm or kill beneficial insects that are attracted to the flowers, or may even stunt the growth of datura metel. Glyphosate herbicide (Round-Up) will kill datura metel if used too close to the plant.

Datura contains several toxins that are lethally poisonous and cause severe delirium. Poisoned victims cannot differentiate the difference between hallucinations and reality. Scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine are the toxic agents throughout datura metel. There have been thousands of deaths worldwide attributed to intentional and unintentional consumption. Datura metel cannot be used as a recreational drug. Consumption is extremely dangerous both psychically and mentally. The dangers of consuming datura metel cannot be stressed enough.

Datura Poll

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Will Datura Moonflowers recover from being moved? It is wilted.

Answer: It is experiencing transplant shock and will most likely survive. Keep the soil moist.

Question: My maturing Datura (2.5 ft approx.) has round brown spots on the older larger leaves. It is in a large pot. Am I doing something wrong?

Answer: Not necessarily. Sometimes the older leaves of Datura will shed as the plant increases in size. There may be health issues if browning starts to occur on new growth.

Question: Are moonflowers good as cut flowers?

Answer: They tend to wilt quicker when cut compared to typical cut flowers. You can try to snip off the blossom and a little bit of stem and place into a bud vase filled with water.

Question: Will deer eat Datura Moonflowers?

Answer: Unlikely. Datura is deer-resistant, but deer may try to consume it if conditions for foraging aren’t ideal. There are several other plants that are less toxic which can be used to deter deer.

© 2012 Sean Hemmer


Betty on August 01, 2019:

Datura metel is commonly referred to as Angel's Trumpets and Moonflowers. So is there a difference? I know one vines and one is a bush.

Omie on July 04, 2017:

Can I pick the spiky seed pod when it is still green?

I'd like to take seed pods to family reunion in July & share.

Our plants are so beautiful!! & prolific.

My husband says they are scented, but I can't smell them.

Sean Hemmer (author) from Wisconsin, USA on September 09, 2012:

pstraubie48 - They must grow great in warmer climates. I think the Wisconsin seasons here cause a little too much stress for them to truly flourish, but they still grow great! Especially in sidewalk crannies. I'm always surprised how quickly the blooms appear when warmer months arrive.

Thanks for linking to this hub! I'll return the favor by linking to one of your hubs soon. Your hub about coleus cuttings should fit well into one of my plant propagation hubs.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on September 09, 2012:

Hi she1101 I have just planted 3 plants about 11 inches in height which are thriving. I am growing about 12 from seed they have not begun to sprout yet. I remember these from my youth and always thought they were so beautiful

I am aware of the dangers and will be vigilant about keeping them out of the wrong hands.

I am sharing this in a hub I have written so others can learn from your detailed description

Sean Hemmer (author) from Wisconsin, USA on June 28, 2012:

There are quite a few things in nature that can produce poisonous effects similar to datura. Datura holds little value when it comes to illicit use, so I assume the DEA doesn't even bother. I believe most accidental deaths occur outside of the U.S. where the plant grows more abundantly.

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on June 27, 2012:

I'm really surprised that the FDA allows anyone to grow datura these days.

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