Brunfelsia: Symbolism of ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow’


There are about 50 known brunfelsia species altogether, each with different distribution and characteristics.

RECENTLY, I pondered upon life and how it could be symbolised by the brunfelsia, a flowering shrub also known commonly as ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow’.

The flowers of the Brunfelsia spp undergo stages of colours, as aptly represented in its name.

They start out as purple, and gradually transition to lighter shades – lavender, and sometimes, pale pink – before becoming white.

Sort of like how young life was vibrant, then experience weathered it gradually until it faded away into a plain tone – youth, adulthood and then, old age.

How philosophical!


The brunfelsia is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the sub-family Petunioideae of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. There are about 50 known species altogether, each with different distribution and characteristics.

The name took after Otto Brunfels, a 16th century German monk hailed as the ‘Father of Botany’ in honour of his significant contributions to this field.

The brunfelsia is a neo-tropical shrub – with a small tree found amidst the lightwood and thickets in natural surroundings. The plant’s leaves are of the simple oval shape, and are alternately arranged.

The corolla (collective term for the arrangement of the petals, frequently placed in a circle around the flower’s centre) of the brunfelsia is of the salverform corolla (tubular-shaped with a flat expanded limb); namely, it has five broad lobes and narrow tubes.

The flower emits a pleasant smell, with an undertone of cloves. Among the most fragrant varieties is the South America’s Brunfelsia Americana – also known as ‘Lady of the Night’ as its fragrance becomes more intensified in the evening.


Propagation of the young plant can be done via seed-planting or cuttings.

For seed-planting, allow the seedhead or pod to dry, then remove and sow. Take extra care to avoid young children and pets from consuming the seeds as they are poisonous.

For cuttings, use a proper gardening scissors to snip off the lower leaves of each cutting, about eight to 12 inches (20cm to 31cm) in length. Dip the tips in rooting hormone such as ‘root-tone’.

Be sure to prepare a pot for each cutting. Fill each with moistened potting soil, with generous additions of perlite or vermiculite, and make sure that the soil drains well.

Water just enough to keep the soil moist, not soggy. Place under ample sunlight.

To encourage good growth, place each pot in a clear plastic bag, being left slightly open. This would help increase humidity and boost rooting.

Once you see leaves sprouting out of the cutting, it is a sign that rooting has taken place.

This plant adapts well to a variety of well-drained soils, acid, or alkaline. Organic fertiliser like 5IN1 Organic Fertiliser Pellets, used just a few times a year, should do the trick.

Brunfelsia is quite hardy too, with not many pest or disease problems, and also it can still bloom under partial shade.

Selective pruning can keep the plant at an optimal height from four to eight feet (1.2m to over 2m).

Happy Gardening!