Nicotiana, the flowering tobacco plant, is a popular container or flower border plant. Get valuable facts and information on growing nicotiana alata and other nicotiana cultivars.
The flowering tobacco plant is an annual that prefers full sun and fertile soil. The soil should drain well and stay moist. Nicotiana alata varieties grow from 1 1/2’ to 5’ tall, by 1’-2’ wide. The plants are short-lived perennials grown as annuals.
Flowers of Nicotiana come in tubular shapes of red, pink, white and green flowers that are white inside and will appear all summer. The flowers are fragrant and open fully during the night. The leaves are larger at the base of the plant.
Nicotiana plants should be planted in odd-numbered groups in the border, mass as bedding plants, or use in mixed container plantings. Good companions include ‘John Elsley’ bloody cranesbill and ‘Purpureum’ fennel.
Growing and Planting Nicotiana alata
Plant flowering tobacco plants 12” apart in late spring. You can apply a slow-release granular plant food when planting, or use a water-soluble plant food 3 weeks after planting. Follow the directions on the label for specific amounts and the frequency of fertilizer applications.
Tobacco plants should be watered deeply when they become dry. You can also apply a good vegetative mulch around, but not touching, the plants in summer to help retain soil moisture and to add organic matter to the soil as it decomposes. Deadhead any spent blooms to encourage reblooming. Remove plants just before the first frost or right afterward when foliage is disfigured. Cover bare soil with 3” of organic mulch during winter to preserve the topsoil.
Propagation of Nicotiana Seeds
Seeds may be sprinkled over soil mix and left exposed to the light. Do not cover the seeds. Moisten the soil thoroughly and try to keep it moist, but not soggy, until the seeds germinate. Germination occurs in 10-15 days when kept at 70-75 degrees. Transplanting may begin 20-25 days after sowing. After transplanting, reduce the temperature down to 60-65 degrees.
Diseases include mosaic virus, root rot, and downy mildew.
Pests include aphids and spider mites. Control them by spraying plants with a forceful water spray, or ue an insecticide according to label directions.
Nicki Series cultivars reach 18” high and bear fragrant red, pink, white, and lime green flowers. Sensation hybrids bear red, pink, and white flowers, and N. ‘Lime Green’ reaches 24” high and bears panicles of red (sometimes pink), white, or purple flowers. N. Sylvestris grows to 5’ tall and bears fragrant white trumpet-shaped flowers.