Flowering tobacco belongs to the notorious solanaceae (nightshade) family, which contains the poisonous belladonna and datura species, as well as vegetable garden favorites like potatoes and eggplant. Flowers of the genus nicotiana bear some resemblance to petunias, another nightshade relative, in appearance and evening fragrance.
Flowering tobacco, woodland tobacco, jasmine tobacco
Grow in all zones as a warm season annual.
Nicotiana cultivars vary from 18 inches to 5 feet in height. Gardeners looking for tall flowering tobacco varieties should stick with heirloom types, as newer compact varieties are bred to flower while still growing in nursery six-packs.
Summer until first frost
Keep nicotiana plants moist, and fertilize them every other week throughout the growing season. Stop deadheading the plants at the end of summer if you’d like a few volunteers for the following season.
Flea beetles and the tobacco hornworm are the most serious pests of flowering tobacco plants. You can recognize flea beetle damage by the presence of myriad tiny holes in the foliage. Floating row covers can protect young plants; larger healthy plants are seldom damaged to the point of death. Diatomaceous earth is a very effective deterrent to flea beetles, and it’s organic.
If your flowering tobacco plant seems to have lost half its foliage overnight, look closely for the tobacco hornworm. The thumb-sized green caterpillars sport a nasty looking barb on their tails. This pest presents a paradox for the gardener: The caterpillars mature into the very hummingbird moths you may wish to attract to your flowers. If the caterpillar damage is bothersome, you can handpick the pests (with gloves!) or apply bacillus thuringiensis.
- ‘Baby Bella Antique Red’: Larger than usual deep red flowers on two-foot plants
- ‘Lime Green’: Makes a fun bouquet filler or partner to purple flowers
- ‘Nikki Red’: An All-America Selections award winner
- ‘Perfume’ series: 20 inch tall plants are extra fragrant
- ‘Saratoga’ series: The shortest plants for the front of the border in shades of pink, white, and red
- ‘Sylvestris’: Huge leaves and five-foot flower stalks of white blooms