Flowering Tobacco

Flowering Tobacco

Flowering tobacco plants have long been prized in cottage gardens and moon gardens for their intense smell. A relative of true tobacco, flowering tobacco plants are grown for their lovely blossoms in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. The plants themselves also vary quite a bit in size, from compact varieties fit for containers to large 5- to 10-foot-tall varieties best suited for the back of the border.

genus name
  • Nicotiana
  • Sun
plant type
  • Annual
  • 6 to 12 inches,
  • 1 to 3 feet,
  • 3 to 8 feet,
  • 8 to 20 feet
  • 6 inches to 10 feet, depending on variety
flower color
  • Purple,
  • Green,
  • Red,
  • White,
  • Pink,
  • Yellow
foliage color
  • Blue/Green
season features
  • Fall Bloom,
  • Summer Bloom
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Attracts Birds,
  • Fragrance,
  • Good for Containers
  • 10,
  • 11
  • Seed,
  • Stem Cuttings

Garden Plans For Flowering Tobacco

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Colorful Combinations

Flowering tobacco plants are wonderful annuals that can add splashes of color all season long. With their starry blooms coming in a wide variety of colors, you’re sure to find one to fit any garden palette. These magnificent plants come not only in a wide variety of colors, but also in so many different sizes.No matter where you need color in a bed, there’s a size for that!

Plants vary from 6 to 10 inches tall as bedding plants to plants perfect for the middle of the border around 2 to 3 feet tall, and even up to 15 feet tall as a specimen plant. Bloom shapes can vary quite a bit. Some are long tubes with a flared star-like opening, while others are small and borne in large quantities that create clouds of bell-shape blooms. Many of the white varieties are wonderfully fragrant at night, emitting a sweet smell similar to jasmine.

Flowering Tobacco Care Must-Knows

Flowering tobacco plants generally have medium-green leaves. In many species, these leaves can be quite large, especially in comparison to the flowers. They are usually very hairy leaves and can actually be sticky to the touch, much like petunia plants. Keep in mind that all tobacco plants are poisonous if ingested, so be careful about planting them around young children and pets.

In well-drained, moist soils, flowering tobacco plants are extremely easy to grow. Give them rich soil, and they will happily put on loads of blooms that will last until frost. Once these plants are established, they can handle some drought, but they prefer fairly consistent moisture. These plants are very heavy feeders, so a slow-release fertilizer is always beneficial.

Flowering tobacco plants do best in full sun, and some varieties are able to perform in part sun. Taller varieties are much more likely to require staking when in more shade.

Because of the toxicity of these plants, they are generally pest free. A few pests, however, have managed to deal with these toxins. You may have problems with tobacco horn worm, a large green caterpillar that eventually becomes the hummingbird moth. These large bugs can quickly defoliate plants almost overnight. Manual removal is the easiest course of action against them. You may also encounter problems with aphids and whiteflies, but in outdoor settings these are usually uncommon.

More Varieties of Flowering Tobacco:

‘Lime Green’ flowering tobacco

Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’ bears chartreuse star-shape flowers on 2-foot-tall plants. Zones 10-11

Domino flowering tobacco

Nicotiana ‘Domino Series’ bears flowers in shades of red, white, pink, and rose on 14-inch-tall plants.

Jasmine tobacco

Nicotiana alata bears clusters of fragrant greenish-yellow flowers on 5-foot-tall stems. Perennial in Zones 10-11 but usually grown as an annual.

Nicotiana langsdorffii

Nicotiana langsdorffii offers nodding clusters of green flowers on 5-foot-tall stems. Zones 10-11

Nicotiana mutabilis

Nicotiana mutabilis bears trumpet-shape flowers that open white and mature to rich, rose pink on 4-foot-tall plants. Perennial in Zones 9-11, but usually grown as an annual.

‘Nicki Red’ flowering tobacco

Nicotiana ‘Nicki Red’ bears richly fragrant red flowers on 18-inch-tall plants. Zones 10-11

‘Perfume Deep Purple’ flowering tobacco

Nicotiana ‘Perfume Deep Purple’ is an award-winning selection that bears rich purple flowers on 2-foot-tall plants. Zones 10-11

Nicotiana sylvestris

Nicotiana sylvestris bears clusters of fragrant white trumpet-shape flowers on plants to 5 feet tall. Perennial in Zones 10-11 but usually grown as an annual.

Plant Flowering Tobacco With:

It’s amazing that the tall, dramatic spider flower is only an annual. Once temperatures warm up, it zooms to 4 feet or more very quickly and produces large balls of flowers with fascinating long seedpods that whirl out. Cut it for vases, but be aware that the flowers shatter easily after a few days. It typically self-seeds prolifically, so you only have to plant it once. Because it develops surprisingly large thorns, it’s best to keep spider flower away from walkways. Plant established seedlings in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Cleome does best in moderately rich, well-drained soil. Be careful about fertilizing or you’ll have extremely tall floppy plants. Group in clusters of 6 or more for best effect.

Dusty miller is a favorite because it looks good with everything. The silvery-white color is a great foil for any type of garden blossom, and the fine-textured foliage creates a beautiful contrast against other green foliage. Dusty miller has also earned its place in the garden because it’s delightfully easy to grow, withstanding heat and drought like a champion.

Just as you’d expect from something called French, these marigolds are the fancy ones. French marigolds tend to be frilly, and some boast a distinctive “crested eye.” They grow roughly 8-12 inches high with a chic, neat growth habit and elegant dark green foliage. They do best in full sun with moist, well-drained soil and will flower all summer long. They may reseed, coming back year after year, in spots where they’re happy.

Nicotiana: Flowering Tobacco

An old-fashioned cottage garden favorite, Nicotianas are carefree plants that will provide color and fragrance all summer long.

Also known as flowering tobacco, the genus Nicotiana consists of more than 60 species, including the plant notorious for producing smoking tobacco. Nicotianas are named after Jean Nicot, a 16th century Ambassador who is credited with introducing tobacco to the French court, where it gained popularity in the form of medicinal snuff. Ornamental Nicotianas aren’t grown for this usage, but for their uniquely beautiful flowers, wonderful fragrance, and graceful appearance in the garden. They are also deer-resistant, and are highly attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies! The trumpet-like, star- or bell-shaped flowers bloom throughout the season and come in a range of colors and bi-colors, from pure white to shades of pink, red and purple, and even true green.

Nicotiana alata

Many Nicotianas are fairly tall plants—some topping out at over 8 feet—but their open habit fits nicely in the middle of a mixed border. They also do well in containers, as long as ample space is provided. Some modern hybrids have been bred for very short, compact growth, and can be tucked in anywhere a spot of color is required. Many varieties are highly fragrant, though generally at night, so plant near a window or patio where the sweet scent can be most enjoyed.

Nicotianas are easy to grow, but do best in rich soil in full sun. Amending with organic matter will help improve soil. Although relatively drought-tolerant, Nicotianas do appreciate regular watering, and a few applications of an organic flower fertilizer will keep plants in bloom all season. Most Nicotiana species are true perennials in their native climates, but rarely overwinter in Pacific Northwest gardens. However, they are very easy to start from seed.

Please note that all parts of Nicotiana plants are toxic if ingested, so keep away from nibbling pets or children.

Varieties you’ll find at Portland Nursery include:

Nicotiana alata

Nicotiana alata is the species from which most of the modern hybrids are derived. Graceful and airy, it will grow to a bushy 5′ tall and produce masses of highly scented flowers. The true species has greenish-white flowers, but many cultivars are available in a range of colors.

Nicotiana knightiana

Upright, 3-5′ tall by 2-3′ wide. Long, bare stems hold sprays of small, green and yellow, upward-facing tubular flowers.

Nicotiana langsdorffii

Bushy, 3-6′ tall. Long stems rise above large, bold leaves. Green, pendant-like nodding flowers.

Nicotiana mutabilis

Tall, bushy tender perennial, 4-8′ tall by 3′ wide. Fragrant flowers start out white and fade to shades of pink. Loved by hummingbirds.

Nicotiana sylvestris

4-6′ tall by 2-3′ wide. Masses of tubular, fragrant white flowers hang in clusters. ‘Only the Lonely’ is a popular cultivar.

Nicotiana tabacum

This is the species grown for smoking tobacco, though it is used medicinally by some professional herbalists. 3-6′ tall by 2′ wide, with upward-facing pink and white flowers and large leaves.

Nicotiana ‘Tinkerbell’

3′ tall. Nodding, tubular flowers are a unique shade of dusky rose inside, with lime green backs. They also display unusual azure-colored pollen in the center of the flower.

Nicotiana ‘Domino’ Series

Low-growing hybrids in a range of colors, from white to pink, red, purple, and lime green. 10-12″ tall.

Nicotiana ‘Perfume’ Series

Upward-facing flowers in a lovely mix of colors, 18-24″ tall, with nice evening fragrance.

Nicotiana ‘Whisper’ Series

3-4′ tall. Slightly nodding, evening-scented flowers start pale pink and fade to a deep rose.

Nicotiana, Flowering Tobacco

Nicotiana, or flowering tobacco, is an annual flower related to the tobacco plants of commerce, and bred for its ornamental value.

Annuals Image Gallery


Description: A low rosette of large, flat, velvety leaves supports the tall flowering stems covered with many star-shaped flowers. Flower colors include white, pink, maroon, lavender, green, red, and yellow. The plants can grow up to three feet tall, but dwarf forms are also popular.

How to grow: Nicotiana grows best in fertile, humus-rich, moist, well-drained soil in partial shade or full sun in cooler areas. They are tough plants that will tolerate high temperatures. Transplant to the garden when all danger of frost has passed, spacing 8 to 12 inches apart.

Propagation: Seeds may be sown in place, thinning the seedlings to the right spacing. Otherwise, start the plants indoors six to eight weeks prior to planting out. Seeds germinate in 10 to 20 days at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t cover seeds; they need light to germinate.

Uses: Nicotiana is a plant that can give much-needed height to beds and borders. Group it in clusters for more impact. Avoid planting it in dusty places.

Scientific name: Nicotiana alata grandiflora

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