The species has lime-yellow flowers with a white center. It grows well in part shade or sun and is especially fragrant from early evening until morning. To enjoy the sweet scent, place flowering tobacco near a patio so you can enjoy it while relaxing, or near a door or window where its fragrance can drift into the house. Newer Nicotiana cultivars (like those in the photo) have stronger colors, open during the day, and have more blooms. They grow 14 to 18 inches tall, do best with more sun, and sometimes have less fragrance than the older species.
Common name: Flowering tobacco
Botanical name: Nicotiana alata
Plant type: Herbaceous perennial, grown as an annual
Height: 3 to 5 feet
Zones: 10 to 11
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade)
- Sun: Full sun to part shade
- Soil: Well-drained, rich soil
- Moisture: Consistently moist
- Mulch: Apply a 1- to 2-inch layer of organic mulch to deter weeds and keep soil evenly moist.
- Fertilizer: Apply all-purpose fertilizer after the first flush of blooms to encourage more blooms.
- Pruning: Pinch back the first flowering spike to induce branching and create more flowering. Cut back flower stalks if plant becomes rangy.
- Nicki Series is semi-dwarf with fragrant red, rose, pink, white, and light green flowers. Grows 16 to 18 inches tall.
- ‘Lime Green' has lime-green flowers to 5 inches long. Grows 24 inches tall.
- ‘Domino' has a wide range of flower colors including pink and lime. Grows 14 inches tall.
- Though the species reaches 3 to 4 feet tall, it usually doesn't need staking.
- Use in annual beds or containers and combine with taller zinnias and marigolds.
- The species likes part shade in warm climates, but will take more sun in cool climates.
- Because the species is tall with somewhat coarse foliage, plant in drifts for best display.
- Plant in the garden just after the last frost. Young plants like cool weather, but frost will damage them.
- Flowering tobacco may self-seed, especially in warmer climates.
- Contact with foliage may irritate skin.
- All parts of the plant are toxic if eaten.
Pests and diseases
- Susceptible to tobacco mosaic virus. Stem, stalk, and root rot may occur.
- Leaf miners, beetles, aphids, caterpillars may attack the plant.
All in the family
- Edible peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and petunias are part of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family. Because they are related, they are susceptible to the same viruses and should not be planted close to each other.
- Angels' trumpets (Brugmansia spp.), amethyst violet (Browallia spp.), and cup flower (Nierembergia spp.) are some of the annuals and perennials in the family.
- Commercially grown tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) is also a close relative of N. alata.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder