Dictionary of Flowers: Nicotiana Hybrids (Flowering Tobacco)

Weird and wonderful Nicotiana hybrids (Flowering Tobacco). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Peganum and Flickr
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Weird and wonderful Nicotiana hybrids (Flowering Tobacco). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Peganum and Flickr

  • Nicotiana Hybrids
  • Common name: nicotiana, flowering tobacco
  • Family: Solanaceae
  • Category: annual
  • Height: up to 24"
  • Width:8" to 10"
  • Sun/part shade
  • Blooms:  late spring to early fall
  • Attracts: night pollinators, butterflies, hummingbirds
  • Growth habit: erect. Used as a thriller in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: fertile, evenly moist, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers
  • Garden uses: containers, mixed border, wildflower garden, moon garden
  • Diseases: powdery mildew, stem rot
  • Pests: aphids

Warm weather annual, nicotiana is native to South America.

It is in the same genus as tobacco, but the garden species (nicotiana alata) is cultivated for its beautiful scented flowers.

Nicotiana can reach five feet, however the garden variety hybrids are shorter and have smaller leaves.

Nicotiana's leaves are oval, fuzzy and form rosettes with stems from which white, lime green, pink, burgundy or purple flowers grow. The flowers are long, tubular and attract night pollinators, hummingbirds and butterflies. 

Do not plant nicotiana near tomato, pepper, potato or eggplant plants. 

All parts of nicotiana plant are toxic if ingested.

Nicotiana grows best in fertile to average soils that are kept evenly moist but well drained. Adding compost to the planting site helps with drainage.

When grown in containers, water daily during hot parts of summer. Nicotiana might self-sow, so mulching around plants might be a good idea to avoid self-seeding and preserve ground moisture.

They don't need deadheading, but the flowering stalks can be cut down to the basal foliage when finished blooming. Nicotiana grows well in full to part sun positions in the garden.

Nicotiana is a heavy feeder. To keep nicotiana blooming, remove spent stalks and fertilize using a bloom boosting or standard formula liquid fertilizer through the summer.

If saving seed, allow a few stalks to go to seed towards the end of the season.

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Nicotiana can be found in some nurseries during late spring and summer. It is easily grown from seed. They can be directly sown in the garden after danger of frost has passed by lightly broadcasting the seed over the garden bed, after tilling some compost in.

Keep moist. When they germinate, thin seedlings twelve inches or so apart. They can also be sown indoors, six to eight weeks before last frost date.

Sprinkle seed over moist starting mix, do not cover. If kept at 65F, seedlings germinate in one to two weeks.

Once the seedlings emerge, provide good light. They need to be hardened off slowly and planted outside when temperatures warm up. 




IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Nicotiana can suffer from powdery mildew. If so, improve growing conditions and water from below. Stem rot can happen when soil isn't drained well enough. Add compost to improve.

The sticky, hairy leaves of nicotiana can look untidy because of aphids. Apply insecticidal soap or blast with water from the hose to remove them. 

Popular varieties:

  • Nicotiana alata hybrid 'Perfume' series - scented, about sixteen inches tall. Blooms can be purple, red, white, pink and lime
  • Nicotiana sanderae hybrid 'Avalon' - dwarf variety, up to ten inches tall. Flowers can be pink, lime, purple, red and white
  • Nicotiana hybrid 'Tinkerbell' - up to two feet, long blooming variety. The flowers' trumpets are lime green, the petals are pink
  • Nicotina alata hybrid 'Saratoga' - dwarf variety, up to twelve inches tall. Busy habit. Blooms white, pink or red

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Full List of Dictionary of Flowers Entries

Annuals For Containers

Perennials For Containers

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