Flowering tobacco plants have long been prized in cottage gardens and moon gardens for their intensely scented flowers. A relative of true tobacco, flowering tobacco plants are grown for their blooms, which come in a 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.
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Flowering tobacco plants make excellent annuals for adding splashes of color as well as scent all season long. With their starry blooms in a variety of colors, you're sure to find one to fit any garden palette. These pretty plants also come 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 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.
Flowering Tobacco Care Must-Knows
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.
Keep in mind that all tobacco plants are poisonous if ingested, so be careful about planting them around young children and pets. 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.
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 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.
'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
Flowering Tobacco Companion Plants
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.