Nicotiana alata [nih-ko-she-AH-na, a-LAY-tuh] is a lovely annual summer flower with a long bloom and pleasant fragrance, making it a popular choice for garden beds and window boxes.
It belongs to the Solanaceae family of flowering plants, commonly called the nightshade family.
You may hear it by the following common names:
- Flowering tobacco
- Jasmine tobacco
- Winged tobacco
- Sweet tobacco
- Persian tobacco
It comes from South America but is grown throughout the world.
In Iran, some tobacco products are made by hand-crushed nicotiana alata leaves.
While it’s occasionally grown for the tobacco, it also produces a wonderful fragrance which typically permeates at night and then seems to disappear during the day.
Nicotiana Alata Care
Size and Growth
The flowering tobacco plant can reach up to 40″ inches with green branches and large pale green leaves.
The leaves and branches are covered in slightly sticky hair.
As the plant grows, it produces thin branched stems from which the flowers appear.
Taller varieties of the plant may need support in windy areas as there is a risk of the flower heads snapping off.
One option is to position several plants closer together or plant them where the wind won’t be a problem.
Some dwarf varieties and hybrids only reach 12″ – 16″ inches tall and wide.
These plants don’t need support due to their shorter stature.
Flowering and Fragrance
Flowering typically begins in the middle of summer and lasts through September.
Most varieties either produce white or red flowers.
The white flowers are more vibrant, while the deeper red color of the other varieties is less of a contrast to the green foliage.
The white flowers also produce a fragrance, while the red flowers have no scent.
The smaller dwarf varieties may produce white, pink, red, or even lime green flowers.
Unfortunately, these varieties rarely produce any fragrance.
Light and Temperature
The plant grows best in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 9, which covers most of the southern states of the US along with Mexico and areas in South America.
It can’t survive frost and prefers warm weather.
It likes lots of sunlight but also grows well in partial shade.
Watering and Feeding
When planted in the ground, flowering tobacco may not need frequent watering throughout the summer.
If grown in a pot or container, watering becomes more critical.
Ensure the soil doesn’t completely dry out during the flowering season.
During this time of the year, the plant also appreciates fertilizer with its water about once per week.
Soil and Transplanting
Choose fertile soil with good drainage.
Adding fertilizer can help improve the condition of poor soil while adding peat moss or compost can improve the drainage.
As an annual, transplanting isn’t required.
For a long, full bloom throughout the summer, sow the seeds indoors in March.
By the time there is no threat of frost, the seedlings should be large enough to move to permanent homes in containers or flower beds for the year.
No grooming is needed. It dies out at the end of the year.
How to Propagate Flowering Tobacco Plant
Propagation is possible by collecting the seeds from the plants after pollination.
It’s also possible to purchase seed packets for sowing in the spring.
If grown outdoors, the pollinators may pollinate the flowering tobacco plant.
These pollinators include hummingbirds and honeybees.
After pollination, the flowers will turn brown and begin to wither, leaving a seed pod hanging from the stem.
The pods will start to open when they are ripe.
Use the following steps to collect and sow the seeds:
- Hold a paper bag below the seed pod and tap the pod.
- Hundreds of tiny seeds should spill out into the paper bag.
- Allow the seeds to dry for several days before transferring to an envelope for storage until the next spring.
- Sow seeds in propagating trays covered with plastic.
- The trays should be kept at about 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C).
- It typically takes about ten days for the seedlings to appear.
- When the seedlings are sturdy enough for handling, move them into a new tray.
- Wait for them to grow several full leaves before transplanting into individual containers or garden beds.
NOTE: Don’t move these plants outdoors until there is no threat of frost.
While it’s a hardy plant, it’s not frost-tolerant.
Flowering Tobacco Plant Main Pests or Disease Problems?
The flowering tobacco plant is typically a healthy, hardy plant, but aphids may occasionally pose a threat.
Treat aphid infestations with insecticide diluted with 50% water.
Suggested Nicotiana Alata Uses
Nicotiana alata is often grown on balconies and terraces.
It also looks great on patios or in flower beds.
It’s simply an attractive, easy plant to grow and helps bring color to any spot of the yard or house during the summer months.