The tobacco plant (Nicotiana tabacum) is a broad-leafed, attractive plant that is grown for ornamental purposes or for harvesting, drying and smoking. It can be grown in most parts of the United States if the right conditions prevail, including enriched soil and plenty of moisture. Tobacco plants are in the Nightshade family of plants, meaning they are related to pepper and tomato plants. Because all members of the Nightshade family or susceptible to the same diseases and insect pests, avoid planting tobacco plants in the same soil where other members of the Nightshade family were planted in the previous two years.
Mix potting soil and peat moss at the ratio of one-half potting soil to one-half peat moss in a mixing container such as a five-gallon bucket. The peat moss helps the potting soil hold moisture. Dampen the mixture with water. Do not soak the mixture, but create a crumbly damp mixture to laced into the planting tray.
Place the potting mix and peat mixture into the planting tray. Tamp it down very slightly to create a smooth surface that will hold the tobacco seed on top of the surface. Do not cover the tobacco seed, because it needs exposure to light to sprout, or germinate.
Place the tobacco seed on top of the potting soil-peat mixture that you placed in the planting tray. The seed is very tiny, so don't put too many seeds in one area or the plants will be too crowded when they sprout. Place the planting trays in an area that receives bright natural light. If setting in full sun, be sure to check often to make sure the surface is not drying out. Sprinkle water over the seeds and soil mixture and keep them damp until they sprout in about two weeks.
Plant the tobacco seeds five to six weeks before the average last frost in your area, so they can be planted outside at the right time. To find out the average last frost date for your area, look at a USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.
Clear an area of weeds and debris in the garden that receives six or more hours of direct sun each day, is well-drained and is located close to a source of water. Tobacco plants need a steady supply of moisture to survive, but cannot sit in water. Pulverize or turn the soil to a depth of 6 inches with a shovel and spread a 1-inch layer of compost over the planting area. Use a hoe to work the compost into the top 3 inches of soil and rake the area smooth.
Transplant the tobacco plants outdoors in the prepared planting area when they are 6 to 8 inches tall. Plant at the same depth as they are in the container. Plant 24 inches apart and add water around the root systems to avoid transplant shock. Once the plants are actively growing, begin a regular fertilization program with a standard garden fertilizer. Follow directions on the fertilizer container label. Do not add more than the recommended amount of fertilizer.
Pinch off blooms as they begin to form on the tobacco plants to force the plants to produce more leaves rather than blooms. Also, to grow the largest leaves, remove suckers or smaller new leaves that form in the area where the larger leaves are attached to the plant.