Gardeners in numerous places around the world choose nicotiana for their flowers. The common name for the genus nicotiana is tobacco plant. It is native to South America, warmer, tropical areas of North America, Australia and parts of Africa. In addition to flowering tobacco, the genus includes smoking and chewing tobacco types. Gardeners in cooler climates grow nicotiana as an annual.
The most common color for nicotiana flowers is white. However, many species produce a wide range of colors. The species flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata) produces flowers in shades of white, pink and red. Another species with the common name flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata ‘lime green’) yields lime green flowers. Tobacco plant (Nicotiana sylvestris) bears white flowers. Desert tobacco (Nicotiana obtusifolia) has off-white flowers. Master gardeners are producing new hybrids with more colors to keep pace with nicotiana’s increasing popularity
The flowers are relatively long and tubular with a wide, fluted opening at their ends. Nicotiana flowers resemble the lead pipe and bell portion of a trumpet. The flowers grow in dense clusters and curve down in gentle arcs. Flowers grow at the top of long stems. Foliage grows predominantly near the base of the plant, with only some smaller leaves growing near the flower.
Outside native habitat and tropical zones, direct sow nicotiana seeds in early spring; flowering plants appear in August. To produce blooms earlier in the season, start the plants indoors, approximately 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Transplant outdoors when all danger of frost has passed. Pinch off spent blooms to encourage the plant to form new blooms. The flowers open in the evening and at night.
Gardeners grow nicotiana flowers in their gardens because the flowers are highly fragrant. Gardeners who want to extend the time during which they can enjoy aromas from their flowers choose to add ncotiana because the flowers open at night and release most of their scent during those hours. Plant nicotiana along with moonflowers (Ipomoea alba), four o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) and evening primrose (Oenothera lamarckiana) to create a night garden filled with plants that bloom under the moonlight. Use nicotiana to attract hummingbirds, butterflies, moths and other pollinators to your yard.
The interesting shape and scent of the flowers may draw curious children to them. All parts of nicotiana are poisonous when ingested. Do not place nicotiana anywhere it is likely that children or pets will access and ingest the flowers. Avoid locations such as pathways to the front door, on the edge of a public sidewalk and the border of your neighbor’s property.