How to Prune Indian Tobacco


Indian tobacco produces light blue decorative flowers when grown in your landscape or flower garden. They are also known as the most common of the blue lobelias. The plant gets it name because it was believed that Native Americans smoked and chewed the leaves. However, all parts of the plant are considered toxic. Ingestion of roots, leaves and seeds has even caused fatalities in humans and animals. The plant can be identified by its swollen seed pods. Indian tobacco has annual flowers that bloom from midsummer until frost. Pruning dead flower heads periodically will help you to grow beautiful plants for landscaping. Indian tobacco, like most wildflowers, needs very little pruning to grow healthy plants.

Step 1

Thin out your plant seedlings when they first begin to grow. Typically, seedlings will appear 2 weeks after planting the seeds. Remove weaker looking plants until seedlings are spaced 4 to 6 inches apart. This will allow plenty of room for the other plants to grow. Your plants will grow up to 3 feet high and a foot wide.

Step 2

Pinch off dead flower heads as they dry out; this will help to keep your flowers looking healthy. However, you can leave the flower heads on the plants if you want them to self-seed. You can also collect seeds from the flower heads if you would like to plant them in other areas of your yard.

Step 3

Remove any dead leaves from your plants to prevent disease and maintain the health of your plants. Remove leaves that have turned brown or wilted. Completely remove entire plants that become diseased immediately.

Step 4

Before the first frost, remove any remaining flower heads that develop into seeds if you want to save them to plant later. Begin to prep your soil for next year by digging up all your plants and removing the root balls. Rake your soil to loosen any clods. New plants will spring up the following season from any seeds that have fallen or that you have planted.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning scissors


  • Lobelia Inflata: Backyard Gardener
  • Deadheading
  • Growing Lobelia

Who Can Help

  • Indian Tobacco Photos
  • Description of Indian Tobacco
Keywords: Indian tobacco, blue lobelia, flower pruning

About this Author

Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Robin Coe has reported on a variety of subjects for more than 15 years. Coe has worked on environmental health and safety issues in communities across Ohio and Michigan. Coe holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism with a double-major in international politics from Bowling Green State University. She has also received training and experience as a nurse aide.