How to Plant Tobacco


Tobacco is considered an agricultural product, but the plant can be grown as an ornamental as well. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, tobacco plants do not like alkaline soil with high nitrogen content or tolerate high wind, but do best in a well drained soil with southern exposure. Plants grown in sandy loam soils produce a finer tobacco, while heavy soils result in a rougher leaf.

Getting Started

Step 1

Prepare the bed in the fall for spring planting. Add organic matter or compost and till it into the soil. Check the pH level and adjust it to between 5.8 and 6.5. The University of Florida Extension Service suggests using lime to increase the pH (if needed) and, after planting, dolomite for magnesium, which is vital for good growth.

Step 2

Start the plants from seed in a cold frame (or indoors using a seed starting kit) between 50 to 60 days before the transplant date (the transplant date should be as soon as possible after the last frost date). Sow the seed onto the surface and press it lightly into the soil. Mist the surface of the soil to moisten the seeds. Water from beneath, keeping the soil moist, but not wet.

Step 3

Transplant the seedlings when they reach 5 to 7 inches in height. Leave 3 to 4 feet between rows and 18 to 36 inches between plants (or follow instructions specific to the type of tobacco you choose to plant), according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Take care to protect the taproot when manipulating the plant.

Step 4

Fertilize tobacco when you transplant and throughout the growing season if plant color begins to fade (until the plants begin to flower). The University of Florida Extension Service has several suggestions regarding fertilizing tobacco. They advise against using a chlorine fertilizer. This type of fertilizer can burn the plant's leaves. Fertilizer rated for tomato or pepper use is acceptable. Apply fertilizer to the soil and blend it in where it will not concentrate around or directly contact the roots of the plant.

Step 5

Wait 4 to 5 years to plant tobacco in the same location. The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service warns that tobacco is affected by a number of diseases which may gravely influence the health of the plant. For this reason, they recommend that growers create good drainage, plant in several smaller groupings (as opposed to one large area), start seed early and transplant early. Clear the area around the tobacco plot of weeds to deter pests.

Step 6

Use crop rotation to improve the soil, eliminate some risk of disease and deter pests. Tobacco does well when planted after corn or grasses. Some rotation crops should not be used. These include tomatoes and peppers. They may experience issues with disease which can harm subsequent tobacco plantings.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Tiller
  • Test kit for pH
  • Lime
  • Cold frame
  • Seed starter kit
  • Spray bottle
  • Water
  • Spade
  • Dolomite
  • Fertilizer


  • National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service--Organic Tobacco Production
  • University of Florida Extension--Growing Tobacco in the Home Garden
  • University of Arkansas Extension--Ornamental Tobacco

Who Can Help

  • Clemson University Cooperative Extension--Tobacco Harvest Management
Keywords: tobacco plant, agricultural product, chlorine fertilizer

About this Author

Alice Moon has been a freelance writer for one year, writing on the Internet for over 10 years. Moon holds a B.S. in political science (Asian studies minor). She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, DC. She traveled through Asia as part of a delegation from her university to its sister universities overseas.