Nicotiana (Nicotiana alata), also known as flowering tobacco or ornamental tobacco, is a popular and prolific annual that will produce glorious star-shaped blooms from summer into autumn. Nicotiana isn't difficult to grow, and hummingbirds and butterflies will love the bright blooms. Plant nicotiana near an open window, doorway or patio so you can take full advantage of the sweet fragrance that is especially pleasant on warm summer evenings.
Plant nicotiana by seed indoors five to eight weeks before the last frost in your area. Fill a planting tray or celled container with commercial potting mix. Plant the nicotiana seeds on top of the soil, and press them into the soil with your fingers, but don't cover the seeds with soil.
Place the tray in a warm room until the nicotiana seeds germinate, then move the tray into a sunny window. Pinch off the weak seedlings when the seedlings have grown to about 2 inches tall.
Transplant the seedlings outdoors when the last frost has passed, but harden off the nicotiana seedlings for a few days first to allow them to become accustomed to their new environment. To harden off, place the seedlings outdoors in a shady, protected spot for three or four days, then move then to a spot where they'll get morning sunlight for three or four days.
Choose a spot where the nicotiana will be exposed to at least six hours of sunlight every day. Nicotiana requires well-drained soil, so avoid spots where rainwater tends to remain for more than a half day.
Use a shovel or hoe to work the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Work a time-release granular fertilizer for flowering plants into the soil to keep the plants healthy and encourage a long blooming season.
Keep the soil moist, especially during hot, dry weather. Don't over-water as nicotiana won't do well in soggy soil.
Deadhead, or remove, spent nicotiana blooms to encourage the plant to keep producing blooms. Nicotiana reseeds easily, so leave a few blooms if you want the plants to reseed themselves next spring. Feel free to cut blooms for indoor bouquets as often as you like.