Flowering Tobacco – Nicotiana alata ‘Grandiflora’

Flowering Tobacco is a summer annual that is both elegant and beautifully scented. A native of South America, it is now available in a wide range of varieties and hybrids.

The South American plant is Nicotiana alata, a fairly tall, white-flowering variety sometimes known as Jasmine Tobacco because of its wonderful perfume. Most of the popular cultivated varieties are developed from this plant.

Nicotiana alata grows to a height of about 60-90cm (2-3ft). The branched flower stalks carry white flowers about 8cm (3in) in length. Dwarf hybrids are 30-38cm (12-15in) tall.

Colours and hybrids

Hybrids of Nicotiana alata include the much admired ‘Lime Green’, which has yellow-green flowers, and ‘Sensation Mixed’, with white, yellow, pink and red flowers.

Growing from seedFlowering Tobacco - Nicotiana alata 'Grandiflora'

Sow the seeds early in March, in seed or propagating trays. Use a seed-sowing compost and keep at 18°C (65°F). Cover the seed tray with glass or polythene. Remove the cover regularly to prevent excess condensation.

Give the seedlings good light. Once they are large enough to handle, prick them out into another tray, or into individual pots if they are large. Peat pots are preferable, as they can be placed intact into a large tub. Transfer tray-grown plants to pots when they have made good growth. You can put your plants outdoors in May when the danger of frosts has passed.

If you cannot store the plants indoors, sow seeds a little later, or buy bedding plants.

Pests And Diseases

Flowering Tobacco is generally a very healthy plant, with no diseases and few pests.

Pale or yellow leaves and poor growth are caused by aphids. Treatment: In minor attacks, wash the pests away with a strong spray of soapy water and repeat if necessary. Severe attacks should be treated with an insecticide.

The stems and stalks of tall plants snap off in windy weather. Prevention: If you group your plants close together they will give each other some protection, but tying them to a cane is the best solution.

Stake tall plants.

PLANT CARE

This is a very easy plant, which will almost look after itself. Give tall varieties outdoors some support, otherwise the stems or flowers may break off in windy weather.

  • Potting: Use a potting compost that is light and fertile. A soil-based compost is best for plants grown in containers.
  • Water your plants moderately at regular intervals. The taller the plants, the more often they will need watering.
  • Feeding: Feed about once a week throughout the summer with a standard liquid fertilizer.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: Grow your plants in full sun, although they will tolerate some shade. If growing in a greenhouse or conservatory, protect from strong sunlight.
  • Temperature: Propagate seeds at 18°C (65°F). Plants will tolerate warm temperatures; always keep the compost warm.

Buying Tips

  • Buy seeds in late winter or early spring for sowing in February or March. Young plants are usually available from garden centres and nurseries in late spring and early summer.
  • Buy only fresh seed packaged for the current season. If buying young plants, choose those with firm growth and lots of leaves.
  • Flowering Tobacco is an annual that will die down in the autumn.

Flowering Tobacco is a lovely summer annual that is easily grown outdoors in pots or tubs, preferably near a window or door so its fragrance can be fully appreciated.

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