Nicotiana alata

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 3 Professionals
Common Name: flowering tobacco
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Solanaceae
Native Range: Southern Brazil, northern Argentina
Zone: 10 to 11
Height: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to frost
Bloom Description: Yellow-green to white, pink and red
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Attracts: Birds, Butterflies

Culture

Tender perennial that is winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11. In St. Louis, it is grown as an annual in consistently moist, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Appreciates some afternoon shade in hot summer climates such as St. Louis. Seed is perhaps best sown indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost date, but may be sown directly in the garden after last frost. Set out seedlings or purchased plants after last frost date. Blooms summer to fall in cool summer climates, but often fades in the heat of a St. Louis summer. Do not site these plants near vegetable gardens with other nightshade family members (e.g., eggplant, tomato, potato, or peppers) because of susceptibility to common viruses. May self-seed in optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Native from southern Brazil to northeastern Argentina, this species of flowering tobacco (often called winged tobacco) is a somewhat spindly plant that typically grows 3-5’ tall and features nocturnally fragrant, long-tubed, yellowish-green to white flowers that open only at night. Spatulate basal leaves to 12” long are attached by distinctive winged petioles (alata means winged). Upper stem leaves are much smaller and sessile. Species plants are rarely available except from seed, having been replaced by compact cultivars (to 2’ tall) which feature mostly non-fragrant flowers that open during the day in a variety of colors including red, pink, lime-green and white. The common flowering tobacco compact hybrids (N. alata x N. forgetiana) sold in cell/six packs by nurseries are classified as N. x sanderae (e.g., see Domino, Havana, Merlin, Metro and Starship Series). N. tabacum is the species cultivated for smoking tobacco. Genus name honors Jean Nicot, 16th century French consul.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to tobacco mosaic virus. Watch for beetles.

Garden Uses

Mass in borders or rock gardens. Site fragrant varieties near a patio or deck.