Nicotiana sylvestris
Common Name: tobacco plant
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Solanaceae
Native Range: 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: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant

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 may fade somewhat in the heat of a St. Louis summer. Deadhead flower stalks of spent clusters to promote additional bloom. Do not site these plants near vegetable gardens with other nightshade family members (e.g., eggplant, tomato, potato, or peppers) because of susceptibility to and possible transmission of common viruses. May self-seed in optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Nicotiana sylvestris, commonly called flowering tobacco or white shooting stars, is a vigorous, rosette-forming plant that typically grows 3-5’ tall and features pendant clusters of long-tubed, trumpet-shaped, white flowers that purportedly resemble shooting stars. Flowers are strongly fragrant. Blooms summer to fall, providing good color and fragrance for late summer borders. Coarse, oblong to spatulate basal leaves to 15” long. Flowers are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. N. tabacum is the species cultivated for smoking tobacco.

Genus name honors Jean Nicot (1530-1600), French ambassador to Lisbon who introduced tobacco into France.

Specific epithet means growing in the woods or forest-loving.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to tobacco mosaic virus. Watch for aphids and beetles. Staking is often required.

Garden Uses

Mass in borders or cottage gardens. Site near a patio, deck or sidewalk to enjoy the fragrant flowers.