The Nicotiana family may be best known for tobacco, but several of the other species are much more pleasant to inhale. Jasmine tobacco has a fragrance that resembles - you guessed it - jasmine. The star-shaped, tubular flowers tend to open in late afternoon. So many of the best fragrant plants bloom in the evening, when we're home and relaxing. The flowers sit atop tall, nodding stems and seem to glow in the fading light.
Jasmine tobacco doesn't usually start flowering until mid-summer, but then it goes until frost. Make sure you get plants labeled Nicotiana alata. There are many hybrid Nicotiana cultivars on sale today, but most have been bred for color or shape and no longer have any fragrance. What a pity.
Height: 3 - 4 ft.
Width: 15 - 18 inches
Hardiness Zone: USDA zones 10 - 11
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
The genus Nicotiana was named for a Frenchman, Jean Nicot. Nicot was the French ambassador to Portugal from 1559-1561 and gained some fame for bringing powdered tobacco back to France, which apparently cured the Queen's son of his migraines.
There are many species of nicotiana, besides smoking tobacco. The ornamental varieties are referred to as "flowering tobacco". The species name often give clues to the attributes of the plant. Nicotianta sylvestris, which we're profiling here, comes from the Latin sylva, which means woodland or forest. All nicotiana are members of the Solanaceae or Nightshade family, along with tomatoes, eggplants and petunias.
• Leaves: The large, oblong leaves can reach 18 in. in length and grow from a basal rosette. They are covered with sticky, glandular hairs that can cause dermatitis to sensitive people.The upper leaves have winged petioles around the stem.
• Flowers: A clustered pendant of elongated, narrow trumpet-shaped flowers grow from a central stem. The flowers are shades of white and give off a strong jasmine-like scent, in the evening.
Common Names: Flowering tobacco, woodland tobacco, jasmine tobacco
Full sun will generally produce the sturdiest plants and the most flowering, but the plants can handle partial shade, especially in hot climates.During especially hot spells, flowering will diminish.
For annual plants, nicotiana grows very quickly, reaching heights of 3 – 5 ft. and a spread of 1 – 2 ft. The first blooms will depend on when you plant, but you should get repeat flowering throughout the summer.
Starting from Seed: For a head start, you can sow seed indoors 6 – 8 weeks before your last frost date. The seeds are tiny and need light to germinate, so press them on the top of the soil. Do not cover them. They should germinate within 1 – 2 weeks.
Planting: Direct sow or transplant after all danger of frost. Be sure to give the plants room to fill out. Space at least 12 in. apart.
Water: Nicotiana is a thirsty plant. Give it regular deep waterings, but don't let it sit in wet soil.
Fertilizer: Start with a rich soil, high in organic matter. Since they will be repeat blooming all summer, give them a dose of water soluble fertilizer every 2 – 4 weeks, when watering.
Maintenance: To have repeat blooming, deadhead the flower stalk after blooming.The stems are thick and somewhat sturdy, but since these are such tall plants, they may need some staking, especially in windy conditions.
It is advised not to plant nicotiana near tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, or potatoes because they can share and transmit diseases.
Pests and Problems: Although not often plagued with problems, watch for aphids. To be honest, nicotiana is often used as a trap crop for aphids. You can hose them off your plants with a strong blast of water. They can also occasionally get fungal diseases, especially during humid weather.
Design Tips: Nicotiana looks best in a mass planting. Although it shines in the back of the border, it's nice to have near enough to enjoy the scent at night. Try a clump near the doorway, by a patio or at a turn in a path.
Taken from http://gardening.about.com/od/plantprofiles/ss/Nicotiana-How-to-Grow-Flowering-Tobacco.htm
Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty, Iowa