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The Plant Guide

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Tree tobacco

Nicotiana glauca

nih-koe-shee-AY-nah GLOK-ah

Tree tobacco bears fleshy, almost succulent, saucer-sized leaves colored a lovely silvery blue. This tender perennial can be easily grown from seed as an annual and, in a single season, makes the incredible leap from a dust mote of seed to a skyscraping specimen 10 or more feet tall. Plants are a little rangy, but plenty of pinching helps keep tree tobacco at a size suited to a more modest perennial border. The plant bears yellow flowers if given a long enough growing season.

Noteworthy CharacteristicsSilvery-blue foliage, fast growth, semi-evergreen. It is invasive in some areas, including the southwestern U.S.

CareNicotiana likes fertile, moist but well-drained soil in full sun or part shade. Staking may be needed.

PropagationTo get nicotianas going, you could just scatter seed in early spring, but you won’t get much of a display until August. For earlier blooms, start the minuscule seeds inside 8 to10 weeks before the last frost date. Seeds should be surface-sown since they need light to germinate. In 10 days or so, the seeds sprout and soon form attractive little rosettes. Leaves yellow quickly if the seedlings get hungry. Feed them with a weekly mix of fish emulsion and water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer, using each at half strength. As the frost-free date nears,  gradually acclimate seedlings to life outdoors.

ProblemsAphids, caterpillars, leaf miners, and spider mites can be problems. Stem rot, stalk rot, downy mildew, damping off, and root rot occur frequently, as do viruses causing mosaic, vein vanding, etch, and ringspots.

  • Genus : Nicotiana
  • Zones : 10, 11
  • Plant Height : 6 to 10 feet
  • Plant Width : 6 to 10 feet
  • Uses : Containers
  • Growth Rate : Fast
  • Light : Full Sun to Partial Shade
  • Bloom Time : Late Summer
  • Moisture : Medium Moisture
  • Maintenance : Moderate
  • Foliage Color : Purple/Burgundy
  • Characteristics : Showy Foliage
  • Plant Type : Shrubs
  • Plant Seasonal Interest : Summer Interest
  • Flower Color : Yellow
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