Pronounced: nih-koe-shee-AY-nuh sil-VES-tris
Short-lived perennial, treated as an annual in the Pacific Northwest.
Sunset zones: All. Annual in colder zones.
USDA zones: 10-11.
Height: 5 feet (1.5 m).
Width: 2 feet (60 cm).
White, fragrant, trumpet shaped flowers.
Sticky, hairy, dark green leaves that can reach 3 feet long.
Full sun to partial shade.
Fertile, moist, well-drained soil.
Add a complete organic fertilizer when planting.
Surface sow seed indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost, or outdoors after danger of frost is over.
Deadhead spent flowers to keep the plant producing more.
Pests and Diseases:
Susceptible to mosaic virus. Aphids may be a problem although I have seen no problems with mine for the many years I have grown them in two different gardens located in the Pacific Northwest.
Rainy Side Notes
Sitting at my desk during the last hurrah of winter, I am imagining the wonderful fragrance of the flowering tobaccos in my garden once again. On any warm summer evening, the scent of a nicotiana reaches in through an open window, like a pied piper playing a fragrant tune, beckoning me to follow. To be without the flowering tobaccos and their lovely evening aroma is unthinkable for my garden. Nicotiana sylvestris, tall and stately in the garden, is a mainstay, no matter where I plant it. People passing by will stop and ask, "What plant is that?" They are pleasantly surprised when I tell them it is a tobacco plant. "But we don't smoke it," I quickly add.
Nicotiana, named after Jean Nicot, a 16th century French consul, introduced the plant to France. Sylvestris means of woods. In my trials with this plant, I notice in partial shade the leaves are much larger and deeper green. In sun, the leaves do not grow as large, and the leaves are almost chartreuse. In our maritime climate, we are blessed with flowers from summer into fall, unlike hot summer areas where the heat causes the plant to quit flowering. Some gardeners report that their plants reseed, but I have not had the pleasure of this miracle in my garden, at least not with this species.
Moths pollinate the white tubular flowers. The hawkmoths and sphinx moths are some that are attracted to the blossoms. If you ever see one of these beautiful large moths (they are almost the size of a hummingbird) going from flower to flower, you will be amazed by them. For this reason only, I would grow any white tubular flower with an evening fragrance.
All parts of the plant are poisonous.
Photographed in author's garden.