An old-fashioned cottage garden favorite, Nicotianas are carefree plants that will provide color and fragrance all summer long.

Also known as flowering tobacco, the genus Nicotiana consists of more than 60 species, including the plant notorious for producing smoking tobacco. Nicotianas are named after Jean Nicot, a 16th century Ambassador who is credited with introducing tobacco to the French court, where it gained popularity in the form of medicinal snuff. Ornamental Nicotianas aren't grown for this usage, but for their uniquely beautiful flowers, wonderful fragrance, and graceful appearance in the garden. They are also deer-resistant, and are highly attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies! The trumpet-like, star- or bell-shaped flowers bloom throughout the season and come in a range of colors and bi-colors, from pure white to shades of pink, red and purple, and even true green.

Nicotiana alata

Nicotiana alata

Many Nicotianas are fairly tall plants—some topping out at over 8 feet—but their open habit fits nicely in the middle of a mixed border. They also do well in containers, as long as ample space is provided. Some modern hybrids have been bred for very short, compact growth, and can be tucked in anywhere a spot of color is required. Many varieties are highly fragrant, though generally at night, so plant near a window or patio where the sweet scent can be most enjoyed.

Nicotianas are easy to grow, but do best in rich soil in full sun. Amending with organic matter will help improve soil. Although relatively drought-tolerant, Nicotianas do appreciate regular watering, and a few applications of an organic flower fertilizer will keep plants in bloom all season. Most Nicotiana species are true perennials in their native climates, but rarely overwinter in Pacific Northwest gardens. However, they are very easy to start from seed.

Please note that all parts of Nicotiana plants are toxic if ingested, so keep away from nibbling pets or children.

Varieties you'll find at Portland Nursery include:

Nicotiana alata

Nicotiana alata is the species from which most of the modern hybrids are derived. Graceful and airy, it will grow to a bushy 5' tall and produce masses of highly scented flowers. The true species has greenish-white flowers, but many cultivars are available in a range of colors.

Nicotiana knightiana

Upright, 3-5' tall by 2-3' wide. Long, bare stems hold sprays of small, green and yellow, upward-facing tubular flowers.

Nicotiana langsdorffii

Bushy, 3-6' tall. Long stems rise above large, bold leaves. Green, pendant-like nodding flowers.

Nicotiana mutabilis

Tall, bushy tender perennial, 4-8' tall by 3' wide. Fragrant flowers start out white and fade to shades of pink. Loved by hummingbirds.

Nicotiana sylvestris

Nicotiana sylvestris

4-6' tall by 2-3' wide. Masses of tubular, fragrant white flowers hang in clusters. 'Only the Lonely' is a popular cultivar.

Nicotiana tabacum

Nicotiana tabacum

This is the species grown for smoking tobacco, though it is used medicinally by some professional herbalists. 3-6' tall by 2' wide, with upward-facing pink and white flowers and large leaves.

Nicotiana 'Tinkerbell'

3' tall. Nodding, tubular flowers are a unique shade of dusky rose inside, with lime green backs. They also display unusual azure-colored pollen in the center of the flower.

Nicotiana 'Domino' Series

Low-growing hybrids in a range of colors, from white to pink, red, purple, and lime green. 10-12" tall.

Nicotiana 'Perfume' Series

Upward-facing flowers in a lovely mix of colors, 18-24" tall, with nice evening fragrance.

Nicotiana 'Whisper' Series

3-4' tall. Slightly nodding, evening-scented flowers start pale pink and fade to a deep rose.

Add Spring color to your garden with Annuals

Annuals are planted every year and provide color summer till frost. Many annuals can be wintered over indoors or reseed outdoors providing extra value to their flower power!