© RHS / Tim Sandall



Common name: Tobacco plant

Among the most popular of annuals, nicotiana provide long-lived colour, fragrance and much needed height in summer displays. Great for filling gaps in borders left by spring bulbs, they also combine well with other bedding plants in container displays. The tall, swaying, green and white-flowered types compliment cottage garden schemes and are popular with flower arrangers.


Annuals, biennials, perennials and shrubs with narrow, lance-shaped or broadly oval mid-green leaves, often sticky with glandular hairs. Long, tubular flowers, which open into a broad star, are borne in clusters in shades of white, pink, purple, red, yellow and green from summer into autumn. Many only open in the evening and at night, releasing a distinctive incense-like fragrance.


A sunny position in any fertile, moist but well-drained soil. Nicotiana sylvestris, the woodland tobacco plant, prefers partial or dappled shade.


Very wet and very dry soils, which can hinder growth, and deep shade where flowering will be poor. Tall varieties can be damaged by strong winds so plant in a sheltered spot or stake to provide support.

Did you know?

Although usually treated as annuals, Nicotiana alata and N. sylvestris are actually short-lived perennials and can be overwintered outdoors in milder areas given a thick, dry mulch.

Growing guide

Nicotiana we recommend

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Useful advice

Bedding plants and displays

Bedding plants and displays

Containers: summer selection

Containers: summer selection

Growing plants in containers

Growing plants in containers

Seed: collecting and storing

Seed: collecting and storing

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