Nicotania, once a popular crop in Colonial America, gets a bad rap. Misunderstood, misused, abused, squandered, and hoarded.
Here in this article, I'll be sharing some close-up photos of flowering tobacco I have grown in my garden. I'll also be sharing many of the uses for growing it as a positive addition to the garden.
The info I am sharing today is to describe how and why this plant can be grown responsibly.
Stick around to the end, and I'll give some tips on how to grow it from seed.
May 25, 2020 is the USA Memorial Day this year, often celebrated as an early Summer holiday for families to get together, picnic, be in the garden, and of course remember the heroic service of our soldiers who gave their lives in war. Memorial Day always falls on the last Monday in May, so it is on a different day each year.
May 25 is also World No Tobacco Day, a holiday meant to teach the public the dangers of tobacco use as well as the dirty practices of the tobacco industry. My feelings on this holiday are quite mixed. Especially knowing that World No Tobacco Day is a product of the World Health Organization (WHO), I choose to add my own research and knowledge to the advice they have been repeating year after year. I've been a bit indoctrinated over the years to be anti-smoking and anto-drugs, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't do my own research on the dangers and benefits.
Smoking habitually, I believe is bad for lung health. My grandfather, a life-long farmer, passed away many years ago from pneumonia due to weakened health from emphysema, caused by smoking most of his life. I choose to abstain from smoking, chewing, and eating any amount of tobacco, as well as marijuana. To me, it is an unnecessary addictive pleasure I consider unnecessary in my life. Instead, I support allowing each person to make their own free decisions to use these crops responsibly. I choose to grow tobacco for the benefits it has in the garden.
In my garden, flowering tobacco (nicotania) is a powerful addition. Having it growing nearby aids practically all other plants in nearby.
This Memorial Day I would much rather be smoking meat on a grill. Weather is too cold and families are still under lockdown orders, so I've opted to spend the holiday writing this article instead.
The leaves of tobacco are generally detested by all garden pests. Aphids and ants dislike it because of the scent and the hairy spines are a nuisance to them. Getting the sticky toxic substances on their soft shells can be fatal.
Dried tobacco, combined with water, makes a fantastic organic insecticide pest spray. You can use it to spray all of your plants, vegetables, and fruits. It will add a layer of protection bugs will smell that warns them to stay away. If bugs eat it, the nicotine is a powerful bug poison. They too can become addicted to the nicotine, until it kills them.
Obviously, Humans should not eat vegetables and fruit freshly coated in homemade tobacco insecticide. Wait a day or so for the sunlight to diminish its harmful effects, and wash produce thoroughly.
Eating vegetables that were coated in organic insecticide should be generally harmless if rinsed off as normal. However, if the nicotine leads to an addiction to eating dark green veggies, that would be an incredible health benefit!
The leaves of the tobacco plant contains the powerful chemical nicotine.
Touching all parts of the tobacco plant is dangerous if done in excess. Traces of natural toxins, such as nicotine coat all parts of the leaves.
Always wear gloves or wash hands after handling the plant.
Tobacco farmers usually wear gloves when harvesting the leaves for many hours of work. Skin irritation similar to touching poison oak can occur. Small amounts of lightly touching the leaves and flowers is generally harmless.
Anywhere tobacco is growing, expect good things to happen.
Hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and all varieties of pollinators are sure to flock to this plant.
Anything that enhances the habitat to support bees and pollinators is generally a good benefit to the earth.
One thing I have noticed in my experience is that this plant does not like to be showered in water or rained on, as it causes the delicate flowers to wilt quickly. The plant likes full exposure to strong, hot sunlight when it is flowering.
Water droplets on the leaves and flower petals however will provide a sweet drink the bees greatly enjoy on a hot day.
Nature and this plant work well together. The plant will not be harmed if the flowers are wilted off with excessive rains. Heavy rain triggers to plant to grow more and make more flowers! It will explode back into full life on the next hot day.
As a companion plant, tobacco is one of the most powerful pest deterrents I can safely grow.
Since tobacco is a flowering annual, there is no need to worry about invasive roots, because it will die back completely as soon as the first frost occurs.
Above I am showing my smelly garden plot. There I grow a mixture of scented plants such as mint, chives, lavender, sage, cilantro, rosemary, lemon verbena, and basil. Soon, I'll be adding flowering tobacco to this area to further enhance it as an aromatic danger zone for aphids.
Using the benefits of the scented plants, I am better able to grow cabbage, brussels sprouts, turnips, and sunflowers using direct sowing methods.
Alternatively, I also plant tobacco in other parts of my garden close to tomatoes, peppers, pumpkin, and corn.
Tobacco comes in many different varieties. The kind I recommend searching for is the Flowering varieties. These are generally smaller plants with lots of colorful flowers that will continue to bloom throughout the summer.
The other variety you can search for to buy is seeds for plants used for making tobacco that can be smoked. These are usually Cuban varieties bred to be large plants with lots of big leaves. Different plant varieties will have leaves that come in specific flavors that can be tasted when smoked or chewed.
Flowering tobacco, I also prefer because it can also be planted into flower pots. Although it prefers space for unlimited deep roots, it will still perform well in a pot. The advantage of growing it in a container is it can be moved anywhere it is needed. Put it on the patio to enjoy the flowers on display, or place it next to a vegetable garden at night to deter pests. Where ever you place it, pollinators will easily find it.
It can be challenging to find nurseries willing to sell Nicotania (flowering tobacco), because of the bad rap it gets. Since the flowering variety is not ideal for smoking, and has fewer health risks, you might get lucky and find it for sale locally somewhere.
Generally retailers label the small flowering garden plant as Nicotania, because they do not want people to think they are selling a tobacco you can smoke (which requires a special license and many rules and expensive taxes!)
For me, I learned I had to look online to find seeds for sale to start my own plants.
Swallowtail Garden: www.swallowtailgardenseeds.com
This is my current provider for the seeds that I use. They also sell many other rare meadow flower seeds that are unique and inspiring to grow.
This year I am growing a blue variety of tobacco flowers, as well as a mixed variety of many different flower colors. Each plant has the same color of flowers, but can provide different patterns on each flower. No plant grows flowers of more than one color, so you have to plant them in groups if you want multi-colored flowers together.
Seeds bought, I've noticed, become less viable after the first year. Perhaps if they were kept in a cold air-locked fridge, they might last longer. Fresh seeds will be exponentially more successful at germinating tobacco.
Saving the seeds is an option, but I have not had any success with saved seeds. Seed pods will crack open and drop thousands of seeds on the ground nearby. I assume, if the climate is right, winter stratification allows some of the seeds to germinate on the ground next Spring, if they survive bugs and birds attempting to devour them.
So that's why I usually buy fresh seeds each year.
Note that these seeds must be started indoors. I have had zero luck with direct sowing the seeds outdoors at any time of year.
After seeds are sown, they need strong indoor light for about a month. Keep the soil moist but never soggy wet once sprouts emerge. They might take up to three weeks to germinate.
Inside the seed pack, the seeds are coated in a protective clay shell that contains ideal amounts of nitrogen nutrients to help germination.
Place the seeds on top of the soil, and do not cover the seeds. The seedlings will be very tiny for weeks.
In late Spring when temperatures are warmer, bring them outdoors to harden off the plants. Let the plants enjoy some shade and some full sun.
Be sure the soil does not ever dry out completely.
After rainfall, you should notice the plants will expand with increased vigor. Sprinkling a small amount of nutrient rich soil or compost around the plants can also give the plants a boost.
I've also noticed they grow faster by placing the transplant pots on the garden soil near established vegetables. Ground bugs and worms from the garden soil will hide under the pots and help spread nutrients for the roots to find.
When the leaves are close to the size of clovers (or coins), the plant is ready to be planted into the garden or a larger container. The small roots are very fragile, and do not like to be loosened from the soil, so try to keep the soil in-tact. Peat pots make it easier to transplant without damaging the roots. Tearing the peat pot open or poking additional holes into it can help the roots to establish better into the new soil.
As far as health benefits go, I make no recommendation for smoking, eating, drinking, or chewing tobacco. Nicotine is an addictive chemical. For people who do not actively train their willpower to resist temptation and to refrain from pattern addiction, habitual drug usage becomes dangerous to health and lifestyle.
However, for healing the earth, which in turn heals people, I recommend growing this plant as one of my top picks!
All I can say is that it has exponentially improved the health benefits of all plants that I grow around it. I will never stop touting the natural benefits of growing this in the garden.
Allow it to become a central part of the garden, and it will make the area more inviting for people and animals to co-mingle.
Growing tobacco is likely to attract you to spend more time in the garden to admire and smell it. I often find myself wanting to do yard work activities closer to this attractive plant.
For those who enjoy meditation, enjoy the soft clean fragrance. The sound of the rustle in the breeze and the flying bees will be in the background of thoughts.
Expired parts of the plant do not go to waste. Support recycling and the circle of life, as the leaves and flowers will compost quickly and revitalize the soil.
This article contains a combination of my recent photos and past photos I've used displaying tobacco plants growing my garden.
Here is a past article I've written about growing tobacco flowers in my garden.
Proof of Smoke?
As part of their rules, I smoked some LOTUS (not literally), by sending 100 LOTUS tokens to @null.
Burning LOTUS I believe will allow for more community driven future prizes, while also increasing the value of the community and token. I support this initiative to cultivate activity, engagement, and enthusiasm with like-minded people on the HIVE blockchain.