Nicotiana: Indoor Sow Annual
How to Sow and Plant
Sowing Seed Indoors:
- Sow indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost.
- Press seeds into seed-starting formula in individual containers.
- Mist in and keep evenly moist.
- Seedlings emerge in 10-15 days
- As soon as seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.
- Seedlings do not need much fertilizer, feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions.
- If you are growing in small cells, you may need to transplant the seedlings to 3 or 4 inch pots when they have at least 2 pairs of true leaves before transplanting to the garden so they have enough room to develop strong roots.
- Before planting in the garden, seedling plants need to be “hardened off”. Accustom young plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect them from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or bring containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning. This hardening off process toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding.
Transplanting in the Garden:
- Select a location in full sun with good rich organic, well-drained soil.
- Give plenty of space when planting to ensure good air circulation and prevent powdery mildew.
- Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 6-8 inches removing any debris, and lightly raking as level as possible.
- The addition of organic matter (leaf mold, compost, well-rotted manure) benefits all gardens and is essential in recently constructed neighborhoods.
How to Grow
- Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
- Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For annuals an organic mulch of shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
- Keep plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. Plants need about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It's best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
- Until plants become established, some protection from extreme winds and direct, hot sunlight may be necessary. Good air movement is also important.
- After new growth appears, a light fertilizer may be applied. Keep granular fertilizers away from the plant crown and foliage to avoid burn injury. Use low rates of a slow release fertilizer, as higher rates may encourage root rots.
- Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
- Nicotiana should be kept moist during periods of high temperatures and dry conditions.
- Deadheading can prolong blooming.
- Large nicotiana are fine plants for the back of the garden; use dwarf types as edging plants, in containers, or grow them in mixed plantings of other sun-loving annuals, such as petunias.
- You can also combine nicotiana with perennials such as hardy geraniums, delphiniums, and dwarf asters.
- Nicotianas make excellent cut flowers.
- All types attract moths and hummingbirds.
Common Disease Problems
Alternaria Leaf Spot: Small, round reddish brown spots with white to grey centers form on the upper surface of the leaves and along the midrib. The lesions may encircle the stems and cause wilt. This disease is worse in warm, wet or very humid weather. Burpee Recommends: Avoid getting water on the foliage. Remove infected plant parts and do not work around wet plants. Provide plenty of air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plant parts, avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering. Make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Downy Mildew: This fungus causes whitish grey patches on the undersides and eventually both sides of the leaves. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different family. Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are wet.
Virus (Various causes): The most characteristic sign of virus is mottled foliage. Young leaves may be bunched. Burpee Recommends: This disease is readily spread by handling. Destroy diseased plants and the plants on either side. Never smoke in the garden as Tobacco Mosaic Virus can be transmitted from a smoker's unwashed hands while handling plants.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Cabbage Looper: These worms are green with a white stripe on either side, about 1-1.5 inches long. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick. Floating row covers can help prevent their laying eggs on the plants.
Cutworms: These insects cut off the seedlings at the soil level. Burpee Recommends: Place a paper cup collar (use a coffee cup with the bottom cut out) around the base of the plant. They are usually mostly a problem with young seedlings. You can also control by handpicking and controlling weeds, where they lay their eggs.
Flea Beetles: These small hopping beetles feed on plant foliage and may spread diseases. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different plant family. Use floating row covers to prevent damage to young foliage.
Tomato Horn Worm: Large, green caterpillars can quickly devour foliage. Burpee Recommends: With sturdy gloves on, hand pick and destroy them. HOWEVER if you see white projections coming from the back of the caterpillar, do not destroy it. These are the egg cases of a parasitic wasp that will destroy the caterpillar. These wasps should be allowed to remain in your garden.
Can I grow nicotiana in a container? Yes, smaller varieties are perfect for containers.
Is nicotiana a good pollinator plant? Yes, nicotiana attracts butterflies, moths and hummingbirds to the garden.
Is nicotiana fragrant? Yes it has a lovely fragrance and makes a fine cut flower.
Will nicotiana hurt pollinators since it is related to neonicotenoids? No, the neonicotenoids used in pesticides is a synthetic form.
Should I not plant nicotiana near tomatoes? We do not recommend planting nicotiana near tomatoes to avoid possible disease issues.