The tobacco plant is not only an interesting flowering plant that belongs to the nightshade family. In many of the 75 or so species, the roots produce nicotine or other alkaloids and store them in the leaves. This is a very clever method to repel edibles. The species Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana rustica are mainly used to produce tobacco. A distinction is made between smaller annuals and perennial herbaceous tobacco plant species. Some shrubs can reach heights of up to 2 meters. There are even trees up to 10 meters high. Most of the plants, however, remain significantly smaller. What you should know is that tobacco plants can give off a foul odor, but not permanently.

Appearance and origin

Tobacco plants have interesting flowers. They are mostly umbels with many flowers. The flowers usually open in the evening hours and close again in sunlight, but can also remain open. Some smell, but by no means all. The flower colors range from yellow to green to purple.

Tobacco is naturally found in North and South America and Australia. It is believed that tobacco plants were used for ceremonies by North and Central American Indians 5,000 years ago. The plants were widely distributed, partly by humans, but also by animals. Tobacco is not just smoked. It was also used as a medicinal plant in ophthalmology for a long time. Tobacco is also a good insecticide and has long been used to control pests. Even today, many plant lovers swear by tobacco brew to kill aphids and other pests. However, beneficial insects also fall victim to this method. Tobacco is also used in the cosmetics industry, mainly for men’s fragrances.

I am writing here about the tobacco plant in general and about ornamental tobacco separately. In the trade you can usually get decorative tobacco, Nicotiana x sanderae. There are offspring in very different heights, in many colors and also fragrant species. If you want “real” tobacco plants, you usually have to acquire and sow seeds.

Sowing and cultivation of the tobacco plant

Sowing and growing is the easiest thing on the way to rolling your own cigar or cigarette. It becomes much more difficult after the leaves have been harvested when it comes to drying and fermenting the leaves. The sowing is no different than with other plants, there is nothing special to consider. Rearing is not difficult either.

The sowing of tobacco plants

  • Sow from March in a heated seed box
  • Use potting soil as it is sterile
  • Sow seeds on the moist surface of the earth
  • Light germs – do not cover with soil, just press down
  • Place light and warm, at 15 to 20 ° C, without direct sun
  • Water only with a spray bottle, very carefully and only when the top layer of soil has dried off.
  • The germination time is 6 to 10 days, so it’s pretty quick.
  • When the seedlings are about one centimeter tall, they are pricked out.
  • You each get a single vessel, about 12 to 15 cm in diameter.
  • A mixture of peat and sand is well suited.

Growing tobacco plants

  • After the ice saints, the young tobacco plants can be planted in the garden.
  • Ideal for planting out is a size of the seedlings of 8 to 10 cm and 4 to 6 leaves.
  • Only plant out strong plants, continue to care for the others inside!
  • A sunny location is ideal.
  • The soil must be very permeable.
  • Row spacing 40 – 60 cm, plant spacing 60 cm
  • Do not plant too closely, the plants must not shade each other. You need a lot of sun.
  • When growing pots, use a container with a diameter of at least 40 cm and a mixture of compost and sand (3: 1).
  • It is beneficial to harden the plants before planting them out.
  • Less watering and put in a sheltered place by a wall during the day.
  • Set up protected from snails!
  • Water the seedlings well before planting them out, preferably dipping the root ball.
  • A loose soil is important
  • It should be slightly damp when planting out, but never wet.

The care of tobacco plants

Chopping and watering are particularly important when it comes to care. The earth must always be nice and loose and well ventilated. You wait a week after planting so that the tobacco plants can grow well and then begin loosening the soil. Then you can wait 10 days and after that it is enough to loosen up the earth every 14 days. When the plants are about 30 cm high, this activity can be stopped. When the tobacco plant begins to grow quickly, that is, to shoot up, earth is piled up. As with the roses, piling earth around the stem. This gives the stems more support and also stimulates the formation of side roots.

Watering and fertilizing

The tobacco plants quickly show signs of wilting on warm days. Plants cultivated in pots are particularly affected. However, they recover quickly at night, even after giving water. This should no longer happen with older plants. Then pests are mostly at work.

  • The large-leaved tobacco plants need a lot of water to grow.
  • If it is dry, it is imperative to water.

When you want to harvest tobacco leaves

If you don’t want to enjoy the flowers, but want to grow leaves, you have to do a lot differently when it comes to care. Chopping and watering are the same. When flowers appear, they are cut off so that the power of the plant goes into the leaves and not into the flowers. Some flowers are left to stand so that seeds can form for the next year of planting.
So the plants have to be decapitated and marinated. The inflorescences are broken out or cut off with some leaves sitting underneath. You can do this as soon as the first buds appear or until just before the flowers open. Side shoots, called stingers, quickly form. They too must be removed. This increases the leaf quality, especially with pipe and cigar tobacco. In addition, the leaves become larger and reach a better degree of ripeness. It is also important that the blue mold infestation caused by falling flowers is prevented.

The harvest of tobacco
leaves Tobacco leaves ripen from the bottom up. They first get lighter and then turn light green, finally yellow to brown, until they fall off.

  • So the lowest small leaves called “clumps” ripen first. These are not used.
  • Then come the so-called “sand leaves”. They are particularly low in nicotine, but rich in essential oils and resins. They work well as binders for cigars.
  • The middle estate ripens around eight days after the “sand leaves” are harvested, and the main estate two to three weeks later.
  • This is followed by the upper estate and, finally, the “night tobacco”.
  • The right harvest is crucial for tobacco quality. But it always depends on what you want to use the leaves for, whether as cigar tobacco, pipe tobacco, cigar wrapper or or or.
  • Tobacco leaves need to be dried. It is important that drying is carried out slowly, very gradually, otherwise valuable ingredients will be lost.
  • Fresh leaves are threaded on cords to dry. Tobacco thread is best.
  • The ideal is to hang the cords between wooden beams.
  • After the drying time has elapsed, fermentation takes place.

To cut

There is no cutting except for the pricking out described above. After the leaves are harvested, the stems are simply pulled out of the earth.

Diseases and pests

Diseases are largely rare, but there is one pest that can be a lot of trouble. It is the tobacco hawk caterpillar. This is insensitive to the neurotoxin nicotine, which troubles all other pests and keeps them away. It is an interesting, if undesirable, cycle that is started with the infestation of the caterpillar. The caterpillars begin to eat. The tobacco plant then releases the hormone jasmonic acid and green leaf scents. These are carried for miles through the air. However, defense mechanisms are activated in the plant after just one hour. Then it takes another four hours for it to start producing digestive proteins. After a total of ten hours, the tobacco plant sends out a scented cocktail, which in turn attracts a certain species of wasp. The females lay their eggs parasitically in the caterpillars of the tobacco hawk, which of course means that they die when the larvae hatch at the latest. Of course, some animals always survive, so that further reproduction is assured.

Ziertabak – Nicotiana x sanderae

Decorative tobacco is very popular with flower lovers. The plants impress with their beautiful tubular flowers. There are around 60 species worldwide. Some of them don’t get big, about 30 cm high. They are particularly suitable for planters and the foreground of borders. The tall varieties, which are not infrequently 1.50 meters and higher, are better planted in front of a green background or on the back of a bed. The flower colors vary from pink to red, from white to green. The flowers usually give off an intense scent, especially in the evening hours. Ornamental tobacco is annual and does not tolerate frost. The plants need a sunny to partially shaded location. A lot of sun is favorable for the flowers, but then the need for water also increases.

  • The soil must be permeable, but also moisture-retaining. It is ideal to mix in garden compost. Standard soil is sufficient for planters.
  • The planting distance is 30 to 40 cm. Planting is only carried out after the Ice Saints, the young plants are at risk of frost.
  • It must be poured sufficiently. The soil shouldn’t dry out, but it doesn’t have to be constantly wet either. It is fertilized with conventional liquid fertilizer. Long-term fertilizers are recommended for keeping vessels.
  • Wintering is not a problem, the plants are annual. They are simply pulled out of the ground in autumn.
  • It is propagated by sowing in pots in March. Do not cover the seeds with soil, they are light germs.
  • The main pests are aphids. They can also cause all sorts of damage, especially viral infections. These can usually be recognized by the stunted leaves. The plants should be discarded to prevent the virus from spreading.

Regardless of whether you choose ornamental tobacco or real tobacco, they are interesting plants that don’t do a lot of work. I admit I haven’t tried tobacco plants in the garden yet, but maybe I’ll tackle that one day. Between the other perennials, maybe it will help against pests?

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