Nicotiana sylvestris 'Only the Lonely' has more than a touch of class, and makes an aristocratic statement at the back of a lightly shaded or sunny border. The largest of all the nicotiana varieties the stately flower stems are its eye-catching feature. They are topped in summer and early autumn with large, loose sprays of very long, slim drooping flowers.
The clusters of pendulous glistening white blooms are pure white and intensely fragrant. When in full flower, each head is quite startling and resembles a graceful explosion. Occasionally a short lived perennial in a warm sheltered site.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
Nicotiana sylvestris has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Sowing: Sow indoors from late spring - March to May
Nicotiana grows best in full sun in average, well-drained soil but will tolerate light shade. They are easy to start from seed and flower in about 10 weeks. Nicotiana seed is very tiny so whether you are starting seed indoors or planting directly in the garden, it may help to mix the fine seed with sand before spreading it over the ground.
Sow very thinly - there really are a lot of seeds in the pack and they germinate well. This will also prevent overcrowding when it comes to transplanting and will reduce the risk of seedlings suffering from damping off.
Start seed indoors about 4 to 8 weeks before the last frost in a flat, cells or pots that has been filled to within 6mm (¼in) of the top with moistened, seed starting mix. Sow seeds thinly on the surface and press gently into the surface. Do not cover the seeds, as nicotiana needs light to germinate. Place in a warm location, a room temperature of (70 to 75°F) is ideal. Keep moist, watering from the base of the pots, never on top of the seeds.
Seeds begin to germinate in 10 to 14 days at temperatures of 18 to 22°C (65 to 68°F) When they have a couple of sets of leaves, thin to the strongest plant by pinching or cutting excess seedlings at the soil line.
Plant outdoors after all danger of frost. Before transplanting the tender seedlings into the garden they need to be hardened-off, allowing them to adjust to the outdoor conditions. Place seedlings outdoors in a shaded or protected location for short periods of time, about 4 hours per day to start. Each day, leave plants outdoors for a couple hours longer and gradually move into brighter light conditions. Check the soil often to make sure it's moist and water if necessary. After 10 to 14 days plant in the garden.
Nicotiana can also be planted outdoors after the last frost directly where plants are to grow. Sow seeds on the surface and water in lightly to prevent the tiny seeds from washing or blowing away.
Plant in fertile, moist free-draining soil in full sun to partial shade in a sheltered position. It will appreciate rotted organic matter being added to the soil before planting.
Deadhead to prolong flowering and encourage new flower buds. Leave a few plants to die down and self seed. Others can be pulled up and composted.
Cottage/Informal, Beds and borders, Low Maintenance, Sub-Tropical
These garden species are native to tropical South America, primarily Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. Introduced into garden cultivation in the early 1800's it was prized for its white, highly scented flowers that opened at night.
Nicotiana belongs to the large and diverse Solanaceae or Nightshade family, which includes many important edible and ornamental plants. Its closest flower relative is the petunia and it is also related to tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes. There are over 60 species of nicotianas but only a few are important in the ornamental flower garden.
The story of ornamental flowering tobaccos is overshadowed by the well-documented travels of smoking tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum from the New World to cultures around the globe. The first of the ornamental nicotianas to gain garden popularity was Nicotiana alata. Introduced into garden cultivation in the United States and England in the early 1800's it was prized for its white, highly scented flowers that opened at night.
The poet Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote "Where at dusk the dumb white nicotine awakes and utters her fragrance in a garden sleeping."
The genus name was designated by Linnaeus in 1753, however it was originally named by Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566) who coined the name ‘Nicotiana’ after Frenchman Jean Nicot, ambassador to Portugal from 1559-1561.
It is reported that he sent seeds of the plant to Francois II and the French court c.1559 and brought powdered tobacco to France to cure the Queen's son of migraine headaches. Nicot is also credited as the first to bring the plant to Europe but this is incorrect as it was known in the Low Countries after being brought there by Spanish merchants in the 1540’s. Knowledge of the plant by Europeans dates from 1492 when Columbus’s sailors saw it being smoked in Cuba and Haiti.
The species name sylvestris is taken from the Latin sylva, meaning 'of the forest or woodland' possibly refering to its native habitat.
Nicotiana sylvestris is commonly referred to as the Woodland Tobacco Plant or South American Tobacco Plant. Many species of Nicotiana are cultivated as ornamental garden plants. Nicotiana tabacum is the species that is grown worldwide for production of tobacco leaf for cigarettes and other tobacco products.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Additional Information
Packet Size 125mg Average Seed Count 3,500 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 29,000 seeds per gram Family Solanaceae Genus Nicotiana Species sylvestris Cultivar Only the Lonely Common Name Woodland or South American Tobacco Plant Hardiness Tender Perennial often used as an Annual Flowers White blooms from June to September Height 90-120cm (36-48in) Spread 55cm (22in) Position Full Sun to Partial Shade (Needs shade in warmer regions) Soil Rich, moist soil Germination 10 to 14 days at 18-22°C (65-68°F)