Tender perennials from South America. All are grown as annuals, but they may live over in the Coastal and Tropical South. Upright-growing plants with soft, oval, often quite large leaves; both foliage and stems are slightly sticky. Flowersvery fragrant in some speciesare tubular, typically flaring at the mouth into five pointed lobes; they appear near tops of branching stems in summer. They usually open at night or on cloudy days, though some kinds open during the day. Some nicotianas reseed readily.
N. alata. FLOWERING TOBACCO. Wild species (for which seed is available) grows 24 ft. tall (possibly to 6 ft. under ideal conditions), 1 ft. wide. Leaves to 10 in. long. Bears large, intensely fragrant, white flowers that open toward evening. Selection and hybridization with other species have produced many garden strains that stay open day and night and come in colors, including white, pink shades, red, and lime-green, but their perfume is not as strong as that of the unimproved species. If scent (especially during evening) is important to you, plant 3-ft.-high 'Grandiflora'.
N. langsdorffii. To 5 ft. tall, 112 ft. wide. Leaves to 10 in. long. Branching stems are hung with drooping sprays of bell-shaped, bright green flowers about 2 in. long. Unusual blossom color blends well with blues, yellows in flower border. No noticeable scent.
N. x sanderae. Many of the newer hybrids, such as the Perfume series (to 20 in. high), have nice fragrance. 'Perfume Deep Purple' has been a standout. Domino strain grows to 1215 in. high and has upward-facing flowers that take heat and sun better than taller kinds. Nicki strain is taller, to 1518 in. The older Sensation strain is taller still (to 4 ft.) and looks more at home in informal mixed borders than as a bedding plant. 'Avalon Bright Pink' is very compact, rarely exceeding 15 in. high, 1 ft. wide. Inch-long leaves are virtually hidden by a profusion of star-shaped, 112-in. flowers in bright pink. Quite heat tolerant; good in containers. The Starmaker series, growing 1012 in. tall, is led by 'Lime/Purple Bi-color'.
N. sylvestris. FLOWERING TOBACCO. To 5 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide, with leaves that can reach 12 ft. long. Intensely fragrant, 312-in.-long, tubular white flowers are borne in tiers atop a statuesque plant. Striking in a night garden. 'Only the Lonely' shows great flower power and heat tolerance from mid-spring into summer.