Growing ornamental tobacco in containers

Gin Lee
Growing ornamental tobacco in containers/Gin Lee

Growing ornamental tobacco in containers

Ornamental tobacco grows really well inside containers. No, you can't eat this ornamental plant. But you can grow it just for its beautiful green foliage around fence areas, landscaping, and in gardens. However, I am growing mine in containers.

My ornamental tobacco plants are at an early stage of growth, but they'll eventually bloom beautiful trumpet-shaped flowers that will smell amazing in late summer.
Growing ornamental tobacco in containers/Gin Lee

How do you plant ornamental tobacco seeds?

First, you'll need to prepare the soil in five gallon containers (a three gallon container will work, but nothing smaller than that). The soil needs to be light and airy, and mixed with a high phosphorus fertilizer. I used Miracle Gro potting soil as well.

Next, I thoroughly soaked the soil with water before sowing the seeds.

To sow the ornamental tobacco seeds in containers
The ornamental seeds beginning to germinate/Gin Lee

Since the seeds are so tiny, it's really hard to separate them individually and they're even harder to see once they are placed in the soil. So, I just placed some of the seeds in my hand and sprinkled them around on top of the fertilized soil in the containers. (Yes, the plants did sprout up in clumps, but there's a remedy for that later on.)

When planting the seeds, do not cover them with soil. The seeds need light in order to germinate.

Once you've done all of that, gently sprinkle water over the seeds. I used a one liter bottle that I filled with water, and I unscrewed the lid (only partially) enough so that it gently sprinkled water out of the bottle with a light squeeze.
Different growth stages/Gin Lee

For the first few weeks, I also kept a clear dome over the top of the containers. I had seedlings growing after about three weeks, and at that point I removed the clear dome.

Covering the containers with a clear top will help keep the moisture in while the seeds are germinating. However, still check the soil daily, because the soil needs to stay moist at all times (moist but not soaked). I still had to sprinkle mine with water about every other third or fourth day.

After the seeds have germinated, take the clear covering off of the planters. This is a must, because the seedlings will need air circulating through them to prevent fungus from forming on their stems and leaves.
About one week after full success with germination/Gin Lee

Fertilize the seedlings about once a week with a diluted liquid fertilizer.

Lighting and environment
Growing ornamental tobacco in containers/Gin Lee

The ornamental tobacco plants will need to be kept in a warm environment, and they will thrive in a well lit greenhouse.

I keep my overhead greenhouse lights on my ornamental tobacco plants about sixteen hours a day. They need the darkness at night to promote healthy growth.

The plant's optimal growing temperature is between sixty-eight and eighty-six degrees F.

How often do you need to water ornamental tobacco plants?

I lightly sprinkle water on the soil of my ornamental tobacco almost every day since we're now heading into summer. In spring, the plants only needed water about every third day after they sprouted. The soil always needs to be kept moist, but never over-watered. Over watering will cause root rot. You also never want to allow the soil to go completely dry, especially when germinating the seeds, because during that time, if the soil dries, germination will not happen.

Yes, that happened to me (once) because I simply got too busy. After I had planted some of the seeds, I didn't get around to checking the soil. Following that incident, I sprinkled the seeds with water every day, moving forward. However, I only had two seeds out of several that germinated in that one container. That was another lesson learned.

During that time, I was testing different seeds in several planters, and in that one particular container (the one that I was just referring to), I didn't add a clear dome covering over it during the germination process. That was also the reason why the soil went dry sooner than the other planters, which were covered with clear dome lids.

Transplanting and pruning the ornamental tobacco plants

Once the plants are big enough and strong enough to be transplanted, they should be thinned and repotted. The plants need air space between them to grow properly. So when the plants have reached four to six inches in height, they're ready to be transplanted.

There's really not any reason to prune the plant, except for when it starts to bloom, and you only do that for leaf production. The buds should be left on otherwise until the flowers are spent.

The plants are annual. However, if allowed, they will self-seed. Each flower will produce hundreds of tiny seeds when the blooms start dying, simply cut them off with garden snips, and place them in a Ziploc bag, or paper bag. Plant the new seeds in early spring.

These plants will grow anywhere from three feet to five feet in height. If you want to transplant the tobacco plants in the garden, or in your landscaping, I recommend that you plant them only when they have developed a good root system.

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