Why Do The Flowers On Tobacco Plants Change In Appearance

If you want to satisfy your curiosity about why do the flowers on tobacco plants change in appearance, it’s because of external conditions and predator protection. Tobacco may be famous for smoking and chewing, but the Nicotiana tabacum is a flowering annual and perennial plant. This characteristic almost becomes a bonus for tobacco farmers because of the beautiful large clusters of flowers.

This very trait has gotten the gardeners’ attention to grow Nicotiana as ornamentals, so it’s worth considering growing them in a greenhouse for productive commercial cultivation. After all, appearance is not the only characteristic to like about them. Some Nicotianas have an intoxicating scent and even give the garden a sweet fragrance at dusk. 

Why Do The Flowers On Tobacco Plants Change In Appearance

Why Do The Flowers On Tobacco Plants Change In Appearance

Nicotiana tabacum produces large clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers ranging from pink, red, white, or cream depending on the cultivar. You can grow them as perennial, but it’s more common to have them as annuals for one growing season. If you notice that the plants’ flowers are changing in appearance, it could be from external conditions and, interestingly, the plant’s predator protection method. 


External conditions

You might start seeing a change in your tobacco flowers’ appearance when the environmental conditions are not ideal. Like all plants, you want to ensure that it gets the perfect environment to thrive. For example, the University of Vermont recommends flowering tobacco plants to get full sun. 

You can also use a greenhouse to ensure that the plants don’t experience extreme heat and cold temperatures. Otherwise, they are generally not picky even with the humidity. As mentioned earlier, you can grow them as annuals but using a greenhouse will allow you to develop it as a perennial even if you’re not in hardiness zones 10 to 11. 

This gives you an idea of the conditions best for tobacco plants and prevents random changes in the flowers’ appearance. One can conclude that controlling the environment will protect and maintain the healthy bloom of flowers amidst your climate. You can do this using a greenhouse and adjusting the conditions indoors. 


Predator protection

Another and perhaps more compelling reason why tobacco plant flowers change in appearance is to protect themselves from predators. A 2010 research has found that tobacco plants change their flower buds’ opening time to dawn instead of dusk. This, of course, changes the flower’s appearance, and it’s a unique way to deter insects like female moths. 

While you may think that moths are not pests, they can pose a threat to tobacco plants. They lay their eggs on the plant’s leaves where the caterpillars will hatch and cause damage. The tobacco plants developed a way to change their flower timing to attract hummingbirds instead of damaging moths. 


How To Grow Flowering Tobacco

If you’re interested in growing flowering tobacco, you can do your research about Nicotiana alata. They make excellent additions for borders, and homeowners buy them to add fragrance to their decks and patios. Additionally, they are relatively easy to cultivate, so you shouldn’t face many openings for mistakes growing them.

Nicotiana alata is a hardy and tender perennial best for growing zones 10 to 11. You can also grow them as annuals in full to part shade and quality moist soil. To guarantee a good start, sow the seeds in the greenhouse at eight weeks before the last frost, and they should bloom from summer to fall. 

For growing requirements, allocate 12 to 30 inches of space among the plants and give them full shade. A well-drained and fertilized soil are best for flowering tobacco plants, and their feeding and watering requirements are similar to most annuals. 


Common problems of flowering tobacco

While it’s not complicated to grow flowering tobacco plants, it will be better to anticipate the common problems so you can solve them quickly. Fortunately, the common problems for this plant are not things you haven’t seen as a gardener. They include rot and mold from fungi, aphids, whiteflies, and a disease typical to tobacco, the mosaic virus. 

Fungal problems are straightforward to prevent and eradicate. Make sure to maintain the ideal growing conditions to grow vigorous plants for transplanting and prevent fungal growth. Also, don’t forget to remove infected plants. 

On the other hand, you can use biological control and sticky traps to solve pests. The use of chemicals is more complicated, so it’s better to stick with the previous methods mentioned. And lastly, you can avoid the tobacco mosaic virus with proper sanitation.



Tobacco is not only something that smokers can enjoy. Flowering tobacco makes fantastic ornamental plants, which is why it’s useful to know why do the flowers on tobacco plants change in appearance. The good news is that it’s easy to understand because, similar to other plants, changes in environmental conditions will cause changes in your flowers. 

More so, the plant itself has developed a different flowering timing to attract hummingbirds instead of moths that can damage the plant. Knowledge of these two reasons should help you prevent getting anxious when your flowers look different than usual. You can also use a greenhouse to ensure that they’ll grow in an ideal environment and produce beautiful and fragrant tobacco flowers without issues. 


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