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How to Grow Tobacco in the Home Garden

Tobacco in the Home Garden by
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If you can grow tomatoes, you can grow tobacco!

Tobacco, tomatoes, and potatoes, are all in the same bontanical family. Tobacco plants require the same basic weather and growing conditions as tomatoes. On my website ( is a picture of me standing in a patch of Nicotiana Sylvestris (Argentina tobacco) that was being grown as an ornamental garden section in our county fairgrounds in southern Oregon! I am sure that most people had no idea what that plant was with the sweet smelling white flowers and over five feet tall!

TOBACCO HISTORY: The tobacco plant is a member of the nightshade family of plants, that also includes the tomato and potato. The plant has a long history in the U.S., having been used by Native Americans before the first Europeans arrived. Tobacco leaves for smoking were taken back to Europe and the practice became common there, then traveled back "across the pond" as Americans were influenced by the "elite" in France and smoking cigarettes was considered "high fashion". Even in today's environment of health awareness, tobacco products are still sought after and used for a lot of the same reasons as our ancestors used them.

The United States, China, India and Brazil are the leading countries to grow tobacco even though is is widely accepted that tobacco probably originated in South America.

TYPES OF TOBACCOS: * Fire-cured tobaccos, used for snuff and chewing tobacco,grown in central Virginia, western Kentucky, and northwestern Tennessee. * Dark air-cured tobaccos, used for chewing tobacco, grown in central Kentucky, central Tennessee, and north-central Virginia. * Maryland tobaccos (air-cured) used for cigarette and smoking mixtures, grown in southern Maryland. * Cigar tobaccos (air-cured) used for cigar wrappers and fillers, grown in the Connecticut Valley and small areas of Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. * Flue-cured tobaccos, used for cigarette, pipe, and chewing tobacco, grown in southern Virginia, central and eastern North Carolina, eastern South Carolina, southern Georgia, southeastern Alabama, and northern Florida. * Burley tobacco (air-cured) used for cigarette, pipe, and chewing tobacco, grown in central Kentucky, central and eastern Tennessee, southeastern Indiana, southern Ohio,western West Virginia, and western North Carolina.

GARDENING TIPS: * Seeds from tobacco plants are very tiny and require light to germinate, so for the home gardener, seeds are barely pressed into the soil and gently watered or misted until they become established. Tobacco is not frost tolerant so northern growers start their plants indoors four to six weeks prior to planting outside. * Tobacco dust can be used in gardens as a organic insecticide or pesticide on common garden pests but is not used much in today's gardens due to it's toxicity. * Many heirloom varieties make beautiful blooming plants in your flower garden and often night blooming plants are very fragrant! * Did you know that you have probably seen blooming tobacco plants at your local garden center? Blooming tobacco plants, most often the "nicotiana alata" variety is a dainty plant with load of brightly colored star shaped flowers that is perfect for borders and container gardens. You can find nicotiana plants with colors from brilliant white to near fluorescent shades of pinks, oranges, and reds! * For the smoker, the most popular tobacco seeds requested is nicotiana tabacum or nicotiana burley strains. Another popular heirloom variety is the Midewivan tobacco which was used in Native American ceremonies and still remains popular today. * Amazingly enough, tobacco seeds have become my #1 seed seller for the past two years. I attribute that to the ever esculating price of commercial cigarettes as our governments continue to add on more "sin" taxes to each pack of cigarettes and more long-time traditional tobacco farms are dropping tobacco growing for more lucrative and acceptable farming. I am not advocating smoking, but these are the facts.

Joyce is a long time home gardener and CEO of Virtual Seeds which has been serving customers online for over eleven years. We offer over thirty varieties of tobacco seeds for the home gardener.

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