Nicotiana alata

Cultivar of Nicotiana alata

The species Nicotiana alata, from Brazil and Argentina, is a tall ornamental tobacco plant (to 1 m) with some lovely forms that are well worth seeking out. Though regarded as an annual in cool areas, it is really a perennial in mild climates like ours. I have a beautiful burgundy-flowered version. Nicotiana alata is one of the parents of Nicotiana sanderae, compact plants that are sold in punnets as bedding plants. Nicotiana alata can be grown from cuttings, and may also self-seed. A few years ago I obtained a very unusual form that has grown to a robust clump about 80 cm tall, and has startling lime-green flowers.

Nicotiana alata Lime Green

It is possibly the cultivar of Nicotiana alata known as 'Lime Green', grown as annual in English gardens but so far it has been resoundingly perennial in my Sydney garden. 'Lime Green' was a recipient of the prestigious Award of Garden Merit by the UK Royal Horticultural Society, and this accolade seems fully deserved! My plant is in bloom for much of the year and I have found a few seedlings of it scattered through my garden at times. I grow my clump in part-shade and the flowers stay open all day. It can be propagated by cuttings or grown from seed. It is a wonderful companion plant to other flowers of various hues: in spring I enjoy the strong contrast of the Nicotiana with a 'Big Red' Pelargonium and wreaths of self-sown red and orange nasturtiums. The lime-green flowers also look effective with the blue or purple blooms of various Salvia varieties in summer and autumn, as well as with purple foliage.

Most Nicotiana seem to do best in a reasonable soil with some moisture. it is best to give them enough space so they aren't crowded out by surrounding plants. The genus belongs to the family Solanaceae, which contains a number of poisonous members, and Nicotiana plants should never be ingested (or smoked!). Contact with the foliage may irritate skin, so gloves should be worn when handling the plants.

Flowers in January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December.

 Out now in my Sydney Garden.