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Nicotiana tomentosa - Wooly Ornamental Tobacco

This is a rare look at the beautiful Nicotiana tomentosa - Woolly Ornamental Tobacco.  This relative of the common smoking tobacco comes from the Andes mountains around Peru.  It's a robust bush or small tree that is super attractive in the garden, with large sprays of big, pink blooms throughout the year.  This form is very rare, and seldom sold elsewhere.

Nicotiana tomentosa - Wooly Ornamental Tobacco

This perennial shrub grows vigorously to about 10 feet tall here in San Francisco.  Its large leaves grow 1 to 1 feet long.  They can be cured and smoked like regular tobacco, if that's your thing.  The species name "tomentosa" refers to the "woolly" texture of the leaves, which have a tacky feel.  They won't stick to you, but they do catch small insects, which helps keep them off other plants!  The trumpet shaped blooms are 1 inches long and are bright pink with a creamy throat.  It flowers most months of the year for me, and is a very strong bloomer!

Nicotiana tomentosa - Wooly Ornamental Tobacco

It comes from middle elevations in the Andes, where temperatures are mild all year.  I don't have much information on how much heat it can take, but i think it should do fine in warmer climates if given afternoon shade.  I don't think it can survive more than a light, brief frost, so i would keep it from freezing.  You can grow it in a pot and prune it to any size that's convenient.  It likes partly sunny conditions.  If it happens to wilt in afternoon sun despite adequate water, give it some more shade.  Grow it in fertile, well-draining soil that's kept evenly moist.  I find it to be an easy, fast growing plant.

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