Not only is Nicotiana mutabilis a magnet for the hummers, it’s also very long lasting in the fall garden. This flowering tobacco sails through light frosts and continues to bloom into November in my part of the country. Here’s what you need to know to grow this annual (perennial in zones 8 to 10):
1. Easy to grow from seed but you’ll want to start it in a very sunny window or under lights. Like other Nicotiana, this plant likes heat so if you plant it outdoors in a cool spring it will either sit and sulk or die before summer. Keep your seedlings inside where they’re warm until the temperatures at night are reliably above 55.
2. In many areas you’ll find that N. mutabilis self-sows. If you want to encourage this, don’t mulch in the areas where the plant has grown in the past until you see the seedlings appear in early summer. Be willing to edit plants out if you have too many and they are crowding each other.
3. Don’t give too much fertilizer or these will get floppy. A one time application of an organic fertilizer early in the season is enough.
4. Once the main flower spire starts slowing down, clip it off, cutting the plant almost in half. This will encourage new flowering shoots for the rest of the summer. Stop deadheading toward the end of the summer so that the plant will drop seeds in the area for next year. Sit back and enjoy the hummers!