Starting and Growing Tobacco from Seeds.
Tobacco is a relatively easy plant to grow and can be grown
as far north as Canada and Alaska with the proper planning and
Tobacco seeds are extremely small (Fig.
1) not much larger than a pin prick and care
should be taken when sowing seed as to not sow to thickly.
Tobacco seed require warm temperatures for germination of
about 75-80 degrees. Seed should be started indoors 4-6 weeks
before your last frost date. Start by sprinkling the tobacco
seed onto the surface of a sterile seed starting mix and
lightly water in. DO
NOT cover the seed with any soil as they need light for
germination and covering can slow down germination time or if
covered too deeply the seed won't germinate at all, watering
in lightly is all that is needed.
Seed will begin to germinate in about 7-10 days with some
tobacco varieties taking a few days longer to begin
2). If your seed don't germinate right away
be patient, it can take up to 2 weeks for some tobacco
varieties to germinate.
The soil should be kept moist but not soggy and should never
be allowed to dry completely out. Care should be taken when
watering freshly emerging tobacco seedlings because the force
of the water can uproot the tiny seedlings causing them to
die. The best way to water seedlings is from the bottom, the
way this is accomplished (if you are using a pot with holes in
the bottom) sitting the container with the seedlings into a
pan of water for only a few seconds or a bit longer, the
potting mix will wick the water up into the seedling container
allowing your seedlings to be water without getting the leaves
"Transplanting into trays/flats"
The next step is to transplant the tobacco seedlings into a
larger container such as a pot or transplant cell tray as seen
3. so that they can develop a good root
Under 'normal' conditions the tobacco seedlings will be large
enough and ready for moving into pots or cells after 3 weeks
from the beginning of germination.
Once seed have germinated and seedlings are big enough you can
grasp them Fig.
5 proceed to transplanting into your pots.
Transplanting into containers is easily accomplished by
making a small hole into the soil and inserting the roots of
the tobacco seedling and backfilling the hole with a little
soil mix, Fig
4. Once you have them potted in, water in
with a plant starter fertilize solution such as miracle grow
or seaweed/fish fertilize emulsions.
Seedlings beginning to germinate.
Transplanting seedlings into trays
up of a seedling getting transplanted
The initial fertilizing you gave at the potting stage
should be sufficient food for the plants until they reach
transplanting stage, (Fig.
6) which normal takes approximately 3-4
weeks. If your plants begin to yellow or look stunted another
dose of fertilize may be needed but do so sparingly, over
fertilization while in pots or trays may burn the plant's
roots and may also lead to overgrown spindly plants.
Tobacco plants are considered 'transplantable plants'
meaning they, like tomato plants, can be planted bare root
with out the need for any soil attached to the roots. If you
have large containers or seedling flats you can sow the seed
very thinly and leave the seedlings there until they reach the
size for transplanting outdoors and pull the plants and
transplant directly into your garden but I recommend using
pots or celled trays.
This is a much easier way to to do it but also has it's
drawbacks. Once planted, bare root the plants will go through
a sort of 'transplant shock' where some or most of the largest
leaves may yellow and wilt and the plant may appear it is
going to die, but it will not, the main stem and bud of the
plant will continue to strive and in a week or so will begin
to grow and flourish. By growing your seedlings in containers
or celled trays there is no transplant shock and plants begin
to grow immediately.
If you are growing your tobacco seedlings in a greenhouse
or indoors they should be "hardened off" before you transplant
into your field or garden, but is not always necessary as long
as your plants are not spindly and weak and weather conditions
are favorable. This period allows the plant to adjust to
outdoor weather conditions. A week of hardening off should be
ample time but 2 weeks is even better.
General note if planting more than one tobacco variety
Tobacco is considered a self pollinating plant meaning it
has the ability to fertilize it's own flowers without the
aid of insects. But different tobacco varieties planted
close to one another can and will become crossed by
insects such as moths, etc. that commonly visit the plants
flowers. Tobacco can also become cross pollinated by wind
although at a much lesser degree than by insects. To keep
tobacco varieties pure, isolation of one mile is needed
between different varieties to insure continued variety
purity is maintained or other preventive cross pollination
methods should be used if isolation distance is a problem.
"Transplanting into garden"
Tobacco is a heavy feeder and if grown continuously in the
same spot will deplete the nutrients in the soil. So to
counteract this it is wise to employ a 2 year rotation in your
growing space by planting 2 years in a specific location and
waiting a year or more before you plant your tobacco back into
that location again. Tobacco also requires good amounts of
nitrogen and potash both of which can be achieved with a good
compost but we recommend a good garden fertilizer if you do
not have or use compost.
Space the tobacco plants 2-3 feet apart in the row and space
rows 3 1/2 - 4 feet apart when it is practical. Water the
plants thoroughly once transplanted and if no rain or dry
weather is forecast, water each evening for a few days till
plants become established.
The roots of tobacco grow quickly and the root structure is
quite large with thousands of small hair like feeder roots
that grow close to the soil surface. Care should be taken when
cultivating as not to till or hoe too deep and damage the
Keep the tobacco clean and free of all weeds and a few good
hoeings by pulling up soil around the base of the plant will
help in strengthening the plant. The structure of a tobacco
plant's leaves enables the plant to make use of light rains
and heavy dews by collecting and funneling the water down to
the base of the plant as can be seen in Fig.
5 by the wet soil.
After 3-4 weeks from planting heavy deep tilling should be
8) and only light scrapings to control weeds should
Plants ready for transplanting in the field.
Tobacco plant after about 2 weeks from planting in the
healthy Burley tobacco plant.
Diseases and Insects
There are many insects and diseases that can attack
Here in Tennessee, two of the prominent insect pest are the
hornworm and aphid.
More information on insects and diseases can be found on our tobacco