Worth its weight in gold: Nicotiana mutabilis

I am usually very forgiving with my plants. A plant has to disappoint me more than once for me to give up on it or discard it. I expect the odd disappointment because I am always keen to grow something from seed that I have never heard of. Flowering periods that would make a Mayfly seem geriatric and flowers the size of pinheads come with the territory.

So I get very excited when a plant exceeds my expectations, time and time again.

This particular plant is Nicotiana mutabilis. First, a quick overview. Nicotiana is a large genus of 60 or so species, most of which are annuals or herbaceous, short-lived perennials though a few are shrubby. The most familiar shrubby species is N. glauca which is a willowy shrub with small. tubular yellow flowers. It produces masses of seeds and is a common weed in warmer (frost-free) countries. In northern Europe it is  grown as an annual, primarily for its foliage. Most nicotiana have flowers with slender tubes and five lobes at the mouth of the flower. Although colouring varies it is most commonly white though green is not unusual and pink in various shades is widespread. Although the genus is infamous for N. tabacum (tobacco), other species have leaves that can be smoked and many species have scented flowers, some with delicious fragrance. They are mostly easy from seed and many are popular garden plants. All the species have a subtle charm, much of which is lost in some of the more modern hybrids.

Nicotiana mutabilis is a recently introduced species. It was discovered in Brazil in 2002  but I am not sure when it was introduced into cultivation. It is a tall plant, about 1.2m high, with soft, slightly hairy, pale green leaves and much-branched stems with masses of flowers. These open white but turn pink with age (mutabilis means changing). I first got seeds from Derry Watkins, (Special Plants) several years ago and it did very well. It even self-seeded about the place, a few plants popping up every year here and there.

But the plant above has survived the past two winters in the rose garden, overwintering as a cluster of rosettes and this year erupted into a cloud of flowers in April. It has continued without taking a breath ever since and just gets better every day. Like many nicotiana, the flowers wilt a bit in hot weather but pick up in the evening. You cannot fail to like the coconut-ice colouring and I defy anyone not to like the plant. Being several years old, the stems are now very vigorous and are reaching 1.5m high, and despite this it needs no staking.

It is with enormous pleasure and huge gratitude that I can give this plant my highest praise.

Geoff’s rating


Garden rating

9/10 – in case you like yellow flowers!


This is a follow-up post –

the original is here https://thebikinggardener.com/2015/08/07/nicotiana-mutabilis/


4 Comments on “Worth its weight in gold: Nicotiana mutabilis”

  1. Jackie Knight
    July 19, 2019 at 7:31 am #

    Must have a go at this! Thanks.

  2. derrickjknight
    July 19, 2019 at 8:58 am #

    I’ll get the benefit 🙂

  3. Meriel
    July 21, 2019 at 10:47 am #

    What a high rateing – almost unprecendented! They need a sheltered spot though as they eventually get tall and they’re very brittle.

  4. tonytomeo
    July 22, 2019 at 7:42 pm #

    It can get a little too happy and spread quite a bit. I would not say that it is problematically invasive, but it spreads at a ‘manageable’ rate, at least where I saw it in Southern California. I do not have much experience with it, but did notice that it seemed to spread only close to where the seeds fell from original plants. You would think that such finely textured seed could get anywhere, but I really did not notice it coming up all over the place.

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