How to Grow Tobacco

As tobacco has absolutely no food value and is not a particularly handsome ornamental, growing it would have to be a hobby for someone with a strong yen for smoking home-grown tobacco. Growing it is not much of a problem but, as the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences reminds us, you’re going to need facilities to cure, age, and process the tobacco leaves after you grow and harvest them. Moreover, you’ll need either a building with good air circulation or a place where you can control temperature and humidity during the several weeks needed to cure the leaves.

Get seeds

These can be obtained from one of several seed companies specializing in tobacco; try searching for them on the Internet. Start the seeds in flower pots in a greenhouse or protected area 60 days before they are to be transplanted to a garden. Keep the soil moist but not wet.


When the shoots are about 6-8 inches in length and frost danger is past, they should go into a sunny location in the garden, spaced about two feet apart. The soil should have a pH around 5.8 and must be well drained. If lime is needed to raise the pH, use dolomite in order to get the magnesium nutrient which is important for plant growth. Poor growth and some growth disorders may occur if the soil pH is about 6.5 or more.

Avoid planting tobacco on soil infested with nematodes and diseases. Do not plant tobacco on the same soil more than once every four to five years. Instead, rotate the tobacco with plants that are not susceptible to common soil-borne pests of tobacco.


Fertilizers for tobacco could be the same fertilizers used for tomato, pepper, or potato. As in plant production, the fertilizer should contain little or no chlorine and most of the nitrogen should be in the nitrate form. In general, it would be best to apply the fertilizer in several applications. Some could be applied to the soil before transplanting, but do not place it where it will be in high concentration around the roots of the transplants. The total amount of fertilizer to apply will depend on the grade of the fertilizer, the natural or residual fertility of the soil, losses of soluble nutrients by leaching, and perhaps other factors. A tobacco fertilizer should contain little or no chlorine and most of the nitrogen should be in the nitrate form. Fertilizer manufactured for use on tomato, pepper, and potato should be satisfactory for tobacco. If adequately fertilized up to the time of flowering, there should be no need to add any more fertilizer after the flowers begin to form.


Keep the plants well-watered without getting the soil soggy. Drought stress could limit growth on excessively drained soils unless irrigation is provided. Lack of sun will result in spindly plants, poor growth and thin leaves. Some types of tobacco such as that used for cigar wrappers are grown under some shade to promote desirable leaf characteristics.

Control pests

Avoid nematode and other soil pest problems by proper soil selection and rotation. Weeds can be controlled by hoeing or pulling. The most common insect problems expected would be budworms, aphids and hornworms. Diseases that damage tobacco may include those that attack other plants or they may be specific pathogens for tobacco. Identify the pest problem and consult the appropriate pest control guide for information.

Topping and Suckering

Tobacco should normally be topped as soon as the flower forms. Topping, or removal of the terminal bud, allows the upper leaves to get larger and thicker than they would in an uptopped condition. The top can be removed by breaking it out or cutting it off, preferably before any flowers open. Soon after the top is removed (before, if topping is delayed), axillary buds or suckers develop at each leaf. These will reduce yield and quality if not removed by hand when they exceed about an inch in length.

Harvesting and Curing

A deterrent to home production of tobacco is the need to age the cured tobacco for one to three years or longer. Tobacco may be cured with heat added or it may be air cured. There does not appear to be any practical means for the gardener to use heat to cure the tobacco because of the facilities that are required. Some producers of home-grown tobacco have built curing facilities and may offer them for sale.

Tobacco could be cured without heat if a building with good air circulation is available. Temperatures for air curing may range from 60-65°F up to 90-95°F, and the relative humidity of the air should be about 65-70 percent. Proper curing should take a few weeks in order to have good quality. Tobacco that cures too fast will be green and not have good aroma and flavor, while mold or rot may develop if curing is slow. A building that can be opened and closed as needed to control the relative humidity and drying rate is desirable. Curing procedures need to be developed for individual situations.

Tobacco can be harvested by either removing leaves from the stalk in the field and curing them or by cutting the stalk off at ground level and hanging the entire stalk in the curing facility for the leaves to cure. The leaves would then be removed from the stalk after they have cured. If the leaves are removed in the field, there should be four or five harvests at intervals of 1-2 weeks, starting with the lower leaves. The first harvest would be at or soon after topping and when the leaves show a slight yellowing. If the entire stalk is cut for curing, it should be about 3-4 weeks after topping. The lower leaves would be partially deteriorated at this time. Provide adequate space between stalks to allow for satisfactory drying of the leaves.


All commercial tobacco is aged for a year or more before it is used. Unaged tobacco is harsh and does not have good flavor. For the home gardener, aging will probably be at least as difficult as proper curing. Aging may require as long as 5-6 years and does not occur unless temperature and moisture conditions are favorable. If the tobacco is too dry, there is no aging; if it is too moist, the leaves will rot. Unfortunately the proper temperature and moisture content vary widely. The home producer would need the knowledge and skill to properly age the tobacco or be willing to experiment with the process. The same would be true for adding flavoring agents during or after aging and before the tobacco is used.

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  1. Paul Williams says:

    I would like to grow tobacco for my own use. How do I get started? Thank you, Paul

  2. Rozzy says:

    Thanx for the tips. ;)

  3. Gimme A Ciggie says:

    The person who wrote this OBVIOUSLY wants to make growing tobacco “look” extremely difficult….

  4. Bob Dobbs says:

    The person who wrote this OBVIOUSLY knows what he/she is talking about and raising tobacco while not simple, isn’t that tough, and is pretty much EXACTLY as described above. (stated from experience of home growing tobacco)

  5. Roddy says:

    I’ve never had to age my tobacco for five to six years before it was smokable. We had cooler than normal temps one year and I had to age it in cardboard boxes for seven months. The author clearly wants people to think it’s nearly impossible to do this. I have serious doubts they have ever grown tobacco themselves. They even want you to believe it’s not an attractive plant! This was likely done by a non smoker who is biased in the first place or by the tobacco companies that don’t want you to grow your own.

  6. Theresa says:

    What I get from this…….. Nothing! This person wants you to think. It can’t be done. Well it can. And you don’t have to age that long. also curing, A breeze. If you are a gardner to start with. Bob,This person seems to work for the gov. or cig. co…..

  7. Roddy says:

    It is not widely known but the good ole US government sends out tobacco seeds for free. I ordered 12,000 this year and they arrived about two weeks later. A good way to start different varieties.

  8. justin says:

    My plants are doing well and I am about a month away from harvesting. How do I age my tobacco and in what. Also, should I add any flavoring or fillers and if so with what? Thanks!!!

  9. Bobby says:

    I have just quit smoking cigs and now smoke a pipe for those urges. I enjoy the flavor and taste of tobacco. I have been searching the net for ways to conserve my efforts for supporting this experience. I don’t want the money (that I spend time on acquiring) being used by the U.S. Governments huge tax assessment for things I don’t agree with. The indigenous Indians of this land we now claim as the U.S. have used tobacco hundreds of years before Europeans stole the land. Living in Florida, The question of exactly when too plant in central Florida has not been answered. Does someone have some data or suggestions on this? After curing many harvests of home grown cannabis as a youngster in the 70′s curing the crop does not deter me. Thanks for any extra info on time to plant.

  10. Lester Stark says:

    My Burley Tobacco is brown and is drying now. It has white chalky spots on some leaves, should be alarmed ????

  11. Harley says:

    US government sends out tobacco seeds for free. I ordered 12,000 this year and they arrived about two weeks later

    Can you tell us the address of the free seeds ????
    Thank you so much ;-) I order some but only got 3 plants out of 500 or more seeds. then the bugs are getting them before i do. could use some help on the bug thing too !!!! after all i will be smoking it , i hope lololol…. thanks again Noobe ;0

  12. Sandeep Patel says:

    Hi !
    This is my first time to grow tobacco in my farm after my father’s death.really i don’t know anything about how to grow tobacco in farms,i.e 1.what kind of soil is required to grow tobacco 2.what kind of tobacco plant can produce more weight and money.3.what all pesticides and at what time should i give.4.what all fertilizers used.5 when to supply water to plants will in know when the plant is matured for harvesting etc…Truely speaking i don’t know anything about tobacco,please explain me in detail.I w’ll be greatful to you

  13. El Barto says:

    I’m gonna grow some Virginia plants again this year. Last year I planted this variety in the wilds of south of England and produced kilo’s of quality tobacco for next to nothing but for a few hours work. F£££ the British Government and their nature of allowing the advertising of cigarettes to me as a child and ripping me off since !!!! I do enjoy a smoke and I may die of cancer but at least I got more cash to spend on cannabis (although another ‘field’ of mine), and beer making is so easy too. Tip: produce your own everything¬ at least you know whats init (such as harmful additives within ALL mass produced cigarettes). Perhaps these have the cancer producing properties. Happy smoking peeps

  14. Jeff Sterling says:

    Growing tobacco for the first season has been a learning experience but I’m going to grow more next year. I use only organic pesticides, Spinosad for caterpillars and Neem oil for whatever else is chewing on the leaves. Tobacco is difficult to start but not difficult to grow. Curing is a process which really makes tobacco growing an art.

  15. Quint says:

    where do i get free tobacco seeds? this coming year im planning on growing tobacco cause of the high prices and less additives. what do i need to make it tasty?

  16. beebiz says:

    I respectfully disagree with the writer. Tobacco IS a particularly handsome ornamental. Some strains grow to a height of over 8 feet with beautiful green leaves that can be as big as 36 inches long and 24 inches wide. The flower heads are huge. And, hummingbirds LOVE tobacco flowers!!!

    If you want to get the REAL lowdown on growing tobacco and just how easy it is, visit There are lots of great people there who will be more than willing to help you out!

    And, if you want to try some whole leaf tobacco or want to order some seeds, you can do so from Dan at His seeds are only $3.00 for 1,000 seeds as compared to upwards of $25.00 from many suppliers.

    If you are not a tobacco user, I do not encourage you to start!! But, if you are a tobacco user, or you just want to grow a beautiful, interesting plant that is as easy to grow as tomato plants, try your hand at some home grown tobacco! You’ll enjoy it. And, you can tell the tax man to kiss your butt!!!!!!

  17. francoamerican says:

    I agree that the author is all about discouraging tobacco growing. It is very easy and curing times are very short. You don’t need to fertilize it to death and add pesticides etc…Tobacco isn’t a tasty plant for bugs, it actually is used to spray on other plants to deter them eating your other plants!!! It needs water and alot of sun. The PH levels and all the scientific information are only included in this article to scare you off. This plant practically grows itself. Curing takes simply hanging it or picking the leaves. Don’t let the mis-information stop you from growing a good quality organic product for your own enjoyment.

  18. francoamerican says:

    Seeds…VICTORY SEED COMPANY. Burley tobacco seeds are great for making a cigarette. Also re-emphasis on NO PESTICIDES! You can’t smoke pesticides! DANGER. Tobacco already wards off pests NATURALLY. Have fun you little green-thumbs!

  19. francoamerican says:

    Actually I meant the burley seeds after grown to maturity are good for cig making, not the seeds themselves! Ha Ha, sorry!!

  20. francoamerican says:

    no need to age for 5 to 6 years…this article is B.S. Don’t need any scientific knowledge. Tobacco grows itself. Give it a try and then read this article again in six months while you are smoking a great product.

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