Growing Indian Tobacco Plants: How To Care For Lobelia Inflata

The indian tobacco plant (Lobelia Inflata) comes from the Campanulaceae or bellflower family.

It is a biennial, or annual herb native to several states of eastern North America. This includes southeastern Canada, eastern United States to Alabama, and west to Kansas. It grows in open woodlands, abandoned fields, and savannas. 

Flower of the native Lobelia Inflata - Indian TobaccoPin

Native Americans grew it for smoking tobacco giving it the name Indian Tobacco weed.

Other common names include:

  • Pukeweed
  • Vomitwort
  • Asthma Weed
  • Bladderpod
  • Gagroot
  • Eyebright

Lobelia Inflata Plants Care

Size & Growth

This herbaceous plant grows 6” – 40” inches tall and has tiny hair all over its stems. 

The alternately arranged leaves are toothed, ovate shaped and grow about 3” inches long.

Flowering and Fragrance

These native plants produce violet flowers with yellow-tinted centers. 

The plant starts blooming in mid-summer and continues flowering throughout the fall season. 

This summertime blooming plant makes a stunning addition to the garden.

Light & Temperature

Indian Tobacco prefers to grow in full sun. However, it also tolerates part shade. 

Place this plant in a sunny window or under light shade trees.

The USDA hardiness zones of this plant are 2 – 8.

Watering and Feeding

The seedlings must be well watered until they establish roots. 

These plants need constant moisture for optimal growth, which is why they flourish most near streams or ponds. 

Water enough to get the soil wet, but avoid overwatering.

This plant might experience some damage when it is overwatered or growing in a waterlogged container.

Feed the plant with a liquid, general-purpose fertilizer monthly or after six weeks for a robust appearance.

Soil & Transplanting

The Asthma Weed prefers rich, moist soil and is extremely sensitive to moisture levels and heat in the soil. 

It is vital to make sure not to let the soil get completely dry to prevent any damage.

Grooming and Maintenance

When this plant fully establishes, it needs little care and maintenance. 

This plant requires frequent watering in dry, hot conditions, especially if growing in containers.

While it is unnecessary, deadhead the plant to maintain its appealing appearance. 

Remove any dead or wilting flowers and leaves from the plants to enhance its blooms. 

When growing in ideal conditions, this plant will keep delighting the garden with stunning blooms up till the appearance of the first frost.

How To Propagate Indian Tobacco

The propagation of this Indian Tobacco is done using seeds or cuttings. 

  • The seeds should be sown in containers during the mid-spring or fall season. 
  • It will take around two weeks for the seeds to germinate. 
  • Afterward, transplant the seeded plant into the garden.
  • The seeds may be planted directly in the garden as well. 
  • Begin the propagation process around 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost. 
  • The small seeds should be spread on the surface of the soil.
  • Water the seeds thoroughly and maintain continuous moisture. 
  • Be sure to plant the seeds in a well-lit, warm area when growing indoors or under the full sun when planting in the garden directly. 
  • New growth will start emerging within two weeks.
  • Prepare the seedlings indoors to avoid frost danger, and transplant the plants in the garden when they have grown about 2” – 3” inches tall. 
  • Transplant them around 4” – 6” inches apart.

Indian Tobacco Pest or Diseases

This plant doesn’t experience any significant diseases or pest problems. 

However, it is recommended to monitor it regularly to eliminate any potential threat promptly.

Is The Plant Toxic Or Poisonous?

This plant is toxic if consumed in higher quantities; otherwise, it is safe to use.

High dosage can cause serious side effects and symptoms ranging from weakness, exhaustion, salivation, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, convulsions, pupil dilation, and even coma.

The main toxic principle in this plant is Piperidine Alkaloids present in the plants’ roots, seeds, and leaves. 

Higher consumption of this plant has resulted in fatalities in animals and humans.

Lobelia Inflata Uses

Pukeweed makes an excellent addition to the gardens. This is due to their lovely bluish-purple flowers and bluntly-toothed foliage.

They’re also ideal for ornamental containers, flower beds, borders, and landscaping.

For centuries, Native Americans used Lobelia Inflata for ceremonial and medicinal purposes. 

They’re also often used for smoking cessation, making them popular medicinal plants. Treated diseases include blood pressure, heart disease, respiratory tract, asthma, and muscular disorders.

The Indian tobacco plant is also used for treating insect bites. The Inflata plant contains a key active compound called Lobeline. It was found to prevent depression and cure drug addiction. It’s also for enhancing concentration and memory skills.

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