Indian Tobacco, otherwise called Frostweed, is a simple and forgotten plant in the garden. This plant is the first native plant that I added to my garden. The gift I received was nine rooted cuttings that became an odyssey into the world of native plants.
It was a warm day when I traveled to Arlington, Texas to meet a new and wonderful friend I met here on Dave's Garden. There was this nice home near a very busy section of town, but the world moved slower here. The famous native slope was there in all its glory with bushes and so many wonderful and stunning plants all growing in the garden mixed together in a stunning array. The first and most wonderful plant that I met that day was the Texas Star Hibiscus. The simple blooming flowers that supported this wonderful plant slowly caught my attention. Josephine had chosen the handle here on Dave's of "Frostweed," and as she started to tell me about this wonderful flower, I saw the simple beauty of this plant. Soon I was headed for home with nine little frostweed babies to plant in my own garden.
This plant is a wonderful plant that was only grown in areas where tobacco could not be grown. Settlers and Native Americans alike used the leaves for smoking. So this was a common plant to be found in many areas. Sometime in the late 1800s, this plant fell from the place it held and was largely forgotten.
Now this plant is making a comeback in the native and wildflower movement that is slowly spreading across America. So far, there are no cultivars of this great plant, but I think it is only a matter of time before we start to see them on the market and in garden catalogs.
This simple plant forms strong clumps that return bigger and better each year. This plant is best left alone in the garden. Clumps can be moved in the fall and even divided, but over all this plant can be planted and forgotten. This plant will grow bigger and better each year but will not become overgrown or leave its area. It reseeds freely but some careful deadheading will keep the seedlings at bay.
It loves rich soil with lots of compost added to the mix. It likes moist soil but will take times of dry soil and can take long times of drought. I grow mine in my wildflower area that does not receive extra water in the summer. They rise above the other plants each year and in the fall bloom with strikingly simple white flowers - but the real show is to come.
The real show, the one I never believed until I saw it for myself, comes in the winter after the first hard frost. Make sure you have things cut back so you can see the wonderful show, and wait for that hard freeze. Run out early in the morning and take your camera! The show of ice sculpture pouring out of the stems is among the few things I look forward to each year.
Plant some Verbesina virginica in your garden and let this simple, old-time pleasure take your garden back to a little simpler time and place.
Thank you to htop for the images.
About Mitch Fitzgerald
I am a pentecostal preacher, gardener,husband, and a father. I love natives, daylilies, iris, and roses. I love teaching others, be they children or adults, about the garden and plants.