Quit smoking now– it’s bad for your plants

Photo from Department of Plant Pathology Archive, North Carolina State University, Bugwood.org

“All plants are sensitive to smoke,” David Clark said in answer to a question during a recent horticulture class at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.

Thursday, Nov. 17 is the 36th Great American Smokeout. Protecting your houseplants is one more reason for you to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day.

If you smoke, you probably notice that you have to wash your windows and mirrors more often because they get coated with smoke.

The same thing happens to your plants, too, Clark said. Smoking plugs up the leaves of your plants with tar.

In addition, a disease called tobacco mosaic virus can be transferred to your plants from cigarettes.

“That’s why you’re not allowed to smoke in a greenhouse,” Clark said.

The photo above shows how tobacco mosaic virus affects an orchid. In addition to houseplants, the virus can affect many outdoor plants including tomatoes, peppers, petunias, snapdragons, delphinium and marigolds.

Cigars, cigarettes and pipe tobaccos can be infected with tobacco mosaic virus. Handling these smoking materials contaminates the hands, and subsequent handling of plants results in a transmission of the virus, according to an article from the University of Minnesota Extension.

There are no good treatments for plants affected by tobacco mosaic virus, so don’t smoke while handling or transplanting plants, and do wash your hands frequently.

Better yet, quit smoking altogether. That way, you’ll have more money to spend on seeds, plants and gardening gadgets!

3 Comments on “Quit smoking now– it’s bad for your plants

  1. Hi, Connie. Thanks for mentioning my comments at the recent Horticulture Class. Your article hits it on the nose about tobacco mosaic virus. Orchids are extremely susceptible to it! This is one of the reasons why we no longer use ‘Nicotine Sulphate’ spray anymore. It used to be the ‘stand-by’ insecticide in the 1940’s-1950′.

  2. The picture you posted is of virus lesions in the upper epidermis of cattleya and paphiopedilum [syn. cyprepedium]orchids. There is no cure for the virus, and any infected plants showing symptoms like these should be destroyed, as it can be spread in orchid collections by pruning implements, rhizome clips, insect vectors like aphids, and the touch of our hands, moving from plant to plant. It also causes ‘color flares’ and disfigured flowers!

  3. David,
    Thanks for all that additional information. I didn’t mention in my article that the virus can be spread through the use of contaminated gardening tools. Plus, the information from the University of Minnesota notes that bleach doesn’t work when you’re trying to decontaminate your tools. I didn’t realize even aphids can spread the virus. And the virus causes so much damage! It’s definitely better to prevent tobacco mosaic virus than have to try to contend with it.

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