Tobacco Mosaic Virus



Although its most common victims are from the nightshade family, tobacco mosaic virus can infect a surprising array of garden plants.

Tobacco Mosaic Virus

Tobacco Mosaic Virus

Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) has a long history of infecting garden plants. Although its most common victims are members of the nightshade family, it can infect a surprisingly diverse array of garden plants, including:

  • Tomato.
  • Pepper.
  • Potato.
  • Petunia.
  • Impatiens.
  • Chrysanthemum.
  • Geranium.
  • Begonia.
  • Verbena.

TMV is typically spread in sap.  Surprisingly, insects that suck sap from plants do not carry the disease.  Insects that chew leaves, however, spread TMV.  Anything else that has come into contact with sap of infected plants is a potential source of trouble.  Gardeners typically introduce the virus into their garden on seeds, tools, hands, clothing, or tobacco products.

Once TMV has arrived, it can lay dormant in soil and plant debris for as long as 50 years, practically ensuring its permanent residence.  It enters plants through small scrapes and cuts.


  • Stunted growth.
  • Mottled leaves.
  • Yellow leaf veins.
  • Distorted leaf shape.
  • Brown streaks on flowers.
  • Streaked or mottled fruits.
  • Fruit death.


Tobacco Mosaic Virus

There is no cure for TMV.  All infected plants must be destroyed, as well as any weeds growing nearby.  Treat all gardening tools with disinfectant before further use.


Choosing resistant plant varieties is an excellent first step when trying to prevent a TMV outbreak in your garden.  However, paying attention to garden sanitation is also essential:

  • Buy seeds from reliable sources.
  • Raise your own seedlings.
  • Do not allow anyone to smoke, chew, or carry tobacco products in pockets while in the garden.
  • Wash your hands before touching your plants.
  • Clean garden tools periodically.

Helpful Resource

Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV)
Article from PennState Extension to provide you with more information and preventative measures.

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Garden & Orchard Diseases

Garden & Orchard Diseases