Wild tobacco, Nicotiana debneyi, has fungal resistance, but sexual incompatibility prevents introgression of its resistance genes into the ornamental tobacco, N. × sanderae. Patel et al. show that somatic hybridization, involving protoplast fusion, can be exploited to overcome this incompatibility. Somatic hybrids of N. × sanderae (+) N. debneyi have asymmetrical nuclear hybridity with loss of chromosomes, but they are fertile and stable. Expression of fungal resistance makes these somatic hybrids extremely valuable germplasm in future breeding programmes in ornamental tobacco.