Nasturtiums were first grown in kitchen gardens. The young leaves, buds and flowers were picked for salads and the buds were pickled like capers. By the late 1800s, breeders had developed many dwarf forms in a wide range of colours, and they became popular in bedding designs.
While cottage gardeners often preferred the rambling old-fashioned types, letting them climb through other vines and spill over fences and trellises, many gardeners preferred the more compact types for the garden and containers.
Nasturtium 'Vesuvius' is an old variety, originally included in Burpee's 1923 catalogue. Uniform and compact in habit, it is excellent in containers, producing low, compact, round clusters, the unique salmon flowers are carried well above the foliage.
The Nasturtium is one of the most foolproof and versatile of all summer annuals; they will thrive in soils where few other plants will even live. They can be grown as a groundcover as path edging or in the border, or can be planted in hanging baskets, containers or window boxes. They will bloom after only six weeks from sowing and will last well into autumn.
Used along the edges of flower and vegetable beds, Nasturtiums help deter white-flies and rabbits from your crop. The flowers and leaves are both edible: a peppery addition to salads, pastas, omelettes, or used as a garnish.
Sowing: Sow indoors in early spring or direct sow in late spring to early summer.
Soak the seed overnight to enhance germination. They should come up in a week to ten days depending on the soil temperature. In very hot summer regions, plant in autumn for winter bloom.
For earlier flowering they can be sown indoors in spring at a temperature of 15 to 18°C (60 to 65°F). Sow in peat pots or trays of moist seed compost and cover with a very fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged; germination will usually take 14 to 21 days. Transplant to larger pots if required or directly to their final position. Gradually acclimate them to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out after all risk of frost.
Planting nasturtiums is as simple as poking a hole in the soil with your finger and dropping in one of the rather large seeds. Sow directly where they are to flower in late spring onwards. They prefer a sunny open site but will grow in most sites and soils. Seeds germinate in 7 to 21 days and grow quickly in warm weather. The distinctive seedlings and can be told from nearby weed seedlings quite easily.
Plant nasturtiums in well-drained soil in full sun. They will grow in partial shade, but will not bloom well under those conditions. Although they like dry soils and will tolerate drought, water them during the entire growing season to keep them blooming.
Nasturtiums perform well in poor soil, but it is comfortable in average garden soil with loose, light texture as long as the soil is not overly fertile with nitrogen. They are excellent in pots and containers, but may have to be trimmed back periodically to prevent them from crowding out the other plants.
Do not fertilise, except on extremely poor soil, as fertilization will promote leaf growth and suppress flowering. Dead-heading or picking the flowers will prolong blooming. Nasturtium will continue blooming until frost.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Flowers Borders and Beds, Hanging Baskets and Containers, Ideal for Children.
Nasturtium is an excellent companion for many plants are generally thought of as a sacrificial plant for insect pests. Studies say it is among the best at attracting predatory insects.
Nasturtium are a good companion plant to many crops but especially to members of the cabbage family, deterring aphids, and beetles while improving growth and flavour. It is a great trap crop for aphids in particular the black aphids and they also deter woolly aphids, white-flies, cucumber beetles and other pests of the cucurbit family.
It has been the practice of some fruit growers that planting nasturtiums every year in the root zone of fruit trees allow the trees to take up the pungent odour of the plants and repel bugs. It has no taste effect on the fruit.
Use near to tomatoes, radish, cabbage, cucumbers and other squashes and plant under fruit trees.
Rabbits hate nasturtiums and keep well away.
Nasturtium flowers and leaves are edible, so long as your garden is organic and make an attractive addition to salads. They have a slightly peppery taste reminiscent of watercress, with a spicier flavour when grown in sunnier, hotter weather. They taste better when young; older leaves can be bitter. The flowers are less intensely flavoured than the leaves. The flowers are particularly dramatic when mixed with dark greens, such as spinach.
The flowers can be used whole or chopped as a garnish on cream soups, in herb butters or cheese spreads, or on cakes and platters. You could stuff the blossoms with cream cheese or another mixture for an unusual hors d'oeuvre. For the ultimate in fancy tea sandwiches try combining orange nasturtium blossoms and violets on open-faced cucumber sandwiches.
Use the flowers to flavour vinegar (use five same-coloured blossoms per cup of vinegar): cover the blossoms with hot white wine vinegar, let steep overnight, strain out the flowers and replace with fresh blooms for an attractive appearance in clear glass bottles.
Grind the seeds in a pepper mill to be used like black pepper.
Pickle the buds or unripe seedpods as a substitute for capers.
Seeds of Nasturtiums are very easy to harvest but need to be completely dry before storage. After flowering wait until the bright green pods are large and swollen. Pick them from the plant and place in a paper bag. The seed casing hold a lot of moisture and need to be completely dry when they are stored, otherwise they will rot and die. Spread them out on a windowsill for two weeks, once they turn brown and are free from excessive moisture store them in a paper bag in a place that it warm and dry. Remember to label the bag with the name and date.
One thing to note: if you grow 'Empress of India' near other nasturtiums it will hybridise, the striking red bloom colour seems to be recessive. The following year you will have a mix of all colours. If you grow it on its own the deep scarlet colour will stay true.
Nasturtium is originally from the South American Andes, from Bolivia north to Colombia. It was first cultivated in Peru and was introduced to Europe in the 16th century by the Spanish conquistadors. Today the colourful plant is grown in both tropical and temperate climates throughout the world and is available in both dwarf (nanum) and trailing (majus) forms.
Tropaeolum is the nasturtium of gardeners, although not of botanists, and named by Linnaeus, from the Greek tropaion and the Latin tropaeum for 'trophy,' the manner in which the plant grew up a support reminding him of a classical trophy with round shields and golden helmets such as those hung as a sign of victory on a battlefield.
The species name ‘nanum’ is from the Greek nannos meaning 'dwarf'.
The common name Nasturtium was used by the Romans for several cress-like plants and especially garden cress. Pliny records the Latin derivation as Nasus tortus from nasus 'nose' and the verb torquere 'torment', undoubtedly referring to the plant's pungency. It refers to the fact that it has a mustard oil similar to that produced by watercress (Nasturtium officinale). The term 'nasturtium' has now become the botanical genus name for water cress. Of new-world origin the plant was unknown to the Romans.
Also commonly called Indian Cress or Monks Cress. In many languages, nasturtium bears names that relate to its origin from Latin America such as French cresson d'Inde or Swedish Indiankrasse 'native American cress'.
Other names include refer to the Latin in reference to its import by members of Catholic orders, e.g. Turkish lâtin çiçeği, Bulgarian latinka and Kurdish ladan. The German kapuzinerkresse, French capucine, Dutch capucienerkers, Italian cappuccina, Arabic nabat al-kabbusin and Russian kaputsin-kress also refer to introduction by Catholic monks and the similar shapes of nasturtium flowers and the cowl of Capuchin monks.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 5 grams Average Seed Count 40 seeds Family Tropaeolaceae Genus Tropaeolum Species majus Cultivar Vesuvius Common Name Nasturtium Other Common Names Indian Cress or Watercress Hardiness Hardy Annual Flowers Salmon Natural Flower Time June to October Foliage Dark blue-green Height 15 to 30cm (6 to 12in) Spread 30cm (12in) Position Full Sun Aspect West or South facing. Exposed or Sheltered Soil Well Drained (Can thrive in poor soil) Time to Sow Sow indoors in early spring or direct sow in late spring to early summer Germination 7 to 21 days