Easy to grow and easy to please, nasturtiums thrive in modest garden conditions. Here are some quick tips to help you grow nasturtiums at home.
Getting to know nasturtiums
With no better than average soil underfoot, they’ll produce abundant round, lotus-like leaves of medium green or green streaked with white. Leaves are smothered by a generous quantity of five-centimetre-wide (two-inch-wide) trumpet-shaped, spurred flowers in orange, yellow, salmon, maroon, scarlet, or creamy white, often with streaks and blotches of contrasting shades.
Nasturtium stems and leaves retain water well, making them care-free plants for containers or garden plants in low-rainfall regions.
They thrive and flower best in full sun.
Some varieties show enthusiasm for climbing if you coax the young stems soon after they sprout. If you want them to go up, provide a wire fence or a slender trellis within five centimetres (two inches) of the plants’ stems.
They are equally brilliant dangling from a window box, tumbling over the edges of a container, or spreading around the garden in lush mounds. They’re great for the front of a border, forming a thick carpet of flowers and handsome leaves.
The luminous yellow blossoms of the variety ‘Moonlight’ pop out of the dark, brightening an evening garden. ‘Jewel of Africa’ has a pretty speckling of cream on its green leaves and flowers in shades of cream, yellow, peach, and red.
How to grow nasturtium like a pro
Nasturtiums are bothered by few pests. If tiny, pear-shaped insect aphids gather on buds and stem tips, rinse them off with a strong stream of water.
Happily, these plants require watering only in a severe drought, and flower best without fertilizer.
They do benefit from removing leaves that turn brown and cling to the stems. Keep abreast of trimming spent flowers and leaves, and the plant will remain tidy and perform well throughout the entire summer.
When growing nasturtiums in a hanging container or window box, rejuvenate your plants halfway through the summer by snipping off the dangling stems, leaving 15 centimetres (six inches) of stem at the base of each plant.
Within a week, new flowering shoots will sprout from the base, making the plant look dense and like a new planting.
A smart way to increase the bounty
Nasturtium plants are readily available at garden centres, but they are one of the easiest plants to start from seed.
- Because they don’t transplant well, sow the seeds directly in the ground where you want the plants to grow after the danger of frost has passed.
- Nick, or scarify, the seed coats before planting to make it easier for seeds to absorb moisture.
- Space seeds 23 to 30 centimetres (9 to 12 inches) apart, barely covering the seeds with soil, and firm the soil around the seeds by pressing it lightly with the head of a hoe.
- Water the seed bed with a watering can fitted with a sprinkler head. Seeds should germinate within one to two weeks.
Besides looking great, nasturtiums have culinary uses.
- Long before they were valued in the flower garden, nasturtiums were grown in vegetable gardens as a salad ingredient.
- Young leaves impart a peppery flavour, flowers have a delicate taste, and the mild green flower buds can be used raw or pickled like capers.
This low-maintenance plant is an ideal addition to any outdoor space. Consider these tips before you start planting and get the most out of your nasturtiums.