Nasturtium

Scientific Name:  Tropaeolum sp.

Light:  Full sun to part shade;  In Carroll County, nasturtiums seem to do better in part shade.

Zone:  2 to 11; grown as an annual

Height: 1 to 10 feet

Width:  1 to 3 feet

Flowers: May to September; Red, orange, yellow or cream

Fruit/Seed:

Fall Color:

Butterflies:  attracts

Birds:

Hummingbird: attracts

Deer Resistant: Yes

Insects/Pollinators:  attracts

Native: No

Idea Garden:

Propagation:   Nasturtiums are easy to grow from seed.  Seeds can be sown directly in the garden beginning in May, or started indoors around mid-April. Cover seeds as they require darkness to germinate.  Seeds will germinate in 7 to 14 days at 60 to 65 F.    Transplants can be set out after Mother’s Day.  However, as nasturtiums do not fare well when transplanted, use peat pots and plant these directly in the soil.

Description

Nasturtium is both a beautiful garden annual and a useful culinary herb.

Nasturtiums are easy to grow, with flowers in various colors, mainly red, orange or yellow, all summer.  They’re great as a groundcover, in large containers, hanging baskets, or trailing out of raised beds and down slopes.  The abundant, colorful blooms can be cut for use as an elegant entree garnish or salad decoration. The leaves, which contain a good dose of vitamin C, can be used to add a peppery flavor to fresh salads. It is this flavor, similar to that of cress, from which the common name comes, meaning “nose twister” in Latin.

Nasturtiums are also planted as a companion plant in the vegetable garden to ward off pests.  The following is a list of benefits when interplanted with nasturtium:

  • cabbage family  – deter cabbage caterpillars and whiteflies
  • cucumbers – fewer whiteflies and cucumber beetles
  • runner beans –  keep aphids off
  • tomatoes and potatoes – keep aphids & whiteflies off
  • squash – deter squash beetles and borers

In addition to deterring unwanted insects, they are useful in attracting beneficial predatory insects to your garden.

Cultivars / Varieties

Nasturtiums come in three types: dwarf, semi-trailing, and climbing. Some are heirlooms, dating back 100 years or more.

Dwarf types are bushy and compact

  • ‘Alaska Mix’ – variegated leaves and flowers in yellow, red and orange
  • ‘Alaska Raspberry’ – 12″; Bright raspberry red flowers to 2.5″ provide hot color over variegated ivory-on-green foliage. Compact growing. For Pots, planters, spring bedding with Pansy.
  • ‘Banana Cream’ – 10; Golden-yellow fading to creamy-yellow. Top flowering habit, with large abundant flowers that cover the plant. For bedding or spring containers.
  • ‘Black Velvet‘ –  Deep mahogany-black flowers. Bright-green leaves. Bushy mounded habit. Showy accent for container, novel bedder.
  • ‘Double Delight Cream’ – Semi double and double flowers in abundance on compact dense branching plants. Rich creamy-yellow color makes a bold show
  • ‘Empress of India’ – bluish leaves and bright scarlet flowers
  • ‘Jewel Mix’ – 10″ spreading 12″; Dwarf, early. Cherry Rose, Golden, Mahogany,  Peach Melba (Primrose cream w’ red spots), Primrose, Scarlet.
  • Ladybird Series –  9-12″; all colors have the distinctive Ladybird pattern markings – large red blaze in upper petals subtended by 3 small maple-leaf shapes. Brilliant contrast. Deep green foliage. Nice in spring combos & beddings with pansy. Cream Purple Spot, Rose,  Gold Red Spot.
  • ‘Mahogany’ – dark mahogany red flowers
  • ‘Orchid Cream’ – 12″; Unusual chameleon flowers. Color morphs from cream red splashes to fully red all over. Final flower color depends on weather and temperature.
  • ‘Orchid Flame’ – 12″; Large flowers start deep red then color-shift to bicolor pattern, bright yellow center with scarlet edges and burgundy bursts at base of petals. Color intensity may vary with weather.
  • ‘Peach Melba’ – creamy yellow flowers and red inner marking
  • ‘Princess of India’ –  Compact deep-green foliage, scarlet single flowers.
  • ‘Raspberry Fool’ – Medley of raspberry red and apricot pink. Large flowers are single or semi-double. Long-blooming.
  • ‘Salmon Baby’ – cream colored flowers
  • ‘Strawberries and Cream’ – primrose-yellow flowers with red markings
  • ‘Tip Top Series’ – 10″; Dwarf, early, top flowering. Apricot, Gold, Mahogany, & Scarlet.
  • ‘Tip Top Alaska’ –  Variegated leaves, marbled ivory on green, Deep Orange, Gold, Rose, Salmon, & Scarlet.
  • ‘Vesuvius’ – bluish leaves and salmon flowers
  • ‘Whirlybird Mix’ – 12″; Large upfacing spurless flowers. Cherry Rose, Cream, Deep Red, Gold, Mahogany, Rose, Scarlet & Tangerine.

Semi-trailing types reach a length of two to three feet, making them ideal for winding through borders or cascading from baskets or raised plantings.

  • Cherrelle –  30″ trailing to 50″. Intense cherry red, extra large double flowers. Blooms well above  green foliage.
  • Gleam series— 10″ spreading 15″.  1935 All-America Selections winner. semi-double to double flowers.  Originally found in a convent garden in Mexico in the 1920’s and became popular during the Depression, with seeds selling for five cents each.
  • Troika Series –  30″ early, 50″ later; Bright colors with red five-spot pattern at center and variegated foliage.  Orange, Yellow & red

Climbing types send out six to eight foot  runners that climb trellises like vines.  Fragrant, single flowers of this type are bright and range from yellow and orange to rose and crimson.

  • ‘Amazon Jewel’
  • ‘Crimson Emperor’ –  Vine to 6 feet; Large vivid deep crimson flowers. 
  •  ‘Jewel of Africa’
  • ‘Moonlight’ – Yellow flowers
  • ‘Phoenix’ – Vine to 6 ft; Exotic looking split petals, very bright colors and bicolors including yellow, orange, apricot, peach and red. Attractive ivy-leaf foliage.
  • ‘Purple Emperor’ – 5-6 ft ; Large, single royal-purple flowers with golden reverse and golden spurs. Fades progressively with age to become lovely antique-rose shade
  • ‘Tall Trailing Mix’

Sources

Nasturtium – University of Maryland Extension Home & Garden Information Center

Nasturtium – Missouri Botanical Garden

Nasturtium, A Favorite Old Fashion Flower – University of Vermont

Recommended for Wildlife by

Nasturtium, A Favorite Old Fashion Flower – University of Vermont

Hummingbird Gardens – University of Vermont

Photo Credits

Flickr David Goehring

 

Additional information

Zones

annual

Light

Part Sun, Sun

Soil

Dry, Loam, Moist

Flower Color

Orange, Red, White, Yellow

Flower Season

Fall, Summer

Wildlife Value

Beneficial Insects, Deer Resistant, Hummingbird, Nectar

Notable Features

Fragrant

Local Availability

Available

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