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Nasturtiums - Cool Season Flowers with Hot Season Flair

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Nasturtiums Flower

Nasturtiums Blossom

Marie Iannotti

Overview:

Nasturtiums are loved for their rich, saturated jewel-toned colors. They are fast and easy to grow and, in fact, do best with a little neglect. There are varieties for almost every gardening purpose: bushy plants for borders and edges, trailing plants for walls and containers and climbers to add dramatic height in a garden. The leaves and flowers are edible, with a peppery tang, and even the seed pods are used as a substitute for capers.

Latin Name:

Tropaeolum

Common Name(s): Nasturtium

USDA Zone:

Annuals. Some varieties are perennial in USDA Zones 9 - 11.

Size:

Varies with variety.
Bushy plants can get to about 12" H - 18" W.
Trailing types grow about 3-4' H.
Climbers can get to 10'+ H.

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Period:

Early summer through fall in cooler climates.
Fall through spring in milder climates.

Description:

Nasturtiums plants grow very full, with spots of brightly colored blossoms poking out of masses of foliage. Leaves are rounded, like a water lily. The flowers are an open funnel shape with a curious little claw or spur on the underside. They are most often seen in rich shades of yellow, orange, , pink, red and mahogany but there are also varieties in subdued shades of butter yellow and cream. The ‘Alaska’ Series and the climbing ‘Jewel of Africa’ have variegated leaves.

Design Tips:

Nasturtiums will spill beautifully over walls and onto pavers, when used as edging plants. They also hold up very well in containers. Climbing varieties, such as ‘Canary Creeper’ will amble up and through shrubs. Bushy, ground hugging plants will fill in blooming gaps among complementary colored day lilies and roses. And you can use clusters to brighten up the vegetable garden.

Suggested Varieties:

  • Alaska Series - Bushy, dwarf plants with heavily variegated foliage and the blossoms are held above the foliage.
  • Jewel Series - Bushy, dwarf with double and semi-double blooms. A profuse bloomer, but flowers can tend to get lost under the foliage.
  • 'Peach Melba' - Busy, dwarf with semi-double buttery yellow flowers splashed with orangy-red centers. Good for containers.
  • 'Canary Creeper' (T. Peregrinum) - Perennial vines with yellow flowers that look like bird’s wings.

Cultural Notes:

Nasturtiums are usually started from seed, so you won’t often find them available as plants, at nurseries. However, the seed germinate quickly and the plants will be up and blooming in little time. Seeds can be sow directly in the garden, when the soil has warmed, or started indoors about 2-4 weeks earlier. Nasturtiums don’t especially like being transplanted, so starting indoor seedlings in peat pots will reduce transplant shock. Once planted, they tend to take care of themselves.

Maintenance:

  • Nasturtiums like regular weekly waterings. They will survive some drought conditions, but flowering will diminish and the foliage can begin to look ratty.

  • Deadheading is not usually necessary, unless a plant has been stressed and is holding on to spent blooms.

  • They do, however, thrive in lean soil. Don’t feed nasturtium plants at all during the growing season. Fertilizer causes them to put out more foliage and less flowers.

    Pests & Diseases: Nasturtiums are very prone to aphids and are sometimes used as a trap crop in vegetable gardens. A strong blast of water is usually enough to get rid of the aphids. They can also be prone to flea beetles, slugs and the caterpillars of cabbage white butterflies.

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