Lively green foliage with vibrant blooms at the top, nasturtium plants are the ideal choice to give your garden a colorful pop.
Nasturtium, classified under the botanical name Tropaeolum, refers to about 80 different species of flowering plants in the Tropaeolaceae family. Originating from South America and certain regions in Central America, this genus includes annuals as well as herbaceous perennials that have become an all-time favorite amongst both, expert and novice gardeners.
Nasturtiums (sometimes also called nasturtian) are generally easy to grow and care for. Their fast growth rate makes them an essential plant for gardeners who want to add beauty to their front or backyards without putting in a lot of efforts. You can choose from a wide range of options as these gorgeous garden plants come in a variety of size and colors. Some species of nasturtium plants have a stunted growth pattern whereas others tend to trail on the ground or climb along walls.
The plants have a deep green circular or shield-shaped leaves with white veins radiating from the center. The distinctively colored nasturtium flowers bloom for months, bringing life to your garden. But what’s truly unique about these plants is the fact that they are completely edible. Different parts of nasturtium plants have long been used in traditional medicine whereas its flowers and leaves are used in salads as well. [Source: HomeGuides]
Take a look at the following article that discusses the different types of nasturtium flowers, including lots of other useful information about how to plant and care for these beauties.
Note that nasturtium also refers to the genus of about seven plants in the Brassicaceae (cabbage) family. The common name for these edible plants is yellowcress or watercress. The article only discusses nasturtiums in the Tropaeolaceae family.
Table of Contents
- The Origin of the Name
- Types of Nasturtium Flowers (According to Growth)
- Types of Nasturtium Flowers (Species)
- Types of Nasturtium Flowers (Hybrids)
- Caring for Nasturtium Plants
- Pests and Diseases
The Origin of the Name
Nasturtium literally means ‘nose-twister’ or ’nose-tweaker.’ The term was derived from the effect that the peppery flavor of these plants has on nasal passages when ingested.
On the other hand, its scientific name Tropaeolum (pronounced tro-PEE-oh-lum) was given by the Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus on a trip to South America. It was derived from an ancient custom amongst Romans who would hang the armor of the defeated soldiers on trophy poles set up on the ground. According to Linnaeus, the stalks of nasturtium resembled the poles while the red flowers looked like the blood-stained helmets of the beaten army men. [Source: Urban Cultivator]
Types of Nasturtium Flowers (According to Growth)
Most of the commonly grown nasturtium species are dwarf varieties. They are bushy plants with compact growth habit and feature dense foliage that gets adorned with pretty flowers during bloom time. This makes them the perfect option for garden borders, edge plantation or simply serving as an impressive groundcover.
Some of the most popular dwarf nasturtiums include Peach Melba, Strawberries and Cream and Whirlybird.
As the name suggests, these plants tend to trail, spreading more than the dwarf counterparts. Semi-trailing nasturtiums develop into vines. They are grown near garden walls or on fences where they can reach lengths of about 3 feet. They also perform well in hanging baskets and look really impressive when planted in window boxes.
Common species in this category include Tip Top Alaska, Empress of India, and Troika nasturtiums to name a few.
These nasturtiums are like the floral version of Rapunzel’s hair. They will spread far and wide in the garden beds and can easily reach heights of up to 10 feet if planted near a fence, pole or trellis that it can climb on. Such nasturtium plants produce bigger but fewer flowers as compared to the dwarf and semi-trailing species.
Popular varieties of tall-climbing nasturtium vines include Jewel of Africa, Apricot Twist, and the famous Tall-Trailing mix.
Types of Nasturtium Flowers (Species)
Scientific name: Tropaeolum Majus
The most common type of nasturtium flower, Tropaeolum majus is the go-to garden plant for anyone who wants to give their front or backyard a stunning look. Native to the Andes, this low-maintenance annual flowering plant consists of large disc-shaped leaves that serve as the perfect backdrop to its bright orange or red flowers. The blooms of Tropaeolum majus are larger than the average size of most nasturtium flowers. In fact, the term majus which literally means ‘big,’ points to its bloom size in addition to its seed pods which contain equally large seeds.
The plant produces the extravagant blooms throughout the summer season. Its flowers are strongly scented and will uplift the aura of the entire place in which they are growing. This species comes in both, dwarf and trailing varieties. You can plant it in garden beds and borders as well as use it to cover fences and trellises. The dramatic color of these flowers will add an old-world charm to your garden when planted in pots and containers.
Common names for garden nasturtium are Indian Cress, Monks Cress, Peruvian Cress, Mexican Cress or simply, common nasturtium. Hybrids of common nasturtium are widely grown for ornamental purposes in various types of gardens.
Scientific name: Tropaeolum Azureum
Native to the mountainous regions of Chile, blue nasturtium is a perennial plant. With a vining growth habit, this lovely climber produces azure blue flowers with a white center. Sometimes it can also produce lavender colored blooms that measure about 1 ½” inches across. It is hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11 and prefers full sun and mildly acidic, moist soil conditions. Blue nasturtiums look great in alpines and rock gardens.
Scientific name: Tropaeolum Peregrinum
Originating from Peru, the Canary Creeper is a climbing nasturtium that grows over 8 feet high. It consists of small but lively, round green leaves that measure around 2 inches in diameter. The flowers are roughly the same size and feature varying shades of yellow, ranging from bright sun-kissed yellow to pale, creamy tones. However, most of the time the plant produces vibrant yellow flowers like the color of a canary’s feathers (which is how it got its name).
Grow Canary Creeper on railings and trellises for support or plant in hanging baskets to decorate balconies and patios.
Other names for Canary Creeper include Canary Bird Flower, Canarybird Vine, and Canary nasturtium.
Scientific name: Tropaeolum Polyphyllum
Wreath nasturtium originally comes from the mountainous regions of Chile and Argentina where the locals call it the great soldier of the mountains. It is a low-growing tuberous perennial featuring silvery green leaves. It is known for producing large and showy, double flowers of intense yellow color. The plant blooms excessively in midsummer and performs well in a wide range of climates. It can survive temperatures below the freezing point and is hardly affected by poor soil conditions.
Scientific name: Tropaeolum speciosum
Scottish Flame Flower, Flame Flower or simply flame nasturtium is native to Chile where it is often called corralito. It is a really impressive plant that produces dazzling scarlet flowers surrounded by delicate, green lobed-leaves. The flowers are shaped like funnels and grow on sleek and slender stalks. When the bloom time is over, these rich red flowers mature into shiny blueberries.
Since it is a perennial, the blooms will return again next year given that you water and fertilize the plant properly. In most scenarios, these nasturtium plants easily reach heights of up to 10 feet if supported accordingly.
Flame nasturtium can be easily found in USDA hardiness zone 8. It is best grown in peat pots or garden beds that have peat mixed with the soil. This species prefers partial shade and will perform well under trees or dense shrubs. You can use it for edging or for populating window boxes, railings, fences, trellises, and the likes.
Scientific name: Tropaeolum Tricolor
Tropaeolum Tricolor, commonly known as Three-Colored Indian Cress or the Chilean nasturtium, will leave you staring at the plant in awe.
It is a stunning, rare vine mostly found in its native regions in Chile. As is evident by the name, these plants produce a fascinating mix of yellow, blue and scarlet flowers that are bound to catch every eye from afar.
Growing to a height of about 10 feet, this tall climber features dense foliage that will quickly dominate any garden wall, trellis or fences. Three-Colored Indian Cress has wiry stems that bear dainty leaves. As the cold season arrives, the remarkable blooms start appearing. What makes these richly colored flowers all the more impressive is the fact they grow in the same direction. This makes the flowering vines look like schools of brightly colored tropical fish swimming in the air.
In the home gardens, Chilean nasturtium is valued for providing color during the cold season when little else is blooming. However, it is hard to find and difficult to grow unless you are a skilled gardener with access to the finest garden centers.
Mashua or Tuberous Nasturtium
Scientific name: Tropaeolum Tuberosum
First discovered in South America, mashua refers to a type of nasturtium plant that is mostly grown for edible purposes. It is a tuberous flowering plant that serves as a food source for the natives in the Andes or to be more specific, people in Peru, Bolivia as well as Ecuador.
Mashua consists of tube-shaped bright flowers that look a lot like the common nasturtium flowers. The plants feature vigorous growth and can flourish in poor soils in addition to competing with weeds. It is suitable for growing in temperature zones but has the danger of frost and so, requires protection if grown in regions where the winter temperature can drop close to the freezing point.
The locals value this nasturtium plant for its tubers which can be used as an ingredient in many dishes or simply consumed on its own. Its leaves have a peppery taste and are rich in vitamin C. They can be used in salads whereas the tubers are cooked or roasted as a side dish.
This type of nasturtium plants is a perennial that is hardly grown in home gardens. It prefers full sun or partial shade and soils that are slightly acidic or neutral in nature. Tropaeolum Pentaphyllum is a trailing type of nasturtium and can spread to over 8 feet wide. If given proper support, it can climb as high as 12 feet in total. The bloom color of these nasturtiums ranges from coral and apricot shades to greenish-yellow or plain yellow flowers.
A perennial species originating from Chile, Tropaeolum brachyceras produces bright yellow flowers with purple markings. The flowers are quite small (1 inch in diameter) but what they lack in size, they make up for it with their abundant growth. It is a climbing variety and thus, requires the support of trellises or any other similar structure.
Types of Nasturtium Flowers (Hybrids)
Alaska Apricot Nasturtium
Alaska Apricot is an amazing garden plant that will add a pop of color to your backyard. As the name suggests, it produces apricot-colored flowers that bring a warm feeling to the place despite their small size. The ornamental blooms are highlighted all the more by variegated leaves. Alaska Apricot belongs to the category of dwarf nasturtiums. These compact plants form mounds rather than trailing across the garden beds.
To grow these charming blooms, plant nasturtium seeds directly in the soil when there’s no danger of frost. You can also plant them in peat pots to brighten up the indoor space.
Empress of India
Justly named, the Empress of India, nasturtium flower is a royal beauty that’s definitely one-of-its-kind. Prized for its deep green foliage accentuated by rich red flowers, this plant is the ultimate show-stopper in any garden. It features a compact growth pattern that gives it a neat and tidy appearance without requiring frequent pruning. This bushy plant attracts hummingbirds and butterflies and looks elegant when planted on its own.
The interesting thing is that you can use its green leaves to add a peppery taste to your favorite salad or use its edible flowers as a topping on cakes and other exotic dishes.
As the name suggests, Banana Split nasturtium consists of pale, cream flowers that are often adorned with specks of red near the center. If the yellow flowers were placed closely together in a bouquet, it would surely resemble a banana split drizzled with strawberry sauce. This plant is easily grown from seeds. You can plant nasturtium seeds for Banana Split in borders, pots, and containers.
Jewel of Africa
This type of nasturtium flowers comes in a wide range of colors. You can pick from deep red, bright yellow, cream as well as peach tones. It is a semi-trailing plant that can grow up to 5 feet tall.
Caring for Nasturtium Plants
The maintenance needs for nasturtium plants varies from species to species. Most of the commonly grown varieties are quite resilient. As long as they are watered regularly and receive an adequate amount of sunlight, nasturtium plants will grow well. They typically thrive in well-drained soils. However, some species are sensitive to soil conditions and surrounding temperatures.
Make sure you do thorough research before planting these charmers in your garden.
Pests and Diseases
Different types of nasturtium flowers are affected by different pests and diseases. Insects such as caterpillars, moths, and butterflies also love feeding off the leaves and flowers and nasturtium plants.
Therefore, when growing these plants in your garden, look out for aphids, dot moths, garden carpet moths, cabbage white butterfly
Nasturtiums amplify the beauty of gardens, bring life to indoor places and of course, their edible flowers are a huge plus for gardening/ food enthusiasts. Whether you opt for bushy plants or the trailing varieties, nasturtiums allow you to spruce up your backyard and give it a luxurious look.