There are 80 species of nasturtium flowers, and they're all gorgeous. Originally from South America, some are annual and some are perennial -- you have to look at the species you're interested in to see which is which.
Most pests don't bother them, they self-seed in mild climates, they flourish in poor soils, and they'll spread as far as you let them. What more could you ask for?
Nasturtiums come in trailing (vine) and compact (bush) varieties. Trailing varieties are great in situations where you'd use any other vine: they can be trained up fences, posts, walls, or trellises to good effect. Compact varieties are useful in borders, low hedges, or to give clumps of color to your landscape.
Plant them near tomatoes, radishes, Brassica species like cabbage, squash, and cucumbers to take advantage of their pest-repelling effects (they are like garlic in that regard). A climbing variety would look great if trained up a pole or fruit tree.
Nasturtium flowers, buds, and leaves have a peppery taste, similar to arugula or watercress -- the hotter the sun, the spicier the plant. Nasturtiums can be grown in partial shade for a milder taste but will flower less there.
These would make a spectacular perennial flower display in Southwest-themed gardens and give hits of bright color to any theme garden, including herb garden designs (some people consider nasturtium a herb and grind the dried seeds as a pepper substitute).
Plant nasturtium seeds once the weather warms up, 10 to 15 inches apart and 1/2 to one inch deep. If you soak nasturtium seed overnight before planting, you get a better germination rate. The seeds germinate quickly in any case. They are ideal for children's gardens as the seeds are large enough for a small child to handle easily.
Since nasturtiums don't like being transplanted, it's uncommon to find nasturtium plants in stores.
Water right away, then only water nasturtium plants again if the soil is dry, about once a week. They do not like wet areas or extremely dry conditions. Don't give the plant any fertilizer or it will not flower well.
Picking nasturtium flowers will make the plant bloom longer, from spring to late autumn (fall through spring in hot climates). Most nasturtium plants can't tolerate a hard freeze (although there are a few hardy varieties that can last down to 5 degrees F!).
Aphids are one of the few pests that like nasturtiums, and spraying infested plants with a hose is usually enough to take care of the problem. They are often planted near aphid-infested plants to attract aphids away from a more delicate plant (like a prize rose bush). Growing a plant for this sort of use is referred to as a "trap crop".
Watch out when planting trailing nasturtium near areas that may have chemicals on them (neighbors' yards, culverts, etc) so that the plants don't trail down into those areas and become contaminated.
Once you pick your nasturtium flowers and leaves you can make a nasturtium salad, or cook the leaves as you would any other green. The buds can be pickled to make a substitute for capers.
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