Tropaeolum majus

The nasturtium is a bit of a rambler. It is a fast growing annual plant that comes from Peru and Ecuador in South America. It has large round leaves and red to orange or shades of yellow trumpet like flowers. It can be grown all year, but will flower mainly in Spring to Autumn.

The two main seedling varieties available being ‘Jewel Mix’ which is more sprawly, and ‘Alaska Mix’ which is more compact and has variegated leaves. In seed packs there are more unusual varieties which include single colours and double flowers.



The best way to grow it is from seed. You just poke a finger in the ground, or in a 10cm pot and simply drop a couple of seeds in. Seedlings can also be planted, but try and find the youngest and shortest ones possible, as they can get very lanky very quickly.

It would make a good plant for school garden, as the large seeds are easy to direct sow into the garden and will germinate in just a couple of weeks. The growth of the seedling is then quite rapid, something somewhat impatient children will appreciate.

When growing on, it doesn’t need much fertiliser and in fact too much manure and it will go all leafy and not flower much at all.


This plant is perfect for hanging baskets, pots, retaining walls and garden beds. It can be quite dramatic when trailed over walls. It is also often used in vegetable and herb gardens where it is believed to attract insects away from the food plants.

A big claim to fame for this plant is that it has edible flowers which are used in salads. The seeds and leaves are also edible and many chefs around the world have incorporated them into foods such as pesto, where they apparently add a peppery taste. Funnily enough, watercress have round leaves and they’re a little peppery too.


One of the traits of this plant is that it easily self seeds, which means it can take control of parts of your garden, competing staunchly against other plants, so much so it is considered to be an environmental weed in some regions. That makes it a great city plant, but maybe it shouldn’t be grown in a country garden. It can be controlled by pulling out young seedlings, or digging deeper to remove larger ones. It still may come up a couple more times, but persistently removing it will eventually stop it.

 For keen photographers, try capturing balls of water that form on the leaves. Yes, it is probably the leaf of this plant that is arguably more interesting than the flower. They are an interesting shape and a rather appealing mat green.

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