Nasturtiums are not yet a common sight in the garden, which is a shame because these particular plants are a great asset to the garden. And that with the least amount of work. Nasturtium is really easy to cultivate – you can sow in minutes, the nasturtium needs almost no care.


The nasturtium is a willing ornamental and useful plant that grows creeping or climbing and likes to climb a few meters. It is not demanding on the soil, but you can give it the best soil depending on the purpose of cultivation:

  • If you want to harvest the leaves of the nasturtium to use in your salad, you should sow the seeds in a nice, rich, humus-rich soil. Such soil promotes leaf growth.
  • If you are looking to harvest as many flowers as possible for wonderful food decorations, or if you want to fruit the flowers so that they develop seeds, you should sow the nasturtium in the most nutrient-poor, lean soil possible. In such soil, the plant fears for survival and therefore puts more energy into the flowers and seeds.

It is more important that the plants get enough light at the chosen location. It should be at least partial shade. The Tropaeolum also thrives well in direct sun. And the soil should be permeable, or the bucket should be equipped with a drain. The nasturtium does not tolerate waterlogging.

Where this soil is – in the garden bed, in a bucket, in any pots – the nasturtium doesn’t really matter either. It will also grow in a fairly small flower pot. However, it will quickly develop such a plant mass there that the pot no longer stands securely. The container should have a little weight to oppose the far-reaching plant. If you want to sow directly outdoors, you should wait for the consecration. Frost does not want (and cannot) have to endure the nasturtium. You can of course grow young plants indoors and then plant them in the garden in mid-May, but this is actually superfluous as the nasturtium develops into a stately plant so quickly.

Wherever you want a nasturtium plant to grow, put a few seeds one to two centimeters deep in the soil. Then all you need is a little patience. After a few days you should see the first seedlings. If nothing is visible after about 10 days, something went wrong.

Nasturtium care

When the first little plants appear, you must ensure regular watering, nasturtiums grow so eagerly that they could dry out quickly.

When it comes to fertilizing, you have a choice: if you want a lot of flowers and seeds, it is better to do without fertilizer. If you are interested in lively leaf growth, you should treat the Tropaeolum to some natural fertilizer. That was all, otherwise the nasturtium does not require any special care.

The flowers will develop between June and September. The seeds then mature and can be harvested in August at the earliest.

Annual/perennial – overwinter nasturtiums

Most of the time you will hear that the nasturtium is an annual plant. That is not completely right. Rather, it is true that the nasturtium is usually cultivated as an annual here, as it simply does not tolerate sub-zero temperatures.

In fact, it is a perennial plant. If you have grown a magnificent nasturtium in a bucket, you could overwinter it in a bright and frost-free location. Whether it’s worth it with this fast-growing herb, or whether you reserve the valuable wintering space for plants that develop more slowly, is a matter of consideration. An alternative to re-sowing next year is to take a few cuttings in the fall and grow them over the winter with little loss of space in winter quarters.

But you could also rely on the nasturtium “overwintering in the bed”. It usually does just that by seeding itself. So all you have to do next spring is wait for the seeds to germinate.

The nasturtium brings quadruple harvest

Harvest no. 1 begins in May, as soon as the first strong leaves have developed, you can harvest them and use them in salads. The leaves are very flavorful. So you can also do a few experiments with them apart from a green salad, for example cheese salad or egg salad with nasturtium.

Next up are the flowers, as I said before June at the earliest. They can be used as a decoration with almost any cold dish that has a savory and fresh taste. Wherever you would use cress or cucumber for decoration, the Tropaeolum will certainly fit.

Immediately afterwards you can harvest the immature seeds of the nasturtium, which you can pickle in vinegar and then use like capers. The seeds are also used decoratively on small appetizers.

The mature nasturtium seeds complete the harvest round. They can be removed from August at the earliest and stored dry and protected from light for next year’s sowing.


The nasturtium family consists of only one genus (Tropaeolum), but it includes around 90 species of nasturtium. Some species are cultivated as ornamentals, one species is grown for food:

The Greater Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

This is the nasturtium, whose large flowers in yellow, orange or red you know from restaurants or magazines. The nasturtium evolved in western South America, Brazil and Peru, where it grows in moist locations. We now know that the nasturtium is a hybrid, but not that it arose from parent species.

Since benzyl mustard oil of the species has an antibacterial effect, the nasturtium is also used for medicinal purposes, today and already by the Incas, who used the nasturtium as a painkiller and wound healing agent.

The Lesser Nasturtium (Tropaeolum minus)

is a low species that develops showy dark green and slightly bronzed foliage and velvety red flowers. This nasturtium does not climb, but grows bushy and is only about 25 cm high. They can be cultivated well in bowls and balcony boxes. It is suitable as a foreground plant for a flower bed and as a bed border.

Die Knollige Kapuzinerkresse (Tropaeolum tuberosum)

Quite an interesting variant for the culinary curious home gardener. This bulbous nasturtium developed in the Andes and was already in use as a cultivated plant when Columbus arrived. The Tropaeolum tuberosum is still used today in South America as a food, it is grown on large areas in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and northern Argentina.

The main growing areas are at high altitudes, between 3,000 and 4,000 meters, where the climate can become quite harsh, so cultivation in Germany should be possible. An additional argument for this is that the tubers of this nasturtium smell rather unpleasant when raw and taste quite hot. Both will improve if the tubers are exposed to frost. This is much more possible here than in the actual growing area. Another advantage of this tuber, called Mashua, is that it can be grown on nutrient-poor soils, where it needs neither crop protection nor fertilization.

Canary Capuchin (Tropaeolum peregrinum)

This nasturtium also comes from the Peruvian Andes, where it grows wild in ravine forests. Only then was it cultivated in the Canary Islands and from there it came to Europe. It is cultivated as an ornamental plant, grows vigorously and climbs up to 3 meters high. The leaves are more delicate than the other cress. The small flowers are strikingly lemon yellow and have funny fringes at the top.

Against the background of its original origin, it is doubtful that this nasturtium can only be grown here as an annual. On English pages about this nasturtium you can also read that it is a reliably hardy species. In England it is sometimes a few degrees warmer than here, but this plant is certainly worth trying to overwinter in a cold house or even outdoors.

Useful nasturtium

Nasturtium is not only decorative, it also fulfills a number of tasks in the garden:

  • First of all, nasturtium is a talented designer. It climbs up fences, pillars and trellises and can green up an entire privacy screen or a garbage can cover in no time at all.
  • Nasturtium can also be used in the scented garden, the whole plant gives off an aromatic smell, the flowers smell quite intense.
  • With this scent, the nasturtium drives away pests: ants , aphids, scale insects and other lice, cabbage whites and snails avoid the nasturtium.
  • That is why the nasturtium is the ideal neighbor for many vegetable plants.
  • Nasturtium can be used very well on fruit trees to ward off pests by sowing them on tree discs – you can hardly free every single leaf of a fruit tree from aphids.

Nasturtium in herbal medicine

The nasturtium has just received a special honor: it was voted medicinal plant of the year 2013. The mustard oils it contains are amazingly powerful secondary plant substances. They were actually developed to protect the plant, to protect it from harmful microorganisms or to ward off pests that cause damage by feeding, but they also have a lot to offer to humans.

The benzyl mustard oil has an antibiotic effect and in a broad spectrum against all possible microorganisms: enterococci (including sepsis and urinary tract infections) and staphylococci (numerous infections, this group includes the dreaded hospital pathogen MRSA), Escherichia coli (possibly an infectious intestinal germ), Haemophilus influenzae (Causative agents of respiratory diseases), Proteus mirabilis (including urinary tract infections, wound infections), Acinetobacter (wound infections, pneumonia) and Enterobacter (inflammation of the urinary tract and respiratory tract) are among the bacteria that react to benzyl mustard oil, really an exceptional range. An antiviral effect of the mustard oil of the nasturtium has already been proven, and the proliferation of influenza viruses was strongly inhibited.

The active ingredients from nasturtium are used in herbal medicine to treat bronchitis, sinus infections and urinary tract infections. In contrast to antibiotics, they have not caused any resistant germs so far. Externally, the plant is sometimes used for muscle pain and bruises as a blood circulation-promoting agent.

Nasturtium to marvel at

The nasturtiums or tropaeolum are the only genus of plants that exist in the nasturtium family. This in turn belongs to the order of cruciferous plants, and many other plant families have a lot to offer: the cruciferous plants (including all types of cabbage and rapeseed), the caper plants (of course, the capers), the melon plants (papaya) and the Moringaceae (Moringas, highly interesting exotic species) for example.

The plant group “cress” also got its name from the mustard oil just mentioned, because they are responsible for the hot taste, and cresso meant “hot” in Old High German. The name “Nasturtium” cress is said to be due to the fact that the flower with cap and spur is reminiscent of the headgear of the Capuchin monks.

You could also use the bulbous nasturtium in a completely different way: If you are often involved in heated discussions with members of the male sex, you could perhaps give them a tasty snack from Mashua – studies of ancient Inca customs have shown that the testosterone levels in male test animals decrease Consumption of mashua fell by around 50%… (just kidding, of course, please don’t copy it!).

If you like to grow really interesting plants, you should definitely try the nasturtium. Or rather: the nasturtiums, because this plant genus has several surprising members to offer.

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