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PlantFiles: Bolivian Nasturtium
Tropaeolum tricolor

Family: Tropaeolaceae
Genus: Tropaeolum (tro-PEE-oh-lum) (Info)
Species: tricolor (TRY-kull-lur) (Info)

Synonym:Tropaeolum tricolorum

33 members have or want this plant for trade.

Vines and Climbers

10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

9-12 in. (22-30 cm)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun


Bloom Color:
Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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By DORA777
Thumbnail #1 of Tropaeolum tricolor by DORA777

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Thumbnail #7 of Tropaeolum tricolor by Ursula

There are a total of 26 photos.
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2 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive eliasastro On Apr 21, 2011, eliasastro from Athens
Greece (Zone 10a) wrote:

Very easy plant. Better to raise it from rhizome than from seeds, as seeds are usually very slow and erratic in germination. Also, young seedlings are very sensitive to heat and may die in the summer.
A friend gave me a rhizome she bought from I sowed it in late October. Left it outdoors, as this winter was frostless. It started growing very thin shoots and then thin foliage.
The whole plant was so small that i couldn' t believe that it would flower this spring, but it actually did! Flowers have a truly fantastic color and they look pretty strange. Total length is now only 50cm (20 inches). I hope next year it grows bigger!

Positive Ursula On Nov 29, 2004, Ursula from Santiago
Chile (Zone 9b) wrote:

Tropaeolum tricolor is a Chilean endemic vine, so why call them 'Bolivian Nasturtium'?

This lovely climber with deep red or orangish-red flowers, enhanced with blue and yellow, produces a tuber. It reaches up to 3 m height and blooms from late winter to early summer.

Requires well-drained slightly humid soil, neutral pH, high luminosity and full sun exposure. Also requires support to climb. Normally they will bloom the second year if grown from seeds, although from the third year on they will have the most amazing flower-display.

Sowing recommendations: propagate from seeds in autumn in a mix of: 2 portions compost, 1 portion regular garden soil and 1 portion sharp river sand. Cover the seeds with a fine layer of sharp river sand. They will germinate mid to late winter and should not be transplanted before one year, after they have lost their foliage and have formed a tuber.

Since the tubers bury themselves very deep into the soil in nature, if you want to grow them you must use sowing pots with a depth of at least 7" (18cm). Sow no more than 3 seeds per pot and do not transplant them before the tubers have developed to a proper size after one year. Soil must be kept humid, not wet.

These Tropaeolums require some cold to germinate. Therefore, if your climate is warmer than a zone 9b, they will require some cold treatment. Proceed as described before, then cover with a plastic bag and seal it. Place it in the less cold part of the refrigerator (usually the vegetables compartment) for two weeks. Check them permanently and if they germinate before this period is over, take them outdoors. If the have not germinated after 2 weeks, take them outdoors for 2 weeks (without the plastic cover) and then repeat the refrigerator procedure.

As with so many other Chilean Native plants, good drainage is essential. If the tubers are planted in soggy soil they will rot.

Once the blooming period is over, foliage will die back. At this time start watering them only a bit once a week if it does not rain in your area.

Update January 4, 2007

Today, in order to satisfy some question from a fellow DG member, I went to my balcony and emptied the pot where I sowed T. tricolorum seeds on April 24, 2005 and found the tubers of the posted picture at the bottom of the 15cm (6") styrofoam pot where I originally sowed them (i.e., first time I remove them). They must be repotted into a much deeper pot now.

I knew Tropaeolums have erratic germination, but was very surprised to find such different tuber-sizes for seeds I sowed simultaneously (and I knew they were fresh, because I collected them LOL). I even found three perfectly healthy seeds that have not germinated so far (and there are probably more in the soil mix).

I suspect the two big red tubers germinated around June 2005 (Winter for us). The yellowish medium size tuber must have germinated one year later (i.e., around June 2006) and the 2 very small ones could be recent 'offsets' of the biggest one.

The tubers will be repotted into a 40 to 50cm deep pot (16 to 19 1/2") at a depth of some 20 cm (8").


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Austin, Texas

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