They can also be used as trap plants to lure aphids away from desirable plants. Some varieties of nasturtiums form a bush; others are trailing.

Their Latin name means "nose twister" because of the way people sometimes react to the peppery, sweet taste. During World War II, the seeds were used as a pepper substitute. Nasturtiums can also be used as trap plants to lure aphids away from desirable plants.

paul gauguin painting

(Nasturtiums and Dahlias in a Basket (1884), Paul Gauguin, public domain)

Two types

Nasturtiums can be divided into two main types: trailing or climbing (Tropaeolum majus) and bush or dwarf (Tropaeolum minus). The primary difference is their growth habit. Trailing nasturtiums form long vines, while bush varieties remain more compact.

Trailing nasturtiums are an excellent choice for hanging baskets and window boxes since the vines cascade and climb beautifully. Bush varieties work well in smaller gardens with limited space.

Nasturtiums can be grown as perennials in zones 9 through 11.

rustic setting with nasturtiums

Selecting and preparing the planting site

Nasturtiums do well in soils that are not rich, and they don't usually need additional fertilizer unless the soil is extremely poor. Too much nitrogen encourages more foliage than flowers. Soil must drain well.

Plant nasturtiums where they will receive 6-8 hours of full sun. They will grow in partial shade (3–6 hours of sunlight), but won’t bloom as well.

Know the growth habit of the nasturtium variety you want to grow. You'll usually need supports for trailing types.

purple climbing nasturtiums

When to plant

Nasturtium seeds can be sown directly in the garden or started indoors. However, the roots are fragile and prone to transplant shock. Direct sowing is preferable. Start seeds indoors 2-4 weeks before your last spring frost date. Sow seeds outdoors 1-2 weeks after your last spring frost date. Soil temperatures should be 55° to 65°F (12°-18°C). Always protect young seedlings from late frosts.

golden fringed nasturtiums

How to plant

In the garden, sow the seeds 1/2" deep and 10-12 inches apart. Plants should germinate in 7-10 days.

fringed yellow nasturtiums

How to harvest

Flowers and leaves can be harvested anytime. Harvest seedpods before seeds have a chance to mature and harden. To avoid damaging the plant, always use scissors to snip off leaves, flowers, and seedpods.

If allowed to mature, save the chickpea-size seeds to replant next spring. Let seeds dry on the vine and fall off. Clean, dry, and store in a paper envelope in a cool, dark place.

Seeds can also be preserved and pickled like capers.

nasturtium seeds

Popular varieties

nasturtiums with roasted vegetables


Aphids are especially attracted to yellow nasturtiums. Additionally, they may also attract harmful cabbage moths which, in turn, helps protect tender cabbage, kale, and broccoli, as well as other members of the Brassica family.

Nasturtiums can also attract beneficial bugs like hoverflies that eat aphids.

Nasturtium flowers are versatile; attractive in the landscape and useful in the garden. Nasturtium plants are fully edible and growing nasturtiums can be used to lure aphids away from other plants in the garden. Nasturtium plants are easy to grow and may be climbing, cascading, or bushy. Care of nasturtiums is minimal; in fact, nasturtium plants are one of those specimens that thrive on neglect. Rich, fertile soil or too much fertilizer results in lush foliage growth and few nasturtium flowers. The old-fashioned nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus, is popular in the garden as an edible. Use nasturtium flowers as a spiller in window boxes and hanging baskets. Plant bush-type nasturtiums as aphid traps in the vegetable garden. Growing nasturtiums may add a peppery taste to salads or decorate a cake. Nasturtium Varieties Easy to grow nasturtium plants come in more than 50 varieties. Whichever type you choose for the garden, plant in a full to part sun area with well-drained but otherwise poor soil for more and bigger blooms. Dwarf and variegated nasturtium varieties add an ornamental element to small containers or mixed in with solid green foliage plants and white blooms. If using the nasturtium in a container combination, make sure the other plants do not require a lot of water or fertilizer, as the nasturtium needs little of either. How To Grow Nasturtiums Large seeds of nasturtium plants should be sown directly into their permanent location, as nasturtium flowers do not transplant well. If you must start seeds of nasturtium flowers and then transplant them, use peat pots which can be planted into the ground without disturbing the roots of the growing nasturtium seedling. The seed coat may be manipulated for faster germination when growing nasturtium; nick the seed or soak overnight in lukewarm water. Plant immediately into a container or area of the garden which allows plenty of room for growth. You may place a trellis near the planting area of climbing nasturtium varieties and train the colorful vines to climb with little effort. Now that you see the ease of how to grow nasturtiums, add several in the spring and summer landscape. Care of nasturtiums is amazingly simple, plant them and forget them, except to enjoy this perky, little flower.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Nasturtium Flowers – How To Grow Nasturtiums