Nasturtium – Plant of the week

This wonderful plant is often taken for granted. As well as producing brightly coloured, cheerful flowers, it is the ideal plant for a child’s first garden. The seeds are large and easily handled by little fingers, and the plants are easy to grow. Toddlers who tire of admiring the flowers and decide to eat them instead are in no danger: both flowers and leaves are edible. Kids are also fascinated by water balling on the rounded leaves, resembling globules of quicksilver.

Plant details


Common name: Nasturtium

Botanic name: Tropaeolum majus

Description: A fast-growing annual from Peru, which has pale green, umbrella-shaped leaves with long stems. Flowers are produced in summer and autumn and come in shades of orange, red and yellow. There are trailing and bushy types, with single, semi-double or double flowers. Variegated varieties are also available.

Best climate: Nasturtiums grow in most areas of Australia, except for cold, mountain zones.

Uses

groundcover
massed display
along fences
hanging baskets
salads

Good points

quick and easy to grow
colourful, long-lasting flowers
attractive foliage
trailing and bushy types available

Downside

Nasturtiums self-seed readily and may pop up in places where they are not wanted.

Growing nasturtiums

Nasturtiums like a sunny, well-drained position. They will tolerate a wide range of soil types, but a moderately fertile soil is best.
Sow seed directly into the garden. In warm areas sow from spring to early autumn, but in cold areas sow in spring only.
Don’t overfertilise – too much nitrogen will produce lush foliage at the expense of flowers.
Seeds germinate in 2-3 weeks, and plants start to flower in 10-12 weeks from sowing.
Pick flowers regularly to prolong the flowering period.

Getting started

For our makeover Don used potted nasturtiums to provide an instant effect for television (Nasturtium ‘Alaska Series’, around $5 for 100mm or 4″ pots). However, packet seed is readily available at nurseries and supermarkets and is a much cheaper way to go.

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