Nasturtiums add an energetic burst of color to your garden with their vibrant, hibiscus-like flowers and lush green vines. They’re always a favorite plant in my kitchen garden. You might want to grow these bright flowers for reasons beyond their obvious visual appeal; you can toss both the leaves and the flowers in your salad bowl, and if that’s not enough, the plants actually help shield the other plants in your garden from pests. 

Let’s look at how to grow your own nasturtium flowers from seed in your garden space. 

THE BENEFITS OF GROWING NASTURTIUM FLOWERS

Before we dive into the how-to’s of growing nasturtiums, let’s explore why they’re a staple in home gardens. I mean, if you’re not already sold that these tropical-looking flowers are a great choice for your garden.

Reason #1 to grow nasturtiums

Both the flowers and the leaves of nasturtium plants are edible. They actually have a peppery taste reminiscent of arugula. Use the edible flowers as a pretty garnish. Brighten up salads, sandwiches, and wraps with the lily-pad shaped leaves or flowers. You’ll enjoy vitamins and nutrients like vitamin C in a form your body can easily absorb.

Reason #2 to grow nasturtiums

Nasturtiums are well-known for their natural pest-repellent abilities, which makes them excellent companion plants in your vegetable garden. They produce airborne chemicals that repel common pests like aphids, whiteflies, squash bugs, and cabbage loopers. So plant nasturtiums next to your leafy greens, cucumbers, and squash so they can act like little garden bodyguards for these pest-prone plants.

Reason #3 to grow nasturtiums

It always amazes me how some flowering plants can both repel bad bugs and attract good bugs, but that’s exactly what nasturtiums manage to do. Flowers are scented and come in shades of yellow, orange, and red, which look really inviting to beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies.

Reason #4 to grow nasturtiums

Nasturtiums are incredibly easy to grow, which is perfect for first-time gardeners.

Fun Fact:

Most of the flowers, herbs, and veggies you might want to grow in your vegetable garden come from just a handful of plant families. Nasturtiums are a bit of an oddball in this respect. They come from the Tropaeolaceae family and are native to South America.

MY FAVORITE NASTURTIUM VARIETIES TO GROW

Nasturtiums fall into two broad categories: trailing varieties and bushy varieties. Trailing types are great for creating a vibrant cascade down a container garden or window box. Bushy types can fill in empty spots in the garden.

Here are some of my favorite varieties of nasturtium to grow in my garden.

TRAILING NASTURTIUMS

-Amazon Jewel

Amazon Jewel nasturtiums feature variegated vining foliage and stunning blossoms in shades of orange, rosy peach, ruby red, gold, and pale lemon. Leaves are emerald green streaked with white.

-Peach Melba

Peach Melba nasturtiums grow blossoms in the prettiest shade of peach, as you might expect, plus cream and raspberry pink.

BUSHY NASTURTIUMS

-Cherries Jubilee

Cherries Jubilee nasturtiums come in the prettiest shades of cherry and rosy red, which really pop against the bright green leaves. That color is also like a welcome mat for hummingbirds. Their mounding habit makes them ideal for filling in garden beds and containers.

-Creamsicle Nasturtiums

Creamsicle will give you flowers the color of orange sherbet with deem crimson throats (that’s the part of the flower where a hummingbird would stick its long beak).

WHEN TO GROW NASTURTIUMS IN YOUR GARDEN

The best time to begin planting nasturtium seeds is in spring, after any danger of frost has passed. These plants do best in cool to warm weather; they’re frost tender, which means they can handle light frosts but won’t push through freezing temperatures.

If you’d like to get a head start on your bloom time, you can start nasturtiums by seed about 3 weeks before your last frost date. In cooler climates, your nasturtiums should thrive throughout the summer, giving you months and months of blooms. 

If you live in a warm climate, it’s best to hold off on planting more nasturtiums during your hot season. Established plants might survive the heat if they receive some afternoon shade and plenty of water. Wait until the beginning of fall to plant more seeds.

Make sure to plant at least 60 days before your first frost in the fall or winter so that you have enough time to enjoy some blossoms. 

WHERE TO PLANT NASTURTIUMS

Nasturtiums are pretty versatile little plants when it comes to potential planting sites. You can grow them in raised beds, container gardens, grow bags, hanging baskets, large pots, and in-ground beds. I love to grow nasturtiums in my raised beds, where they thrive thanks to the well-drained soil rich in organic matter.

Trialing nasturtiums look particularly lovely draped over the side of a raised bed. Just keep in mind those trailing stems can grow quite long and may spread, so if you’re limited on space, go for dwarf or bush types, which have a more compact growth habit. If you’re looking for good ground cover, definitely go for a bush type.

You’ll get the most blooms from your nasturtiums if you plant them in full sun to part shade. In a warmer climate, it’s best to give them afternoon shade if you’d like them to push into the hotter months of the year.

I tried to grow nasturtiums in a super sunny spot in the middle of summer in Central Texas (zones 8 & 9) once, and my poor leaves were wilted every single day. Now, I only plant my nasturtiums in raised vegetable garden beds that receive afternoon shade from the hot Texas sun.

What Kind of Soil Is Best for Nasturtiums?

When it comes to soil preferences, nasturtiums favor well-drained soil that is relatively poor to moderately fertile. Basically, you need enough nutrients in the soil to encourage healthy root development and overall plant growth, but over-fertilization can lead to excessive foliage growth and not enough blossoms. The leaves are great, but it’s really the flowers we want, right? So you just have to find the right balance.

3 EASY STEP TO PLANT NASTURTIUM SEEDS

Nasturtiums have large seeds compared to most other things you might plant in your vegetable garden. I’ve seen them described as dried peas, but I think they look like dried up little brains. In any case, they’re super easy to handle and space out, which is great. Follow these three easy steps to plant nasturtiums by seed in your garden.

Step #1 to plant nasturtiums

Check the back of your seed packet to see if the seed company recommends scarifying your nasturtium seeds before planting. Scarifying just means to remove some of that thick outer seed coat to hasten the germination process. The best way to scarify nasturtium seeds is just to use a nail file to sand off the outer layer in one spot. As soon as you see a change in seed coat color, you’re good. Removing just that little bit allows water to enter the seed so it can swell up and sprout.

After you’ve prepared your seeds, prepare the planting area by adding a bit of compost to the soil surface. If you’re planting in the ground, make sure to remove any weeds and break up and large clods of soil.

Step #2 to plant nasturtiums

Use a dibber to create holes that are about 1 inch deep and 10 to 12 inches apart. Place all your seeds in the garden before covering them with soil.

Step #3 to plant nasturtiums

Water the seeds in well after planting. The soil should remain moist but not waterlogged. Seeds should sprout in about 7 to 10 days under the right conditions.

Pro Tip:

If you chose to start seeds indoors, handle your nasturtium seedlings with care when it’s time to transplant them to the garden space. Nasturtiums are not fans of their roots being disturbed. If you used biodegradable pots, transfer the entire pot into each planting hole.

TIPS TO CARE FOR YOUR NASTURTIUM PLANTS

Once they’re sprouted, nasturtiums require minimal effort on your part. They’re fast-growing plants, so you can expect blooms approximately 35 to 52 days after planting.

Here are a few tips to maximize your blooms:

  • Water when the top 1″ of the soil feels dry. Avoid overwatering, which can cause root rot. Nasturtiums are actually drought-tolerant, but prolonged dryness will stress the plants out, which means you will get fewer flowers.
  • Thin out seedlings if they’re too crowded to allow for optimal plant development.
  • Fertilize with a phosphorus rich fertilizer such as Microlife’s Maximum Blooms to help promote lots of flowers. Nasturtiums will generally grow and flower readily with no added fertilizer in most soils. If you feel the need to add nutrients, avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen, which promote leaf growth at the expense of flowers.
  • Avoid fungal problems in humid conditions by maintaining good airflow around the plants and aiming water at the soil level, instead of the leaves.
  • Control pests with diluted castile liquid soap in water and spray it on the leaves. 

TROUBLESHOOTING COMMON GROWING PROBLEMS

Even with the easiest of plants, problems can potentially arise. Here are three common problems and how to fix them.

Yellowing Leaves

This is usually a sign of overwatering or poor soil drainage. Only water when the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch. If you’re growing in a container or pot, make sure there’s a good drainage hole in the bottom to let out excess water.

Poor Germination

This could be due to the seeds being planted too deeply in the soil or the soil being too cold. Make sure to plant the seeds at the right depth and only after your last frost date, when the soil has had some time to warm up.

Wilting or Drooping Plants

This problem is often due to lack of water, excessive heat, or root disturbance. Make sure the plants are adequately watered during dry spells and protected from extreme heat with some shade cloth if necessary. Baby recently transplanted plants until they perk back up.

HOW TO HARVEST AND ENJOY NASTURTIUMS

Harvest nasturtium flowers and leaves early in the morning for the best taste. Pick them gently to avoid damaging the plant. You can use the flowers as a garnish or incorporate them into salads and sandwiches for some extra peppery zing. 

If you’re feeling adventurous, chop up some nasturtium leaves and toss them into an omelet or try them mixed into your favorite soft cheese.

At the end of the growing season, remove your nasturtium plants from the garden space once your first good freeze is in the forecast.

Nasturtiums are the garden’s version of low effort, high reward. Not only do they bring a splash of color to your garden space, their peppery flowers and leaves bring flavor to your plate—and they keep pesky bugs at bay, too.