Nasturtium seedlings are notable for their quick and easy growth, making them a popular choice for garden enthusiasts and novice planters alike. When they first emerge from the soil, these seedlings are easy to identify. They sprout with large, round leaves that resemble lily pads, boasting a vibrant green hue that sometimes has a hint of pink around the edges when young. The foliage of nasturtiums will eventually expand, revealing their characteristic circular shape that serves as a distinctive indicator of the plant’s progression from seedling to maturity.

Nasturtium seedlings emerge with two round cotyledon leaves and a delicate stem reaching upwards. The leaves are a vibrant green with a slightly wavy edge, and the stem is thin and fragile

These plants not only add a splash of color and an aesthetic appeal to gardens with their richly hued flowers ranging from sunny yellows to fiery reds and oranges, but they also bring an edible delight. The flowers and leaves of nasturtiums are completely edible, offering a peppery zest similar to arugula or radishes, which integrates beautifully into salads and as garnishes for various dishes. Their adaptability means they can be cultivated in full sun or partial shade, though the luminosity they receive can affect their blooming patterns. Nasturtiums manage to thrive even in poorer quality soils, without the need for additional fertilizers, making them not only a decorative but also a practical addition to any garden space.

Planning and Planting Nasturtiums

Before adding vibrant nasturtiums to your garden, I always consider the varieties best suited for my layout, understand soil and light requirements to ensure healthy growth, and know the proper techniques for sowing seeds and transplanting seedlings.

Choosing the Right Varieties

I choose from a range of nasturtium varieties based on color, growth habit, and the area where they will be planted. Varieties like ‘Empress of India’ exhibit dark leaves with red flowers and are dense, perfect for containers. ‘Jewel Mix’ tends to sprawl and offers a colorful blend, suitable for ground cover or wide pots.

Understanding Soil and Light Requirements

Nasturtiums thrive in full sun—six or more hours of sunlight maximizes blooming. However, they can tolerate partial shade where they receive three to six hours of sunlight but may not flower as prolifically. I ensure the soil is well-draining and lean; high fertility isn’t necessary and can even deter bloom production. The ideal soil pH is slightly acidic to neutral.

Sowing Seeds and Transplanting Seedlings

💥 Germination Tip

I start by sowing nasturtium seeds directly into the garden or pots after the last frost when the soil is warm, approximately 55 to 65°F. Sowing seeds about half an inch deep and spacing them 10 to 12 inches apart allows room for growth. For transplanting seedlings, I’m careful not to disturb the roots as nasturtiums are sensitive to transplantation.

Caring for Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums are simple to care for, but like any plant, they have particular needs. Ensuring proper watering, fertilization, and seasonal care will help them thrive.

Watering and Fertilization

Watering should be consistent, allowing soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Over-watering can lead to weak growth and pest issues. I refrain from fertilizing nasturtiums too much, as fertile soil often leads to more foliage than flowers.

Watering Guidelines:
  • Water once a week, adjusting for rainfall and temperature.
  • Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again.

Managing Pests and Diseases

Aphids can be a problem for nasturtiums. I regularly inspect the leaves and treat infestations early with soapy water or neem oil. Proper air circulation and avoiding wet foliage help prevent fungal diseases.

Pest Management:
  • Check for aphids and treat promptly with soapy water.
  • Maintain plant spacing for air flow to prevent disease.

Seasonal Care Tips

Nasturtiums are frost-tender, so I plant them after the last spring frost. They grow best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade. In the heat of summer, I might provide some afternoon shade, and before fall frosts, I may harvest seeds or provide protection to extend blooming.

Seasonal Care:
  • Plant after the last spring frost to avoid cold damage.
  • Provide afternoon shade in extreme summer heat.
  • Before fall, harvest seeds or protect plants to extend bloom.

Weeding is also crucial in all these stages, to prevent competition for nutrients and water. I make it a habit to mulch around the plants to help with weed suppression and moisture retention.

Harvesting and Using Nasturtiums

In my garden, nasturtiums provide both beauty and flavor. Here’s how I make the most of their vibrant flowers and leaves, and how I keep their seeds for next year’s planting.

Picking Flowers and Leaves

I pick nasturtium flowers and leaves early in the morning when their flavor is at its peak. When harvesting, I choose the vibrant, full blooms and tender leaves, ensuring not to overharvest from any one plant. I find the flowers add a peppery zest similar to watercress in salads, while the leaves enhance the greens with their unique taste.

Nasturtiums in the Kitchen

Nasturtium flowers and leaves are entirely edible and excellent in the kitchen.

I use the bright flowers to garnish salads and as a colorful, edible touch to other dishes. The leaves can be chopped and added to salads, or I sometimes use them in place of herbs in various recipes. Additionally, I’ve pickled the unripe seeds to make a homemade caper-like condiment.

Seed Harvest and Preservation

By late summer, the plants start to produce seeds. Once the flowers have finished blooming, I look for the seeds that begin to form at the base of each flower stem. I’ve learned that it’s best to wait for the seeds to turn from green to a tan or brown color before picking them, as they’re more likely to germinate next season.

💥 I let the seeds dry on a paper towel until they’re completely brown and store them in a paper bag in a cool, dark place.
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