February 18, 2016


This colorful annual is grown as much for its leaves as its flowers. The soft green leaves closely resemble water lily pads, which adds a whimsical effect to the garden. 

genus name
  • Tropaeolum
  • Sun
plant type
  • 6 to 12 inches,
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • 12 to 18 inches
flower color
foliage color
season features
problem solvers

Colorful Combinations

Nasturtiums are easy-to-grow and work well in both garden and containers. Vividly colored blossoms pop against the gray-green foliage for an impressive effect when planted en masse. The flowers come in a spectrum of colors from creamy white to bold red. Some have delicately fringed leaves and resemble canaries and other small birds; hence the common name canary creeper. Adding the flowers to a salad or other dish for color also adds a bright, peppery taste. The large seeds can be pickled and used as a substitute for capers. 

Discover more edible flowers to use as gorgeous garnishes here!

Nasturtium Care Must-Knows

Although there are several species of nasturtium with varying requirements, the most commonly grown species tend to be tough, like well-drained soil, and prefer regular watering. During droughts, they are prone to wilt, but once watered they bounce right back. If you plant nasturtiums in soil too rich in organic matter, the plants become floppy and produce fewer flowers because excess nutrients go to growing new leaves.

Much like beans in a vegetable bed, nasturtiums fall into a bush or vine category and need to be planted accordingly. Whether you opt for a bush or vine type, nasturtiums grow best in full sun. If planted in part sun plants may become floppy and open in the center and have fewer blossoms. 

Add more of these deer-resistant annuals to your garden for lasting beauty.


Nasturtiums are a great old-fashioned plant associated with cottage gardens, but there  have been new developments. Much of nasturtium breeding centered on creating more garden-friendly plants, typically bush-type annuals. There are also many varieties with variegated foliage for layers of interest. Some of the most exciting developments revolve around color: introducing new ones and developing ones that change (e.g., opening light peach and fading to deep red).

More Varieties of Nasturtium

'Alaska' Nasturtium

Tropaeolum majus 'Alaska' is a trailing variety to 12 to 15 inches. It offers exciting, white-splashed foliage and striking red, orange, gold, yellow, and salmon flowers.

Canary Creeper

This selection of Tropaeolum peregrinum offers lots of fringed canary-yellow blooms appear that look almost like butterflies in late spring. It climbs to 15 feet and is perennial in Zones 9-10.

'Empress of India' Nasturtium

Tropaeolum majus 'Empress of India' bears velvety, crimson-red flowers on a compact, 14-inch-tall plant.

'Jewel of Africa' Nasturtium

This variety of Tropaeolum majus is a climbing annual to 5 feet tall that has variegated foliage and blooms in red, gold, yellow, cream, or peach.

'Peach Melba' Nasturtium

Tropaeolum majus 'Peach Melba' offers salmon-peach flowers all summer long on compact, 1-foot-tall plants.

'Strawberry Ice' Nasturtium

This Tropaeolum majus selection bears deep yellow flowers with a strawberry-red blotch at the base of each petal. It trails or climbs to 16 inches.

Plant Nasturtium With:

Petunias are failproof favorites for gardeners everywhere. They are vigorous growers and prolific bloomers from midspring through late fall. Color choices are nearly limitless, with some sporting beautiful veining and intriguing colors. Many varieties are sweetly fragrant (sniff blooms in the garden center to be sure.) Some also tout themselves as "weatherproof," which means that the flowers don't close up when water is splashed on them.Wave petunias have made this plant even more popular. Reaching up to 4 feet long, it's great as a groundcover or when cascading from window boxes and pots. All petunias do best and grow more bushy and full if you pinch or cut them back by one- to two-thirds in midsummer.Shown above: Merlin Blue Morn petunia

You can depend on this cottage-garden favorite to fill your garden with color all season long. The simple, daisylike flowers appear in cheery shades on tall stems that are great for cutting. The lacy foliage makes a great backdrop for shorter plants, as well. Cosmos often self-seeds in the garden, so you may only have to plant it once, though the colors can appear muddy or odd in the reseeders.Plant cosmos from seed directly in the ground in spring. Or start from established seedlings. This flower doesn't like fertilizing or conditions that are too rich, which causes the foliage to be large and lush but with fewer blooms. It does best with average moisture but will tolerate drought.

Just as you'd expect from something called French, these marigolds are the fancy ones. French marigolds tend to be frilly and some boast a distinctive "crested eye." They grow roughly 8-12 inches high with a chic, neat, little growth habit and elegant dark green foliage.They do best in full sun with moist, well-drained soil and will flower all summer long. They may reseed, coming back year after year, in spots where they're happy.


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