For centuries, gardeners have grown nasturtiums. The Incas ate them in salads. King Louis XIV displayed them in his palace gardens. Monet grew them at Giverny. Thomas Jefferson sowed seeds of nasturtiums in the vegetable gardens at Monticello.
Nasturtiums are easy to grow from seeds. Plant them ½ inch deep and 10 to 12 inches apart in well-drained soil, and keep the soil moist until seedlings emerge. They grow in full sun to part shade but the more sun they get, the more flowers you get.
Very little maintenance is required to keep nasturtiums happy and healthy. Water them if rainfall is insufficient. Remove spent blooms to encourage more flowers. If they grow too leggy, cut plants back and fresh new foliage will begin growing.
Local garden centers often offer several varieties of nasturtiums, and there are even more choices available if you grow them from seed. The two most common groups of nasturtiums are trailing and bush types. Trailers can be trained to climb or allowed to fall over the edges of containers. Bush varieties are, well, bushy.
Nasturtium flowers may be bold and bright in shades of red, pink, orange and gold or in soft tones of yellow, rose and salmon. They all have distinctive, cute-as-a-button leaves that resemble tiny lily pads.
Alaska Mix boasts a lovely blend of single flowers in gold, orange, salmon, crimson and cherry red over variegated foliage. They grow just 10 to 12 inches tall. These would be pretty adding color to the edge of a vegetable garden.
Amazon Jewel shows off dramatic deep red, pumpkin orange, golden and lemon yellow, and rose blooms over variegated foliage on vining plants. Train these up a trellis or let them dangle over the edge of a large container garden.
The double flowers of Cherries Jubilee are colored in deep to light shades of rose. This mounding nasturtium would be lovely combined with light pink cosmos, blue salvia, yellow million bells and purple fountain grass in a summer container garden.
Creamsicle is the perfect name for this nasturtium with orange creamsicle-colored blossoms. Partner this bush type with rich reds if you like your containers hot; clear yellows if you prefer the softer side of container design.
Empress of India is a mounding heirloom with bright vermilion red flowers. Moonlight is a vining type that sports soft yellow blooms. Another trailing type, Spitfire displays fiery orange blossoms.
Both the leaves and flowers of nasturtiums are edible. Harvest flowers and young leaves in the morning for the best flavor. Be sure to wash them thoroughly before using. They can be saved for a few days if stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Add them to salads and soups. Both leaves and flowers can be stuffed with egg or chicken salad or a soft cheese. Chop some with chives and add them to omelets or your favorite recipe for potato salad.
Nasturtiums are beautiful in the garden or in containers. They fall gracefully over walls and ramble over the edges of hanging baskets or window boxes. Nasturtiums climb up trellises and offer a pop of color to vegetable gardens. And they are delicious. Garden with me!