Nasturtiums are gorgeous, helpful companion plants with vibrantly colored blooms. Although they’re considered annuals, they easily re-seed themselves without intervention, so you know they’ll come back year after year. They have a cornucopia of other benefits for both garden and gardener, being edible and medicinal in addition to drawing beneficial pollinating insects. They can be grown indoors or outside, and create stunning cascades of color wherever you plant them. Below, we’ve listed several reasons why everyone needs nasturtiums in their garden.
1. Perfect for Beginner Gardeners (and Kids!)
Every gardener needs easy growers to keep them engaged and enthusiastic. As such, nasturtiums are wonderful plants for beginners.
The seeds are large and easy to handle; this is a great plant to start from seed and a good plant for children to help grow since they almost always germinate.
2. Easy to Grow
Nasturtiums are incredibly prolific. In fact, in climates with year-round growing seasons, they can be considered a weed.
My experience has been: just put seeds in dirt, and they pretty much do the rest. Once you plant your seeds, you should begin to see growth in about 2 weeks.
3. They Work in Many Types of Gardens
No matter where you live or what kind of space you have, you can grow these flowers.
They can be planted in rock gardens, and they also do well in pots and window boxes. You can train them to climb up a trellis, or plant them so they tumble out of a decorative basket.
If you want a climbing or trailing variety look for Tropaeolum majus. On the other hand, if you want a bushier variety for a pot, try Tropaeolum minus.
4. They’re Drought-Tolerant
This is one of the best species you can plant if you live in an area that’s prone to drought. They don’t need much water, and do quite well on just a few sips a week.
Seriously, these flowers thrive on neglect.
5. Nasturtiums Thrive in Poor Soil (And Replenish It!)
If you have poor soil quality in your garden and are worried that few things will grow there, nasturtiums are a perfect choice. They not only thrive in poor soil—they prefer it.
This is a species you can plant in depleted soil, and then allow to rot in the ground in fall. As they decompose, they’ll deposit calcium, nitrogen, potassium, and other minerals. After growing them repeatedly in the same spot for a few years, that soil will be able to support other plant life.
6. They Add Bright Splashes of Color
Nasturtiums come in vibrant red, orange and yellow varieties. Most seed packets you get come with a mix, so you can enjoy every shade imaginable. The blooms pop delightful color into your garden, and the leaves are large and have a lovely saucer shape to them.
7. Perfect as Ground Cover and Weed Barriers
Since they trail and spread so prolifically, many people use nasturtiums as a ground cover, instead of grass. Carpets of blooms cover their land, without any need to mow or trim. By using them as “filler” in your garden beds, you use up available space so unwanted weeds don’t move in.
Since they’re completely edible, this option is both utilitarian and delicious.
8. Natural Poultry Pharmacy
Chickens love to snack on these flowers, so planting them around the coop means your birds can snack on them all day.
Since they’re packed with nutrients, they’ll help to keep your flock healthy. They’re naturally antibacterial, and can help fend off parasites that hens can be prone to.
9. Nasturtiums Attract Beneficial Insects
They attract aphids and cabbage moths. This may not sound too great, but although they attract them, they also deter those buggers away from your vegetables. Cabbage moths, which can destroy brassicas, will lay their eggs under nasturtium leaves instead of on the brassica leaves.
If you find aphids or cabbage moths on your nasturtiums, try removing them with warm water.
Nasturtiums also attract bees and other pollinators to the garden. The bee colony collapse epidemic gets worse every year. Planting what we can to encourage bees to come—and providing food for them—is an important act for every gardener to undertake. Human survival and food chain security are directly dependent on honeybees. So grow nasturtiums!
10. They’re Invaluable Companion Plants
Companion planting is a system of planting various crops together for a variety of reasons, with the goal of maximum crop productivity. In the case of nasturtiums, they attract beneficial insects, repel bad ones, and confuse others.
Basically, their scent repels insects that would otherwise eat your other edibles. Insects that feed on your cabbages and such smell the nasturtiums first, and decide to feast elsewhere.
11. They Support Health
Nasturtiums can support the gardener’s health as much as the garden. Here are just some of the ways:
- Soak chopped leaves in water (and then strain the leaves out) to make an easy all-natural disinfectant wash for minor cuts and scrapes.
- Their tea can be used to treat urinary tract infections.
- They’re so packed with vitamin C that eating a few leaves if you feel a cold or sore throat coming on, you can fend it off.
- Since they have anti-fungal properties, applying them directly to the skin can alleviate athlete’s foot.
Note: Pregnant women should avoid eating nasturtiums entirely. Similarly, people with kidney disease should speak to their healthcare providers before eating any part of the plant.
How to Make Nasturtium Tea
Nasturtium tea can be used as a hair rinse or toner, and also makes a good mouthwash. You can also spray it on your plants to protect them against unwanted pests and bugs.
INGREDIENTS: 1 cup nasturtium flowers, leaves, and buds, and water
METHOD: Place the flowers, leaves, and buds into 4 cups of boiling water in a glass jug. Cover and allow to brew overnight, or for 8-10 hours. Strain and use as desired.
12. Ideal as Cut Flowers
Nasturtiums make beautiful flowers for a cutting garden. Their brilliant colors and unique foliage go well in flower arrangements, especially interspersed with blue and purple blooms.
If you grow other helpful companions like borage or dill, their flowers would make a beautiful addition.
13. It’s Easy to Save Their Seeds
It’s so easy to save seeds for planting again next year that you don’t even really need to be involved! Nasturtiums will self-seed if you let them be. Pull up some plants before they go to seed, however, or they’ll take over your garden.
Harvest as many seeds as you can at the end of the growing season for pickling or drying. Or, share seeds with fellow gardeners and spread the nasturtium love! Leave some alone and they’ll naturally come up when they are ready next year.
14. Every Part of Them is Edible
Nasturtium leaves, flower buds, flower petals, and seeds are all edible. If you have kids, edible flowers are a lot of fun for them to eat!
Leaves have a peppery taste to them. I use them like an herb, chopping them up and adding them to dishes that need a little zing, like pasta or potato salads, even homemade pesto. You can also stuff the bigger leaves with tuna, chicken or egg salad.
I’ve also seen some people stuff them with rice, ground meat, and spices, like Middle Eastern dolma. The older the leaves, the spicier the flavor so you might think about harvesting younger leaves for lower potency.
The flowers add beautiful color to anything you garnish them with. They look especially pretty in a salads, but you can also freeze them into ice cubes, or decorate cookies with them.
Seeds can be pickled and used in place of capers, or dried and used instead of peppercorns.
To pickle the seeds, pluck them while they’re still green and haven’t hardened. Put them in a glass bottle or jar and cover them with boiling vinegar: preferably white, or apple cider. They’ll be ready after soaking in the vinegar for three days, and don’t need refrigeration for up to a year.
How To Plant Nasturtiums
No special care is really needed. Since they grow well in poor, dry soil, they don’t require frequent watering or fertilizers. They do like a bit of sun, but if you’re planting them as a companion for your vegetable garden, sunshine is already a given.
In places that experience scorching summers, nasturtiums might get stressed from the heat. Cut them back, and they’ll quickly re-sprout new greenery. If hot sun is too much of a problem, plant them in containers that can be moved to the shade at midday.
Plant them on them on the sides of your raised beds as a protective barrier from pests. Or if you don’t have raised beds, plant them in a perimeter around the whole garden.
There are so many wonderful benefits to growing nasturtiums in your garden, whether you have outdoor space or just enough room for a few window boxes. So plant some today!