Nasturtium: cultivation, harvesting and use – here’s how!

Nasturtium with flower

Nasturtium is THE edible flower par excellence! But the climbing plant can do much more than just provide tasty flowers! Well, is it already an absolute must in your annual bed planning too?

May I introduce? The nasturtium!

When we talk about nasturtium, we usually mean Tropaeolum Majus, the Great Nasturtium. There are actually a few other nasturtiums, but they are hardly cultivated in Europe and therefore not really known in our country.

However, the great nasturtium is not really native to our gardens. It originates from South America and came over the big pond to us only a few hundred years ago.

In its warm home, the nasturtium is perennial and does not know cool weather. However, it never got used to the cold winters in our area, but is still a real frostbite. That’s why we can only grow them as annuals in our latitudes.

But that’s not so bad, because the nasturtium grows quickly and produces lots of leaves, flowers and seeds even within one summer.

But before we get into the cultivation, care and use of the plant, we have to clarify one thing: Where in the heck did nasturtium get its crazy name.

Whoever gave the plant its German name was inspired by its blossom. The resembles (with viiiiel fantasy) the hoods of frocks of the Capuchin monks.

Fun Fact: Cappuccino also takes its name from nasturtiums. The Italian word stands for ‘Kapuzchen’ – which means ‘little hood’. The milk foam cap on the coffee gave the name to this plant. Whether this in turn looks so similar to the colorful flowers of the nasturtium? I don’t know… ;)

Sowing and planting nasturtiums

If you are determined to plant nasturtiums in the next gardening season, then you should make a note of the perfect sowing times early on, so that you are on time and your plants can take advantage of the entire growing season.

You can do that wonderfully with my sowing calendar, which you can download for free as a PDF here. In the calendar you will also find a lot of sowing dates for all my favorite vegetables, in case you need a little inspiration! :)

You can start growing nasturtiums indoors as early as February through April. You should keep in mind that nasturtium is a so-called dark germinator. This means that it only germinates when it no longer receives light.

For this, the seeds must be properly covered with soil. Best press them one to two centimeters deep into your growing pot. Keep nice and warm and moist for germination. As soon as the seedlings stick their heads out of the soil, put them in a cooler place. This is how it should work in any case! :)

Your sweethearts will have to endure indoors until mid-May. Because they don’t like frost, and even at the beginning of May it can still be sub-zero temperatures outside at night.
I feel for the little frostbites. Who likes to spend the night outdoors when it’s freezing cold? Brrrr!

In mid-May you can release it into the wide world and plant out. You should be outgrown by now: Strong and armed for a life out there!

Nasturtium seedlings cultivation

Nasturtium prefers to grow in moderately fertile to nutrient-rich soil. For that, it likes lots and lots of sunshine, but it also thrives in partial shade if need be.

From the end of May until early summer, you can also sow nasturtiums directly in the bed. Again, remember to cover the seeds with soil and moisten them so that they come to life.

Plants grown indoors will of course already have a good head start on growth by this time. You can expect to see the gorgeous blooms sooner than that. As you can see, it is worthwhile to grow in advance!

Nasturtium care and pampering

Once planted in the right location, there’s not much that can go wrong and you’re almost assured of a bountiful harvest.

Nasturtium is very eager in its leaf production. Sometimes even a little overzealous, which is then at the expense of the flowers. Because when the plant is so focused on forming new tendrils and leaves, it quickly forgets to form flowers too. There is simply no energy left for this.

To avoid this, you should fertilize the nasturtium only sparingly or not at all. A too abundant supply of nutrients stimulates the plant to form new leaves, to grow bigger and bigger, and to grow over your head.

By the way, the many leaves can do one thing really well: exhale water! Yes, exactly: A lot of water evaporates through the leaf surfaces, especially on hot days. So it can happen quickly that your nasturtium goes limp and leaves drooping. Then it’s time to fetch a watering can and water march!

Little Tip: If you want to harvest a lot of flowers and are not so keen on the seeds, you should give your nasturtium a regular pruning.

It is especially important to remove the faded flowers in a timely manner. Once your plant successfully forms seeds, it will produce much fewer flowers. For what also? The next generation is already taken care of!

Grow nasturtiums on the balcony

You don’t really need a garden for nasturtiums. It also grows very well in boxes and pots on the balcony – or in a raised bed.

Here its colorfulness really comes into its own. But it can also do everything at once: look great and give a fat harvest! Such a healthy all-rounder is of course super practical when you don’t have so much space for your plants.

Watch out! On hot summer days, planters and pots can dry out very quickly. Do not forget to water regularly. If your balcony gets a lot of sun, you will have to water it up to twice a day so that your plants are not constantly thirsty.

5 reasons why we simply love nasturtiums

Nasturtiums are an absolute must in my garden planning for several reasons at once! Let’s start with the most obvious…

#1: Too good to be true

Nasturtium looks just incredibly great! The herbaceous plant blooms in the most beautiful colors: From bright yellow to bright orange to bright red, all color variations are represented.

Yellow and orange flowers of nasturtium

Planted against a fence, your nasturtium will climb joyfully upwards. You can take advantage of this and use the climbing plant to create a green screen that will be a real eye-catcher in its own right.

If you don’t provide it with climbing aids, nasturtiums will creep in all directions and form a thick layer of leaves and tendrils on your floor. It is a true ground cover!

By the way, the leaves of the nasturtium have their very own wow effect. They do not get wet, but simply let water roll off them. Especially in the morning dew looks beautiful. The water drops sit like small, silvery pearls on the leaves!

#2: Edible flowers and leaves

The tasty flowers are what nasturtiums are so well known for. You can find the colorful flowers more and more often in salads, or as edible decorations on cakes and pies. But they also look really magical!

Salad with edible flowers

The fact that the leaves are also edible is less known. But be careful: they can be quite spicy. The taste is similar to that of horseradish: fiery strong!

The pungent taste is caused by so-called mustard oil glycosides. They can also be found in radishes, garden cress and mustard. By the way, all these plants are also related to nasturtiums. The younger, more tender leaves contain fewer of those mustard oil glycosides. They are therefore somewhat milder. I like them especially in salads. Yams!

If you want to do something fancy with your nasturtium, herb butter is a great idea. For this you can use both the leaves and the flowers. The result is something to be proud of! Because who else has colorful herb butter, please??

#3: Nasturtium as a pepper and caper substitute

After flowering, the nasturtium forms its seeds. And they are edible too! When the seeds are still green and young, you can use them as a substitute for capers.

To do this, you boil them in salted vinegar water, and then fill them together with the liquid in screw jars. Try it out and see if anyone notices the difference when you use the native ‘capers’ in a pasta sauce instead of the original! Pssst, I do not betray anything!

If you wait even longer with the harvest, you can eventually harvest the ripe seeds. They’ll either make great seeds for the next generation of nasturtiums, or you can put them in your pepper mill.

Yes, that’s right! The seeds also have a slightly spicy, peppery taste and are excellent for seasoning.

So the next time you "Why don’t you go where the pepper grows?!" then nothing like off into your garden! ;)

#4: Clever: Nasturtium as a diversionary tactic

If you already have nasturtiums in your garden, you may have noticed that they are often plagued by aphids. Because unfortunately, the herbaceous plant tastes not only us, but also any number of creepy-crawlies.

Leaf of nasturtium with aphid infestation

This is super annoying, of course, because the critters can be a real nuisance and we don’t want any extra protein in the salad either!

Also cabbage white butterflies like the leaves of the nasturtium very much. They like to lay their eggs here, so that the butterfly caterpillars that hatch from the eggs can feast on the nasturtiums.

And we don’t want to have such a cabbage white butterfly nursery in our vegetable garden – otherwise the butterflies will pounce on our cabbage plants next! So check for caterpillars in your nasturtiums every once in a while and pick them off if you find any.

But now comes the good news: the pests can be so busy with the nasturtium that they leave your vegetables on the left side. So you can also use the colorful plant as a distraction, and deliberately lure pests away from your vegetables. Clever, or?

Nasturtium: cultivation, harvesting and use - here's how!

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#5: Nasturtium as a medicinal plant

Nasturtium is also known as a medicinal plant. Even the Incas in South America used it as a painkiller and to heal wounds. Your ancient knowledge of the power of plants has often proven itself since then.

The pretty plant is said to have many healing properties. Among other things, it is said to help with respiratory diseases, relieve urinary tract infections and relieve muscle pain. So supposedly a true all-rounder!

If you have ever eaten one of the hotter leaves of the nasturtium, you will probably have noticed that at least the nose is really free afterwards!

But all kidding aside, nasturtium actually has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties – so it helps fight pretty much every kind of pathogen. Well if that’s not another reason to grow and enjoy their colorful blooms!

Not only does it make your nose tingle, but your fingers itch too! Have you also sharpened your pencil and are writing down on your calendar when you want to sow your nasturtiums?

If you need a little more inspiration to dream about, check this out:

from Marie

Hi, I am Marie. Passionate gardener, mother of a six year old son and on the way to a simple and natural life. My blog is all about self-sufficiency: from vegetable gardening to animal husbandry or preserving your own crops. Have fun browsing!


  • 17. January 2022

Thank you for this lovingly written blog entry. I love reading your articles because you immediately get a tingle in your fingers and want to get started.

Many greetings

  • 20. December 2021

Dear Marie,
today you have given me a real day of joy. I always read your mails that I get on Saturdays and have always enjoyed them very much. But often I thought: This can not exist – it is an actress who is hired by a company … Today I just asked on the Internet – AND IT REALLY EXISTS. I have seen the program about you in 3SAT and was really happy that I have not fallen on some advertising program of a company, but that you are quite real. This joy is really true now – my soul has been panting. And now I like to read your mails and all the great tutorials even more. Although I am already relatively too old to create a real self-sufficient life physically. But many of your tips
(tomatoes, herbs, beets, celery, parsley, garlic) I have already implemented. We have inherited a large garden with an old half-timbered house and now live there and in principle I could also plant a lot there – but I do not manage it anymore, unfortunately. All the more I am happy when my small attempts succeed then! I’m outside a lot all summer and always wanted to be an estate gardener when I was a kid. Life then gave me other things, but now I have a beautiful perennial flower garden in the Hohenloher Land, an ancient blackberry hedge and even had (until the penultimate storm Sabine) a 1000-year-old huge linden tree, under which we have celebrated a lot. That’s why I love your blogs and listen to you with enthusiasm. You are really doing a wonderful job! And you have the most beautiful greenhouse in the world. I have been looking for one of these for a long time. Will you tell me where you bought it and how you keep it clean?
Many warm and also grateful greetings
from Brigitte

  • 22. December 2021

Dear Brigitte,
thank you for your lovely feedback :) Great that you – as far as it goes for you – scurry in the garden. Marie’s greenhouse she bought at Greenhouse Plaza. It’s called Robinsons Raynham.
Love greetings
Malin from Wurzelwerk

  • 7. December 2021

you could have mentioned that the m itching is only necessary in the first year – after that the nasturtium comes back reliably and without effort every year from failed seeds in large numbers, at least if the soil is mulched even a little bit and can also be used for the (beautiful!!) Mutating weeds that you hardly like to remove.

Many greetings

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Nasturtium: cultivation, harvesting and use - here's how!

Hi, I’m Marie, passionate gardener, canning addict and absolutely crazy about chickens.

Here you’ll find a new article every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday about vegetable gardening, animal husbandry or preserving your own harvest.

Have fun browsing!


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Nasturtium: cultivation, harvesting and use - here's how!

About me

Hi, I am Marie. Passionate gardener, mother of a seven-year-old son and on her way to a simple and natural life. Here you will find everything about vegetable gardening, animal husbandry or preserving your own harvest.

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