NASTURTIUM (Tropaeolum) – Indian cress

Chile, Peru

Honeybee in Nasturtium

Nasturtium ‘Alaska’ with bee

Bees’ Favourite.

The Nasturtium is an exotic annual from South America, a climber with disc-shaped leaves. Its sumptuous YELLOW, ORANGE and RED flowers attract the bees. They land on the lower petals, climb inside the flower spur and emerge covered in pollen. Once pollinated the flower bows down, looking like a brighter version of the pointy wizard’s hat worn by Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. The plant will produce other blooms, and carry on doing so until first frosts.

Nasturtium, mint

 

Nasturtium leaves are a food plant for the Dot Moth and the Garden Carpet Moth; they are used by gardeners to keep the caterpillars of the Large White (Cabbage White) Moth off their brassicas.

 

“According to the daughter of Linnaeus, the blossoms of Nasturtium have been observed to emit electric sparks towards evening. It is seen most distinctly with the eye partly closed.

In Alsace the nasturtium flowers are added to fermenting wine to impart a particular pungency.”

Medicinal Herb Info

http://medicinalherbinfo.org/herbs/Nasturtium.html

 

Wikipedia lists the Nasturtium under many species of Tropaeolum. Its herbal uses have been antiseptic and expectorant, with Tropaeolum majus useful against chest colds.

Other names: Lark-heel, Monks Cress, Nose-tweaker, Nose-twister.

 

The RHS recommends this flower as one for children to grow; all parts are edible.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/gardening-children-schools/family-activities/Grow-it-!/grow/nasturtium

‘Alaska’ has lime green leaves with creamy mottling and flowers in shades of YELLOW and ORANGE

Nasturtium 'Alaska'

Nasturtium Alaska, closeup

Damson resin on Nasturtium 'Alaska'

 

We have also grown Empress of India, rich RED flowers and dark, bottle-green leaves.

Empress of India seed packetBumblebee two on Nasturtium Whirleybird

 

 

The YELLOW and ORANGE flowers of ‘Whirlybird’ have no flower funnels, but the bees don’t mind.

If Blackfly or Greenfly are  a problem, and ladybirds or birds not keeping numbers down, spray the plant with a little dilute washing-up liquid.

Aphids dislike the slick coating on the leaves. Once flowers have gone over, let some go to seed but pinch most of them off to persuade the plant to make more.

Tropaeolum is a plant that likes sunshine and poor soil. My first Nasturtium had a wealth of leaves but few flowers; friend Eileen said “You want poor soil! Find yourself some builders’ rubble!” This was good advice. Used soil from house plants, builder’s rubble, grit – the poor soil treatment was rewarded with buds, which opened into many flowers. Bumblebees found these blooms, buzzing up to the third floor balcony to pollinate the Nasturtiums. They came all through the summer, working their way from flower to flower, brushing my hands with their fur as I tended the flowers.

There have been London winters when I managed to keep Nasturtiums alive by wrapping their pots with bubblewrap when frost was predicted, then removing it when the sun shone. Come springtime, plants were barely ticking over… but sunshine and a bit of water revived them and they were able to grow again. If temperatures had been below freezing for too long, however, the plants were doomed. Nasturtiums are not hardy enough to survive our winters unless kept indoors, in a greenhouse or conservatory.