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Nasturtium 'Empress of India'

How to grow and care for nasturtiums

All you need to know about sowing and growing nasturtiums, in our expert Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Do not Sow in January

Do not Sow in February

Do not Sow in March

Do Sow in April

Do Sow in May

Do Sow in June

Do Sow in July

Do not Sow in August

Do not Sow in September

Do not Sow in October

Do not Sow in November

Do not Sow in December


Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do Plant in May

Do Plant in June

Do Plant in July

Do Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December


Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does flower in June

Plant does flower in July

Plant does flower in August

Plant does flower in September

Plant does flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Collect seeds
Collect seeds

Do not Collect seeds in January

Do not Collect seeds in February

Do not Collect seeds in March

Do not Collect seeds in April

Do not Collect seeds in May

Do not Collect seeds in June

Do not Collect seeds in July

Do not Collect seeds in August

Do Collect seeds in September

Do Collect seeds in October

Do Collect seeds in November

Do not Collect seeds in December

At its best
At its best

Plant is not at its best in January

Plant is not at its best in February

Plant is not at its best in March

Plant is not at its best in April

Plant is not at its best in May

Plant is at its best in June

Plant is at its best in July

Plant is at its best in August

Plant is not at its best in September

Plant is not at its best in October

Plant is not at its best in November

Plant is not at its best in December

  • Plant size

    30cm height

    45cm spread

  • Spacing

    30cm apart

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum) are one of the quickest and easiest annuals to grow. They produce masses of vividly coloured blooms from midsummer right through to the first autumn frosts in a surprisingly wide range of colours – not just orange, yellow and red but also cream, salmon pink, burgundy and crimson (and often a mix of several of these). Some have attractively marbled or mottled leaves, too.


Nasturtiums are either bushy or dwarf (Tropaeolum minus) or climbers (Tropaeolum majus). Bushy varieties look great in containers and hanging baskets or at the front of a border, while climbing varieties can be trained up wigwams or obelisks and will twine through other plants. These can also be used as ground cover, spreading across gravel or cascading down a slope or bank. Both types grow very well in pots.

Nasturtiums not only look spectacular but the flowers, leaves and seeds are edible, too; nasturtiums are also known as Indian cress. Nasturtiums also make good companion plants on the veg patch – the caterpillars of large and small white butterflies feed on the leaves, luring them away from brassicas, while blackfly are attracted to the leaves, which may mean your beans escape attack. Bees love the flowers. Nasturtiums are incredibly easy to grow from seed, making them ideal for beginner gardeners and children. They also make good cut flowers.

How to grow nasturtiums

Sow nasturtiums from March to May, where they are to flower, or in 9cm pots in a greenhouse. Free-draining soil is essential for nasturtiums and, unlike many other flowers, they thrive on poor soils. Water plant in containers in dry spells. Once they have been hit by frosts, dig them up and put them on the compost heap.

Nasturtiums: jump links

Where to grow nasturtiums

Nasturtiums need sunshine for at least half the day in order to grow well. A free-draining soil is essential; nasturtiums flower best on poor soils. Fertile soil results in lots of leafy growth at the expense of flowers and flowers that are buried beneath the foliage.

Grow nasturtiums at the front of a border, up an obelisk, as companion planting on the veg patch or spilling over the edge of raised beds and pots.

Where to buy nasturtium seeds online

When to sow nasturtium

Sow nasturtium seeds under cover from March and outside when the soil has warmed up, from March to May – a late sowing will ensure flowers until the first frosts.

How to sow nasturtium seeds

How to grow nasturtiums – sowing nasturtium seed

Sowing nasturtiums in the ground

You can sow nasturtium seeds directly where they are to flower.

  1. Rake the soil to a fine tilth and make sure it is free of weeds. Water the area before you sow – this will ensure that you don’t wash away the seeds once sown
  2. Sow the seeds 1.5cm deep, around 10cm apart – either push them in with your finger, or use a bamboo cane to make a shallow drill
  3. Cover the seeds with soil
  4. Once the seedlings emerge (after about two weeks) thin them to around 30cm apart

You can also simply pop seeds around the garden, where you’d like them to appear – around the edge of raised beds or large pots of bedding, for example.

Sowing nasturtiums in pots

You can also sow nasturtium seeds in pots – this is a good way to get earlier flowers and is a good option if you want to plant up a beautiful container display later in the season. Simply sow one seed per 9cm pot in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill, harden off and plant outside in late spring.

Read our detailed advice on how to sow annual climbers.

How to plant out nasturtiums

Nasturtiums growing with geraniums and nemesia in a hanging basket

If you haven’t grown your own plants from seed, you might find small pots of nasturtiums at the garden centre in late spring or early summer that are ready for planting out.

Planting nasturtiums in the ground

Dig a hole that is the same size as the pot your plant was growing in, and plant so that the crown of leaves is at soil level. Water in well.

Planting nasturtiums in containers

Mix two-thirds peat-free multipurpose compost with one third fine gravel or grit, to reduce fertility and ensure good drainage. Again, plant so that the crown of leaves is at soil level and water in well.

In this clip from Gardeners’ World, Monty Don arranges plants for a late summer display, with a dramatic purple-leaved Phormium cookianum ‘Black Adder’ in the centre, lots of magenta-flowered Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Dazzler’, and four Bidens ‘Hawaiian Flare Orange Drop’ cascading over the rim, alongside trailing nasturtiums, Tropaeolum majus ‘Cherry Rose Jewel’. He also advises on aftercare to keep the display at peak flowering through to late autumn:

How to care for nasturtium

Watering freshly planted nasturtiums

Nasturtiums are easy to care for and need little maintenance. Plants growing in the ground rarely need watering. Plants growing in containers should be watered to keep the compost evenly moist, but don’t feed them. Deadheading will encourage more blooms over a longer period.

Harvesting and storage

Harvesting nasturtium flowers

Nasturtium leaves, flowers and seeds are all edible. The flowers and young leaves have a peppery taste (nasturtiums are closely related to watercress) and are a great addition to salads. The seed pods can be used as a substitute for capers (they are known as ‘poor man’s capers’). Pick them when mature but still green, and pickle them in vinegar.

You can collect nasturtium seeds when they’re ripe and save them somewhere cool and dry to sow next year. In mild areas, nasturtiums are also likely to self-sow, so you may get seedlings springing up in future years. These can be easily pulled up if not wanted.

Growing nasturtiums: problem solving

Blackfly on a nasturtium leaf

Nasturtiums are likely to attract large and small white butterflies (known as cabbage white butterflies) which lay their large greenish eggs on the leaf undersides, which hatch into caterpillars that eat the leaves. This can be useful to deter caterpillars from eating brassica crops but not desirable if you’re growing nasturtiums for flowers. The best method of control is to inspect plants regularly and squash the eggs or young caterpillars, or move them on to plants you don’t mind being eaten.

Nasturtiums are also attractive to aphids, particularly blackfly. Again, by planting nasturtiums alongside bean crops you can lure aphids away from your crop, but you may not appreciate aphids on nasturtiums you’re growing for leaves and flowers. Spray them off with a jet of water or let ladybirds, hoverflies and lacewings remove them for you – all three lay their eggs on aphid colonies and their young quickly eat them up.

Advice on buying nasturtiums

  • Nasturtium seeds are widely available at garden centres and online; for the best selection, look online
  • Choose from bushy or climbing types
  • Young plants are available at garden centres in late spring
  • Where to buy nasturtium seeds online

  • Thompson & Morgan
  • Suttons
  • Crocus

Nasturtium varieties to grow

Nasturtium ‘Black Velvet’

Nasturtium ‘Black Velvet’

Tropaeolum minus ‘Black Velvet’ is a compact nasturtium with velvety dark red flowers. H x S: 30cm x 45cm

Nasturtium ‘Phoenix’

Nasturtium ‘Phoenix’

Tropaeolum minus ‘Phoenix’ has flowers with unusual split petals, in shades red, orange and yellow. A bushy variety. Height x Spread: 30cm x 30cm

Nasturtium ‘Empress of India’

Nasturtium ‘Empress of India’

Nasturtium minus ‘Empress of India’ is a bushy nasturtium with crimson-red flowers and dark leaves. H x S: 25cm x 45cm. ‘Princess of India’ is a dwarf version.

Nasturtium ‘Orange Troika’

Nasturtium ‘Orange Troika’

Tropaeolum majus ‘Orange Troika’ is a climbing or trailing variety with vivid orange flowers and marbled foliage. H x S: 30cm x 1.5m

Nasturtium ‘Alaska Series’

Nasturtium ‘Alaska Mixed’

Nasturtium minus ‘Alaska Series’ produces flowers in yellow, cream, orange and red, shown off against cream and green marbled leaves. Bushy. H x S: 25cm x 45cm.

Nasturtium ‘Ladybird’

Nasturtium ‘Ladybird’

Tropaeolum minus ‘Ladybird’ has pretty cream/yellow flowers with deep red spots at the throat. H x S: 30cm x 40cm

Nasturtium ‘Baby Deep Rose’

Tropaeolum minus ‘Baby Deep Rose’ is a compact, bushy variety with deep crimson blooms. H x S: 20cm x 20cm

Nasturtium ‘Bloody Mary’

Tropaeolum minus ‘Bloody Mary’ has splotched and striped flowers in shades deep red, yellow and cream. H x S: 30cm x 60cm