Tropaeolum majus | Nasturtium ‘Empress of India’
A self-seeding, easy to grow, annual, edible plant. Nasturtiums will grow in part shade to full sun, but really prefer the cooler temperatures of the spring and fall seasons. There is an old gardeners maxim: “Be nasty to Nasturtiums” because they prefer to grow in poor, dry soils. Soil that is too rich leads to leaf and stem growth at the expense of the flowers… The ‘Empress of India’ variety sports deep red-orange flowers and is considered a mounding nasturtium variety that forms 2′ circular mounds of round, green leaves. Nasturtiums are considered a crossover plant, as they’re equally at home in the flower garden as they are in the vegetable plot. They are reliable and easy to tuck into any well-drained spot. They also make a perfect disguise to cover the fading bulb foliage in late spring.
The flowers and the leaves are both deliciously edible with a spicy watercress-like taste. The leaves have a rather strong peppery flavor and are rich in vitamin C, and the flowers are gorgeous served on a plate, or chopped up in cream cheese to make for a fresh sandwich. We like to eat the flowers fresh off the plant and get the syrup out of the back of the spur.
As much as we all love to eat them, rabbits will pass them over! The long-spurred flower blossoms do however, attract hummingbirds, and other general pollinators. Nasturtiums are sometimes used in gardens as a pest-attractant because spider mites and aphids will colonize these plants and (hopefully) leave your more expensive plants alone.
Start seeds indoors or direct sow outdoors anytime after last frost up until late summer. Some choose to soak the seeds in water overnight before germinating, but we find this to be unnecessary as they are usually the first ones to pop even without soaking.
This is one of our favorite plants to grow and is also one of easiest, time and time again.
Sun exposure: Part shade to full sun
Mature height: 12-18 inches
Mature width: 18-24 inches
Hardiness zones: 9-11.