Growing Species Nasturtiums

One of my goals for the 2011 growing season is to try expanding into other species of the nasturtium genus (Tropaeolum). My love of the well known and edible Tropaeolum majus is well documented on this site, and elsewhere, but I have never tried to grow, nor have I even seen any of the other species in person.

I’ve been wondering why the others are not popular in my part of the world, and have concluded that it must be down to climate and their difficulty to grow here. Like its cousins, the typical garden nasturtium will not survive the winter in my zone (around 5-6 depending); however, it is easy enough to start from seed each summer. Some will even self-seed and come back on their own the following year.

The two species I have decided to try, T. speciosum (aka Flame Flower) and T. peregrinum (aka Canary Creeper) are also not hardy, but what’s worse is that they are more difficult to start from seed. In fact, I am quickly discovering that T. speciosum is downright near impossible to germinate and can take up to a year or longer to budge! The stories I am hearing are not hopeful. I have a feeling this will be a test of wills, requiring every ounce of patience I have managed to cultivate as a gardener. T. peregrinum appears to be the easier nut to crack. Germination rates are listed at around 20-30 days.

Either way, I’d better get on starting them sooner rather than later. I’m not sure I am up for the Flame Flower Challenge, but Canary Creeper’s kung fu seems beatable. If neither work,I can always depend on good ole T. majus to make an appearance sometime in June. I’m thinking about trying a variegated variety with salmon/peach flowers called ‘Saucy Rascal’ and ‘Empress of India’ is a compact variety that I always grow in pots, no matter what.

UPDATE: T. peregrinum (aka Canary Creeper) took less than a week to germinate. All of the seeds I started germinated and the plants are now taking over my seed starting station. I had to cut them back! Meanwhile, T. speciosum continues to do nothing.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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9 thoughts on “Growing Species Nasturtiums

  1. Looking forward to seeing your progress with these new species. Tropaeolum tricolor has been on my “to grow” list for a while. I also love the look of Tropaeolum pentaphyllum, but I think it’s more difficult to grow.

  2. Meighan: Oh yes, I love those too! They remind me of honeysuckle… which is interesting because these varieties tend to be grown like them.

    Laura W: Love the color. The flowers look like little dahlias, but I can see that the leaves are very T. majus. Chances are I can’t get those shipped… and therefore can’t be enticed to purchase.

  3. These aren’t species nasturtiums but last summer I branched out from the usual tricolour mix and tried a variety called Vanilla Berry (Renee’s Garden) and they were very pretty, more delicate than the usual. The leaves were very dark, too, which I loved. Looking forward to your new “nasties”!

  4. Ciao Gayla-

    I like your Saucy Rascal. Did you order it from the site you listed or have you found a local source for it? I hope you can save seeds from it in any event. Let me know if you do! I grew Salmon Baby this year, although I started them rather late, so they weren’t as impressive as they might have been. The flowers were double. Saucy Rascal looks like an Alaska type with those variegated leaves. The non-orange types are sometimes hard to find, but entirely worth it. Amy, I still think of you whenever I grow Black Velvet. You’ve got a source for that seed whenever you wish!

  5. Keep up updated because I want to grow these too. I don’t think I’m going to grow many of the “climbing” varieties this year and will just stick to the mounding kind as they seem to bloom more.

  6. love love love nasturtiums! I like the Afrikaans name for them, kappertjies – little bonnets. Especially dark red ones. I’ve grown Empress and black velvet, and been disappointed by King Theodore which was very pale. Red wonder is the best so far, with silvery grey leaves and truly dark red flowers. I’d love a dark red flower with variegated leaves. Does anyone have any recommendations?

  7. Re: tough sprouting- some seeds need to be soaked for 24 hours in water under a piece of wet paper towel.
    I love the canary nasturtiums- I grow regulars every year now- and would like some. Any extras? Hope all is well- the house is shaping up and I can’t wait to see your new garden!

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