Tropaeolum majus 

(tro-paa-e’o-lum maa’juss)

Common name: Nasturtium, Indian Cress

Family: Tropaeolaceae, Nasturtium

Height x width: 1’ tall x 2’ wide, or climbing vine 6-8’ depending on cultivar

Growth rate: moderate to fast

Foliage: rounded to kidney-shaped (reniform), wavy margins, light green, 1-2" long

Flowers: red, pink, orange, yellow, cream, pastel, or bicolor; long spurred, 2-2 1/2" across, throughout summer; generally single unless noted; some cultivars fragrant (photo cv. Banana Split)

Hardiness: annual

Soil: most, tolerates dry and gravelly, see problems below; flowers best in poor soils

Light: full sun

Pests and Problems: few flowers if excess fertility, heat; leaf spot and wilt; sucking insects with most important being aphids

Landscape habit, uses: groundcover, vine, cut flowers, hummingbirds

Other interest: native to South America; used as a trap crop for aphids; name by Linnaeus from Latin word for trophy--as a sign of victory in war captured helmets were once hung on posts, he compared the leaves of the vines climbing posts to the shields and the flowers to the blood-stained helmets; common name of Indian Cress from pungent flavor of leaves similar to related watercress (N. officinale). Flowers contain mustard seed oil, so flowers and young fruits can be used for seasoning and pickling, leaves can be used for peppery taste in salads.

Other culture: plant in cool location, don’t overfertilize (see problems above)

Propagation: seeds direct sown in garden (difficult to transplant seedlings) with rapid germination (1-2 weeks); cover lightly with soil; ‘Hermine Grasshof’ only by stem tip cuttings

Cultivars: those marked * are more commonly seen; most are hybrids derived from the species
Cultivar flowers foliage habit, height
*Alaska Hybrids mixed variegated compact, 12-15"
‘Cherry Rose Jewel’ cherry rose, semi-double green compact, 12-18"
‘Double Gleam Hybrids’ mix, semi-double, fragrant green semi-trailing, 12"
‘Empress of India’ crimson purplish compact, 12"
*Gleam Hybrids’ mix, double green semi-trailing, 12"
‘Hermine Grasshof’ bright red, double green compact, 9-12"
‘Jewel of Africa’ mix marbled vine, 8’
*Jewel Hybrids’ mix, semi- to double green compact, 12"
‘Moonlight’ light yellow green vine, 6’
‘Park’s Fragrant Giants’ mix green trailing vine
‘Peach Melba’ yellow, red blotched green compact, 12"
‘Salmon Baby’ salmon pink, fringed green compact, 12"
‘Strawberries and Cream’ yellow, red blotched green compact, 9-12"
‘Strawberry Ice’ gold, red blotched bluish compact, 9"
‘Tip Top Hybrids’ mix green compact, 8"
‘Tom Thumb Hybrids’ mix green compact, 8-10"
‘Whirlybird Cream’ creamy yellow, semi-double green compact, 9-12"
*Whirlybird Hybrids’ mix, semi-double green compact, 9-12"

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

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