Tropaeolum (nasturtiums)


A group of hardy annual or perennial climbers and scramblers. Most popular garden varieties are dwarf or prostrate in form but all have attractive, brightly coloured flowers. The whole plant is aromatic.

Family: Tropaeolaceae
Botanical Name: Tropaeolum
Common Names: flame creeper, flame nasturtium, flame flower, garden nasturtium, Indian cress

Foliage: Deciduous, green round, wavy-edged leaves. Variegated forms are available. The plant's long stems wind around supports like tendrils.

Flowers: Funnel-shaped flowers with five petals, in shades of red, yellow and orange.

Flowering Period: Summer to autumn.

Soil: Moist but well-drained, unfertile soils.

Conditions: Best in full sun but will tollerate partial shade. Grow in a west or south facing aspect.

Habit: Trailing, scrambling or climbing.

Type: Mainly grown as annuals in the UK. Perennial forms are available.

Origin: Mexico to South America.

Hardiness: Hardy in coastal and milder areas (down to -5°C).

Planting and Growing Tropaeolum

Annuals are very easy to grow from seed. Most like a well drained, fairy poor soil and full sun. If the soil is too rich these plants will produce lots of foliage at the expense of flowers. The perennial, T. speciosum, prefers a slightly acid soil. The roots of climbers and perennials should be kept in shade.

Grow tender species under glass above 7 C.

Suitable for town, city, cottage, gravel or informal gardens. Good for covering banks and slopes. Dwarf scramblers/trailers are ideal for raised beds, borders, pots and containers.

Very easy plants to grow, so are an ideal choice for beginners.

Taking Care of Tropaeolum

Needs very little care and attention if growing conditions are right. Apply a general liquid feed at regular intervals once in flower.


Deadhead regularly to extend the flowering period.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to attack by aphids, caterpillars, flea beetles, slugs and whitefly. Can be affected by a virus.

Propagating Tropaeolum

Sow seeds of annuals at the growing site, in early spring.

Propagate perennials from seed. Plant out in early spring and divide mature plants in late winter. The tubers of tuberous species can be lifted in autumn and stored until next spring.

Popular Varieties of Tropaeolum Grown in the UK

There are many different cultivars of Tropaeolum available from medium to dwarf height. Flower colours range from red to orange and yellow.

T. majus (nasturtium), of which many good dwarf varieties are available in range of colours, including:

'Whirlybird hybrids', compact, vigorous growing, semi-double mix or single colours available. Height 9 to 12in (20 to 30cm).

'Tom Thumb', compact bushy plants with small leaves, semi-double and single-flowered. Height to 10 to 18in (25 to 45cm).

'Gleam hybrids', semi-trailing habit with semi-double, sweetly scented flowers, in various colours. Height to 18in (40cm).

T. speciosum, a fully hardy perennial climber, ideal for cool moist climates (requires acid soil). Flame-red flowers. Height to 10ft (3m), spread 2ft (60cm).

T. tuberosum, a hardy perennial tuberous climber, with red-orange flowers. Height to 8ft (2.4m).