One of my go-to gardening practices is mixing a variety of flowers and vegetables in one garden bed. It’s called companion planting, and one of the top flowers to use for this is the nasturtium. These bright and colorful flowers are effortless to grow and make excellent companions throughout the garden.
Nasturtiums are excellent companion plants for pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, sunflowers, tomatoes, plants from the brassica family, melons, sage, and marigolds, to name a few. Nasturtiums can repel pests, attract pollinators, serve as a trap crop, maintain soil moisture and nutrition, and more.
In this article, I’ll share 14 benefits nasturtiums can bring to your garden, giving you all the facts backed up by science and experience.
From their ability to repel certain pests to their weed-suppressing leaf canopy, you’ll find a reason to plant nasturtiums this year.
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1. Nasturtiums are easy to grow
Perhaps the most attractive of all, nasturtiums are at the top of the list for easy-to-grow flowers. The large, pea-size seeds are easy to handle, germinate quickly, and the plant itself doesn’t need much attention at all.
Some gardeners would even say that nasturtiums thrive on neglect, which is great news if you don’t have much time or experience to commit to your garden.
Plant the nasturtium seeds in a corner of your garden bed, water them regularly, and in less than two months, you’ll see your first blooms. It’s that easy!
2. Nasturtiums come in every beautiful color and pattern
Whether you prefer flowers in bright jewel tones or muted pastels, nasturtiums have you covered. Some nasturtium varieties have bold, solid colors like Jewel Mix. Other varieties have streaked or spotted petals, such as Orchid Cream or the Bloody Mary variety I’m currently starting from seed.
You can even find varieties with variegated leaves, such as Alaska, which has green and cream-streaked leaves, but solid jewel-tone flowers.
3. Nasturtiums grow in poor soils
Nasturtiums can thrive in even the worst soils, making them an excellent option for gardens in sub-prime conditions. Of course, the plants will perform their best in rich, well-draining soil, but if that’s not what’s in your garden, don’t worry.
Alongside other poor-soil lovers like cosmos and coneflower, nasturtiums will still produce blooms and peppery seeds even without a ton of care or compost.
4. Nasturtiums will grow in partial shade
Nasturtiums can thrive in poor soil and don’t mind partial shade, making them a perfect companion for larger plants or a shady spot in your garden. Considering that not every gardener has a garden with full sun, this is great news if you want a pop of color in a dim corner of your yard.
I tested nasturtium’s ability to grow anywhere by planting them on the east-facing side of my house, and they still grow well. They aren’t blooming as heavily as their full-sun counterparts, but the foliage and occasional color are still beautiful to enjoy.
When planted in full sun, nasturtiums make a great companion to taller plants. The vines will creep around the base of taller plants, seeking the sun at the edge of the planting. You won’t notice any less vigor in your nasturtium plants due to the shade from the taller plants.
To learn more about how much light nasturtiums need to thrive, check out this article, Can Nasturtiums Grow In Part Shade?
5. Nasturtiums are a fantastic, low-growing ground cover
There are two types of nasturtiums: compact and climbing. Both varieties grow low to the ground and spread vertically, using their roots to fight erosion and shade the soil.
Compact nasturtiums generally don’t reach further than 1 foot wide, whereas trailing vines may grow 3-4 feet long. Still, the leaves on a nasturtium vine will not become too tall, making plenty of room for your taller plants, such as corn, tomatoes, broccoli, and beans.
Their umbrella-shaped leaves also protect the soil from the sunlight, helping to keep it moist all day long. If you live in a water-restricted area or your soil isn’t good at retaining moisture, nasturtiums make a living mulch to shade the soil and preserve water.
In addition, nasturtiums’ ground-covering growth makes them excellent for out-competing weeds, keeping your garden free of unwanted plants (more on that next).
6. Nasturtium leaf canopy can suppress weeds
Speaking of creeping, the sprawling, lush nature of nasturtium vines shades out weed seeds that may be on the soil surface, preventing them from germinating. Fewer weed seeds sprouting in your garden bed means fewer weeds to pull, so use nasturtiums as a living mulch and save yourself some work.
Alaska nasturtiums are particularly vigorous growers, so plant a few seeds per garden bed, and they’ll make short they’ll cover the surface. If the plants get overzealous and take up too much space, just trim back the vines. They’ll be back!
7. Nasturtiums can grow vertically to save space
All this talk of sprawling vines might lead you to believe you don’t have room to grow nasturtiums. Fortunately, trailing varieties of nasturtiums can be grown vertically up a trellis, fence, or cage.
The vines don’t grow tendrils like cucumbers or sweet peas, but the vigorous vines can easily drape over the rungs of a tomato cage or trellis. I’ve had nasturtiums climb a chainlink fence, making a welcome screen of flowers around my yard.
To grow your nasturtiums up a trellis, you might need to give them help in the beginning, loosely tying the stems at the base of the trellis. Once the plants mature, the vines should find their way up the supports on their own.
If they don’t, feel free to drape vines over the support where you want them to grow, tying them loosely with twine if needed.
8. Nasturtiums attract pollinators
Nasturtiums have bright blooms and a sweet scent that is irresistible to pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. According to the experts, one of the reasons is that they contain sucrose, one of the purest and sweetest forms of sugars.
The flower’s bright colors and funnel shape help draw in birds like hummingbirds and larger pollinators like bumble bees. While the bees are flying from flower to flower, they’ll also stop by your cucumbers, and any other vegetable you have that needs pollination.
Not to mention adding an interesting wildlife show as the pollinators flit around.
9. Nasturtiums repel some pests
Nasturtiums are naturally resistant to some pests, which makes them ideal for companion planting with some particular crops and flowers. The flowers might even repel some pests, reducing the chances of an infestation that could reduce your harvests.
- Cabbage worms
- Cabbage loopers
- Cucumber beetles
- Squash bugs
- Carrot fly
- Potato bugs
- Mexican bean beetles
- Leafminer larvae
For both studies, nasturtiums were interplanted with vegetable crops such as broccoli, cabbage, basil, and lettuce. The control crops were planted without any flowers, and they consistently showed more damage than the vegetables grown with flowers, such as nasturtiums and marigolds.
Although there’s no guarantee of success, companion planting nasturtiums is an excellent experiment to keep pest pressure down and crop yields high.
One of my favorite books, Plant Partners: Science-Based Companion Planting Strategies for the Vegetable Garden, dives into the evidence behind using nasturtiums as companion plants. It’s worth a read if you like to understand the “how and why” behind your gardening practice.
10. Nasturtiums attract aphids, slugs, and snails as a trap crop
No gardener wants aphids or snails in their garden, but it happens to the best of us. However, you can use nasturtiums to draw aphids, slugs, and snails away from your more valuable crops.
Nasturtiums can be used as bait to keep damaging pests off your more valuable crops as a trap crop or sacrificial crop. Since nasturtiums are quick, easy growers, any plants that become too damaged by pests can easily be replaced before the season is over. It’s a lot easier to repIant a nasturtium mid-summer than a tomato or dahlia plant.
Once the nasturtium is full of aphids, pull the plant out and bury it in your compost pile. If you notice the plant is covered in green cabbage moth caterpillars, you can either pull off the infested leaves or take out the whole plant and drop them into a bucket of soapy water (sorry, not sorry!).
To learn more about which plants nasturtiums pair best with, jump over to this article next: 14 Best Companion Plants For Nasturtiums: Flower, Veg, And Herb.
11. Nasturtiums make long-lasting cut flowers
Nasturtiums don’t get a lot of recognition as making an excellent cut flower. Although they don’t have long, straight stems like many cut flowers, that doesn’t stop them from being a stunning sight in the vase. Their curving vines and flowering stems are perfect for creating new shapes in the vase, and the flowers will last for a week or so, and longer with a floral preservative.
If your nasturtiums are taking over the garden bed, try trimming back a few vines and popping them into a vase for a unique arrangement.
12. Nasturtiums will reseed themselves every year
Once you plant nasturtiums in your garden, chances are you won’t have to again for years. Nasturtiums are prolific self-sowers, meaning they produce dozens of seeds per plant that drop onto the soil and germinate without any help.
Many seeds will germinate within the same season they were made, which builds succession sowing right into your garden without any effort. Other seeds will lie dormant in the soil until the next season, popping up the following spring.
Once you see volunteer nasturtiums popping up, you know spring has arrived!
13. The whole nasturtiums plant is edible
Nasturtiums aren’t just food for the eyes. They are edible flowers with a peppery, slightly sweet taste that goes well in many summer dishes.
The leaves and flowers can be used in salads, as garnish, and even as cake decorations. One of the most popular ways to use the seed pods is by making nasturtium capers, which are pickled green seed pods. Eric from Epic Gardening is a fan, too, and mentions them in his video:
14. Nasturtiums may improve the flavor of some plants
Although there’s no proof of this, many gardeners believe that planting nasturtiums alongside melons, cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash will improve the other plant’s flavor.
This could be due to the high levels of sucrose in nasturtiums, the alleged chemicals they release to repel pests, or their peppery flavor – no one knows!
Nasturtiums are real team players. Planting these flowers alongside veggies, herbs, and other flowers can make your garden more productive and attractive to you, wildlife, and pollinators.
Use these articles to keep your nasturtiums happy, healthy, and blooming all season long: