How to Grow Nasturtiums in a Container

by Fern on March 23, 2010

in Flowers Galore

Post image for How to Grow Nasturtiums in a Container

I’m very excited to be participating in the GROW project. Basically, garden bloggers all over the internet have joined together to grow the same plant this season. We’re all going to share our progress and thoughts on the plant on the first Sunday of the month. The plant selected is a variety of nasturtium called ‘Spitfire’. The seeds for the project were generously donated to participants by Renee’s Garden.

We’re not technically supposed to start the project until April, but I’ve been busy researching nasturtiums, and wanted to share what I’ve learned, and my own previous experience, in case you want to grow some nasturtiums too. Be sure to check back on the first Sunday of each month, because I have all sorts of things planned for these seeds, such as testing different germination methods, combination ideas, taking a look at pests, growing it as both a spiller and up a trellis, and even trying ‘Spitfire’ indoors. You’ll be able to find all the GROW project posts by clicking on the GROW Project category in the sidebar.

Nasturtiums are both edible and ornamental plants. Their shield shaped leaves have a peppery flavor, and their color-saturated flowers are also tasty. They come in a variety of shapes (bushy, trailing, and climbing), and the flowers can be both double (many ruffled petals) or single (simple flowers that are no less charming). There are even varieties with variegated leaves.

Photo by Martin LaBar

Great for Beginners

Nasturtiums are a great plant for beginners to try, because they grow quickly, and actually thrive on a little neglect. If you fertilize them too much (or plant them in really fertile soil), they tend to make a lot of leaves and not very many flowers. And if you’re going to err one way or the other, err on the side of watering less. I once had them in a pot that got watered all the time and they seemed to use the extra resources to make extra leaves, not flowers. If you wait until the top few inches of soil are dry, and then water, you should be fine.

You can grow nasturtiums in full sun or partial shade. Though I’ve found that if there is a strong light source, and they are in partial shade, they will stretch towards the light.

The only tricky part about caring for nasturtiums is that they tend to be aphid magnets. Though some people intentionally grow them for that reason. They place nasturtiums close to their vegetable plants with the hopes that the nasturtium will attract the aphids away from the vegetables.

Starting from Seed

It’s sometimes hard to find nasturtium plants in nurseries, because they aren’t exactly thrilled about having their roots disturbed. Though this shouldn’t discourage you from trying nasturtiums, as the seeds are extremely easy to find, and not too difficult to get started. The one thing to remember with nasturtiums is that they have a hard seed coat, and you’ll have a better germination rate if you soak the seeds in warm water overnight, or scratch the seed coat with sand paper. I’ll be trying out both methods (and possibly several more) and report my findings on April 4th.

Photo by Jade Craven

If you want to start nasturtiums indoors, sow them in a biodegradable peat pot or a recycled newspaper pot that doesn’t have to be removed when you transplant your nasturtiums outdoors. Sow them indoors 2-4 weeks before your last frost. Of course, you can save yourself the trouble and directly sow them directly in their final destination outside when there is no longer any danger of frost in your area.

Some Particularly Beautiful Varieties:

Photo by SeenyaRita

  • ‘Black Velvet’ has deep mahogany colored flowers held above the light green foliage. Forms pretty mounds of flowers.
  • ‘Alaska’ has jewel tone flowers and leaves with a random variegation pattern.
  • ‘Cobra’ has rich red flowers and deep green leaves. It supposedly got its name because it likes to slither amongst bushier plants.
  • ‘Milk Maid’ has pale cream flowers with buttery yellow throats.
PrintFriendly and PDF

{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

shari March 23, 2010 at 9:03 am

I’ve had nasturtiums in pots several times. When they say nasturtiums will grow in partial shade, what they really mean is mostly sun. I really do not recommend starting them amywhere except exactly where you want them to be permanently; transplanting them seems to stunt their growth or even kill them outright in my experience. Nicking the seed coat seems to be unnecessary: in fact, I have had better germination rates when I didn’t do this. (This is also true for morning glories and moonflowers.)


melanie watts March 23, 2010 at 9:58 am

I ‘ve never had any problems transplanting nasturtiums or any problems getting them to germinate. I don’t nick their seed coats. I think nasturtiums are the easiest and most rewarding flowers too grow. Their seed is huge, they sprout and grow fast, their flowers are pretty and you can eat the whole plant.


Kimberly March 23, 2010 at 10:12 am

I grow Spitfire in a container, they climb like mad. They’re trying to take over my outdoor cafe table and chairs. They are pretty though, and attract the bugs away from my other plants.


Kenneth Moore March 23, 2010 at 11:31 am

I will definitely be reading this when I get home tonight–it’s full of awesome info, seems like!

I’m happy you’ll try some indoors–mine did pretty well last summer!


Louisa April 25, 2013 at 1:21 pm

My nasturtiums are growing in a sunny east window; lots of leaves and height —–how long from seed to blossoms ??

Nellie March 23, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Tsk, tsk, starting early… the GROW police are onto you!

By the way, I look forward to seeing how you approach the project, given your blog!


Fern March 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Oh no Nellie! You’ve caught me! ;-)

Megan March 23, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Just bought this really cool viney nasturtium a few weeks ago at Annie’s Annuals: http://www.anniesannuals.com/plants/plant_display.asp?prodid=705&account=none I’d love to get my hands on some double nasturtium seeds.


Fern March 23, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Very cool Megan!

Sara K. March 24, 2010 at 4:57 am

I love nasturtiums–last year I bought a plant and transplanted it with no problems–but I was plagued by aphids (which I’d never had before & which spread to other plants, though not as severly). I did the soap thing, the neem oil thing, but nothing helped. Possibly I should have relaxed and been more patient, but the whole thing was heartbreaking, so I’m sitting them out this year, with regrets.


chuckypoo11 March 24, 2010 at 7:33 am

From Organic Plant Protection. “The nasturtium has become a popular flower in the garden for its ability to attract some insect and repel others. Plantings draw aphids from some crops, and put the white fly and squash bug to flight. Nastyrtiums can be brewed into a potent spray, too.”


Mary C. March 24, 2010 at 9:28 am

How funny, I’m growing some for a friend of mine. I don’t recall the variety name off the top of my head but it’s mixed with some pale yellow and some dark mohogany flowers. I didn’t know about the transplant problem…we still haven’t gotten the containers for her balcony yet so I’ve yet to figure out what we’ll do about that…


cindy November 7, 2011 at 1:32 pm

I have no problems transplanting nasturtiums, though I usually take a large portion of soil , being very careful not to disturb the roots. It also helps to shield them from direct sun for a few days after moving them … I love these plants!

Bob March 24, 2010 at 12:24 pm

OMG, awesome post! I actually had my seeds soaking Monday night and just got to planting them this morning.
I wasn’t going to plant them this year, as I had terrible aphid troubles with them last year, but Botanical Interests send me a complimentary packet of them since I was unhappy with my tomato seeds from them.
I will think of what a wonderful company BI is all summer…


T March 25, 2010 at 3:34 am

I’ve planted them in containers on my small apartment patio for several years now. We actually saved the seeds last year and planted them in toilet paper tubes last week. They are coming up already! Looking forward to putting them outside in a few weeks! Nasturtiums are some of the easiest seeds to grow! You get a lot of bang for your buck with these!


cindy November 7, 2011 at 1:41 pm

I love to recycle so using toilet paper tubes sounds great. Could someone please explain how it’s done? Thanks!

Sylwia Dudzinska March 30, 2010 at 11:47 am


I’m new to your blog but Im totally in love with it! It’s really easy to read and follow, the layouts really clean and I love the info you cover/have covered. I was wondering though, ultimately, what size pot should I be expecting to put the nasturtiums in? Since I know I need to sow it in that size then how big should I estimate that its roots will get?


Fern March 30, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Sylwia–Thanks, glad you’re enjoying LOTB! If you’re just going to grow a nasturtium by itself, then a pot about 8 inches wide and deep should be fine.


Garden Bloggers April 2, 2010 at 9:23 pm


Playing catchup with the posts from March. Just wanted to stop by and say thanks for blogging about it early.

Don’t forget about this Sunday’s post. Can’t wait to see your progress.


Fern April 2, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Garden Bloggers–I have already started my different methods of seed sowing experiment. Hopefully I’ll have some germination action to talk about on Sunday. In fact, I’m about to run downstairs and see if any have sprouted…


Sylwia Dudzinska April 5, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I know you said 8″ wide and 8″ deep but for how many seeds would that be? Should I put in just one? Or a couple? I know they won’t transplant so just curious what’s a safe amount?


Fern April 5, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Sylwia–If it was me, I’d sow three in a triangle shape about 4 inches apart from each other. They may not have the “correct” amount of room according to a horticulture professor, but I think three will make a nice lush planting.


Doris April 15, 2010 at 11:25 pm

I’ve planted my nasturtium seeds indoors and they are growing too fast. Can I prune them back and expect bushier growth or will that be harmful to the plant? Thanks for your help.


TC April 22, 2010 at 9:33 am

I was surprised to see that my seeds germinated great without scarring Ms. Fern.


Mark May 4, 2010 at 12:06 pm

I started off with growing some seeds indoors in plastic seed trays about a month ago! Gradually I took them outside but as they got a little bigger and blown over by the wind I decided to transplant them (today) into pots. Only then did I read the blogs etc. that they don’t like transplanting! I didn’t have much choice because I didn’t use peat pots so what do y’all think – are my nasturtiums doomed :) ???


Fern May 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Mark–They’ll probably be fine, don’t worry!

Josephenecat May 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm

I’ve transplanted one and its done just fine. Just this weekend I transplanted two more and I’ll let you know how it does. I dont think theyre necessarily doomed. Keep em watered and you might have some luck!


Doris May 4, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Just out of curiosity, did you not know the answer or just not bother answering my question of April 15? I noticed that Mark got his answer immediately.


Fern May 4, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Doris–I’m sorry, I just missed your question. By “growing too fast” did you mean getting leggy or that it was just getting taller than you wanted? If it’s getting leggy, you can try pruning it back, but I don’t think there is much you can do other than starting over with a new seed and placing your light closer to the plant onces it sprouts. If it’s just getting too tall, pruning it will keep it small, but depending on the type of nasturtium, it may not form a nice mounded shape when you do move it outside. In short, I wouldn’t prune it if it was me, but it can’t hurt if the plant is leggy, because your only other option is to throw the plant out.


Mark May 5, 2010 at 5:45 am

Thanks guys. I’ve done various combinations of 1, 2 & 3 plants per pot – 4 & 6 inch pots. I usually like to water from bottom up, i.e. place the pots in a tray of water to soak up the water. Hopefully in another week they’ll be sorted! BTW – I have the Tom Thumb nasturtium – never experimented with them before now.


Mark June 18, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Back at you guys…nasturtiums grew – loadsa leaves – no problem – til now! something is attacking them in style – - please take a look at
http://www.fitzo.com/pictures/2010/nasturtiums/ – any idea what these guys are – how to get rid of them – are they removable?


Fern June 18, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Mark–You’ve got aphids. You can either buy or attract ladybugs to eat them, wash them off with a spray of water, or douse them with insecticidal soap. For more info, check out this article from the University of California: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7404.html

Steph September 5, 2010 at 12:19 am

Love the posting and discussion. My earliest memories of nasturtiums consist of my grandfather showing me how all of the plant is edible. Tasting nasturtium flowers always takes me back. He had an enormous cascading mound that aided in holding up the cliff on his seaside home in California. I have found them to be extremely hardy and able to bounce back from transplanting, trimming, and even (unintentional) mowing. It may be my fortunate location in California, but I have never found it necessary to be overly careful with nasturtiums in ground or in pots.I hope many will be inspired to plant this beneficial, beautiful and edible plant.


Joycelle November 19, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Hi! I have a question for you, if you have a minute. I’ve always wanted Nasturtiums, and found a big plant growing wild. I picked a couple of vines off of it, and a couple really small, new vines I pulled up gently from the ground. I found some soft, green and yellowish seeds on the ground underneath, too, that I picked up. Can you help me with what I should do now? Do I root the vines in water like my diffenbachia or philodendron? Or just put them in some potting soil? And are the seeds I found mature enough to plant? Thanks for your time!


Fern November 19, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Joycelle–I don’t think you can root nasturtium cuttings, or at least, I never have. Usually mature nasturtium seeds are brown. You could try leaving some out to dry, and sowing the others, and see what happens.


Billbo May 1, 2011 at 4:45 pm

I had great success last year with my nasturtiums, they were massive, were absolutely covered in flower for a long period and no aphids. Simply put two plants into a large planet pot, they each grew at least 15 inches tall, 12 inches wide and had a trail of about 30 inches in total. My first time with them (a gift from a neighbor who’s self same plants were really feeble ;-)

I did feed at least every two days with an inexpensive supermarket liquid feed and it paid off big time. Their offspring are well on their way now, hopefully they will be as showy this year also. I will keep my camera at the ready this year and post back.


Jeanne May 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm

I bought some seeds when I read that they attract white flies away from cucumbers (which were totally distroyed last year). I planted them in jiffy pots and they are starting to sprout so I need to get them in their permanent home very soon. Do I plant them near my vegetable garden or further away so the unwelcome guests don’t see the good stuff?


Fern May 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Jeanne–I’ve never heard that about nasturtiums, I would check with your county’s master gardeners or a local nursery to see if it is really true. Trap crops can be planted anywhere in the vicinity of the plant they are supposed to protect.

Jeanne May 24, 2011 at 7:22 am



Sheila October 24, 2011 at 2:21 pm

It is the end of October and my potted Nasturtiums are gorgeous. With the first frost due any night , can I bring the pot inside and try to keep the plants going?


Fern October 24, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Sure! Although they will probably begin to fade eventually. Most varieties are true annuals.

Barbara Weaver Barber November 4, 2011 at 8:00 am

I too have Nasturtiums in a container. They are all leave… not even trailing. One is starting to droop. We have had our first frost. Do I thin them and bring them indoor?

Leslielu December 30, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I have practically no experience with planting anything ;) . I just received these beatiful outdoor pots as a gift and have been looking for the right thing to plant. The nasturtium sounds perfect for me. The pots are large, though. One is roughly 2 feet tall, 4 feet in diameter at the top and 2 1/2 feet in diameter at the bottom. The other is about 1 1/2 feet tall 2 1/2 feet in diameter at the top and 1 1/2 feet in diameter at the bottom. Are these pots too large for this plant? If not, how many seeds would you recommend, per pot. Also, in northern california, is it too early to plant outdoors now? We don’t have much frost. Lastly, I read about the aphids. We have a bonsai tree close to the area where I would be growing these. Should I be worried for the bonsai tree?


Rob February 27, 2012 at 6:05 am

What a great blog. I hope people continue to contribute to it. I am in the process of preparing some diamond jubilee hanging baskets of red white and blue to celebrate the Queen’s 60 years on the throne. I’m getting lots of orders and have got hundreds of plants on the go in the greenhouse. The nasturtiums are doing well but I wondered if anyone has some suggestions for varieties following my red white and blue theme for the hanging baskets.


Candy April 14, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Hello, I know this blog was from quite a while ago and I don’t know if anyone still checks it, but I am just now stumbling upon it as I am looking for in-depth info on how to successfully start nasturtiums from seed in small peat pots. I am having a bunch of kids start nasturtiums in 2-inch (really small) peat pots next week to take home and grow, and am putting together an info sheet for them to take home on how to continue to care for them. First, I’m wondering how deep they should be planted in these small pots (which are probably only 3′ tall). I’ve found instructions ranging from 1/4″ to 1″ deep. Also, because of the small size of the peat pots, I’m wondering what to say as to when they should transplant the pot and all into either a larger container or in a permanent place outdoors. Should it be after the plant has gotten to a certain height or after a certain number of weeks?? Any help with this would be GREATLY appreciated!


Fern April 15, 2012 at 11:46 pm

Candy–All that info should be on the seed packets you purchase.

Nicole April 16, 2012 at 4:51 am

Hey Candy,

I planted mine a week and a half ago in a seeding tray. They just started to come up a day or two ago and are growing quite quickly.

I’m hoping that it’ll be warm enough before they get too big, so that I can transplant them without having to touch the roots too much. Please keep us posted and I will do the same!


Candy April 16, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Just to satisfy my own curiosity, I planted 2 peat pots with nicked nasturtium seeds and 2 peat pots with unnicked seeds the other day to see which germinate and if there tend to be any differences between them as they grow. But since I don’t have experience doing this before, I’m hesitant on what instructions to give to these kids for after they being their pots home. I’m also wondering whether or not I should soak all the seeds the night before to help increase the likelihood of germination, since each kid only has 2 chances (seeds) at growing a nasturtium plant. I want to give them the best chance possible to have a flower that grows big enough for them to be proud of! We’re doing this as a part of an “Earth Day Workshop” and I chose Nasturtiums because not only are they beautiful flowers, but they are edible, which I think is a fun and healthy concept for kids to understand. I will keep you posted on how my plantings turn out and thanks in advance for doing the same! :)

Candy April 16, 2012 at 9:11 am

There is only growing info for planting them outdoors – nothing for starting them indoors or in pots. Help??


Fern April 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Candy, that shouldn’t be right. First, the seed starting info is the same whether you sow the seeds outside or inside, and most/all seed companies presume that you’re starting them inside. Which brand of seeds do you have?

Candy April 16, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I have a packet from Johnny’s Selected Seeds (Kaleidoscope Mix) and a packet of Burpee (Jewel Mix) and I promise you, neither includes indoor sowing instructions (or I wouldn’t be so desperate for this info). :) My main concerns are knowing if the 1/2″ deep is sufficient for providing enough darkness in peat pot plantings, as I’ve found recommendations ranging from 1/4″ to 1″ deep while searching the web. Second, what is a good rule of thumb for telling them when to transplant into a larger container…a certain size? Or just after danger of frost, which where I live is toward the end of May (5 or so weeks from now). Would 5 weeks in a peat pot be too long? If so, I’ll just recommend transplanting to a larger container at some point before that.


Fern April 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Candy–How deep does your seed packet say to plant them? Both of those companies include that information on the seed packet. I don’t know what it is off the top of my head because I always just do what the seed packet says. It is the same regardless of whether you sow them in a pot inside or outside. You should replant them when the roots start circling the bottom of the pot and poking out the drainage holes. If your peat pots don’t have drainage holes, poke one and look.

Rose May 10, 2012 at 6:46 pm

I don’t have a lot of space and am wondering if nasturtiums do well with other plants, any particular do’s and don’t's? I’m thinking of putting it with lavender.


Sue May 15, 2012 at 4:34 pm

I just finished reading your tips for growing Nasturtiums, great tips that I will try.
This is my first year starting them from seed and so far so good. They will be going outside next week. . .so I will neglect them a little more this year and hope for the best.
My seed packet said to take a nail file and lightly rough up the seed before planting, I’m not sure if that was the trick
that helped them sprout but they did great.
Now I can’t wait for the blossoms!


laraysha June 14, 2012 at 10:13 am

hi ive never commented to a blog or anything but i have been trying to do some research here…my son brought home a nasturtium plant from school for mothers day. Well it was all to sweet except i dont know what kind it is and had no information about it….so i transplanted it into a pot considering i live in alaska and the ground was still frozen….well i have yellow leaves no flowers and spindly stems..im just not sure what to do with it
if you can help at all i would appreciate it thank you


robin October 31, 2012 at 8:08 am

i live in AK too and know how hard it can be to keep things alive here with the temporal rainforest climate.
I started my Nasturiums indoors last February and they thrived through th esummer in a small pot on my southeasterly window sill.
I did however, occasionally add a tiny bit of miracle grow fertilizer to help boost the blooms. It worked like a charm. Since my pot is on the smaller side I did trim and cut back vines regularly. Even suck some of the vines back in the soil to start new “legs”.
It has become a bit spindley now that we’ve just had our first snow. I might move it to my indoor grow light but not sure it will make it through the season given that it is an annual. We shall see.
Good luck!

Nana June 19, 2012 at 9:51 am

I have nasturtium growing in a pot on the deck with cilantro, basil and tarragon. Does anyone have experience growing nasturtium with these herbs? I am wondering if I should move the herbs or transplant the nasturtium. Right now the nasturtium seems to be doing fine. I grew the “international” last year but those plants were in the vegetable garden and did fine. First time growing nasturtium in a pot though. Any feedback on this is appreciated.


Ruth Wickine July 3, 2012 at 11:17 am

I have harvested Nasturtium seeds from my plants of last summer and was just given a gift of many seeds from a friend. I have NOT planted any as of yet and am wondering how long they last as seeds (from year to year?) and do you always soak them before planting? HELP!!!!


Ann September 8, 2012 at 9:46 am

Have read right thro’ the blog .. fascinating. Just wanted to say, I think I may have been growing mine in too rich a soil, & indeed the flowers are small, appearing late and dying off very quickly. That said, last year I tried them on very thin poor soil, plants were small, very spindly and most died off before flowering.
I’d be interested to read comments. Thanks.


betty brighton September 16, 2012 at 7:31 am

When we lived in California, our local nursery sold boxes of ladybirds that you could release at dusk on your aphid infested plant and by morning all the aphids would be gone and the ladybugs moved on to somewhere else. Has anyone else heard of this? Also, wasps eat up the aphids if you don’t mind them buzzing around your plants.


jpcat May 30, 2013 at 9:00 pm

I just purchased a 4 inch nasturtium Alaska mix today. I have never seen this plant before ever. It has a few bright orange papery flowers. I am new to planting, so terminology is green. The leaves are super flat with no creases, kind of like lilly pad. cool and different. I want to plant it in my vertical pallet planter. After reading about it. I think it might do well at the top with some sand added to soil. I am thrilled for any advice on this.


Little Miss Green Thumb June 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Hi there from Brampton, Ontario, Canada. I really like this blog. I stumbled on it by chance and am amazed at the comments and feed backs. I had great success with transplanted nasturnium starter plants last summer and I harvested the seed and I am trying my luck this year. This time I planted the seeds directly in a part sun garden with relatively dry soil 1 week ago and so far the seedlings are up and are growing strong.


Chanlyn June 27, 2013 at 8:38 pm

My nasturtiums are growing in a very large pot, but the leaves are spotty with brown dry spots. Eventually, the whole leaf dies. They were happy for a while…very healthy looking and suddenly started turning yellow and brown. Any suggestions?


Carson July 7, 2013 at 8:23 am

On a Vancouver balcony facing northeast, we have nasturtiums in pots. The pots are not very big, so we compensate by using 20-30-20 plant food in every single jug of water we use; this from spring right into summer. Zero problems. The plants are thriving.

Also, we transplanted one when its growth was outdoing expectations. I was worried about separating it while it was so prolific, but it just kept on thriving; no problem at all with what was certainly a chancy transplant for any species.

Our nasturtiums are in rich soil, as we had no choice, and they are doing just fine. However, in the past I’ve also planted them amongst broken concrete slabs and they flourished there too, so consider them for making such unsightly areas beautiful.

Aphids—just don’t worry about them. Every one of we humans do a million times more damage every day. It would be outrageously out of perspective to be concerned with aphids, which are a veritable MacDonalds for your local lady bugs.


Fern November 5, 2011 at 12:10 am

Barbara–Nasturtiums will not survive outdoors in freezing weather. The drooping one may already have gotten too cold. Other things to check are the size of the pot it’s growing in and whether it’s getting enough water.


Fern April 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Nasturtium flowers are always the same size, no matter what kind of good or bad treatment you provide. I’ve had the fastest germination results by nicking the seed coat with nail clippers.


Leave a Comment

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: