What’s a really easy annual to grow this summer?

Nasturtium Ladybird Mix
Nasturtium 'Ladybird Mix'. Image: Suttons Seeds

Nasturtiums are one of the easiest garden annuals to grow for your garden. The flamboyant flowers are bold and colourful, making them an excellent choice for gardens large and small. The flowers, leaves and fresh seeds are edible and ideal for salads, garnishes and peppery accents to your summer menus – what’s not to like?

Perfect for pots

Nasturtiums are low maintenance garden plants that are perfect for beginners and ideal for children to grow from seed. You can also buy pots of seedlings from garden centres and nurseries.

Plant nasturtiums in containers with herbs
Image: Fleuroselect

Nasturtium flowers are on the fiery, zingy orange, red and yellow colour spectrum and are guaranteed to add vibrant hot shades to your garden displays.

The large, open flowers are rich in nectar and attract foraging bumblebees that climb inside the flowers in search of their rich, sweet reward. Well-pollinated plants will set seed.

The long tongued garden bumblebee can reach into the deep nasturtium flowers for a nectar reward
Image: Martin Mulchinock

These annual plants are prolific flowerers and will keep on flowering right up to the first frosts, when the plants will die off completely.

Choose your nasturtiums according to where you want to plant and grow them. For pots and containers a compact variety is a good choice, but for hanging baskets you might want a semi-trialing nasturtium to overflow and hang down. There are also trailing types that will clamber, create good ground cover or indeed some that will scrabble up supports and other plants.

Incredible edible

The spectacular flowers add a stunning accent to summer salads and a peppery highlight to the flavours. You might even capture a tiny burst of nectar inside the flowers as you feast. But the leaves and green seeds are also edible. The young leaves can be used raw in salads; they taste a bit like watercress and added to stir-fries or used to make an alternative herb pesto. Older leaves are hotter and more peppery, but still very tasty. The young green seeds will add a peppery crunch to your menus or can be lightly pickled and used as a caper alternative.

nasturtium pesto
Nasturtiums make a nice alternative to basil pesto.

Growing from seed

Nasturtiums are mostly annuals that grow, flower and set seed in the same season and are really, really easy to grow from seed. Nasturtiums are one of the plants that are so easy to grow from seed they are often chosen for schoolchildren. So even if you’ve never grown from seed, these plants are a great place to start. It literally is child’s play. In fact if you’ve had a few nasturtium plants in the garden already the chances are you’ll have a few self-sown plants the following year, because the fallen seed will grow where it lands. It’s that easy to grow, the plants can do it themselves!

But for the best results it’s better to choose a named variety of a flower colour that you covet and grow your own from seed. One packet will produce dozens of plants, so you can share the surplus with friends or donate to a charity plant sale. Follow the instructions on the seed packet for the variety you have chosen to grow.

Seedlings quickly develop into strong, sturdy plants with masses of vibrant orange, red and yellow flowers.

  • If you are new to growing plants from seed, or a little nervous, you may prefer to buy ready grown plants from the nursery or garden centre.
Jean Vernon

About Jean Vernon

Jean Vernon is a slightly quirky, bee friendly, alternative gardener. She doesn’t follow the rules and likes to push the boundaries a bit just to see what happens. She has a fascination for odd plants, especially edibles and a keen interest in growing for pollinators especially bees. She’s rather obsessed with the little buzzers. Telegraph Gardening Correspondent, mostly testing and trialing products and Editor-In-Chief for Richard Jackson’s Garden.
@TheGreenJeanie
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