I believe edible flowers are not given the attention they deserve. And the indisputable king of edible flowers has to be the nasturtium.
As ideal for brightening up a dull space as it is for adding life to a boring salad, nasturtiums are one of the best-loved edible flower varieties.
These colorful flowers grow quickly, happily, and easily, and they thrive in poor soils. This means they don’t need extra fertilization, or really any extra love at all – in fact, they are so easy to grow that they are often overlooked entirely by many gardeners.
I’m here to tell you that this is nothing short of a travesty!
Although these flowers are most often grown as annuals, nasturtiums have been known to grow as herbaceous perennials in warmer climates, meaning they die to the ground in the fall and grow again the next spring.
Plus, even in cooler climates, they reseed readily.
So, these flowers are edible, elegant, and enduring? What’s not to love?
And that’s not all! They also come with the added bonus of being a natural pest repellent, helping to protect your other plants against unwanted visitors.
There are so many beautiful varieties of nasturtiums that it’s hard to pick just one.
Keep reading to learn about our top picks, a careful selection of the best and most beautiful nasturtiums on offer, and find out which type is the one for you!
Things to Know Before You Grow
All nasturtiums belong to the genus Tropaeolum, which consists of roughly 80 species of annual and perennial herbaceous flowering plants.
The nasturtium species most commonly known and loved by gardeners is T. majus, a hardy annual originating from the Andes Mountains in Bolivia and Colombia, although there are also several other well-known species, including T. peregrinum and T. speciosum.
There are a couple of considerations to keep in mind when choosing your nasturtium, the main one being whether you would prefer a trailing or bushy type.
Within the same species, both types may be available, so be sure to check the characteristics of each specific variety closely when you do your shopping.
Trailing nasturtiums have larger blooms and leaves, although they don’t produce as many flowers as the bush varieties do.
They look great in hanging baskets, sprawling across a bed as a ground cover, or cascading over the edge of a planter. You can even sometimes train vigorous varieties to grow up a fence or pole.
Bush-type nasturtiums, as the name suggests, grow in a compact, bushy habit that is more easily contained and well behaved.
This makes them ideal for window boxes and containers, or edging a path or border. You won’t have to worry about this type running rampant across your garden.
It’s important to bear in mind that these categories are not definitive, as some bush varieties trail a bit, and some trailers are less vigorous than others and almost bushlike.
Generally speaking, it’s important to consider the various types available on a case-by-case basis.
Other than that, it is worth noting that some varieties have especially beautiful variegated foliage, giving the plant a touch of extra interest even when it’s not flowering.
15 of the Best Varieties of Nasturtium
With so many delightful cultivars available, the most difficult part of writing this roundup has been narrowing down my list of favorites.
I could happily plant all of them in my garden – at the same time!
With its green and white variegated foliage, this heirloom cultivar is a treat for the eyes whether it’s in bloom or not.
‘Alaska’ produces edible flowers in a mix of yellow, cherry, salmon, and crimson shades, ready to enjoy in 55 to 60 days.
With a mature height of 12-14 inches, this compact, bushy variety thrives in both full sun and partial shade. This is an adaptable and easygoing cultivar.
Perfect for growing in borders or window boxes, ‘Apricot’ produces plants that lift their cheerful and uniquely apricot-colored flowers above bright green foliage.
Compact and bushy, this dwarf cultivar makes an attractive addition to any garden bed or container, and matures in 55-65 days.
This variety reaches up to 12 inches in height, and seeds are available from Eden Brothers.
3. Black Velvet
These blossoms are such a deep red that they appear almost black, making this type a magical and strikingly unique choice.
The flowers are made even more impressive via the stark contrast between their midnight-hued petals and bright yellow throats.
Another reason this is such a great pick is that it is a prolific bloomer, and you can enjoy ‘Black Velvet’ throughout the spring and summer.
This trailing type grows up to 12 inches in height, and matures 75 days after sowing.
Seeds are available in packets of various sizes from Eden Brothers.
4. Empress of India
The regal ‘Empress of India’ is a bushy, dwarf heirloom cultivar with a mature height of 16 inches.
Set against dark blue-green foliage, this variety produces long, spurred, 2 1/2-inch edible scarlet blossoms, and matures in 55-65 days.
5. Fiery Festival
‘Fiery Festival’ is sure to create a carnival of color in your garden!
The combination of bold red flowers with their luminous yellow centers and the bright green foliage makes this such a fun cultivar – it makes me happy just to look at this cheerful color combination!
This low-growing, trailing variety prefers full sun, and can achieve lengths of up to 60 inches, making it ideal for planting as a ground cover or in hanging baskets.
You can find ‘Fiery Festival’ seeds in a variety of packet sizes at Eden Brothers.
6. Indian Chief
Growing up to 60 inches long with a trailing habit, ‘Indian Chief’ is an excellent climber. Bright red flowers with dark centers make a dramatic contrast against its dark green foliage.
This heirloom cultivar thrives in full sun, and makes a beautiful statement in beds and containers.
You can find seeds in packets of various sizes available from Eden Brothers.
7. Jewel Mix
‘Jewel’ is a trailing variety with brilliant, brightly colored blooms. Easy to grow from seed, it’s perfectly suited for various dry and temperate climates.
Mature in 54-63 days, ‘Jewel’ Mix seeds are extremely vigorous, making this an ideal choice for kids or novice gardeners to try.
Perfect for flower beds, fences, and walkways, I have also seen this variety grown in conjunction with beans, and it makes a perfect partner for running up a bean pole.
With 2 1/2-inch blooms in shades of yellow, peach, carmine, and salmon, this nasturtium is also one of the most popular edible varieties, and it reaches a length of 18-24 inches at maturity.
‘Jewel’ is also available in a dwarf size, with a bushy growth habit – ideal for containers and window boxes.
Offering a range of 2- to 3-inch double-spurred flowers in yellow, red, and apricot, this seed mix grows best in full sun, and plants reach a mature height of 10 to 12 inches.
8. Orange Gleam
‘Orange Gleam’ is a trailing type, ideal for hanging baskets, ground cover, or trained up a trellis. Bright orange, scented, semi-double blooms will make a lively addition to the summer garden.
The ‘Gleam’ series was an All-America Selections Winner in 1935, and originated in a garden in Mexico in the 1920s.
‘Orange Gleam’ prefers a full sun location and will reach a mature length of 60 inches, blooming prolifically all summer long.
You can find seeds available in a variety of packet sizes at Eden Brothers.
9. Orchid Flame
‘Orchid Flame’ grows in a bushy, mounding habit, with a mature height of 12 inches.
The beautiful 2-inch bicolored flowers, in golden yellow with vibrant red splashes, change color over the course of the season – becoming fully red in late summer.
A delightful addition to beds and borders, ‘Orchid Flame’ is also perfect for growing in containers on the patio, where you can enjoy the vivid colors. Plant in a full sun location for best results.
You can find packets of 50 ‘Orchid Flame’ seeds available at Burpee.
10. Peach Melba
You can certainly see where this variety gets its name. The sweet, delicate flowers are a beautiful creamy yellow color with vibrant red centers, which immediately reminds me of the inside of a clingstone peach.
As a compact, bushy variety, this heirloom is perfectly suited to life in the garden bed or a container. I also love its foliage, with a soft blue-gray color that is subtly beautiful and unique.
Growing up to 12 inches, unlike most nasturtiums, this variety is able to tolerate partial shade – but keep in mind that it does prefer to grow in the sun, and full sun is required to maximize the number of blooms that you get.
You can find seed packets in a variety of sizes from Eden Brothers.
The fiery ‘Phoenix’ is just the thing to reinvigorate your garden.
This semi-trailing cultivar is actually a rebirth of the heirloom ‘Golden Gem’ – not seen in seed catalogs since the early 1900s. What makes this variety so unique are its rare split-petaled, lightly ruffled flowers.
As the name suggests, these plants are adorned with flaming red-orange blooms.
This variety is recommended as a border plant, and it will reseed easily, reemerging from the garden beds year after year. It grows to 10-12 inches in height at maturity.
You can find packets containing 50 seeds available at Burpee.
12. Purple Emperor
Beautiful light purple blooms, with yellow throats, fade to lavender as the summer wanes.
Deep green foliage and a trailing form makes ‘Purple Emperor’ a regal addition to your garden borders or hanging baskets.
With a mature height of 16 inches, ‘Purple Emperor’ prefers a full sun location and is a delightful addition to any garden.
Find seeds in a variety of packet sizes available at Eden Brothers.
A volcano of understated color erupts from ‘Vesuvius,’ with its delicate, salmon pink flowers that bloom prolifically all summer long.
This compact, bushy type has blue-green foliage and reaches a mature size of just 12 inches.
This heirloom cultivar dates back to 1908, when it first appeared in Burpee’s seed catalog. Ideal for garden borders, containers, or window boxes, ‘Vesuvius’ prefers a full sun location and will mature in 60-80 days.
14. Whirlybird Mix
This seed mix is full of semi-double flowers in a rainbow of colors, from scarlet to pale yellow to golden tangerine.
This compact, low mounding variety tops out at 12 inches and matures in 55-65 days.
‘Whirlybird’ is ideal for patio containers and window boxes.
To give this cultivar a whirl, you can find seeds in a variety of packet sizes from True Leaf Market.
This is the ultimate climbing nasturtium, with vines that can reach an impressive 80 inches in length. These vines are dotted with beautiful, delicate, creamy white and yellow blooms.
Tolerant of partial shade, this cultivar does prefer full sun exposure, and will mature in 60-70 days. ‘Yeti’ is ideal for training up a trellis or over an arbor, and looks beautiful in hanging baskets.
You can find ‘Yeti’ seeds available at Eden Brothers.
Nothing’s Better Than a Nasturtium!
There’s no way that you won’t fall in love with these delightful, delectable, and durable flowers. With so many beautiful nasturtiums to choose from, you are sure to find one that suits you and your garden.
Have you had a go at growing these edible flowers at home? What’s your favorite way to use them in the kitchen, and your favorite variety? Let me know in the comments below!
And to learn more about growing colorful, edible flowers in your garden, check out these guides next:
- Project Pansy: Cranking Color Up to 11
- How To Plant and Grow the Glorious Marigold
- Sunflowers: a Beautiful and Tasty Addition to Your Landscape
Photos by Raquel Smith © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Burpee, Eden Brothers, and True Leaf Market. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock. With additional writing and editing by Clare Groom and Allison Sidhu.
About Natasha Foote
With a passion for soil health and growing trees, Natasha Foote is a biologist who was hit with a serious case of green fingers, and decided to swap sterile laboratories for getting her hands dirty in the soil. Formerly a farmer and researcher working with the agroforestry project Mazi Farm in Greece, when she wasn't working on the farm, she was busy studying soil biology under the microscope. Now, you can find her in the south of France where, in between enjoying all the fresh peaches, plums, apricots, and cherries that the area has to offer, she's working on various agricultural projects whilst writing about all things green.