Tropaeolum – nasturtium, flame creeper

Most of the plants from this group are hardy climbers – some annual and some perennial – although in the garden many of the forms grown are dwarf or prostrate. They have attractive, brightly coloured flowers.

Suitable site and soil. Most annual species prefer a well-drained, fairly poor soil in a sunny position. Of the perennials, T. speciosum prefers a slightly acid soil while most others are happy in any well-drained, rich soil in either full sun or partial shade.

Cultivation and care. Plant out perennials in early spring. In cold areas, lift the tubers of tuberous species in autumn.

Propagation. Sow seeds of annuals in the growing site in early spring. Divide perennials in late winter or, if tuberous species, lift and separate for the winter or when replanting tubers in early spring.

Recommended varieties. T. speciosum (flame creeper, flame nasturtium, flame flower) is a really superb, fully hardy herbaceous perennial climber that does especially well in cool, moist climates. It has light green, six-lobed leaves and stunning flame-red flowers all summer long. It climbs to about 3m – 10ft and spreads 60cm – 2ft; its roots should be kept in shade. Good dwarf varieties off. Majus (nasturtium) include those of the ‘Whirlybird’ type in a range of colours. T. tuberosum ‘Ken Aslet’ is a perennial tuberous climber growing to 2.4m – 8ft with red-orange flowers.

Pests and diseases. Watch out for aphids and viruses.


Plant 7. speciosum’s straggly roots in rich, leafy soil at the foot of an evergreen shrub such as holly; it can then climb up the holly, with a dramatic colour contrast at flowering time.

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