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NASTURTIUM officinale

Image of Nasturtium officinale

Family

Brassicaceae

Botanical Name

NASTURTIUM officinale

Plant Common Name

Watercress

General Description

As the name suggests, watercress needs water to grow. It is a cool-season green that adds peppery zest, and a boost in vitamin C and iron, to sandwiches, omelets, baked fish and fresh salads. This fast-growing perennial herb is often grown as an annual. It is a riparian plant that prospers in moist to saturated soils that are non-stagnant. It originates from Eurasia, from the British Isles and southern Scandinavia, to western Asia, and can also be found in northern Africa. It is also an invasive weed that has become naturalized across the most of North America.

Seeds sprout in autumn or winter but may also be sown in spring. Plants grow quickly, developing long stems that bear multiple compound leaves of rich green. The somewhat feathery leaves have multiple rounded leaflets with irregular edges, and the floppy stems take root atop mucky soil to create a mat of foliage. From late spring to midsummer, clusters of tiny, white, four-petaled flowers appear at the stem tips. These attract butterflies and bees. Seeds develop after pollination and are scattered to the moist soil or transported on the water surface. The seeds germinate readily when temperatures are cool and moisture plentiful.

Grow watercress in full to partial sun. Plants thrive in rich, sandy or muddy soil with a neutral pH along shallow pond edges, stream edges, or in moist gardens. They tolerate light submersion as long as water is fresh and clean. Watercress may also be grown in containers if the water is kept fresh through consistent repeated changing. When grown in average to moist, upland soil, some afternoon shade is needed to prevent wilting. Expect watercress grown in saturated soils to have a milder, more delectable peppery flavor. Watercress is virus-prone, so treat plants as annuals and sow fresh seed each year. In areas with dry, hot summers and mild winters, plant watercress in autumn to harvest from winter to spring.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    A1, A2, A3, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Herb

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    6"-18" / 15.2cm - 45.7cm

  • Width

    1'-3' / 0.3m - 0.9m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Europe, Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, Southern Europe, Western Europe, United Kingdom, Mediterranean, Northern Africa, Western Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water, Ample Water

  • Habit

    Mat-forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    White

  • Fruit Color

    Tan

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Semi-Evergreen

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Water Gardens

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes