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Climbing Nasturtium "Spitfire"

Nasturtiums are my favorite annual to plant in the garden because they're very versatile plants. They're easy to start from seed, they produce beautiful, edible blooms and they grow very well in poor soils. Whether I plant them in the ground or in containers nasturtiums never ask for much attention. In fact, nasturtiums in my garden thrive on benign neglect. I plant nasturtium seeds early in the spring and forget about them until it is time to collect nasturtium seeds. Last year I grew Climbing Nasturtium "Moonlight" in the garden for the first time, this year I'm growing Nasturtium, Climbing, "Spitfire."

Nasturtium Spitfire, red Nasturtium bloom

Given my experience growing nasturtium "Moonlight" last year I was already prepared for how nasturtium "Spitfire" would react to growing in my garden. The microclimate in the garden must be too warm for the climbing varieties of nasturtium. I'm not complaining, really, the same microclimate allows my Voodoo Lily to overwinter. The climbing nasturtiums don't seem to start vining, or sending out long shoots, until about August. If you read the post on "Moonlight" you'll see that the day after I complained about them not vining or trailing to Renee's Garden the plant sent out a long vine. "Spitfire" is a couple of weeks ahead of where "Moonlight" was last year. Today I had vines long enough to actually start training them up the bamboo stakes in the cinder block pots I planted them in.

Nasturtium Spitfire Flower bud, climbing nasturtium

As the flower bud opens "Spitfire" looks like it will be a really red nasturtium bloom, but as you can see from the photo above it is more orange than red. Renee's Garden, who I got these seeds from, describes them as a "scarlet orange." The bloom color looks like molten lava to me.

Climbing Nasturtium Spitfire Foliage

"Spitfire" has foliage that is an average green, unlike some nasturtiums that have a blueish hue to them, the darker foliage of nasturtium "Empress of India," or the variegated foliage of  nasturtium "Alaska."  When the foliage gets long enough to start training up a support structure like a trellis or a fence all you have to do it wind the longest stems up and around. Some stems may break near the tips but they'll quickly be covered up my more vines and leaves, and of course more blooms.

'Spitfire' Climbing Nasturtium

In my garden nasturtiums continue to grow well after the first frost and won't die down completely until we get a really good freeze. This being my second year of growing climbing nasturtiums I think I've exhausted my interest in growing them. While they're my favorite garden annual I think the climbing varieties don't perform as well in the heat of summer as the mounding varieties. Next year I'm going back to performing nasturtium diversity and planting several varieties at the same time.

Update: In early October the rest of the garden is starting to fade and turn brown but 'Spitfire' continues to grow and climb up the trellis I made for them out of bamboo stakes.

Spitfire nasturtiums climbing up a bamboo stake trellis

Where to Plant Nasturtiums. 
The mounding varieties of nasturtium look beautiful planted at the edges of garden beds or paths. Even in containers or window boxes they spill over the sides of pots enough to add interest and movement. The climbing nasturtium varieties like "Spitfire" and "Moonlight" would also work well as a ground cover, if you don't want to train them up a support or drape them over the side of balcony gardens.

Previous Posts on Nasturtiums:

Collecting Nasturtium Seeds Video.


  1. Yours are looking way lusher than mine (hangs head). I should have planted them in the cinder blocks that hold the "door" (removable pallet) of my compost bin upright!

  2. Yours look better than mine, too. The heat has been murder on mine. Nasturtiums never do all that well in the hottest part of summer anyway, but they just look awful this year. I'm pretty sure I'm going back to 'Empress of India' again next year.

  3. I just received a packet of nasturtium seeds as a gift. I can't wait to plant them in the spring!

  4. What beautiful color...I can just see these now all soft and lovely hanging around in your garden! My Aunt grows them in mid-Florida, but I never see them down here in the south...I will have to see if any of the varieties would do down here...just haven't looked yet...I am thinking Sweet Potato Vine might have a similar type of soft, flowing look, but minus the flowers! My fav color is orange, so this variety makes me very happy!!! You always have the best posts, Mr. BT!!! :)

  5. At least you've got some blooms on those spitfires! Mine are tall, but still aren't blooming. The buds keep forming, then dry out and fall off. Yours look very nice and healthy MBT.

  6. @Monica,
    They are pretty lush considering how bad of a drought the garden went through last month before we got a heavy rain. Even the ones I planted out by the fence are fine.

    In my garden they don't seem to mind the heat. These climbing varities just kinda remain in suspended animation and grow when it gets cooler. I've grown "Empress of India" before and I wasn't very impressed by them. Maybe I'll give them another shot.

    You're lucky! I wish people would give me nasturtium seed packs as a gift. Depending on how late you get frost in your area you could probably plant a few seeds now and grow it well into the fall.

    I wonder if there are some varieties that do better in the heat. I'll Google around some and if I find anything out I'll let you know. Appreciate the feedback on the posts.

    Sorry to hear about your flower buds and hope they get to work soon and provide you with some blooms.

  7. Inspired by your praise for how well Nastiurtiums do in the heat, I purchased two varieties and gave them a trial. Ha. The packet of "Jewel Mix" that I directly seeded into the flower bed germinated well and grew to about 4 inches high before they started fading. They went from yellow to crispy brown in a matter of days and this was with me watering them daily. This was in the spring before our hottest days arrived.

    The "Empress of India" seeds that I planted in a pot and babied in the shade on my patio looked beautiful at first. They actually made buds and had started filling out and were just about to grow over the edge of the pot when overnight they were eaten to the grown by grasshoppers.

    I read somewhere once that while Chicago gets some pretty high temperatures during the summer, the nights still cool off enough that the average temps still work for many heat sensitive plants. Maybe that's it. But I've learned that even if someone says a plant can handle their heat, it might not be able to handle Dallas summers. We have weeks at a stretch where the temps don't drop below 95 day or night. Right now we've been having a run of 105 daytime temps. At this point, I don't even care what's growing in the garden! Just before dark I make sure everything is watered and that's the best I can do.

    Anyway, love your beautiful photos of your beautiful plants. Thanks for the blog.

  8. That first photo is lovely... mine stubbornly refuse to do anything so picturesque. I'd like to try the mounding type next year. I'm not happy with the look of the vines on mine, though I have to say I really am liking them as a ground cover, and they seem to do well when there are surrounding plants to help shade them a bit. I thought I saw some very nice ones planted in the planters down the middle of Michigan Ave. but didn't want to brave the traffic to get a closer look!

  9. I've also decided I like the mounding type better. They are a little more predictable... and they don't look so scraggly as these climbing varieties can. Yours look nice too.

  10. Every time I go to my plant now, I shield my eyes! I keep expecting the seed pod to burst out at me! I blame your seed collection post ;)

  11. @Seren Dippity,
    Oh man, I feel bad you had such a tragic experience with them. Do plants grow in your "winter?" I know someone growing them in Florida and they grew for a while and eventually succombed to the heat. She gets to grow them in early spring and late summer because they can't take the heat. I appreciate your feedback.

    I don't know why mine to do so well in the garden compared to everyone else growing them in our project. I think maybe it may have something to do with my really poor soil that causes them to bloom a lot. I know you shouldn't fertilize if you want more blooms than foliage.

    I think mine don't look "scraggly" because I planted four seeds in a spot so they looked bushy from the onset. Maybe try planting the mounding and the vining ones together so they never look bare.

    LOL. Nasturtium seeds just kind of fall to the ground, it is the Black-Eyed Susan Vine seeds that explode and you have to look out for.

  12. I have to plant nasturtiums in the cooler months here in florida since they melt away as soon as the days become hot and humid. I'll be sure to remember to plant some this fall though! The bright orange flowers complement tropical plantings nicely.

  13. I pulled out all my nasturtiums except for one. They are all in containers and I guess it's just been too hot this summer (that's amazing) for them to thrive here. I haven't planted them for years and was kind of bummed out that they just languished. Oh well, there's always next year...right?

  14. Anonymous10:25 PM

    I started mine indoors in early April. They are now blooming like crazy, but not growing very tall. I planted "Double Gleam Mix" from Burpee. They are advertised as a climbing variety, but they do not not seem to be "true" climbers. We'll see what happens once it cools off! They smell good, taste good, and look good! LOVE the Nasties! :) Deborah Johnson Clemons

  15. I love nasturtiums too but for some reason mine always attract hordes of tiny black creatures who just pile onto the stems. Each year I have to pull them out, and it is always before I am able to eat all the lovely blooms. (We love to eat the blossoms.) This year, they are bug-free (knock on wood) but we'll have to see...

    The seeds I used this year were given to my by my mom. She found the packets in her garage and they were only 30 years old. Germination was about 95%.

  16. Wow! I am so amazed in the photo that you post. I love the way that you present it. Imagine you observe the grow of that amazing flower. Thank you for sharing this very informative post.

  17. I saw your post on facebook for Renee's Garden. Awesome Nasturtium! So bright and beautiful! You have a lovely garden.

  18. Hello, I have a question about my snake plant. It flowered this summer and they were beautiful. But after the flowers died off, a few small green pods formed on the flower stems. I am thinking they are seeds, but I'm not sure. Could you tell me if I'm correct and what to do with them please. Thank you.

  19. @Rainforest Gardener,
    Your garden is awesome. I can't stop reading your archive for those pics. You should plant some and see how they do for you.

    There is always next year Jodi. We've had some heat and mine have managed to survived and are at the stage now where they're thriving.

    @Anonymous AKA Deborah,
    It may be that they need somem cooler temps to start growing. The climbing varieties do that in my garden. They bloom and grow but don't start to stretch out until this time of year and into the fall.

    That germination rate is impressive for such old seeds. The aphids and others that are attracted to them come with the territory. I find that if I let some milkweeds growin the garden they'll gravitate towards them and not touch the nasturtiums. A sacrificial crop to protect another sacrificial crop.

    @Dining Tables,

    Thanks for stopping by. Checked out your blog and loved the bird pics in the post I saw.

    Do you mean you have a Sanseveria? It sounds like you do have seed pods and I'd just let them mature until they turn brown. If they split collect the seeds and sow them if you are up for a garden experiment.



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