Nasturtium Flowers: Your Complete Guide to Their Symbolic Meanings

The cheerful and bright warm colors of the common Nasturtium make it one of the most popular potted flowers worldwide. Their ability to spread over a bed or sprawl and spill from a hanging planter makes them a valuable addition to any garden or balcony. But it’s also backed with deep meanings that lend it well to adding to symbolic arrangements. Choose the Nasturtium flower for its pop of color and symbolism alike.

Orange Nasturtium flowers

Nasturtium Flower Meaning & Symbolism – the Essentials

In the language of flowers, nasturtiums traditionally symbolize patriotism, love, loyalty, strength, and purity. Nasturtiums mostly flower in warm colors, so it’s not surprising they have strong and emotional meanings. They are also edible and have played a role in helping people endure worldwide conflicts.

Etymological Meaning

The common name for the flower, Nasturtium, comes from the Latin terms nasus and torquere. Nasus means nose, and torquere means twist. The name refers to the usual reaction to the acrid scent and tangy flavor of the plant. 

The name of the genus containing all the varieties of Nasturtium, Tropaeolum, refers to Carl Linnaeus’ belief that the flowers look like the trophies of battle.

Nasturtium Flower Meaning & Symbolism

Since Nasturtiums mostly flower in warm colors, it’s not surprising they have strong and emotional meanings. In the language of flowers, Nasturtium meaning and symbolism vary somewhat by the color of the respective bloom as well:

Red Nasturtium Flower Meaning

Red Nasturtium Flower Meaning

Red Nasturtium flowers symbolize passionate love, devotion, intense desire, energy, and celebration.

Yellow Nasturtium Flower Meaning 

Yellow Nasturtium Flower Meaning

Yellow flowers are synonymous with meanings of joy, playfulness, youth, new beginnings, and friendship.

Orange Nasturtium Flower Meaning

Orange Nasturtium Flower Meaning

The color orange is closely linked to enthusiasm, celebrating achievements, creativity, and growth. 

Maroon Nasturtium Flower Meaning

Maroon Nasturtium Flower Meaning

Maroon is often symbolic of hidden or unconscious beauty, secret love, loyalty, and deepening obsession.

The Cultural Significance and Symbolism of Nasturtium Flowers

In general, Nasturtium flowers symbolize strength, purity, and intense emotion. It’s commonly connected with patriotism or the urge to fight for what one believes in. 

This meaning has carried through the years since Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus first proposed it. He thought the red and orange flowers looked like bloodstained shields or helmets held on spear-like stalks. 

Ironically, another vital meaning of the flower is linked to a scientific principle instead. The botanist’s daughter, Elizabeth Linnaeus noticed the red flowers appeared to flash at twilight. This gave way to the discovery of the Elizabeth Linnaeus Phenomenon, which is a strobe-like visual effect caused by red and blue or dark green colors being paired together.

Nasturtium Flowers in the Victorian Era

Nasturtium Flowers in the Victorian Era

During the Victorian era, at the height of the use of floral arrangements, Nasturtium took on a slightly different meaning. Tucking a few of the bright red blooms into a bouquet could add the following meanings:

  • Impetuous love, indicating your interest despite obstacles
  • Loyalty and the devotion to pursue someone for long periods
  • A secret or hidden love
  • Sweetness and grace, especially when mixed with carnations and rosebuds.

Some of the nasturtium’s other cultural contributions are more practical. For example, dried and ground leaves and buds were used as a replacement for black pepper during WWII. 

Nasturtium Flowers in Art and Literature

In art, Claude Monet widely used Nasturtiums for their bright pop of color in his paintings. Many of the paintings of artist Margaret Preston are based around this flower in particular.

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Nasturtium

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Nasturtium

Nasturtiums are available both as cut flowers and as potted plants. Potted varieties make a great gift for someone starting a new venture, like a career change or returning to school, especially in yellow and orange shades. 

Bright red Nasturtiums are a great addition to bouquets with subtle or blatant romantic intentions. They’re also ideal for anniversaries, especially in darker shades of red, since these flowers indicate loyalty and devotion.

Nasturtium Flower FAQs:

Do nasturtiums come back every year?

Nasturtium are self-seeding plants so will return year after year in your garden or growing patch.

Do nasturtiums like sun or shade?

Nasturtiums are sun-loving plants and thrive best in growing areas that typically receive at least 6 hours of full, direct sunlight each day.

Where should I plant nasturtiums?

Look to plant nasturtium in well-draining soil bases ideally in well-exposed areas that receive full sun where possible. Typically the plants won’t require much fertilizing as their nutrient needs are negligible compared to many other flowering plants.

What does nasturtium symbolize?

Nasturtium flowers symbolize strength, purity, and strong emotion. They are commonly associated with patriotism or the urge to fight for what one believes in.

What is nasturtium used for?

Nasturtium plants are edible, from the leaves to the flowers and buds. In fact, the buds are often pickled and used as a caper replacement since they also have a tangy and slightly hot flavor. Nasturtium petals are often used as colorful garnishes or as part of a mixed salad. The flowers are also excellent pollinators, attracting bees and other insects to the garden.

Wrap Up

Don’t let the Nasturtium’s ubiquity cause you to overlook its symbolism. This humble garden flower belongs in every yard or balcony flower box.


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