Perennial nasturtium (Tropaeolum polyphyllum) has another common name in Spanish - ‘soldadito grande de la cordillera’ or ‘great soldier of the mountains’. It suits and honours this small, tenacious perennial toughing it out in difficult terrain. Native to the mountainous regions of Chile and Argentina, it grows up to 3,000 m/9,000 ft in stony ground and scree. And when winter comes, this herbaceous perennial disappears - overwintering as a round tuber deep in the ground. Covered with snow, it can withstand temperatures down to -20 C/-4 F. More about the genus.
In spring, its tuber sends out long rhizomes (roots) from which stems develop and trail over the ground. These are densely covered by silvery-green, deeply lobed leaves. Then relatively large and golden flowers on long slender stalks follow. Butterflies and bees can’t stay away. Hummingbirds too. After flowering, the shoots die back in mid-summer. The plant remains dormant until the following year.
Our perennial nasturtium in the Southern Hemisphere Garden is flourishing in its perfectly planted place. Full sun, gritty, well drained soil, lots of stones and rocks. High up enough so it gets a view too. You might want to read this if you grow ‘great soldier of the mountains’ and are planning on moving. This is a plant that tends to follow you, wanted or not.
The pictures were taken in June in the Southern Hemisphere Garden in bed 57. Six Tropaeolum polyphyllum were planted there in 1993.