Nasturtiums are popular with ornamental flower lovers and vegetable growers alike, thanks to both their unusual, cheerful appearance and their many uses in the garden, including repelling pests with their smell, masking the scent of tasty crops.
Nasturtiums are a favorite of gardeners everywhere, as they not only repel pests which eat flowers and crops alike, but they also attract a lot of beneficial insects and pollinators, bringing more life into your garden.
What you may not know is that Nasturtiums have a lot of symbolic meaning behind them, too.
Behind The Name: What does ‘Nasturtium’ Mean?
As interesting as the flower’s appearance, the name ‘Nasturtium’ literally translates from the Latin “nose-tweaker”, or nascus tortus, “convulsed nose”.
These odd names refer to the peppery flavor of the plant, which is usually used to give salads some fiery depth. As you can imagine, the taste causes you to pull a face!
Nasturtium Flower Symbolism
Some believe that the nasturtium represents patriotism, or victory, imagining the flower’s form looking similar to a helmet. The leaves are also shield-shaped.
The name of the genus, Tropaeolum, was coined by Linnaeus, who thought that the flowers had a close symbolism with triumph in battle.
For others, these beautiful blooms represent good will, connection with others, optimism, a light-hearted take on life, and joy.
The symbolism also depends on the color of the nasturtium flower.
Red Nasturtium Meaning
Red nasturtiums represent desire, in both a romantic sense and what you want out of life, bravery, and strength of will.
In the Victorian language of flowers, red nasturtiums represented loyalty, and an obsession that desire instilled into someone.
They also carried the hope that love would overcome all problems. Similarly, giving a bouquet of nasturtiums indicated that the sender was not fazed by a difficult love full of obstacles, that the recipient was worth it.
Nasturtiums also symbolized grace, and hidden love.
Orange Nasturtium Symbolism
Orange nasturtiums signify vitality, renewed energy, and the wealth of purpose and meaning creativity can add to your life.
Yellow Nasturtium Meaning
Yellow nasturtiums represent optimism, platonic affection, joy, and contentment.
The Cultural Significance Behind the Nasturtium Flower
The unusually shaped blooms of the nasturtium plant represent those emotions that drive us to protect those we care about, as well as the strength and bravery to do so.
This symbolism largely hasn’t changed since Linnaeus first named the genus, where he thought the crimson flowers looked like shields which had seen some use, and the orange blooms resemble helmets on top of spears.
It’s also worth mentioning that Elizabeth Linnaeus, his daughter, discovered that nasturtium flowers seem to emit flashing light after dark.
She published a paper on the subject, and it was then called the ‘Elizabeth Linnaeus Phenomenon’.
While people originally thought it was due to electricity and the flower reacting to this, it was later agreed that the effect was due to how the eyes process the color.
Every part of a nasturtium is edible, and during the second World War, dried nasturtium leaves and buds were ground to make a black pepper substitute.
The Meaning Behind a Nasturtium Flower Tattoo
Nasturtium flowers are a unique and striking subject for a tattoo, while also containing a wealth of meaning.
Nasturtiums symbolize a strength of will that allows you to move forward, past any troubling obstacle.
They may also represent a specific person who has had a huge impact on your life, whose bravery or will to overcome inspires you.
These gorgeous blooms also represent joy, and choosing to see the good in the future, and the wealth of possibilities it may hold.
The Best Time to Give Someone Nasturtiums
Nasturtium flowers are perfect for many occasions, but it is worth making sure that the symbolism behind the color of the flowers matches up with the sentiment you actually want to convey.
Red nasturtiums are perfect for confessing your feelings towards someone, or your devotion, while yellow nasturtiums focus on looking toward the future, as well as conveying a wealth of non-romantic love that you hold for the recipient.
Orange nasturtiums are a good choice when you want to offer someone words of encouragement, but you don’t know exactly what you want to say.