How to grow Tropaeolum speciosum the flame flower

Tropaeolum we recognise as T.majus which is the common annual Nasturtium, image centre. There is a less known and very lovely perennial variety T. speciosum whose major fault in the plant world is having an unpronounceable name, but is a great climber.

Its common name is "Flame flower" because of the bold swathes of red comprising of many tiny scarlet flowers. It is a perennial unlike its relative Nasturtium, which is a colourful annual.

Flame flower looks at its best grown through evergreens where the contrast between the strong green and red looks most effective. If grown in the right place and conditions it can be vigorous but it is a notoriously tricky climber to get established.

It is also known as "Scottish Flame Flower" because although tricky to grow it sometimes seems to be easier to establish in Scotland. Ideal conditions are acidic soil, and full sun, but not too hot which maybe why it grows well in Scotland.  It is hardy down to around -12C as H5 under the RHS Frost hardy classification.

Tropaeolum will grow best with its roots shady in hummus rich soil. I have never pruned my plant because it dies back each winter and although it returns each year, it doesn't get out of hand. In areas where Tropaeolum gets established and vigorous it can be pruned back in early spring before it starts growing in earnest. T.speciosum has many flowers of a strong intense red which flower for several weeks in mid summer.

Tropaeolum is similar to the Clematis in that it likes its roots in the shade and its top in sun. In the right conditions it is said to be rampant and so it comes with a gardening warning. That said it has never been rampant in my garden and I am happy to plant and grow it, compared to, say  Fallopia common names Russian Vine and Mile a Minute plant which I find to be rampant in any garden conditions, although pretty. 

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