Growing Watercress: Water plant with healing properties


Growing Watercress


Watercress, aalso called watercress or watercress, counts botanically to the family of the cruciferous plants (Brassicaceae). In addition to the watercress (Nasturtium officinale), the small-leaved watercress (Nasturtium microphyllum) is very common in Germany. The original distribution area of the two species probably extended over Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia. In the meantime, however, watercress as a neophyte can be found almost worldwide. It prefers to colonise shady, clear, shallow waters with a light current, for example can be found at springs or in the shallow banks of clean streams.

The watercress was already cultivated in ancient times as a medicinal plant. Because of its high vitamin C content, the plant was particularly valued as an anti-scorrot remedy. It is also considered to be a blood purifier. Its name is derived from the Latin “nasus tortus”, which means “twisted nose” – an expression that comes from the reaction to the consumption of the somewhat pungent tasting watercress.



The perennial, evergreen and herbaceous aquatic plant forms stems of between 10 and 30 centimetres, sometimes even up to 70 centimetres long. These are hollow, branch strongly and crawl or swim on the water surface


The succulent, alternate leaves of the watercress are dark green and can grow up to 15 centimetres long. The leaf blades are undivided pinnate with roundish to ovoid, almost three centimetre long leaflets. The leaves are loosely distributed on the ascending or creeping stems, which end in terminal and alternate flower clusters.

Caution: danger of confusion:

Watercress is often confused with the bitter cress (Cardamine amara). Although this is not poisonous, it tastes very, very bitter. While the watercress has round, hollow stems and roundish leaves, the leaves of the bitter watercress are attached to angular stems filled with marrow.

Watercress blossoms from May to September The petals are tiny, white and stand in a leafless, golden raceme. The ovary is made up of two carpels.


The seed pods are short and elongated, one to two centimetres long and pointing upwards


Watercress thrives in shady to semi-shady and relatively cool locations. Water depths of 5 to 20 centimetres are ideal.


The watercress can only survive permanently in open water surfaces, in a permanently damp mud bed or in a water bucket In pots with nutritious and humus-rich soil, it needs a container with water in which it can be placed and through which it is constantly supplied with fresh water It can also be cultivated in a shallow water basin at the foot of a herb spiral, for example.


For watercress a culture in the garden pond is a good idea. It thrives in shallow, flowing and slightly alkaline waters. Alternatively, you can keep the watercress in pots or planters on the terrace or balcony: To do this, plant the watercress in nutrient-rich soil and place the pot or tub in a container with water, which must be changed daily. Three to four cuttings are sufficient for a pot of 15 to 20 centimetres in size. They should stand six to twelve centimetres high in water and be pulled at temperatures between ten and twelve degrees Celsius.


As a marsh and aquatic plant, the quality of the water plays an important role for the watercress – it can only survive in clear, not too warm water. In pure pot culture, the plant is usually quite short-lived. Although fertilisation is not absolutely necessary, some compost will considerably accelerate growth in the marsh bed. To promote the bushy growth of watercress, you should pinch off older shoots from time to time.

Harvesting and conservation

Watercress leaves can be harvested between March and May – preferably before flowering. It is important that you only take leaves from clean waters and wash them carefully before consumption: Insect larvae feel very comfortable on them.

Watercress is often used as a salad herb because of its fresh and piquant taste. It is considered one of the noblest kitchen herbs. As a spread or seasoning herb for soup, curd cheese or potato dishes, its tart taste is particularly effective. The older and stronger the leaves, the hotter and more bitter they taste. As watercress is very healthy, rich in vitamins and also has a draining effect on the body, it is also a popular ingredient in spring cures.


Watercress as a medicinal plant

In naturopathy, watercress is very often used as a medicinal plant. It has a high proportion of vitamins A and C, but also contains valuable minerals such as iodine. Watercress can reduce fever and ease digestive problems. Its mustard oil glycosides have a blood-purifying, diuretic and expectorant effect, but can cause stomach and kidney irritation if consumed in large quantities and over a long period of time. Boiled or in tincture form, watercress helps with gum inflammation and eczema.


Watercress can be easily propagated by sowing and by dividing the creeping rootstock in spring. The shoots take root well in shady places on a damp substrate. The seeds of watercress are available in nurseries, but you can also simply harvest the ripe pods yourself. Watercress needs a waterlogged swamp bed, a shallow area in the garden pond or a large water bucket to grow

Diseases and pests

Watercress is largely resistant to diseases and pests.


Growth height
from 10.00cm to 70.00cm
Flowering time (month)
  • May to September
Flower shape
  • Grapes
  • Trumpets
Sheet shape
  • ovate to round
Sheet properties
  • edible
  • semi-shady to shady
Soil Moisture
  • wet to water
  • weakly alkaline
Lime tolerance
  • lime-tolerant
Decorative or utility value
  • Herb for cooking
  • Medicinal plant
  • Pond planting
Garden style
  • Pharmacy Garden
  • Herb garden
  • Natural garden
  • Water garden

Don Burke

I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide.  I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.

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