From cultivation to care, here is everything you need to know on how to grow watercress at home. Although Watercress grows naturally along or in running water, this aquatic water crop is a great option for those looking to add to their home vegetable garden.
Ideal for salad lovers, watercress is incredibly rich in vitamins and minerals, and whether grown in a container, in the ground or even hydroponically, it offers an almost year-round harvest.
Getting to Know Watercress
Whether you’re a seasoned vegetable grower or simply starting out with a small windowsill garden, watercress is a great growing option.
Cultivated for its clean, slightly peppery taste, watercress is incredibly high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Ascorbic Acid, Thiamine, Ribophorin and Iron. It’s also a perfect partner for fresh salads, cold soups, or a tangy topper for sandwiches.
While there are many different varieties of watercress, the most common option for growers is the Nasturtium officinale cultivar, which offers a well-rounded flavour.
Although this salad crop usually grows naturally along streams and running water, it is quite adaptable and can be grown at home, whether in the ground, in or in a container.
The most important factor to note about growing watercress is that you’ll need to keep the soil moist.
How to Grow Watercress
Watercress should be grown in a semi-shaded or sunny spot, whether in your garden or on a windowsill. As this species grows best in free-flowing water, it’s essential to try and mimic these conditions as much as possible, especially when growing in a pot.
You will want to choose a rich, slow-draining soil mixture. Before planting, it is recommended to enrich the soil with organic matter such as compost or peat moss, which will support water retention.
If growing in your vegetable garden, try to mix compost into as much as 6 to 8 inches of soil. When growing in a pot, it is recommended to keep the base of your pot in a deep saucer.
Check out our review on the best garden composters to help you make you own compost.
This will allow the soil to soak up all the moisture it needs on a consistent basis. Should you have a water feature at home, it is possible to try growing your watercress in your water features.
However, this is not advisable when growing watercress for consumption, as you cannot guarantee water quality, making it suitable to consume.
Can Watercress Grow in Standing Water?
Should you be playing with the idea of installing a hydroponic vegetable garden, growing watercress hydroponically is a very suitable option. This will help to mimic its natural growth conditions.
It is important to note that the watercress grows best along moving water. This means that growing watercress in a glass, for example, can be tricky.
You would need to ensure you are exchanging water regularly and that your watercress is supplied with sufficient nutrients.
As such, many growers will consider keeping cuttings in standing water to root and then transplanting them into a moist soil mixture for long-term growth.
How to Grow Watercress as Microgreens
Microgreens and windowsill gardens are becoming ever popular. If you’re planning on growing watercress as a microgreen, you will need to ensure a compact container, kept in a sunny spot, a kitchen windowsill, for instance.
Sow seeds directly onto the soil of a moist, seeding mix. Then, place the container onto a water saucer. Ensure the soil stays moist.
Using a pair of secateurs, you can trim the watercress when it reaches around 2” high. Be sure to see our review on the best garden secateurs for 2021.
Watercress can be propagated from both seeds or stem cutting. However, seeds can sometimes be tricky to come by.
Propagating Watercress from Seed
- Sowing seeds in Spring will provide the right environmental conditions for germination. If growing outdoors, avoid sowing in cold conditions. A minimum temperature of 46°F is ideal.
- Sprinkle the seeds directly onto the surface of the soil.
- If growing in a seedling tray, keep your seeds in a warm, humid area.
- Consider covering your seedlings with a plastic bag to help improve the humidity.
- Germination takes around 14 days.
- Once large enough to handle, you can then transplant your seedlings into the ground or a larger container.
Watercress Propagation from a Cutting
Growing watercress from a cutting is also an option. Most growers would recommend purchasing watercress from your local grocery store, choosing a bundle with some fine, white roots still attached.
Then you will need to:
- Remove the lower set of leaves. Leaving only a few strong, healthy leaves at the top of the stem.
- Place your cuttings in a shallow container with an assortment of rocks at the base.
- Regularly replace the water to ensure it remains fresh.
- Once new growth is visible, transplant into a moist soil mixture.
Watercress Care Guide
The most important factor of growing watercress is ensuring that your soil stays moist. Dried out roots can kill your plant, so always ensure that the soil is moist and your saucer has plenty of water in it.
As watercress can develop issues when grown in stagnant water, it is recommended to occasionally flush out your soil, especially when grown in a container. Simply place your pot under some running water, allowing it to flush through the soil.
Monthly fertilization is also recommended. Consider using a liquid fertilizer that is rich in potassium, iron and phosphorous for optimal results.
If growing outdoors, ensure your growing area is kept weed-free and well-mulched. Regular mulching will help to keep the soil moist and warm, protecting your roots from any extreme temperatures.
Semi-regular pruning or harvesting will also help to encourage bushy growth.
How to Harvest Watercress
Harvesting watercress is incredibly easy and can be done using any pair of kitchen scissors. Simply snip off the tops of shoots as and when you need them.
It is important to avoid cutting too low, as this will inhibit the growth of other stems. According to expert growers, watercress holds the best flavour during the colder months.
This is why it is recommended to harvest more during this season. Avoid cutting after a stem has begun to bloom, as this can taint the flavour. Watercress can be kept fresh for five days in the refrigerator.
Watercress – Frequently Asked Questions
Is Watercress A Superfood?
Due to the incredibly high nutritional value, watercress is considered to be a superfood greater than that of chard, Chinese cabbage, spinach and chicory.
And it’s so easy to grow and there really is no better time to start growing your very own vegetables at home.
Does Watercress have Parasites?
If grown at home or in a controlled environment, watercress is incredibly safe to eat and shouldn’t have any parasite, disease or pest issues.
It is, however, not recommended to consume wild-growing watercress without cooking it first. Especially when grown in areas around livestock, there is a parasitic risk.
How do you keep Watercress from Wilting?
Be sure to harvest and store only the freshest leaves, discard any that are yellowing, wilting or starting to become soggy. For ideal storage, keep your watercress in a jar of water, covered loosely in some plastic.
Can I Freeze Fresh Watercress?
Freezing your watercress is also a great storage option. Simply place it in an air-tight container or zip-seal bag and freeze. You will need to consume it straight after de-frosting.
Can You Overwater Watercress?
Watercress has absolutely no problem with wet feet or water submerged roots; as such, it is actually impossible to overwater watercress.
Should I Let My Watercress Flower?
Should your watercress start to flower, don’t panic! The entire plant is edible, including the flowers. While they may slightly alter the taste of the leaves, the flowers are a simple way to add a floral, tasty touch to your salad.
Wrapping Up Our Watercress Growing Guide
No matter where you intend to grow your watercress, whether on a window sill or in your garden, all you’ll really need to do is ensure plenty of wet soil, and you should be able to enjoy a year-round harvest.
If outdoors, be sure to keep an eye out for snails that tend to enjoy this superfood too. There you have it, everything you need to know on how to grow watercress.