Peppery, watery, high in vitamins A and C, and easy to grow, watercress certainly deserves a spot in the garden alongside spinach and kale. It makes a delicious addition to any garden, dish, or salad.
type of perennial: vegetable
Watercress comes in four major categories, which differ in how bitter and peppery they taste. Garden Cress has a sweet yet spicy bite similar to horseradish. Korean Watercress has a great crunch when eaten raw and is the least bitter of the cress varieties. Nasturtium Watercress has lily pad-shaped leaves, hollow stems, and bright green foliage. Finally, Upland Cress has a mild flavor with a delicate peppery aftertaste.
WHERE WATERCRESS THRIVES
Watercress can grow in any region of the United States but it does best in moist, cool climates. It can grow well in warm climates if it's located near cold flowing water.
Optimal shade & sun
Watercress should ideally be grown in full sun but it will also do fine in shade.
Adaptability to climate extremes
This water-loving plant is fairly adaptable but prefers cool weather. It can also tolerate flooding. What it can't do deal with is drought. Dry conditions will cause it to shrivel and even die.
Because watercress loves water and grows best on stream banks, it is not a drought-resistant plant.
PREP YOUR SOIL
optimal type of soil
Watercress thrives in moist soil. Outside of the garden, it's typically found growing near or even in running creeks. It also grows well in a somewhat sandy soil that is heavily mulched. Watercress can also thrive in soil that ranges from very alkaline to very acidic.
When planting indoors:
Watercress has a reputation for being difficult to grow but it's essentially a weed that flourishes alongside streams. If it can grow unattended in the wild, surely you can grow it in your garden. To start seeds, sprinkle them on the surface of your container. Do not cover the seeds because they require light to germinate. Instead, gently pat them down into the soil. Seeds should sprout within two weeks. If you want your watercress to grow more quickly you can buy it from the store and soak the ends in water. Change the water daily and eventually roots will appear.
When planting in the garden:
Seeds can be sown directly in the garden once temperatures are above 48 degrees. If you are transplanting cuttings or seedlings, place them in the soil about three inches apart. Because watercress thrives in soggy soils it's easier to plant them in a container that is partially submerged in a larger container of water. This way you'll never have to worry about your plants drying out.
Keep the area around watercress well-weeded because weeds will divert water from the watercress itself. Add a mulch around the watercress to help retain moisture. Once the watercress is well-established and at least six inches tall, pinch the top shoots to encourage bushy branching. If you choose to grow your watercress in a container, keep it in a cool and shady location and make sure it stays moist.
As its name suggests, watercress loves water. In the wild, it's often found with its roots submerged in streams and other bodies of water. If you don't want to water this plant everyday, make sure to plant it in a very moist area. Basically, you cannot overwater watercress.
You can add a mulch around the watercress to help retain moisture by eliminating evaporation.
Watercress can sometimes be susceptible to aphids. Spray them off when you water your watercress and they shouldn't be a problem.
If growing watercress near a stream or other body of water, make sure it is in clean water which animals don't visit. Otherwise, watercress can carry bacteria and diseases dangerous for consumption.