Watercress – characteristics, cultivation and use


Watercress grows in and around streams and lakes. It not only thrives in the warm season, but almost all year round, which makes it an important vitamin donor even in early spring and late autumn. With its fleshy, roundish leaves, it already looks very juicy, which also indicates its property as a lettuce plant. Wild Salads and Herb Quark are also the main purposes. In this form, it can relieve spring fatigue and eliminate vitamin deficiencies.

The common watercress was cultivated in ancient times as a medicinal plant. Due to its high vitamin C content, the plant was especially valued as an anti-scurvy. It is also considered a blood purifier. Its name derives from the Latin name “nasus tortus”, a twisted nose in English – an expression that results from the reaction to the consumption of the slightly pungent taste of the plant.

Profile of watercress:

Scientific name: Nasturtium officinale

Plant family: mustards (Brassicaceae), crucifers

Other names: yellowcress

Sowing time / Planting time: March – May

Flowering period: May – September

Harvest time: March – May

Useful plant parts: leaves

Location: partially shaded to shady

Soil quality: wet, water, humus-rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: Vitamin C deficiency, Spring cure, cold

Use as aromatic herb: wild salad, herbal quark

Plant characteristics and classification of watercress

Origin and occurrence of watercress

The original range of watercress probably extended over Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia. Meanwhile, the plant as a neophyte, however, can be found almost worldwide. It likes to settle on shady, clear, shallow waters with a slight streaming, for example, at springs or in the shallow riparian zones of clean streams.

Plant order of watercress

Watercress, also called yellowcress, belongs botanically to the family Chrysanthemum (Brassicaceae). In addition to the genuine watercress (Nasturtium officinale), the onerow yellowcress (Nasturtium microphyllum) is very common.

Characteristics of the watercress


The perennial, wintergreen and herbaceous aquatic plant forms between 10 and 30 cm (4 and 12in), sometimes even up to 70 cm (28 in) long stems. These are hollow, branch strong and crawl or swim on the water surface.


The juicy, alternate leaves are dark green and can be up to 15 cm (6 in) long. The leaf blades are undivided pinnate with roundish to ovate, just under 3 cm (1.2 in) long leaflets. The leaves are loosely distributed on the upward or creeping stems, which find their conclusion in end- and leaf axil racemes.

Attention likelihood of confusion: Often the common watercress is mistaken for large bitter-cress (Cardamine amara). This is not poisonous, but it tastes very, very bitter. While watercress has round, hollow stems and roundish leaves, the leaves of the large bitter-cress sit on edged, marrow-filled stems.


Watercress blooms from May to September. The petals are tiny, white and stand in a leafless cyme raceme. The ovary is grown together from two carpels.


The seed pods are short and oblong, one to two cm (0.4 to 0.8 in) long and directed upwards.

watercress with white flowers
watercress with white flowers

Watercress – cultivation and care


Watercress thrives in shady to partially shaded and relatively cool locations. Optimal are water depths of 5 to 20 cm (2 and 8 in).


The plant survives permanently only in open water areas, in the permanently moist mud flats or in the water bucket. In pots containing nutrient-rich and humus-rich soil, it needs a container of water, into which it is placed and constantly supplied with fresh water. For example, you can cultivate them in a shallow pool of water at the feet of a herbal spiral.


Watercress offers a culture in the garden pond. It thrives in shallow, flowing and slightly alkaline waters. Alternatively, it can be kept in pots or planters on the terrace and balcony: Plant watercress in nutrient-rich soil and place the pot or bucket in a container with water, which has to be changed daily. Three to four cuttings are enough for a 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 in) pot. They should be put 6 to 12 cm (3.5 to 5 in) in water and pulled at temperatures between 10 and 12 °C (50 and 54 °F.


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


Although fertilization is not absolutely necessary, some compost accelerates growth in the swamp bed significantly.


As a swamp 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. To promote the bushy growth of watercress, you should occasionally pinch off older shoots.

Harvest and conservation

The leaves of watercress 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.

As the active ingredients are largely lost when drying, it is almost always used fresh.

Diseases and pests

Watercress is largely resistant to diseases and pests.


Watercress is hardy.

Use of watercress

In the kitchen

The herb is often used as a salad herb due to its fresh and spicy taste. It is considered one of the finest culinary herbs. As a spread or seasoning for soup, quark or potato dishes their tart taste comes into their own. The older and stronger the leaves, the sharper and more bitter they taste. Since watercress is very healthy, rich in vitamins and has a draining effect on the body, it is also a popular component of spring cures.

Watercress as a medicinal herb

In natural medicine, watercress is used very often as a medicinal plant. It has a high content of vitamins A and C, but also contains valuable minerals such as iodine. It can reduce fever and relieve digestive discomfort. Their glucosinolates have a blood-purifying, diuretic and expectorant action, but can cause irritation to the stomach and kidneys if consumed in large quantities and for a long time. Watercress is used as a tincture to help with gingivitis and eczema.

The best way to use the herb is as a salad spice.

Watercress can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • bile and bladder stones complaints
  • blemished skin
  • bronchitis
  • cold
  • cough
  • cystitis
  • diabetes (mild)
  • eczema
  • epilepsy
  • gingivitis
  • gout
  • indigestion
  • itching
  • light burns
  • pyelonephritis
  • reducing blood sugar
  • rheumatism
  • sore throat
  • spring cure
  • vitamin C deficiency
  • worms

Medicinal properties

  • antibacterial
  • blood purifier
  • diuretic
  • expectorant
  • stimulating

Side effects

The watercress should not be used during pregnancy.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy watercress – What to pay attention to?

You can buy watercress in specialized garden center or flower markets or online.

The price per plant is about 3 to 4 € / $.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.