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Edible flowers guide

Flowers are not only beautiful to behold, many are edible too. What’s more, they attract pollinators to your garden, make excellent companion plants and bring scent, colour and interest to your outdoor space. If you want to sow your own flower seeds so that you can harvest their edible petals, here are the best varieties to grow.

Edible flowers through history

Edible flowers have been made into foods and syrups throughout history
Image: Hollyhock ‘Cough Syrup Mix’ from Suttons

Flowers have been used throughout history to enhance the flavour and appearance of food, both savoury and sweet. Ancient Romans drank tea made from dried petals and medieval monks used viola blooms to make a sweet syrup.

Today we know that edible flowers bring a wealth of health benefits as well as adding colour and flavour to food. Rose petals, for example, are rich in antioxidants, while Lavender is thought to calm the nervous system and prevent nausea. Many edible flowers are high in Vitamins like C and A too. Check out our guide to cooking with lavender for some excellent ways to incorporate this flower into your diet.

Edible flower chart

Edible Flower* Tastes Like… Which parts are edible? Best eaten with / in
Calendula Peppery/citrus tang Petals Salads, stir-fries, coleslaw, biscuits, pasta dishes
Carnation Peppery/clove-like Petals Salads, meat dishes, desserts e.g. cheesecakes
French Marigold* Citrus Petals & leaves Salads, stir-fries, biscuits
Hollyhock Mild marshmallow Petals, leaves & roots Garnish, salad dressings, fish dishes
Lavender*** Mild sweetness Flowers Biscuits, herbal tea, cakes, creme brulee, ice cream
Nasturtium Peppery/watercress Whole flower & leaves Salads, stir-fries, curries, pasta dishes, meat dishes
Pansy Lettuce Whole Flower Garnish, salads, sandwiches, cake decorations, fruit salads
Sunflower Nutty Buds, petals & seeds Bread, biscuits, cakes. Unopened buds can be steamed like artichokes
Viola Mild sweetness WHole flower Garnish, salads, sandwiches, cake decorations

* Should only be eaten in moderation and DO NO EAT AFRICAN MARIGOLDS
*** Lavender is very strong, only a tablespoon is needed to add flavour

Note: If you have asthma or severe allergies take caution when eating edible flowers and try a small amount before adding to recipes.

How to grow the best edible flowers

Growing your own edible flowers is easy. Here’s how to grow some of our favourites.

Calendula

Calendula officinalis from Suttons
Calendula flowers are loved by pollinators too
Image: Calendula officinalis from Suttons

Calendula flower petals make a tasty addition to summer salads and stir-fries. Direct sow your calendula seeds from March to May into finely raked, moist, warm, weed free soil. Bury the seeds about 13mm (½”) deep. As the seedlings develop, thin them out in stages to achieve a final spacing of 23-30cm (9-12”). For early flowering the following year, you can also direct sow seeds in August and September.

Try Calendula ‘Orange King’, ‘Pink Surprise’, ‘Snow Princess’ and ‘Lemon Zest’ for an interesting addition to salads or as pretty decorations for cakes and biscuits.

Carnations

Carnation Seeds - Chabaud Giant Mix from Suttons
Ornamental carnations are edible and delicious
Image: Carnation Seeds – Chabaud Giant Mix from Suttons

Carnation petals have a slight peppery taste and are good with grilled meats, salads and stir fries. Sow your carnation seeds from January to April in a propagator or in a greenhouse, at approximately 15-20°C (60-68°F) using a good quality, moist compost. Cover the seeds with 3mm (⅛”) sieved compost. Transplant seedlings, spacing them out 5cm (2”) in trays and grow them on with plenty of good light. Acclimatise plants and pinch out their growing tips before planting out 30-40cm (12-16”) apart in a sunny position. Use bushy twigs to support plants if necessary.

Try ‘Chabaud Giant Mix’ for a great selection of flower colours.

French Marigolds

Marigold ‘Burning Embers’ from Suttons
Plant marigold ‘Burning Embers’ as an edible companion to tomatoes
Image: Marigold ‘Burning Embers’ from Suttons

French Marigold (Tagetes patula) flower petals make a tasty addition to summer salads and have a citrus type flavour. Thinly sow your marigold seeds into pots or trays of finely sieved, moist compost between February and May. The seeds should be about 6mm (¼”) deep.

Keep them on a windowsill or in a greenhouse at approximately 15-20°C (60-68°F) until the seedlings are big enough to transplant. Then, space your seedlings 5cm (2”) apart in trays and grow on. Acclimatise your plants to outdoor conditions and choose a sunny outdoor location for their final position. Plant out 15-23cm (6-9”) apart. Alternatively, wait until May and direct sow your seeds into finely raked, moist soil where you want them to flower.

Try French Marigold varieties ‘Boy-O-Boy Mix’, ‘Red Brocade’, ‘Fantasia Mix’, and ‘Orange Winner’.

Hollyhocks

Hollyhock ‘Black Knight’ from Suttons
Striking hollyhock ‘Black Knight’ is entirely edible from root to flower
Image: Hollyhock ‘Black Knight’ from Suttons

Hollyhocks are completely edible including the roots, leaves and blossoms. The petals of these statuesque cottage garden flowers make a jewel-coloured syrup, a traditional remedy for soothing irritated mucous membranes and helping to ease a dry cough.

Sow your hollyhocks between April and June in a propagator or in a greenhouse, and keep them at approximately 15-21°C (60-70°F). Cover the seeds lightly with sieved compost. When the seedlings appear, transplant them into trays, and grow on. Acclimatise your plants gradually before planting them out into a sunny position, about 38-45cm (15-18”) apart. Alternatively, sow your seeds directly outside in June.

Try Hollyhock ‘Chater’s Mix’, ‘Black Knight’ and ‘Cough Syrup Mix’.

Lavender

Lavender ‘Munstead’ from Suttons
Use lavender as an edible flower in savoury and sweet recipes
Image: Lavender ‘Munstead’ from Suttons

Lavender has a strong taste so, in cooking, a little goes a long way. It can be used in stews, sauces, cakes, and tastes delicious in ice cream or sorbet. Sow your lavender seeds under glass from January to March for flowers from August to September.

Alternatively, sow 3mm deep into a well-raked seedbed outdoors from April-June, and cover lightly. They will begin flowering from June to September the following year.

If you want instant impact, buy plugs or garden ready lavender plants and enjoy the scent and flavour almost immediately.

Try lavender ‘Multifida Blue Wonder’ or go for classic ‘Hidcote Blue’.

Nasturtium

Nasturtium ‘Bloody Mary’ from Suttons
‘Bloody Mary’ petals are the perfect addition to summer drinks
Image: Nasturtium ‘Bloody Mary’ from Suttons

Nasturtium flowers have a peppery taste and are great when added to salads, stir fries and curries. Sow your nasturtium seeds between March and June directly into finely raked, moist, warm, soil where you want them to flower. For best results, they should be 13mm (½”) deep. As the seedlings develop, thin them out until they’re about 25cm (10”).

Try Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mix’, ‘Purple Emperor’, and ‘Dayglow Mix’.

Pansies

Pansy ‘F1 Frizzle Sizzle Raspberry’ from Suttons
Edible flowers provide a colour intensity that elevates other ingredients
Image: Pansy ‘F1 Frizzle Sizzle Raspberry’ from Suttons

Pansy petals have a mild, sweet flavour, great for adding to desserts such as crème brulee and fruit salads. Sow your pansy seeds from February to April into pots or trays of good quality, sieved compost. The seeds should be about 6mm (¼”) deep. Stand the trays in a cool greenhouse until the seedlings develop, then transplant them into larger trays about 5cm (2”) apart, and continue to grow them on in a cool, shady place.

Plant the seedlings into their flowering positions 10-15cm (4-6”) apart. Spring sowings should be planted from mid-May to mid-June, and summer sowings (June-July) should be planted out in September and October to flower the following spring.

Try pansy varieties ‘Adonis’, ‘Frizzle Sizzle Raspberry’ and ‘Frizzle Sizzle Orange’.

Sunflowers

Sunflower ‘Titan’ from Suttons
Harvest both the petals and the seeds from your edible sunflowers
Image: Sunflower ‘Titan’ from Suttons

Sunflower seeds (good for sprinkling on bread) are delicious, and the petals are edible too. Sow your sunflower seeds from March to June directly into finely raked, moist, warm, weed-free soil, about 13mm (½”) deep. As the seedlings grow, thin them out in stages to achieve a final spacing of 30-45cm (12-18”). Support the plants as they develop to avoid the stem being damaged in strong winds.

For earlier blooms, sow indoors in April. Acclimatise plants to outdoor conditions before planting them out mid-late May.

Try these varieties of sunflower: ‘Giant Yellow’, ‘Tiger Eye F1’, ‘Ruby Sunset’ and ‘Waooh!

Violas

Viola ‘Freckles’ from Suttons
Viola ‘Freckles’ brings a striking pattern to your cakes and biscuits
Image: Viola ‘Freckles’ from Suttons

Violas are often used as cake decoration. Both the flowers and leaves are edible and bring a welcome hint of sweetness to fruit salads and desserts.

Sow viola seeds under glass between February and April, dusting over with compost so they are about 3mm (⅛”) deep. When your seedlings emerge, transplant them into trays about 5cm (2”) apart and grow on. Plant into tubs or baskets in May, after carefully acclimatising the young plants to outside conditions. Alternatively, plant them outside at about 23cm (9”) apart as a ground cover edging.

Try Viola ‘Midnight Runner’ and ‘Fancy Shades Mix’.

How to pick and prepare your edible flowers

Freeze edible flowers
Freeze your edible flowers for cocktails and party drinks
Image: SewCream/Shutterstock

Only ever harvest petals from a chemical-free area, and away from tracks or trails and animal enclosures. Remember, if in doubt about whether a flower is edible or not, err on the side of caution and avoid it. Also steer clear of any old, dull or bruised flower heads and try to consume any flowers as soon as possible after picking. You can store your flower heads in the fridge for a day or two until you are ready to eat them.

The petals are the best part of most edible flowers, so remove the stem, along with the male and female parts of the centre before adding to your dish. Here are some of our top tips:

  • For beautiful cocktails, freeze flower petals into cubes of ice
  • Preserve petals in a sugar syrup
  • Crystallise large petals like hollyhocks and roses to decorate cakes
  • Sprinkle colourful petals over a green salad

Common garden flowers to avoid eating

Wild foxglove seeds from Suttons
Leave attractive but inedible foxgloves for the bees and butterflies
Image: Wild foxglove seeds from Suttons

The following flowers are not edible, and should never be consumed:

  • Daffodil (Narcissus)
  • Foxglove
  • Oleander
  • Lily of the valley
  • Rhododendron
  • Hydrangea
  • Larkspur
  • Wisteria

We hope you’ve found our guide to edible flowers useful. Share your edible flowers with us via our social media! We love to see what you grow.

Lead image: Nasturtium ‘Gold Jewel’ from Suttons

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5 thoughts on “Edible flowers guide”

  1. Katie Brunt says:

    Hi Muhammad, you can successfully grow herbs with edible flowers such as Cornflower, Dahlia, Hibiscus, Honeysuckle, Magnolia, Nasturtium, Pansy, Rose, Scented Geranium and Cape Jasmine. We hope this is helpful to you!
    Best regards,
    The Suttons Team

  2. Muhammad Raza Khan says:

    Can herbs be mixed with edible flowers?

  3. Roger Jago says:

    I can’t believe the entire Hollyhock plant can be eaten; we had so many large Hollyhocks that we removed them to bottom of the garden! Will try to recover so we can have a feast, then say – “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”!

  4. Tracy says:

    Interesting post! I love to try new things and I haven`t tried edible flowers! Will try to grow some! Lavender is my favorite flower, I just love how it smells, didn`t know it is an edible one.

  5. Malcolm says:

    Don’t forget dandilion/peethebed.. Besides,the diuretic properties, all parts of the plant can be consumed:good for salad,ersatz coffee and other things. A wonder plant!

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