Updated/Fact-Chacked on May 11, 2023 by Gareth James
In the UK, we are not big on eating flowers. But this should change. Flowers can really brighten up salads and cocktails, along with adding the wow factor to cakes.
When consuming edible flowers, it is important to ensure they are not treated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals. Always wash them thoroughly before use, and if you have allergies, introduce them gradually to your diet to ensure you don’t have any adverse reactions. This is why it’s best to grow edible flowers from seed; you will know exactly what has been used to grow the plant.
To write this article, I had to do hours of research; this information is not something you can get wrong. I have only included flowers confirmed as edible across a range of authoritative sources. If I found some mixed information across websites, the plants were crossed off the list. Examples include crocosmia, edible according to Thompson Morgan but ‘mildly harmful’ according to Sarah Raven. The same happened with Gypsophila and a few others.
The most commonly used flower on our list is elderflower, which is used in cordials and a range of other dishes. Hibiscus flowers are also used regularly to make teas and add elegance to cocktails.
Some flowers are edible but have absolutely no taste and don’t look great on a plate. There are also edible flowers where different parts of the plants are used; in Japan, hosta shoots are used like asparagus and eaten raw with seasoning, called ‘urui’. I really wanted to try these but couldn’t bring myself to cut my beloved hosta shoots – they have enough of a problem being attacked by snails.
Edible flowers table
This list will be updated as I come across and try different flowers.
Disclaimer: **Individuals consuming the flowers listed here do so entirely at their own risk. BWG/Plantsman Media cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction to the flowers.**
|Common name||Botanical name||Flavour||Best for|
|Borage||Borago officinalis||Mild, cucumber-like||Salads, drinks, garnish|
|Nasturtium||Tropaeolum majus||Peppery, slightly sweet||Salads, sandwiches, garnish|
|Calendula||Calendula officinalis||Tangy, slightly bitter||Salads, soups, garnish|
|Hibiscus||H. rosa-sinensis||Citrus flavour||Drinks|
|Viola||Viola spp.||Mild, slightly sweet||Salads, desserts, garnish|
|Pansy||Viola x wittrockiana||Mild, slightly sweet||Salads, desserts, garnish|
|Dandelion||Taraxacum officinale||Bitter, earthy||Salads, stir-fries, teas|
|Lavender||Lavandula angustifolia||Floral, slightly sweet||Desserts, teas, garnish|
|Daylily||Hemerocallis spp.||Slightly peppery||Salads, stir-fries, garnish|
|Rose||Rosa spp.||Floral, sweet||Desserts, jams, garnish|
|Elderflower||Sambucus nigra||Fragrant, sweet||Cordials, syrups, desserts|
|Lilac||Syringa vulgaris||Floral, slightly bitter||Desserts, garnish|
|Honeysuckle||Lonicera spp.||Sweet, nectar-like||Desserts, teas, garnish|
|Dahlia||Dahlia spp.||Mild, vegetal||Salads, garnish|
|Begonia||Begonia x tuberhybrida||Tart, lemony||Salads, garnish|
|Fuchsia||Fuchsia spp.||Mild, slightly sweet||Salads, garnish|
|Marigold||Calendula officinalis||Citrusy, slightly bitter||Salads, garnish|
|Tulip||Tulipa spp.||Sweet, mild||Salads, garnish|
|Sunflower||Helianthus annuus||Nutty, slightly sweet||Salads, garnish|
|Snapdragons||Antirrhinum majus||Bitter||Salads, drinks|
|Gladioli||Gladiolus||Mild||Salads, cake decoration|
|Carnations||Dianthus caryophyllus||Spicy||Salads, cake decoration|
|Primrose||Primula vulgaris||Mild||Salads, cake decoration|
How to grow edible flowers from seeds
Growing edible flowers from seed is an enjoyable and rewarding experience, it’s also a great project to carry out with children. We previously wrote an in-depth article about growing plants from seed, but here’s an overview for edible flower seeds.
Follow this simple step-by-step guide to grow your edible flowers from seed.
Step 1: Choose the Right Seeds
Purchase edible flower seeds from a reliable supplier, ensuring they are intended for consumption. Some popular choices include nasturtiums, calendula, violets, borage, and any others listed above. I would recommend Sarah Raven and Thompson Morgan or dedicated seed sites like Simple Seed.
Step 2: Prepare the Soil
Choose a well-draining soil mix with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. If needed, amend the soil with organic matter, such as compost, to improve drainage and fertility.
Step 3: Select a location
Choose a planting site that receives full sun or partial shade, depending on the specific light requirements of the edible flower species you’ve selected. Most edible flowers prefer a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day. A conservatory would be a great place to start them off or a south-facing window. I use a heated propagator to keep the soil at a constant temperature.
Step 4: Sow the Seeds
Plant the seeds according to the recommended depth on the seed packet, typically about 1/4-inch deep. Space seeds according to their expected mature size, allowing ample room for growth.
Step 5: Water and Fertilize
Water the seeds gently, ensuring the soil remains consistently moist but not waterlogged. Use a water-soluble, all-purpose fertilizer according to the package instructions to provide essential nutrients for healthy growth.
Step 6: Thin the Seedlings
Once the seedlings have developed their first set of true leaves, thin them out to avoid overcrowding. Remove weaker seedlings, leaving the strongest ones to continue growing.
Step 7: Protect from Pests and Diseases
Monitor your edible flowers for signs of pests or diseases and address any issues promptly. Use organic or chemical pest control methods, if necessary, but follow the supplier’s recommendations to avoid harm to your flowers or yourself.
Step 8: Harvest the Flowers
Harvest the edible flowers in the morning when their water content is highest and after the dew has evaporated. Gently rinse the flowers with water and pat them dry before consuming or storing them in the refrigerator.
Step 9: Enjoy Your Edible Flowers
Incorporate your homegrown edible flowers into your meals as a colourful addition. Use them in salads, as garnishes, or even in desserts.
How to grow edible flowers in a pot
The above method can be used in a single pot instead of a seedling tray. Ideally, you would need a greenhouse or a conservatory to keep the pot warm while the seeds germinate.
Where sells edible flowers in the UK?
If you do not want to grow your own edible flowers, you can my them from most good stores. I would not advise buying them on Amazon – you have no idea where they have come from or if chemicals have been used. The same goes for Etsy.
How to dry hibiscus flowers for tea
This video gives you a quick overview of preparing hibiscus Flowers for making tea. The process includes picking, washing, drying and finally making a tea.
UK Edible Flowers FAQs
Can you grow edible flowers indoors?
Yes, you can, ideally, you will need a conservatory or sunny window sile.
How long do edible flowers last?
Edible flowers typically last between 5-7 days when stored properly. To maximize their shelf life, keep them in the refrigerator in an airtight container lined with a slightly damp paper towel. Some flowers, such as violas and pansies, can last longer if stored in this way.
Growing edible flowers hydroponically
Many edible flowers can be grown hydroponically, which is an efficient method of cultivation that uses nutrient-rich water rather than soil. Some suitable species for hydroponic growth include nasturtiums, marigolds, borage, and violas. To grow edible flowers hydroponically, you’ll need a hydroponic system, nutrient solution, water, and a suitable environment with appropriate lighting.
How long does it take for edible flowers to grow?
The time it takes for edible flowers to grow varies depending on the species, growing conditions, and climate. Generally, edible flowers take between 6-12 weeks to grow from seeds to harvestable blooms. Some species, like nasturtiums and calendula, grow relatively quickly, while others, such as lavender, may take longer to reach maturity.
What to do with edible flowers
Edible flowers can be used in various ways to enhance the taste, appearance, and aroma of dishes. They can be added to salads, used as garnishes for desserts, incorporated into cocktails, or used to make teas, syrups, and other infused beverages. Some edible flowers can also be used in jams, jellies, or to make flavored vinegars and oils.
How do you know if a flower is edible?
To determine if a flower is edible, research the species using reputable sources such as gardening books, websites, or by consulting experts. Ensure the flower is indeed the species you believe it to be and not a toxic look-alike. Never consume a flower unless you’re certain it is edible and free of pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
Do you have to cook edible flowers?
Many edible flowers can be consumed raw and are often used fresh in salads, garnishes, or beverages. However, some flowers, like squash blossoms and daylilies, can be cooked and enjoyed in dishes such as stir-fries, fritters, or stuffed and baked. Whether or not to cook edible flowers depends on personal preference and the specific flower used.
Preserving edible flowers
To preserve edible flowers for future use, you can dry them, freeze them, or preserve them in sugar or vinegar. Place flowers in a single layer on a screen or tray and let them air dry in a cool, dark place. Once dried, store them in an airtight container. Freezing edible flowers in ice cube trays filled with water is another option, creating attractive ice cubes for drinks. Additionally, flowers can be preserved in sugar by coating them in beaten egg whites and dusting them with fine sugar, then allowing them to dry completely.
Gareth is the owner of Plantsman Media. Gareth lives in the North East of England and is obsessed with flowers. He has just started RHS level 2 certification.