Flowers are a joy to look at, but did you know that some of them are edible? Find out how to grow your own edible flowers in the UK.
When we think of growing our own food, vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, chillies, courgettes or beans come to mind.
But not many people know that you can also eat some flowers. Of course, they look nice, but there is more to flowers than meets the eye.
So in this article I will tell you how to grow your own edible flowers in the UK.
Why Eat Flowers?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to grow your own edible flowers, let’s discuss why you might want to eat them.
Edible flowers can make a salad or pasta dish look great, but they can also add flavour. But that’s not all.
Many flowers are also good for you, because they are high in vitamins, such as vitamins A and C.
This means they can support your immune system. They are also full of beneficial antioxidants, which protect your cells against free radicals.
So adding flowers to your food can help you have a healthier diet while also adding flavour. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.
Not All Flowers Are Edible
Before I tell you how to grow your own edible flowers in the UK, you should be aware that not all flowers are edible. Some are even toxic and can make you very ill.
Don’t be tempted to go into your garden and pick any flowers you like and eat them. It is important that you only eat flowers you know for sure are edible.
If you are unsure, don’t chance it. Never eat a flower, or any plant or mushroom for that matter, unless you are absolutely sure that it is safe to do so.
The best way to ensure this is by growing your own edible flowers. That way you can be sure that you and your family are safe.
Some of the flowers we commonly grow in our garden are poisonous, including:
This is not an exhaustive list, so you should always check before eating any flower.
How To Grow Your Own Edible Flowers In The UK From Seeds
One advantage of growing your own edible flowers is that you know exactly which ones you can eat.
I tend to grow my edible flowers among my vegetable plants. This has two advantages:
- I know exactly which flowers I can eat.
- Many edible flowers are great companion plants, which attract pollinators, deter pests and can improve the health of my veggies.
The good news is that you can grow most flowers that you can eat from seed. That makes it cheaper, and you can be sure that they have not been treated with pesticides.
This is something you should keep in mind: if you want to eat your flowers, don’t spray them with pesticides or use any other chemical treatment.
Start Your Edible Flowers Indoors
I tend to start my edible flowers indoors in a pot, to give them a good start.
Depending on the plant, I start them in March with my vegetables. I can then plant them out together in the vegetable beds.
Fill small pots or seed trays with fine potting compost.
Top Tip: Water the compost well before sowing your seeds, as watering afterwards can wash the seeds to the side of the pot.
Then add two seeds to each pot and cover with more compost. Check the seed packet to find out how deep the seeds need to be covered, as this differs from one plant to another.
Use a spray bottle filled with water to wet the compost on the top.
Put your pots in a propagator or on a sunny window sill. The seed packet will tell you at which temperature the seeds will germinate, so take your cue from that.
Keep the compost moist but not wet, as this could cause the seed to rot.
When the seedlings have at least two true leaves, transplant them into bigger containers to grow them on. True leaves are the ones second pair of leaves that will grow.
Once there is no more risk of frost, start to acclimatise your young flowers by putting them outside in the sunshine during the day. Take them back in for the night.
This is called harding off and ensures that they will not get a shock when suddenly being outside. Most vegetable plants need to be hardened off too.
After a week or two of hardening off, you can plant your flowers out.
Some plants can be sown directly into the beds outside, such as chives, cornflowers, Nasturtiums and chamomile from March onwards.
Again, your seed packet will tell you when to start sowing your seeds.
I water my beds well before I start sowing outdoors. Like with pots, this will prevent the seeds from moving around, as they would if you were to water after sowing.
Make a shallow hole in the compost with your finger. The seed packet will tell you how deep the hole should be.
Pop in a seed per hole and cover. If you have watered your bed beforehand, there is no need to water it again now.
Keep the soil moist, but don’t overwater because this could cause the seed to rot.
As you can see, it is easy to learn how to grow your own edible flowers in the UK. All you need to do is make sure you check the seed packet to know when and where to sow the seeds.
Some Edible Flowers To Try
Now that you know how to grow your own edible flowers in the UK, let’s have a look at some of my favourites.
There is a wide range of edible flowers to choose from, so here are 3 beauties that you should try.
1. French Marigold – Burning Embers
These flowers are not just stunningly beautiful, they also have a citrusy flavour which makes them perfect for a summer salad.
Start your French marigolds indoors between February and May. Cover the seeds with a 6mm (1/4in) layer of compost and keep on a windowsill.
They need between 15°C and 20°C (60°F to 68°F) to germinate.
Once the seedlings are big enough to handle, transplant them into a bigger pot to grow on.
In May, when the risk of frost has passed, harden them off and plant outside.
I plant my French marigolds with my tomatoes, as they deter pests like aphids. Like tomatoes, marigolds like a sunny spot.
Harvest the flowers when they are still young as this is when they have the best taste.
Cut off the white or pale green “heel”, which is the base of the petal. This can taste bitter, so you don’t want that in your salad.
The rest of the flower is completely edible and tastes delicious.
Fennel is not just a great vegetable to grow, but you can also eat the flowers. They have tiny flowers with a delicate aniseed flavour.
The dried flowers are great for flavouring meat, such as steak or pork. And if you pickle your own cucumber, add some of the flowers in with it, you won’t regret it.
Start sowing the seeds directly outside from March/April onwards. They need a soil temperature of around 13°C to 18°C (55°F to 64°F).
Sow the seeds 1cm (1/2in) deep into well-prepared soil. If you plant more than one plant, leave 38cm (15in) between each seed to give them enough space to grow.
Choose a sunny spot for your Fennel and water well during dry periods.
Harvest when the flowers are young and enjoy their mild liquorice taste. You can also let them go to seed and harvest the seeds, which are great for cooking too.
I love using fennel seeds with pork; it’s a match made in heaven.
Fennel is a perennial plant, so unless you harvest the tasty base as well, it will come back year after year.
3. Nasturtium – Bloody Mary
These beautiful flowers have a peppery taste, similar to water cress.
They are a great addition to any salad, but you can also add them to stir-fries or even to a curry.
Just be creative with it, and you will soon find that you love adding these edible flowers.
Sow Nasturtium seeds directly outside from March onwards. Prepare your soil by raking it and water the bed well.
You want to sow the seeds 13mm (1/2in) deep, so not deep at all. Leave about 25cm (10in) between each plant to ensure they have enough space to grow.
Harvest when the flowers are still young. You can eat the whole flower. You can even eat the leaves, seeds and stems of Nasturtium.
You could add the leaves to some bread dough to get green bread that has a mildly peppery taste.
Other edible flowers that are worth a try are:
Frequently Asked Questions
If you still have questions that our guide about how to grow edible flowers in the UK could not answer, check our FAQ section.
Can I Eat Flowers From The Garden Centre Or Florist?
Technically yes. But I would not recommend it, because not every species of a flower is edible.
For example, the flowers of the garden pea are edible, but not the ones of sweet peas.
So you have to ask the florist or at the garden centre to make sure. Personally, I would rather grow my own edible flowers to be sure.
Another reason is that the flowers you buy might have been sprayed with pesticides. After all, they were grown for display and not for consumption.
If you want to add edible flowers to your diet, I would recommend growing them yourself.
Can I Eat Flowers If I Have Hayfever?
This depends on how severe your pollen allergy is. I would consult a doctor to make sure you are not causing any harm to your health.
The reason for that is that if you are allergic to pollen, you might react to the flowers as well.
If you have any allergies, consult your GP before starting to eat edible flowers.
How Do You Store Edible Flowers?
Ideally, you should use and eat edible flowers as soon as you have picked them.
But if you put them in a plastic container or bag and store them in the fridge, they will keep for a few days.
Some you could dry like herbs and store them in an airtight container for several months.
When Is The Best Time To Harvest Edible Flowers?
Harvest your edible flowers on dry days in the morning. This will ensure you get the best flavour.
Like with vegetables, you want to harvest your flowers regularly to encourage the plant to grow more.
Now that you know how to grow your own edible flowers in the UK, just give it a go and enjoy. Happy Growing!