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Edible Flowers – 7.237   arrow

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by S.E. Newman and A. Stoven O’Connor *(10/20)

Quick Facts…

  • Proper identification of edible flowers is important.
  • Use flowers that are grown without pesticides.
  • For best flavor, use flowers at their peak.
  • Introduce new flowers into the diet slowly to be able to pinpoint allergic reactions or stomach upset.
  • Edible flowers also may be preserved in oils or vinegars.

Edible flowers have been used in the culinary arts for flavor and garnish for hundreds of years. Early reports indicate that the Romans used flowers in cooking, as did the Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cultures. During Queen Victoria’s reign, edible flowers were popular. They have maintained their popularity today.

Many flowers are edible and the flowers of most culinary herbs are safe. However, proper identification of the plant is essential because some flowers are poisonous and should not be eaten (Table 1). Many plants have similar common names, which may cause added confusion. Always use the scientific name when choosing a flower.

Pick flowers early in the day. Use them at their peak for the best flavor. Avoid unopened blossoms (except daylilies) and wilted or faded flowers, which may have a bitter or unappealing flavor. Do not use flowers that have been sprayed with pesticides or collect flowers from plants that have been fertilized with raw manure. Generally avoid purchasing flowers from florists, garden centers, or nurseries since these flowers are not grown for consumption. Table 2 lists many plants that can be added to food for flavor, aroma, color, or garnish.

Fresh flowers also can be preserved for later use. Choose flowers with larger petals, like pansies, and paint the petals with an egg-white wash. Use a soft brush and pasteurized dehydrated egg whites to avoid food-borne illness. After painting, dust the petal with super-fine granulated sugar and dry it. Store preserved flowers in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Avoid dark-colored petals; they turn even darker with this treatment.

flower parts
Figure 1: Flower parts.

Using Edible Flowers

To avoid stomach upset or to determine if there is an allergic reaction, limit consumption to small tastes. Slowly incorporate large quantities into the diet. Edible petals or entire flowers can be eaten. However, remove stems, anthers and pistils because they may be bitter (Figure 1). Use flowers that are free of insects and disease. Many edible flowers are high in vitamin C and/or vitamin A, along with other essential nutrients. Use them as garnishes and in salads. Recipes for flowers may be found in the following areas: baking, sauces, jelly, syrup, vinegars, honey, oil, tea, flower-scented sugars, candied flowers, wine, and flavored liquors. Flavored vinegars and oils prepared at home have a limited shelf-life and should be stored in the refrigerator (Kendall and Rausch, 2012). Pick fresh flowers and gently rinse with cool running water. Placed washed flowers between damp paper towels. Refrigerate until ready to use. Some flowers may have an extended shelf life if washed just before use. Flowers and herbs may also be dried. Refer to “Herbs: Preserving and Using”for more information.


Kendall, P. and J. Rausch. 2012. CSU Extension Fact Sheet 9.340, Flavored Vinegars and Oils.

Knight A.P. A Guide to Poisonous House and Garden Plants. Teton New Media. 2006.

Lampe, Kenneth F. AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants, 1985. American Medical Association

Table 1: Some common house and garden plants with toxic plant parts or toxic flowers (not a complete list, if in doubt, consult a poisonous plant reference).
Scientific name Common
Achillea millefolium Yarrow, milfoil Lantana camara Lantana, red sage, shrub verbena
Anconitum spp. Monkshood Lathyrus spp. Sweet pea (seeds)
Cestrum spp. Day blooming jasmine, Night blooming jasmine
Clematis spp. Clematis, virgin’s bower Lobelia spp. Cardinal flower
Colchicum spp. Crocus Narcissus spp. Daffodil, jonquil
Convallaria majalis Lily of the Valley Nerium oleander Oleander
Daphne mezereum Daphne Nicotiana spp. Flowering tobacco
Datura spp. Jimson weed Papaver somniferum Opium poppy, common poppy
Delphinium spp. Larkspur Phoradendron spp. Mistletoe
Dicentra formosa Bleeding heart Physalis spp. Chinese or Japanese lantern
Digitalis purpurea Foxglove, digitalis Rhododendron spp. Azaleas, rhododendrons, rose bay
Euphorbia spp.1 Euphorbia Ricinus communis Castor bean, African coffee tree
Hippeastum spp. Amaryllis Zantedeschia aethiopica Calla lily
Hyaninthus spp. Hyacinth Zigadenus spp. Death camas, alkaligrass, wild onion

1Poinsettias are not considered poisonous, but they are not edible. If eaten, all plant parts may cause varying degrees of mouth irritation and vomiting, but not death. The cultivated rubber tree Heavea brasiliensis, Manioc or cassava (Manihot), and Castor bean (Rincinus) are close relatives, which are poisonous. With its close genetic ties to the rubber tree, which is where natural latex is derived, those who are sensitive may also be sensitive to the latex from poinsettias.

Table 2: Recommended plants with edible flowers.
Type1 Flower
Bloom Taste Fragrance Comments
and hints
Abelmoschus aesculentus
Okra, gumbo, gombo
A Yellow, red Mid-July to August Mild, sweet and slightly mucilaginous Full sun, hot weather; prefers clay to clay loam.
Agstache foeniculum
Anise hyssop
P Lavender July to frost Strong anise, sweet, licorice May die back to the ground;readily resows; full sun to light shade; well-drained soil.
Alcea rosea Hollyhock P Various July to frost Little, slightly bitter Best as a garnish or container for dip. Full sun to light shade.
Allium schoenoprasum Chive P Lavender, red to purple May to June Onion, strong Onion Separate florets to serve. Forms clumps; part shade to full sun; indoors.
Allium tuberosum Garlic chive P White August to frost Onion, strong Onion Separate florets to serve. Partial shade to full sun; also indoors.
Anethum graveolens
A Yellow June to frost Stronger than leaves Dill Resows readily, tolerates poor soil but prefers well-drained soil; full sun.
Anthemis nobilis English chamomile P White petals; yellow center Late June to frost Sweet apple flavor Ragweed sufferers may be allergic to chamomile; drink no more than one cup of tea per day. Prefers moist, well- drained soil; full sun to part shade.
Anthriscus cerefoliumChervil A White May to June Parsley-like, hint of citrus, tarragon Start in cold frame.
Begonia x tuberhybrida Tuberous begonia TP White, pink, yellow, red, orange and combinations July to August Citrus Grow indoors or out; dig tubers each fall, just after frost and store; prefers moist, fertile soil; part to full shade. Only hybrids are edible.
Bellis perennis English daisy P White to purple petals April to September Mild to bitter Use as garnish or in salads. Thrives incold weather; prefers full sun, moist soil.
Borago officinalis Borage A Blue, purple to lavender June to July Cucumber Use as garnish; may be candied. Full sun; light, poor, dry soil. Attracts bees.
Brassica spp. Broccoli, cauliflower B (grown as A) Buds: blue-green; yellow flower, white buds in cauliflower June to August Broccoli Vegetable. Prefers full sun; rich, well-drained soil. Sow indoors six weeks prior to transplant.
Brassica spp. Mustard A Yellow April to May Mustard, hot Salad garnish. Watch for allergies.
Calendula officinalis
Calendula, pot marigold
A Yellow, gold/orange June to August Tangy and peppery Ornamental. Dries well. Prefers cool weather; rich loam; direct sow.
Carthamus tinctorius Safflower, American
safflower, saffron
A Yellow to deep red August Bitter flavor May impart yellow color to cooked foods. Full sun; light, dry, well-drained soil; start indoors and transplant.
Cercis canadensis Redbud P Pink April Beanlike to tart apple Native tree to U.S. ; may be marginal in Colorado. Full sun to part shade; sandy loam; difficult to transplant.
Chrysanthemum coronariumGarden chrysanthemum, shungiku P Yellow to white August to October Mild Ornamental. Full sun; rich, moist, well-drained soil.
Chrysanthemum leucanthemum Oxeye daisy P White/yellow center April to August Mild Use as garnish or in salad. Full sun; rich, moist, well-drained soil, invasive.
Cichorium intybus
P Blue to lavender July to frost Pleasant, mild-bitter similar to endive Considered a weed. Grows in most soils; sun to shade; invasive.
Citrus limon
P White Varies with variety Citrus, slightly bitter Sweet floral Subtropical tree but may be grown indoors.
Citrus sinensis
P White Varies Citrus, sweet/strong Perfume,sweet Subtropical tree but may be grown indoors.
Coriandrum sativum
A White June to frost Like leaf but milder Fragrant Herb. Sow continuously for several harvests; sun; rich, well-drained soil.
Cucurbita spp.
Squash or pumpkin
A Orange, yellow July to August Mild, raw squash Slightly floral Vegetable. Enrich soil with compost; prefers full sun.
Cynara scolymus
A Immature head: green Fall Artichoke Prefers rich soil, abundant moisture; propagate from division for annual harvest.
Dendranthema x grandiflorum
P Red, yellow, pink, orange, purple, white August to October Varieties differ, strong to bitter Pungent Ornamental. Full sun; rich, moist, well-drained soil.
Dianthus spp.
Dianthus or pinks
P Pink, white and red June to August Spicy, cloves Some varieties are spicier Ornamental.Tolerates wide range of soils; full sun.
Eruca vesicaria
Rocket, arugula
A White May to frost Nutty, smoky, less piquant than leaves Salad green. Sow continuously for harvest; full sun to light shade; well-drained soil.
Feijoa sellowiana
Pineapple guava
P White to deep pink Grow indoors Floral flavor; papaya or exotic melon Grow indoors in a greenhouse. Rich,well-drained soil; full sun-light shade.
Foeniculum vulgare
P Pale yellow July to August Licorice, milder than leaves, sweet Tolerates wide range of soils; part shade to full sun.
Galium odoratum Sweet woodruff P White May Sweet, grassy, vanilla Vanilla Herb or ground cover. May be invasive; prefers shade. Can have a blood thinning effect if eaten in large quantities. It is considered liver toxic.
Gladiolus spp.
TP Various except true blue 6-8 weeks after planting Mediocre Best as a container for garnish or dips or spreads.
Hemerocallis fulva
P Tawny orange June to July Cooked, combination of asparagus/zucchini All parts are edible. Full to part shade; easy to grow. Many Lilies contain alkaloids and are NOT edible. Day Lilies may act as a diuretic or laxative; eat in moderation.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
Hibiscus, China rose, Rose-of-China
P Orange, red or purplish red Late summer Citrus/cranberry flavor Subtropical tree but may be grown indoors. Used in many tea flavorings.
Hibiscus syriacus
P Red, white, purple, violet July to August Mild, nutty Shrub. Prefers well-drained soil; full sun to part shade; deadhead to keep blooming.
Hyssopus officinalis
P Blue, pink, white July to October Bitter; similar to tonic Used to flavor chartreuse, a liqueur; strong flavor. Prefers part shade and well-drained soil.
Lavandula angustifolia
P Lavender, purple, pink, white June to early August Highly perfumed Floral Taste may be very strong depending on the plant.
Levisticum officinale
B Yellow, white August Mild celery Herb.
Malus spp.
Apple or crabapple
P White to pink May Slightly floral to sour Sweet floral Petals may be candied. Seeds are poisonous. Specimen tree, prefers full sun, fertile soil.
Melissa officinalis
Lemon balm
P Creamy white July to August Lemony, sweet Lemon Herb. May be invasive.
Mentha spp.
P Lavender, pink to white July to September Minty; milder than leaves Fresh, minty Herb. May be invasive; tolerates a wide range of soils; prefers part shade.
Monarda didyma
Bergamot, bee balm, Oswego tea
P Red, pink,white, lavender July to August Tea-like, more aromatic than leaves Sweet, perfumed Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies; part shade to full sun; prefers moist, rich soil. Powdery mildew when grown in part shade.
Muscari atlanticum, M. botryoides,
Grape hyacinth
P Pink, blue April to May Grapey, slightly sour with bitter aftertaste. Grapey Bulb.
Ocimum basilicum
A White to pale pink July to frost Milder than leaves, spicy Sow continuously for several harvests; well-drained rich soil; full sun.
Origanum majoranaMarjoram TP Pale pink June to August Spicy, sweet Herb. Prefers full sun and dry, alkaline, well-drained soil.
Origanum spp.
P White June to August Spicy, pungent-like leaves Herb. Prefers full sun and dry, alkaline, well-drained soil.
Pelargonium spp.
Scented geranium
TP White, red, pink, purple Varies Like variety selected, e.g., rose, lemon; varies Mild Ornamental. Prefers full sun; light, dry well-drained soil.
Phaseolus coccineus Scarlet runner bean TP Bright orange to scarlet July to August Raw bean but milder Vegetable. Flower crunchy; use in salad.
Pisum sativum
Garden pea
A White, tinged pink May to June Raw peas Vegetable. Prefers full sun; sandy, well-drained soil.
Poterium sanguisorba
P Red July to August Cucumber Salad herb. May be invasive; tolerates
wide range of soil; sun or part shade.
Prunus spp.
P Pink to white April to May Mild, like flower nectar Sweet Petals candy well. Pits of mature fruit are poisonous.
Raphanus sativus
A White, pink, yellow after planting One month Spicy Prefers full sun; well-drained, sandy soil but will grow in almost any soil.
Rosa spp.
P White, pink, yellow, red, orange May to June, September Highly perfumed; sweet to bitter Rose Ornamental. Remove sour petal base. Full sun; rich, well-drained soil.
Rosmarinus officinalis
TP Pale blue, dark blue, pink, white Depends on cultivar Mild rosemary Delicate Herb. Do not cook flower. Tolerates full sun to part shade; well-drained, evenly moist soil.
Salvia elegans
Pineapple sage
TP Scarlet September Pineapple/sage overtones Herb. Prefers full sun; light, well-drained soil; may be invasive.
Salvia officinalis
Garden sage
P Blue, purple, white, pink May to July Flowery sage, slightly musky Herb. Full sun to light shade; sandy, well-drained soil; may be invasive.
Satureja hortensis
Summer savory
A Pink July to August Mildly peppery, spicy Herb. Prefers full sun; light, sandy soil.
Satureja montana
Winter savory,
P Pale blue to purple July to August Mildly peppery, spicy Herb. Prefers full sun; light, sandy soil.
Syringa vulgaris
P White, pink, purple, lilac April to May Perfume, slightly bitter Lilac Candies well. Prefers well-drained, alkaline soil; sun to part shade.
Tagetes erecta
African marigold
A White, gold, yellow, red May to September Variable; some cultivars are strong and bitter Strong, pungent Ornamental. Prefers full sun; well-drained soil.
Tagetes tenuifolia
Signet marigold
A White, gold, yellow, red May to September Citrus; milder than T. erecta Ornamental. Prefers full sun; well-drained soil but tolerates many soils.
Taraxacum officinale
P Yellow May to June; fall Bitter Eat cooked only. Cool weather; full sun; tolerates wide range of soils.
Thymus spp.
P Pink, purple, white July to August Milder than leaves Herb. Most creeping thymes have little flavor.
Trifolium pratense Red clover P Pink, lilac June to September Hay Hay Scatter florets on salad. Tolerates most soils; self sows.
Tropaeolum majus
A Varies July to August Watercress, peppery Container or in salads. Grow in full sun and well-drained soil.
Tulbaghia ciolacea
Society garlic
A or TP Lilac Spring Onion flavor Best in full sun; tolerates part shade; prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil.
Viola odorata
P Violet, pink, white April to May Sweet Sweet Ornamental. Candies well. Sun to part shade; moist, well-drained soil.
Viola x wittrockiana
Viola tricolor

Pansy or Johnny Jump-Up
A Violet, white, pink, yellow, multi-colored May to July Stronger than violets Ornamental. Prefers cool weather; moist, rich, loamy soil but tolerates many soils.
Yucca filamentosa
P Creamy white with purple tinge July Hint of artichoke, slightly bitter Ornamental. Full sun; well-drained, sandy soil.
1A = annual; B = biennial; P = periennial; TP = tender periennial

*S. E. Newman, Colorado State University Extension greenhouse crops specialist and professor, horticulture and landscape architechture; and A. Stoven O’Connor, Extension horticulture agent, Larimer County. 12/96. Revised 10/20.

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