Growing edible flowers in the vegetable patch is a great way to attract pollinators and beneficial insects to the garden and provide a pop of colour amongst the green. Growing flowers in the veggie patch can help increase your homegrown harvests and add diversity to your garden.
Choosing to grow edible flowers to attract pollinators means not only are you providing food for the local wildlife but you can also add them to your meals too! Choosing to grow plants with multiple uses will help you get the most out of your vegetable patch. Edible flowers often provide subtle delicate flavours and many have medicinal and nutritional benefits. Plus, they are a quick and easy way to make your home-cooked meals look incredible!
Note: note all flowers are edible. Make sure you identify them correctly. Do not eat flowers from florists or areas unknown, as they may have been sprayed with pesticides. The safest option is to grow your own from seed.
Below are 10 seasonal Edible flowers that are perfect to grow in the Vegetable Patch
Autumn / Winter additions
Hollyhocks can take up a little bit of space with their large leaves but their height adds a unique dimension to the garden. Hollyhock flowers come in both single or double petals. The single petals can be more popular with the bees due to easier access to the pollen. The flowers are edible and can be stuffed or used to garnish salads and cakes.
Pansies are beautiful compact edible flowers that are great for small urban gardens. Pansies produce lots of colourful flowers and are available in many colours, including bright multi-coloured, or striped varieties. Pansies can be pressed or sugar-coated to use on baking and cakes. They can also be used along with herbs to make botanical teas.
Calendula has bright orange or yellow daisy-like flowers with many small individual petals fanning out from the centre. Calendula is easy to grow and self-seeds easily. Calendula has many therapeutic and medicinal qualities such as wound healing, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and anti-fungal. Calendula is often used to make skincare products due to its natural healing properties. Calendula petals can also be used to garnish salads and baking, along with drying to use in teas.
Snapdragons have vibrant coloured flowers and brighten up a winter garden. Their bright pops of colour stand out to attract pollinators and insects. The snapdragon flowers can be used fresh to add colour to salads and meals. Snapdragons have a slightly bitter flavour so they tend to be better with savoury dishes. They can also be stuffed or used as vibrant garnishes on drinks.
Marigolds are great edible flowers to grow in the vegetable patch because they also act as a natural pest deterrent. Marigolds have a strong scent that can help ward off unwanted bugs and protect your precious veggies. Don't worry the bees still love them! Marigolds self-seed easily so each year you can have a new supply of Marigold pop up on their own! They have bright orange, yellow and red flowers that look great in salads or baking. Marigold are small, compact plants and can be interplanted in the gaps throughout the vegetable patch without taking up too much space.
Spring / Summer additions
Cornflowers are an absolute hit with local pollinators. They produce masses of small, bright flowers with bunches of tiny petals. The flowers are short-lived and will usually only last a day or two so don’t be afraid to harvest them for yourself. The petals can be removed and dried to use as garnishes throughout the year. Cornflowers come in colours ranging from white to pink, purple, blue and red.
Sunflowers are the ultimate summer edible flower. Their striking bright sun-like flowers stand tall above the garden and attract 100s of pollinators and birds to the garden. Sunflower petals can be used fresh in salads and as garnishes. They can also be dried to retain their vibrant colour and be used in teas or as baking garnishes throughout the rest of the year.
Zinnia has brightly coloured daisy-like flowers. Zinnia flowers are extremely popular with bees, butterflies, ladybugs and small birds due to their nectar production. Zinnia flowers do not have much flavour but they come in a range of striking colours from hot pink, purple, yellow, orange, green and light pastel shades. Zinnia also makes great cut flowers and are perfect gifts from the garden to brighten up someone's day.
Fennel is a popular perennial that not only produces delicious fennel bulbs but the fennel fronds and flowers are also edible. Allowing the fennel to go to flower during the warmer months will attract pollinators to the garden and also provide an abundance of fennel seeds. Harvest the seeds to regrow or dry them to use in cooking. They will also regrow easily from fallen seeds creating a sustainable supply of delicious fennel. The fennel flowers have many small, multistem flowers that look like exploding fireworks. The flowers have a slightly sweet, delicate, aniseed flavour and are delicious additions to salads, potatoes and baking.
Dianthus flowers are also known as ‘pinks’ and include Carnations. They have small flowers that range in colour and often have contrasting lines and patterns. Dianthus flowers have a sweet scent and often a spiced clove-like taste. They make excellent pressed flowers and can be used fresh to garnish your meals.
Harvesting your edible flowers can seem a little counter-intuitive if you are planting them for the pollinators but picking your flowers regularly will help promote more growth and an extended season.
How to Plant Edible Flowers in the Vegetable Garden?
Most edible flowers will grow on small low lying plants. Plant these around the edges of your vegetable patch so they don’t get overshadowed and can attract pollinators to your garden.
The larger edible flowers such as sunflowers and hollyhocks are better suited to a location where they won't cast too much shade over your veggie patch. The great thing about sunflowers is they will always turn to face the sun. Sunflower stalks can also be used as a climbing pole for plants such as Beans or Peas.
How and When to Pick Edible Flowers?
The best time of day to pick edible flowers is first thing in the morning when the plants are hydrated and full of life. Many flowers will close up toward the evening making them unusable as a garnish. If you are serving the edible flowers fresh it can be a good idea to rinse them, gently remove excess moisture and store them in a container in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
In some cases, it may be better to leave the flowers on the plant until you are ready to serve.
Tips to Use Edible Flowers
Edible flowers are a quick and easy way to transform and elevate any dish. Brighten up your everyday meals with a little magic from the garden.
- Wash and check for hidden bugs
- Remove the stem, and hard central part of the flower as these will not be very palatable.
- Remove the pollen covered stigma
- Think about colour - what colour is the majority of your dish and what coloured flowers would contrast or compliment it.
- Pressing and drying flowers can be a great way to preserve them to use throughout the year. Pressed flowers can be easier to use for baking and cakes as they will be flat.
- Make floral ice cubes. Pop some flower petals in your ice cube tray for a pop of colour.
- Try floral sugars and salts (to read more about this click here).
- Get creative! Have fun with your petal placement.