Have you ever seen sugary violet flowers sparkling on top of a cake? Or had warm, savory, stuffed squash flowers as an appetizer? Those are two of the most well-known edible flowers, but there are so many more, and you can grow them in your container garden!
Edible flowers are a great addition to many dishes. They can add color and flavor, and they can be used to garnish food like those pretty cake-adorning violets. You can also freeze brightly colored petals in ice cubes or ice cream, or brew herbal teas with flower-infused honey.
Edible flowers are also beneficial for pollinators such as butterflies and bees that need nectar from plants to survive.
In addition to the culinary and aesthetic benefits of growing edible flowers in your garden, some of them also serve as powerful companion plants.
I’ve grown marigolds for many years, both in the ground and in containers, as they’re known to repel deer and rabbits as well as pests like whiteflies, slugs and Japanese beetles. They’re common garden partners and do well with basil, tomatoes, potatoes, melons, lettuce, kale and lots more.
Marigolds are also super easy to grow and add amazing little pops of color – and did I mention they’re edible? You can use the petals in drinks, smoothies, ice cream and tea, for example.
To give you lots more inspiration and ideas, I’ve compiled a list of the 21 best edible flowers for container gardens. They’re a perfect complement to the herbs and veggies you already grow.
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Benefits of edible flowers
Like many culinary plants, edible flowers contain beneficial vitamins, phytonutrients, flavonoids and antioxidants.
Flowers like basil, chives, lavender, and thyme have many nutrients including vitamin C, potassium, folate and calcium. Some of these nutrients can help improve moods or relieve stress.
Other plants such as marigolds and nasturtiums can be used in summer salads or sandwiches like lettuce or spinach would be.
Edible flowers can be eaten raw in salads and sandwiches or baked into muffins and breads. They can also make an elegant garnish on dishes like a traditional parsley sprig would do – but even prettier.
To prep edible flowers, wash by swirling gently in a bowl of cold water, then lay them out to dry on lint-free tea towels (or paper towels). Once dry, use or refrigerate immediately.
A few important reminders:
- Always research flowers before consuming. Make sure you know what you’re growing and picking.
- Some flowers may trigger an allergic reaction for those allergic to pollen, weeds or other plants. If you have allergies, research before consuming.
- Never consume flowers that have been treated with pesticides or other chemicals, and don’t pick flowers growing close to roads or highways.
- Farmers markets, grocery stores and your own garden are the safest bets for organic edible flowers.
21 best edible flowers for container gardens
- Bright green leaves that are almost round, with large, bold blooms.
- Needs well-draining soil and full sun. If choosing climbing varieties, provide a trellis or other support.
- Leaves, flowers and seed pods are edible and have a peppery taste, sometimes described as mustard-like. This makes them perfect to add to green salads.
- Single blend trailing nasturtium seeds
- Ground cover with tiny bunches of purple or white flowers.
- Full sun and medium moisture, these can be set out as soon as the threat of frost has passed.
- They do well in small containers (10″ pot for example), but keep up with the watering.
- While the flower has a sweet honey fragrance, the flavor is actually peppery and mustardy, being part of the brassica family.
- Oriental Nights sweet alyssum seeds
- Red, orange and yellow flowers that resemble carnations.
- Don’t use too much nitrogen in the soil or you’ll stifle flower growth. Pinch to encourage bushing, which will yield more blooms.
- Make sure you are growing calendula varieties in order to have edible, peppery blooms to garnish your salad.
- Pacific Beauty Blend Calendula (Pot Marigold) Seeds – heirloom
- Annual herb with blue flowers in five points, giving it the common name Star Flower.
- Requires a container at least 12 inches deep with organic compost. Requires regular watering but not fertilizer.
- The leaves are prickly so are best when pickled. Whole flowers are great for adding a cool cucumber flavor to drinks and ice cubes.
- Organic, heirloom borage seeds
- Solitary daisy-like blooms on strong stems.
- Sow in a few rounds so that you have blooms for a good while. They do not like to be transplanted and grow quickly so are perfect for direct seeding.
- This is another edible flower with a peppery flavor, so use small amounts as a garnish. It’s fun to use all the bold, bright colors!
- Cut and Come Again zinnia seeds
- 3- to 5-inch blossoms similar to daisies, available in many bright colors.
- Drought tolerant and some varieties can grow to 60 inches in height, so select what will fit in your garden.
- Only cosmos sulphureus are edible, so make sure you know what you are growing. This is another peppery garnish.
- Diablo cosmos seeds – organic, heirloom
- Technically a vegetable, but the flowers are yummy too. If you’re already growing squash (pumpkin, zucchini, etc.) don’t miss out! If you’re on the fence about growing squash … maybe this is your sign to try it. 🙂
- Watch for male flowers to bloom first and harvest those for eating. (Just don’t pick males when you have female flowers needing pollination!)
- The whole flower can be stuffed and breaded or the petals used in salads.
- Max’s Gold summer squash seeds
- Small diameter “green onions” that produce white, pink and purple flowers. Bees love them!
- Super easy to grow and drought tolerant but prefers consistent watering. These like to take over gardens, so they’re perfect for containers.
- Chive blossoms and greens have a mild onion flavor, and there are also garlic-flavored varieties.
- Common chives organic, heirloom seeds
- Bright and cheerful yellow blossoms that follow the sun across the sky. The large seed heads can be striped or not.
- Dwarf varieties do best in containers. Heavy feeders that need organic matter and shelter from wind.
- Seeds can be harvested and roasted if you can beat the squirrels to them!
- Elves Blend dwarf sunflower seeds – great for kids and beginners
- These tubers come in a range of dramatic colors with pointed petals and LOTS of them.
- Require a long growing season and loose soil. Pinching the plants will help them bush out.
- Dahlia tubers are similar in texture to raw jicama. The flavor ranges from flowery to spicy like a radish.
- Decorative double blend dahlia seeds
- Lavender has lots of green leaves with small purple flowers on tall stems.
- The plants aren’t very picky but do prefer loose soil with good drainage. Try using cuttings to get started.
- This is the perfect herb for drying and you will then have a jar to use in lots of fun recipes, such as Lavender Scones. Or try a lightly sweet, floral lavender ice cream.
- Munstead lavender seeds
- Small white flowers with yellow centers on tall stems, much like their daisy cousins.
- Easy to start from seeds, and the seeds require light to germinate. For full details on how to grow chamomile, check out this post.
- Of course you’ll want to make your own herbal teas from the dried flowers! German chamomile (vs. Roman) is best for tea.
- German chamomile seeds
- Purple, pink, orange and yellow flowers that appear to have cheerful faces.
- Very hardy in cool weather and just need potting soil to be happy in containers.
- A mild minty flavor, these are a great addition to tiered cakes.
- Swiss Giants blend pansy seeds
- Flowering, brightly-colored clusters grow along a sturdy stem. Often mistaken for mallow.
- Typically stems and foliage grow in year one before they explode in blooms the following year.
- The entire plant is edible, though somewhat bland on its own. It makes lovely tea and the flowers are good for dyeing.
- Indian Spring hollyhock seeds – known to flower in its first season
Bee balm (aka bergamot)
- Fragrant purple blooms and triangular leaves. Favorite of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
- Moist soil in full sun. Can withstand some drought and poor soil quality.
- Part of the mint family, the leaves have a flavor similar to oregano, thyme and mint. Perfect in tea and salads.
- Wild bergamot seeds – heirloom, native
- Small purple flowers (some closer to white or blue) are similar to pansies, with triangular leaves.
- Do well in cool weather and might need a bit of shade in the heat of the summer.
- Delicate flowers are great on cakes, in salads and can be candied.
- Cool Summer Breeze viola seeds
- Small pink petals on deep green leaves.
- Requires partial shade. Can be propagated for next year’s planting.
- Sour citrusy petals are perfect for cakes and salads, and the stems are similar to rhubarb.
- Swallowtail Garden Seeds – begonia selection
- Big, bright blooms grow easily in full sun, with well-drained soil.
- High in antioxidants and flavonoids. Acidic flavor similar to cranberries.
- Traditionally used for tea in Africa and Asia. Leaves can be eaten like spinach (raw or cooked) or added to salads. Flowers can be baked into cakes, added to drinks or even pickled.
- Honeymoon Red hybrid hibiscus seeds – blooms the size of a dinner plate, even in containers!
- In the olive family, native to Southeastern Europe. Flowers only bloom for about two weeks in mid-spring.
- Lilacs are technically a small tree or shrub, so you need to choose a dwarf variety and give them plenty of room when planting in a pot, at least 24 inches wide.
- Lilac flowers are very fragrant and can be bitter and astringent when eaten raw, but have a citrus undertone. Excellent in a sweet floral honey or syrup.
- Dwarf Korean Lilac shrub – 3-gallon starter
- Sage leaves are culinary staples used in everything from sausage to stuffing to tea. Did you know the flowers are edible too?
- Flowers can be used much like violets: candied, in baked goods, in herbal teas and syrups, salads etc.
- Hardy perennial with spikes of colorful flowers in spring. Needs full sun and well-drained soil.
- Sage does best planted from seedlings (vs seeds).
- Easy-to-grow pollinator magnets that come in a variety of dramatic colors and sizes. Sweet fragrance.
- Long blooming period from June to October. Can tolerate some shade but will bloom better in full sun.
- Flowers are bitter and best when used sparingly in salads. Not a good candidate for ice cream ….
- Magic Carpet Blend snapdragon seeds (dwarf variety with a range of pink, orange and peach colors)
Edible flowers are beautiful and delicious, which is why they make a great staple in every container garden. If you want to try something new but don’t know where to begin, pick a few from the list and let us know how it goes!
More ideas for container garden inspiration:
- How to attract dragonflies to your container garden
- Potting soil 101
- Fertilizer 101
- Container garden planner