Updated: Jun 24, 2020
Fresh flowers are an ever-popular trend for wedding cakes these days. They are a truly stunning way to finish a cake, as they look great and smell fantastic.
The problem is that many flowers are toxic or just grown in an environment that makes them unsafe to place on food such as your wedding cake. The later is the case for the majority of floristry flowers unless your florist grows their flowers themselves organically, the odds are that they have been sprayed with harsh chemicals that are definitely not food grade. Sadly the laws surrounding what chemicals can be used on flowers are not as stringent as those for crops. Many cake decorators talk about making flowers cake safe, but the truth is this just isn't possible no matter how well those stems are wrapped up, or however many flower picks are used to keep them away from your cake, you can place them on OASIS, those flowers are still going to touch your cake, pollen will likely drop on your cake, and it's very easy for any part of those beautiful flowers to end up on your guests' plates. Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there.
That's why it's very important to really think about what you are going to decorate your cake with and make sure your cake decorator and florist know what they can and can't do. I personally never allow my cakes to be decorated with flowers provided by someone else, If someone becomes ill eating one of my cakes because I passed the responsibility on to someone else, then it's my fault as much as anyone else.
When it comes to decorating your cake with fresh flowers I'm afraid the internet really isn't your friend. I get so many images from couples of wedding cakes they just love with flowers that are not safe for food. Pinterest, Google and Instagram are just full of beautiful wedding cakes with toxic flowers draped all over them sadly. I've created this guide of edible flowers and foliage for you to look through, it' s arranged by season (UK) so you can look through and see what flowers could be around on your wedding day. This list is quite comprehensive and includes many varieties that are edible but may not be available as food safe flowers due to the method in which they are grown. There are some amazing edible flower farms in the UK including Maddocks Farm in Devon. They grow a great variety of edible flowers, though many that are listed here are not available to order at this time. I'm afraid edible flower farms are still pretty new. But they are always adding new flowers so you never know.
The following list is a list that I compiled for my own use in creating my own edible flower garden in my new house that I plan to start on this year with a little help from my friend Annabell from Cornish Flower Crowns. I am not a botanist, merely an ex-ecologist so I may have missed a few fantastic flower varieties. The wonderful thing about blogs is the that they are editable, so I will endeavour to keep updating this list as I discover new varieties. If you plan to use any of the following flowers on your cake or for any other food purposes please ensure that they have been grown either by a reputable edible flower grower, an organic florist, or have a go at growing them yourself, as if for nothing else the bees will love you. There are many easy to grow annuals on the list below such as cornflowers, violas, primulas and pansies. This list is based on the UK growing season, and some of it Cornwall in particular, flowers may flower later in different parts of the country or the world, but you can still get an idea of what is available.
Once edible flowers have been cut keep them in the fridge until you need them. Most flowers are best picked the morning you use them or the day before. I've added links on some of the varieties to Maddocks Farm Organics so if you'd like to buy anything from them you can. Those that don't have links are not available to buy at the time of writing this, but that doesn't mean they can't be found by other means.
You might not think there are many edible flowers in bloom this early in the year. In fact one of my favourite flowers is in bloom during later winter:-
Camellias (below) - Actually some camellias flower as early as December but I'm starting In January so I'm putting them here. Camellias are a great winter flower for wedding cakes, though not something you'll find easily when looking at edible flowers to buy online. They are one of the first flowers I notice when I'm out walking my dog at the start of the year and you can grow them at home for some winter colour, though they do get quite large so only if you have room. They are a great winter alternative to roses, depending on the variety some have more petals than others. They come in white, pink and red usually. You can usually see huge shrubs covered with blooms particularly from January onwards.
Primulas - Which includes primroses & cowslips (Primula vulgaris, Primula veris, Primula hybrida). Easy to grow and to buy online, wild primrose can be found all over the place in the early spring. They are great as a garnish on salads. The flowers can be crystallised for decorations or you can decorate cakes with fresh flowers too. They come in all sorts of colours not just the yellows, whites and pinks of primroses. *
Kale Roses - Another great winter alternative to roses, they come in pinks, whites and purples.
Chervil (Leaf and white flower) - Looks somewhat like flatleaf parsley with pretty white flowers - wilts quickly however.
(Still in season primulas; kale rose; camellias.)
Borage - Pretty little blue star-like flowers. Great to grow in your garden as they are great for bees, so what's not to love. They are very delicate, however, so not best on wedding cakes that need to sit out in the head for a long time. If used they should go on as late as possible. Alternatively, add them to cocktails or champagne for your guests welcome drink. They come in blue normally, but also white and pink.
Freckles Violet - As with borage, they won't hold up for long in the heat. But they are a lovely white flower with purple speckles.
Rose Scented Geraniums & Leaves - These are true geraniums, the ones you think of from your garden usually are pelargonium and completely different. Lovely little pink flowers with five petals and rose-like fragrance, great for baking with or adding to cocktails, as well as adding to your wedding cake.
Sweet Cicely Fern Leaves - Not an easy one to grow, but Maddocks farm grow them so that sorts that doesn't it. Great used on buttercream cakes or to decorates biscuits with.
Violas - Who doesn't love violas, I surely do. They are great pressed or crystalised and added to cakes or just add them fresh. They come in most colours as well so bonus! They are a great option as they flower pretty much for the entire growing season when looked after properly, just make sure to deadhead them regularly and you'll have plenty of flowers for decoration all the way through till autumn.
Forest Pansy or Redbud - Cercis Canadensis, this is actually a tree that flowers from March to May in deep crimson, pink or sometimes white pea-like flowers. Use only the flowers/buds, they are high in vitamins. The foliage is very pretty though it has purple, heart-shaped leaves with pointed tips, which turn yellow in autumn before falling.
Wallflowers or Erysimum - Depending on the climate, they can flower year-round. No matter where you are, you are likely to get a long flowering season. Some of the more interesting coloured varieties only flower for a few months. They can come in all sorts of colours and some can be different tones and colours. They are a woody perennial with long spires with lots of four-petal flowers at the top.
Daisy - Bellis perennis, depending on the variety some of them are quite brightly coloured, they don't have to be the classic white petals around a yellow centre. Flower until late summer depending on variety. If you or anyone else has hay fever, asthma or severe allergies, you should avoid eating flowers of the daisy family because they could trigger an allergic reaction.
Pussy Willow and Grey Willow - Not really something you might want to eat, but you can. The catkins are produced in early spring and later in the spring, they are replaced by yellow flowers. They look best in the earlier stages before the yellow flowers arrive. Cuttings last very well if not kept in water (you'll end up with flowers if you put them in water), and can be dried to decorate with. Willows are great for growing from cuttings. Place the cutting in water and wait for roots to begin to grow. You can then plant these on in soil and grow your own tree. Easy-peasy.
Winter Purslane - Green and round succulents with white flowers in the centre, they look quite a bit like a lily pad.
(Still in season primulas; kale rose; camellias, chervil)
Tulips - By April my tulips were well on the way this year, though that's really quite early. depending on the weather, you'll get about a months worth of flowers, but it's quite difficult to judge which colours will arrive when, so you need to be a little forgiving with your colour scheme if you want tulips on your cake. They do need water if you are going to add them to a cake, you can use flower picks with a little water for this. I love the double bloom varieties, I had some beautiful once this year, and will be adding many more to my new garden this autumn. Some people can be allergic, so if you plan on actually feeding them to people bear that in mind.
Pansies - As with violas, they are in flower for much of the year, but particularly in spring and autumn and they come in loads of colours, use as you would violas as they are very similar, just larger.
Forget-me-nots - Best in cocktails or crystalised as they are very delicate and wilt quickly. Mostly pale blue, but also white and pink.
Calendulas - Start in April but continue till Autumn. They come in yellows and oranges and were often used for teas.
Bellis Flowers - A relation of the daisy, looks a bit like a pompom and comes in pinks and whites.
Magnolia - the time of year that they flower depends on the variety and part of the country. I saw magnolias in full bloom in March. The young flowers are best and can be used as part of your cakes decoration. For those that don't know a magnolia is a tree, and quite slow-growing. But they are beautiful when they are in flower.
Grape Hyacinth (Muscari) - Small purple/blue flowers that you can grow from blubs very easily, they flower through to May. As the name suggests they look somewhat like small bunches of grapes. They don't really take any care to grow, just plant out the bulbs in Sept-Oct and you'll have masses of little spring flowers every year. They naturalise really well too so make sure you pop them somewhere that you are happy for them to make their own each spring.
Chives - I think you might all know those ones. Anyway pink/purple little flowers in the onion family, another one for the bees.
Cornflowers - So easy to grow yourself, you can throw seeds and they will appear if you are a tad on the lazy side, to prolong the season sow them in stages. Great for confetti cakes and lovely little flowers for padding out your wedding cake flower arrangements. They come in blues, pinks, whites, purples and last well on cakes.
Dianthus - You probably know these better by a few other names such as carnations, pinks and sweet Willams. Most often in shades of pinks, but also white and reds, there are many different varieties, some are one colour others are two-tone. If you are planning to actually eat them then it is advisable to remove the white heel at the base of the petal as this has a bitter taste. Decorate cakes with whole flowers, as petal confetti or crystalize them.
Phlox - star-like flowers, use as you would borage as delicate. They come in reds, whites, pinks and red and flower till mid October.
Snapdragons (or Antirrhinum) - A similar look to foxgloves or lupins and flower until October if deadheaded. They come in both wonderful pastel or bright colours if you prefer. Called snapdragons as the individual flowers are said to look like a dragon about to snap its jaws.
Hibiscus - Grow indoors only. In the UK Hibiscus does not do to well so can only be grown indoors, it's an evergreen plant that flowers May - October. Beware of the pollen if you choose to use it for decoration.
Cape Jasmine (Gardenia Jasminoides) - Blooms in late spring/early summer in the UK. Large white rose-like flowers on an evergreen shrub.
Lilac - If you have a lilac in your garden or know someone who has then you can use lilac flowers to decorate your cake. They grow pretty big so need some good pruning every year. You can get white and dark pink lilacs too.
Yarrow or Achillea - Yarrow naturalises easy so it's best to plant it in pots and take care to deadhead regularly during flowering to prevent seed production, i'd grow it away from lawns as you don't want it getting into your grass. It's great for bees, however. Though safe for humans, yarrow is toxic to dogs, cats and horses so if you have any of these it's best avoided. There are some lovely varieties in various bright colours, not just the common yellow that you probably think of when you think of yarrow, it grows in clusters of umbrellas of small colourful flowers. You can use the flowers and leaves.
Candytuft or Iberis - They taste a little like broccoli, you can eat the leaves and the flowers. Great for bees, butterflies and moths. They are evergreen and they flower through to September in masses of white, pink or purple flowers.
Prunella - clusters of small purple flowers on long stems that flower through to October. It's part of the mint family and you can eat the entire plant.
Wisteria - I do love a wisteria climbing up a wall, the flowers are the only parts that are safe to eat as the rest of the plant is poisonous. They usually flower in May/June, producing masses of purple flowers, though some varieties are white or pink and often a mix of white and purple or white and pink.
Nasturtiums - hot yellows, oranges and reds, the flowers and the leaves can be used for decoration and they hold up really well on cakes. If you grow them yourselves keep an eye on them as caterpillars love them, whole plants can disappear very quickly.
Granny's Bonnet or Aquilegia - charming, old-fashioned cottage garden plants with bonnet-shaped flowers, often two-tone and with long graceful spurs.
Alyssum - Lobularia maritima, you can use the leaves and the flowers. They come in quite a few colours but mostly pink or white. Masses of small flowers, so they are great as a filler flower to dress your wedding cake.
Elderflower - masses of small white flowers, elderflower wilts quickly so should be used at the last minute.
Tagetes - or marigolds (Tagetes patula, Tagetes tenuifolia, Tagetes patula x erecta). These should be eaten in moderation. The flowers and leaves have a citrus taste and come in yellows and oranges mainly. Flower till October.
Roses - Finally we get roses in June through to October. There are many varieties of roses. As a general rule, if a rose smells good, it will taste good. Petals have a delicate flavour which will improve cool drinks and fruit dishes, or why not try rose petal jam? Rosehips and petals can both be used in jellies. If the flowers are crystallised, they will make attractive cake decorations. It is best to remove the white heel from the base of the petals before eating but you don't need to do this before decorating a cake with them. You can buy edible roses easily online, or if you grow your own you can use those. Wild roses are edible too and you can find these if you go foraging throughout the countryside. If you do forage make sure not to pick flowers close to busy roads due to the fumes, or those low down that dogs can easily reach. Wild roses have five petals. Rosehips can be used to decorate cakes too in the winter.
Honeysuckle - There are many varieties of honeysuckle, with some varieties that are fully edible such as the honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea). In others, only the petals are edible, not the berries. Some berries of honeysuckle varieties are poisonous, and some varieties of honeysuckle are completely poisonous. If you decide to use honeysuckle on your wedding cake make sure it is a variety that is safe and not toxic. This is a bit of a tricky one if you are not sure, avoid it!
Sunflowers - You can eat the petals, buds and seeds.
Hollyhocks (Alcea rosa) - remove any greenery and the stamens before use. Can be crystalised or used fresh to decorate cakes. Flower through to September and come in an array of colours that you can grow at home.
Freesias - Freesias are perennials (come back every year) and come in an array of colours. You can decorate your cake with individual flowers or keep all your flowers on sprays and allow them to cascade over the side of your cake. They Flower till August.
Peonies - Flower through to June. You can grow tree varieties and herbaceous peonies, the later die back to the ground each year and can be divided in the autumn if need be.
Hyssops or Agastache - Agastache anisata or Agastache foeniculum - small purple flowers on long stems, they look somewhat like sage flowers. Flowers and leaves are edible and have an anise flavour. Can be used on cakes but avoid for those who are pregnant.
Clary Sage (Salvia Sclarea) - In the same family as sage, it has a similar look to hyssops and should be avoided if pregnant. Often purple though some varieties are white or pinkish. It'll flower through to November.
Campanula or Bellflowers - There are so many varieties of these star & bell-shaped flowers, often in purples and almost blue like purples, but as well as whites and pinks. Some varieties flower through to October. Some varieties such as Campanula portenschlagiana grow very well in walls, You can find them growing in garden walls often, I see them everywhere during the summer months in Falmouth. There are larger varieties too, and they are not difficult to grow. There are many different varieties so you are sure to find something you like. I particularly like the larger fairy bellflowers, that grow on long vertical stems. Both the leaves and flowers are edible.
DayLily (Hemerocallis) - Only the daylily is edible, don't eat other lilies as they are toxic. Some flower as early as June, others not till July and flower through till August - September depending on the variety. Individual blooms only last a day, but if you grow them yourself you'll have masses of flowers for weeks and they are pretty easy to grow. There are lots of colours to choose from, they are toxic to cats, however.
Evening Primrose - Flower through to July and some to August depending on the variety. As the name suggests they open up in the evening, so great for an evening wedding, your cake sure will smell amazing! They come in yellow, orange, peach or pink usually. Look for Oenothera macrocarpa, Oenothera odorata, Oenothera versicolor, Oenothera speciosa, or Oenothera missouriensis.
Common Jasmine (Jasminum officinale) - Other jasmines are not safe to consume, common jasmine is a small white flower and a sweetly scented climber, bearing dark green pinnate leaves. Flowers through to August.
Osteospermum - quite similar to daisies, these bright flowers come in lots of wonderful colours and flower through till October. They are annuals so you can just grow them for the season if you like. Great for bees and other pollinators.
Tuberose - Agave amica or Polianthes tuberosa - These little bulbs don't like temperatures below 15 degrees Celcius, so grow indoors or in a greenhouse. It has white starlike flowers that grow in clusters on long stems, flowers through to August
Stocks - Flowering till August, they come in lots of colours and they smell like cloves. You can use the flowers individually or decorate your cake with the entire long stems for masses of flowers.
Begonias - in flower until end September and come in peach, orange, yellow and cream. There are two types of flowers on begonia plants, male and female flowers. The female flowers are flat while the male ones look more like a rose in shape. Only the tuberous varieties are edible (Begonia x tuberhybrida).
Abutilon - quite exotic looking flowers that come in a mixture of colours from deep corals and pinks, through peach and apricots and cream.
Amaranth - This is a great foliage option for wedding cakes. Easily one of my favourites. They come in green, red or dark orange. The trailing variety are great on cakes as you can let them hand down the side of your cake which looks great. See the naked cake near the top of the page. Upright varieties can be dried also for use on cakes later in the season (though these must be done with a dehydrator to avoid mould growth). They look great placed to the side of the cake in groups, so as to look as if they are growing up the cake.
Cosmos - (Cosmos sulphureus only) These are the red, orange and yellow cosmos flowers, leaves are edible too. Other cosmos flowers are not edible sadly. Flower until the end of September.
Dahlia - They come in all shapes and colours, easy to get hold of to grow yourself. They flower through to the autumn and make great statement flowers for central arrangements on cakes.
Fuchsia - Another great flower to grow yourself as they take little maintenance and come back year on year once established. The berries are edible too. They come in whites, pinks, purples and are often two-toned.
Fennel - Fennel flowers are large heads with lots of little yellow flowers looking somewhat like an umbrella. I always place these on my cake before anything else and place the smaller flowers in amongst them.
Fire Feathers - Both the flowers and the leaves can be used. The flowers are often bright in colour, but not always. So named because they look like little flames perched on the plant.
Gladioli - Again grows similarly to foxgloves or lupins (don't eat either of those though). You can grow them in a multitude of colours and use the trumpet-shaped flowers on you cake.
Zinnias - They come in lots of colours and often quite bright, Flower until early October.
Lavender - English culinary lavender comes in white, pink and purple, can flower through to August. This is the one with long thin stems with lots of little flowers on the end at intervals.
Common Sage - Salvia officinalis flowers a little later than other Salvias through till August, but you can use the flowers and obviously the leaves.
Hyssops - Hyssopus officinalis, a classic mediteranian herb, the flowers are not too dissimilar to sage, they grow on long woody stems with small dark green leaves, they are great for bees and other pollinators.
Lisianthus / Eustoma - Not often grown in the UK but often seen as cut flowers. If you grow them in the UK it's best to buy the plug plants not seeds and grown them as annuals as they don't survive the cold weather. They are often pink, purple or white and have many open rose-bud flowers on each stem. Flower July - September.
Crocosmia or Montbretia - Deep orange flowers in late summer. There are many cultivated varieties, montbretia is the common variety and is considered invasive in much of the country, if you live in Cornwall you are sure to have seen it all over the place. The cultivated varieties do not naturalise like this so you don't have to worry.
Chrysanthemums - Garland Chrysanthemums the Leaves and flowers are edible (Chrysanthemum coronarium), while Common Garden Chrysanthemums - (Chrysanthemum Dendranthema) only the petals are edible. Flower through to November.
(I'll add flowers here if I discover any new ones)
(I'll add flowers here if I discover any new ones)
By December we are back to edible kale roses and if you are lucky camellias are on their way into bloom. If you'd like flowers on your wedding cake at this time of year then dried flowers are a great option, but care must be taken when drying them to prevent mould growth. We recommend drying edible flowers in a dehydrator, some flowers also dry better than others, roses work great, however, even if they were open they will be closed once dried so you will need more rose. There are lots of flowers that are great dried Annabelle from Cornish Flower Crowns specialises in creating beautiful flower arrangements from dried flowers. She'll be talking about how she uses dried flowers in a future post.
A great and easy option for deco- Looks somewhat like flatleaf parsley with pretty white flowers - wilts quickly, however. g woody stems with small dark green leaves, they are great for bees and other pollinators. below was decorated with dried rosebuds and petals and thyme.
Of course, you can decorate with herbs from your garden or supermarkets at any time of the year, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano & mint are all great options but there are many others, smaller varieties of basil look great too.