Edible Flowers #6 – Hollyhock & Hibiscus


Orange hibiscus

Hollyhock 1r

White hollyhock

I have to confess to not having eaten either Hollyhocks (Althaea rosea; syn. Alcea rosea) or Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) before, but they are both on my absolutely all-time favourite flower list, and I am terribly excited for my Hibiscus and Hollyhocks to flower later this summer so that I can get experimenting with adding their gorgeous flowers to food!

These flowers both belong to the Mallow family (botanical classification Malvaceae) and are much sought after for their bright and beautiful blooms.


“Stockrose Gelb-Rosa” by Simon Eugster


Once the pride of many an English cottage garden, Hollyhocks are becoming quite popular again, and with a profusion of flowers from midsummer, having them on your dinner plate and not only in your garden is a delight! Hollyhocks come in annual, biennial and perennial varieties, and in a great selection of flower colours – from a near-black variety to bright reds and various pinks to almost white and yellow cultivars. Always remember to plant them towards the back of a sunny border – they get really tall!

Height between 1.2m and 2.5m; spread 60cm.
Full sun
Rich soil
Propagate by seeds, divisions or cuttings
Alcea rosea lv 1.jpg

Pink hollyhock

Use as an Edible Flower

With a mild floral taste, Hollyhocks are mostly used fresh in salads, but the petals can be added to light baking, infused in syrups, or crystallized too.

Related to Hollyhocks is the Marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis), but although its flowers are also edible, it is prized for its mucilaginous medicinal root – from which the Egyptians first made a fluffy, sticky and sweet candy – the original marshmallow !



Hibiscus pink.jpg


The showy hibiscus is synonymous with tropical paradise (it is the state flower of Hawaii)  and is symbolic across various cultures, including China, Malaysia, India and Pacific Islands. The flowers come in beautiful hues of red, pink, orange, purple, yellow and white, and can be quite large – some measuring 18cm broad! Used as an ornamental shrub, and to attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees to the garden, Hibiscus varieties can be annual or perennial herbaceous plants, woody shrubs, or even small trees.



Interestingly, one book claims that the name “Hibiscus” is derived from the Greek ‘hibískos’, a name originally given to Althaea officinalis (Marshmallow) by Dioscorides (ca. 40–90).

Height 2.5-5m; spread 1.5-3m
Well drained loam
Sun and light position
Protect from frosts
Propagate by seed, cuttings, layering, grafting
Hibiscus cv Crinkle Rainbow1.jpg

Crinkle Rainbow hibiscus

Use as an edible flower

With a slight twang, the dried flowers of Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) makes a delightful (and beautifully coloured) tea. Mild in flavour, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis flower petals are used fresh in salads, on sandwhiches, and as an edible garnish. It is also favoured dried, or crystallised. Its flavour holds up quite well even when heated and it is suited to making preserves such as chutney, sauces and pie fillings.

Recipe ideas

  • Warm brie with hibiscus syrup on Crostini
  • Hibiscus berry salad
  • Four Flower Infusion (Hibiscus, rose, lavender & jasmine tea)

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