How and when to harvest zucchini flowers – tips to pick the best blooms at the right time

Discover how to faultlessly pick zucchini blossoms for all your culinary desires

Zucchini flowers laid out
(Image credit: Getty/Yulia Naumenko)

Zucchini flowers are the edible blooms of the plant and are a delicacy whether cooked or eaten raw. The flowers are bright yellow in color and have a range of culinary uses, whether stuffed, fried, or added to salads or soups. 

The zucchini flowers come in male and female forms – and knowing the difference helps you make informed decisions about which ones to pick. When you are growing zucchini you want to carefully pick these delicate blooms in the morning and eat them as fresh as possible.

I grew and picked many edible flowers, including zucchini flowers, during my years as a professional kitchen gardener. I take a look at how to identify the different blooms and give practical hands-on advice for when and how to harvest zucchini flowers successfully. 

Zucchini flower on the plant

Zucchini flowers are open for only a brief time period

(Image credit: Getty/TorriPhoto)

Understanding different zucchini flowers

The first important point to understand about zucchini flowers is that there are both male and female flowers on the plants. Comprehending the biology of the plant can help you establish which flowers are best to pick when you head out into the kitchen garden.

Lucy Chamberlain, fruit and vegetable expert for Homes & Gardens, explains how zucchini plants are monoecious, meaning they can yield separate male and female flowers on the same plant. 

She adds: ‘Triggered by day length and temperature, plants initially produce male flowers, then a mixture of both and then, as summer progresses, predominantly female blooms with a tiny embryonic fruitlet at the base. If successfully pollinated, a fruit develops.’

The male flowers are usually identifiable not only by being the first to grow on the plant but also by being attached to the plant by a tender and hairy stem. The female flowers grow from the end of the fruit. 

While it is regarded that the female flowers are the tastiest of the two, there is a higher population of male flowers, making it more beneficial to pick them while still leaving some on the plant to ensure the production of fruit.

Headshot of Lucy Chamberlain
Lucy Chamberlain

Lucy was a Horticultural Advisor at RHS Wisley and has been Head Gardener on a 100-acre estate in England for many years, but writes regularly for titles such as The GardenGardeners’ WorldThe Guardian and Amateur Gardening. She’s also the author of RHS Step by Step Veg Patch, available from Amazon, which covers 50 types of fruit and veg. 

Male and female zucchini flowers

Male zucchini flowers are on a stem, while the female are on the end of fruits

(Image credit: Getty/v_zaitsev)

When to harvest zucchini flowers

Once you know the difference between the blooms, it will help you choose which zucchini flowers to pick when you are out in the vegetable garden. Check the base of the bloom to see if you can feel a fruit forming or if it is the hairy stem of a male flower. And remember, if you are targeting male flowers, always leave some on the plant. Leave one or two male flowers for every 10 or 12 female flowers to ensure a good level of pollination and lots of fruits.

Zucchini is a heat-loving plant and one of the easiest vegetables to grow. If you start seeds early indoors when planning a greenhouse sowing schedule, you can plant zucchini out once the risk of frosts has passed and nighttime temperatures are consistently above 55°F. The plants will start flowering quickly after they have been transplanted to their final position and are prolific crops, so there will hopefully be lots of flowers to pick from.

It is best to try to pick zucchini flowers in the morning, this is a routine best stuck to when harvesting any edible flowers. Picking them in the cooler parts of the day helps to preserve them, as harvesting the flowers in the sun can see them start to quickly wilt after being removed from the plant. The early hours of the morning, after the dew has dried off, makes the ideal time to harvest zucchini flowers as they are fully hydrated and full of water.

Zucchini flower with fruit on the plant

Zucchini flowers are high in vitamins and minerals

(Image credit: Getty/Ashley Cooper)

How to harvest zucchini flowers

Use a pair of clean and sharp pruning shears, a knife, scissors, or garden snips, such as the Fiskars Garden Snips available at Amazon, to harvest zucchini flowers. Sharp tools will make cleaner cuts and lessen any potential damage to the plant while making sure garden tools are clean and disinfected helps prevent any potential hazards to health.

Zucchini flowers are very delicate and need to be handled carefully to prevent damaging them. Inspect the flowers carefully to select the healthiest blooms that are fully open. Look for signs of pests or disease on the blooms and only harvest those flowers that are blemish-free. 

Once you have picked your bloom, carefully cut the stem around half an inch below the flower. You will remove the stem completely later before cooking. Place the picked bloom carefully in a basket or tray, laying them out in a single layer and keeping them out of the direct sun. 

Zucchini flowers are best consumed within 24 hours of harvesting them from the plant. The blooms can be frozen or dried to extend their lifespan.


How long do zucchini flowers stay open?

Zucchini flowers do have a short lifespan. The male blooms are more prevalent, but once they release their pollen they fall off the plant. Once a female flower is pollinated, it will then close. It can be as short as a day for male plants to open and then fall off the plant, and the same for female blooms to open and close. Regular checking and monitoring of blooms will help ensure you can pick flowers that are healthy and fully open. Poor pollination can also cause flowers to fall off the plants. Utilizing zucchini companion plants can be one key method of helping keep plants healthy and ensuring a good crop of fruits.

Can you eat all zucchini flowers?

Yes, all zucchini flowers are safe to eat, whether they are male or female blooms. Any zucchini flowers that you pick should be washed before being eaten, but all blooms, and all parts of every bloom, are edible. They are often cooked, but zucchini flowers are safe to eat raw.

Zucchini flowers contain a lot of vitamins and minerals and come as a bonus-free edible crop when growing zucchini. If you concentrate on picking the male blooms, then you can continue to enjoy delicious flowers without reducing your final zucchini harvest. Remember that they are hungry crops so keep the plants well-watered, as well as give them a balanced feed, such as with Jack's Classic All Purpose available at Amazon, and you will enjoy a bounty of homegrown zucchini throughout the summer months and into fall. 

Drew Swainston
Content Editor

Drew’s passion for gardening started with growing vegetables and salad in raised beds in a small urban terrace garden. He has gone on to work as a professional gardener in historic gardens across the UK and also specialise as a kitchen gardener growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers. That passion for growing extends to being an allotmenteer, garden blogger, and producing how-to gardening guides for websites. Drew was shortlisted in the New Talent of the Year award at the 2023 Garden Media Guild Awards.