Primary Uses:

  • Raw Leaves - Raw leaves are bitter and contain oxalic acid, so they should only be eaten in moderation. Best in Spring and early Summer and used in a mixed green salad to vary the salad's flavour.
  • Cooked Leaves - Cooking destroys the oxalic acid. Makes a good spinach substitute. Often used with a mixed cooked green meal (kale, spinach, chard, sorrel, dandelion, etc.). Older leaves become tough and bitter, so cooking is needed; however, after flowering the leaves become larger and more succulent. Younger leaves just need to be steamed for a few minutes. 
  • Shoots - Very popular, harvested and prepared just like asparagus (cut when about 5 inches (12 cm)).
  • Flower Buds - Prepared and cooked like broccoli, but much smaller and a little tedious to harvest.
  • Seed - A decent supplementary grain source. Needs to be soaked overnight and rinsed to remove the saponins (soap-like chemicals) much like its relative, quinoa. Ground and usually mixed with other flours.

Secondary Uses:

  • Decent groundcover plant - clumping, plant at 1 foot (30 cm) spacing for groundcover
  • Green/gold dye obtained from the whole plant
  • Reportedly considered a gentle laxative that can be used with children
  • Reportedly used to weaken parasitic worms (vermifuge) in the human body

Yield: Reported in one book that 30 plants would be good for four people
Harvesting: Plant parts can be harvested from Spring through Autumn (see Uses above)
Storage: Leaves wilt quickly after harvest, so plan accordingly if planning on using fresh.

Good King Henry's flower buds are eaten like broccoli.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9
AHS Heat Zone: None identified

Plant Type: Small to Medium Herb
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Herbaceous Layer, Groundcover
Cultivars/Varieties: Almost no improvement breeding has been done with this plant

Pollination: Self-Pollinating/Self-Fertile
Flowering: May-October depending on the USDA Zone where it is planted

Life Span: No good information on the life span for this plant, but as it can spread well through self-sowing, this may be irrelevant.

The young leaves can be eaten raw, but typically the leaves are cooked.

Size: 1-3 feet (30-90 cm) tall and 1-1.5 feet (30-45 cm) wide
Roots: Main taproot that has many small fibrous/tangled side roots. Can be quite deep.
Growth Rate: Medium

Great illustration of Good King Henry - 1777.

Light: Prefers full sun to light shade
Shade: Tolerates and still grows well in medium shade
Moisture: Medium, however it is not very drought-tolerant
pH: fairly neutral soil (5.5 - 7.5), but not very picky

Special Considerations for Growing: 
If grown in a hot and/or dry climate, it will produce better in shade.

Propagation: By seed. Does not need stratification for germination. Large clumps can be divided in Spring and directly replanted.

Minimal. Grows well with neglect. Few pests.


  • Poisonous – Leaves contain oxalic acid when uncooked (large amounts need to be eaten for this to be toxic).
  • Dispersive - Easily spreads.  Can deadhead or harvest flower buds/flowers before it goes to seed.
  • Some people may have seasonal allergies to the flower's pollen

Additional information for Good king henry