Edible Landscaping

by Rod Smith

Former Iowa Certified Nurseryman and Oregon Certified Nursery Professional

© 1999-2023 Rodney A. Smith
All rights reserved.

Fruits and vegetables do not have to be stuck in one corner of the yard. Many of them have attractive leaves, flowers and fruit. They can be incorporated right into the landscape.

Fruit trees can be substituted for flowering trees in the landscape. Fruiting peaches and pears have exactly the same flowers as flowering peaches and pears. Apples, cherries and plums are very similar to their flowering cousins except that the flowers only come in white and the leaves only in green. Fruit trees have a similar size and shape to many flowering trees commonly used in landscapes.

Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowianna) is an attractive evergreen shrub. It grows eight feet tall and ten feet wide. The leaves are silvery white underneath and the flowers are red. The flowers and fruit are both edible. It can be used as a large shrub or hedge in a landscape.

Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) is a tall, slender evergreen shrub which makes an excellent accent shrub or screen. The bay leaves are used as a flavoring.

Blueberries also have many attractive features. The berries are colorful in the summer. The leaves turn a beautiful red in the fall. The twigs of Earliblue have a light coral color through the winter.

Gooseberries and currants have similar fruit on a five feet tall bush. Currants are thornless so they are easier to pick. Gooseberries have thorns so they are good security plants. No one will stand in a gooseberry bush to try to pry open a window.

Grapes and Kiwi Fruit can be trained as a vine, either up a trellis, along a fence or over the top of an arbor. The fruit is colorful as well as edible.

Some edible plants can be used as groundcovers. Strawberries make an excellent groundcover. The day neutral varieties such as Tri-Star bloom continuously from mid-spring to fall and have fruit from June through September. Lingonberry has small berries that make good preserves. Lemon Thyme has a green leaf with a yellow edge. It is very fragrant and can be used as a flavoring in cooking. Many other herbs have attractive flowers, leaves and fragrances. See my webpage Herbs for the Kitchen and Landscape.

Some of the most popular edible flower species include familiar annuals such as pansy (Viola x wittrockiana), viola (Viola cornuta), snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), wax (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum) and tuberous (Begonia x tuberhybrida) begonias, African (Tagetes erecta) and French (Tagetes patula) marigolds, and dianthus (Dianthus chinensis). There are also perennial plants with edible flowers, such as hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), peony (Paeonia lactiflora), rose (Rosa spp.), and lilac (Syringa vulgaris), according to Christopher J. Curry at Iowa State University.

There are some drawbacks to including edible plants in the landscape. Fruit can be messy, especially if planted next to a sidewalk, deck or driveway. Fallen apples and pears will have to be picked up before mowing. Also, some pesticides cannot be used on or near edible plants so it does not work to plant edibles with roses or rhodies.

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Tree Fruit & Small Fruit
Planting a Vegetable Garden
Herbs for the Kitchen and Landscape
Pest Control

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