Edible Landscaping: Selecting the Right Plants

Edible Landscaping Plant List

Oct 30, 2018
Edible Landscaping
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With an edible landscape, some of your plants are actually herbs or fruit or vegetables that you can—yes—eat!  The trick is to select the right plants for an edible landscape (avoiding the deer candy). 

There are many creative ways to sneak more edible plants into your landscaping without sacrificing good looks It’s important to choose edible plants that are both ornamental but also do not appeal to wildlife. And it’s also a great solution if you have limited space. We’ll help you pick the best plants from shrubs to flowers.

Fruits for Edible Landscaping

Blueberries: If you have room for another shrub or two try planting highbush blueberries. These tidy shrubs have pretty bell-like flowers in the spring, tasty fruit in the summer, fall foliage colors ranging from gold to deep red, and twisty branches with interesting bark for winter interest making them an all season delight. See our Blueberry Growing Guide.

Fruit Trees: If you are looking for a flowering tree consider planting a dwarf apple, peach, pear, plum, or cherry tree. There are lots of dwarf trees to choose from that will give you beautiful blossoms and delicious fruit. If space is tight, try an espalier. See all of our Fruit Growing Guides.

It can be trained to grow along a wall, fence, or against the side of the house. I recently visited a garden that had alternating pears and apples growing up the front of the house. The homeowner says she can pick the fruit from her bedroom window!

If climbing vines are needed to act as a screen or cover an arbor, try kiwi or grapes. They may take a few years to reach fruiting size but it will be worth the wait.

Brambles (Raspberries and Blackberries): Brambles are easy to grow and make great hedges. They need full sun but will still bear a reasonable amount of fruit in light shade. Raspberries are available in many colors including red, gold, black, and purple. There are thornless varieties of raspberries and blackberries that make picking much easier.

Strawberries: Alpine strawberries are better behaved than their traditional counterparts. They do not send runners all over the place but grow as neat little mounds instead. They blossom and bear a large flush of fruit in the spring and continue to repeat blossoming and fruiting throughout the growing season. The plants make a tidy edging plant for flower beds. Kids love picking these tiny treasures; even though the berries are small they pack a lot of flavor. Take a morning walk with bowl in hand and collect some for your breakfast cereal, if the kids haven’t already eaten them all.

See our strawberry growing guide.

Herbs and Vegetables for Edible Landscaping

Pole Beans: If you want a quick cover, pole beans will do the job, giving you flowers to enjoy and awesome beans for dinner. For extra color try yellow ‘Golden Gate’, speckled ‘Rattlesnake’, or purple Italian heirloom bean ‘Trionfo Violetto’. If you have critters, simply encircle the bottoms of the plants with chicken wire but the height of pole beans generally means the pods are out of reach.

See our Bean Growing Guide.

Herbs: You can sneak some herbs into the flower border as well. Some herbs are safer choices for edible landscaping. Rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, and oregano all add interesting foliage texture to the garden.

Both rosemary and lavender looks great as borders or clipped hedges to add structure to the garden or yard. Thyme makes a great ground cover as it’s a low-growing herb.

See all of our Herb Growing Guides.

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Onions, Garlic, Chives:  These “stinky” plants are beloved by us humans but not most animal pests. In fact, this allium family works great as a border to keep critters away from other plants! 

See our Onions Growing Guide and Garlic Growing Guide and Chives Growing Guide.

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Greens:  For many greens, we’d stick to containers or raised beds to keep out critters.  ‘Bright Lights’ or ‘Rainbow’ chard have beautiful yellow, gold, and red stalks and veins. Red-leaved, bronze, or freckled lettuces such as ‘Lollo Rossa’, ‘Bronze Arrowhead’, and ‘Flashy Troutback’ are very attractive plants; and ‘Red Russian’ kale has blue-green leaves with red veins and edges. Kale is a nice choice in the fall when other edibles are harvested.

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Vegetables: There are some beautiful vegetables that work really well in an edible landscape.

  • Artichokes look beautiful as a perennial border, especially as a backdrop for other plants. For some reason, eggplants mixed with scented flowers also keep away the critters.
  • Deep purple eggplants also add gorgeous color and texture. The long, thin varieties, mature quickly and the dangling strands of  ‘Ping Tung’ make a nice contrasting form against showy flowers. You could also try some of the Middle Eastern varieties, like Turkish Orange.
  • Hot peppers add a kick of color to your yard; with sweet bell peppers, you can create a rainbow of colors! As with the pole beans, just protect your peppers at the base when they’re young. Once they’re taller, they should be safe from critters.

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Even if you have an apartment balcony or small patio, it’s easy to grow herbs and vegetables. Containers are also a great choice for busy families.  Grow a pot of lettuce and you can harvest tender greens throughout the gardening season. Try cherry tomatoes and pop them into your mouth right off the vine!

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Edible flowers:  This seems like a no-brainer, but don’t forget to include flowers that are edible! They look great in a salad or soup—and are oh-so-pretty. See some of our favorite edible flowers for growing—and eating!

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Taste-full Landscaping

You get the idea. It is okay to mix things up. Vegetables look great planted among the ornamentals and need not be banished to the back yard. Think edibles to make your landscape productive and pretty.

Design your landscape with Almanac Garden Planner. Now offering a free one-week trial—ample time to play around!

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser's backyard gardening tips. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer's Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer's Market.

Reader Comments

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Fruit

While I only use organic fertilizers, and never use pesticides, I still think it's not a good practice to routinely pop fresh fruits into my mouth without washing them. We must keep in mind that we aren't just washing off whatever we might have sprayed on the plants. Animal waste could be dangerous (not to mention the "ick" factor), and could make someone very ill. Triple that for a small child. I'm thinking birds flying by (not sure what bird pee looks like, but very sure i wouldn't want to consume it!), but our suburban garden gets visits from neighborhood cats, as well as lots of wildlife including raccoons, skunks, oppossums, and possibly coyotes. In spite of our people-proof(ish) fences and gates, we also have had random dogs find their way in. Any of them could manage to deposit something undesirable onto that luscious cherry tomato i pop into my mouth. (ew.)

So, just a reminder to wash before eating, and to make a big enough deal out of the practice that it'll be second nature to children, as they are the most susceptible.

Other than that, this was a great, informative article!
Thanks for some great ideas blending edibles into "aestheticals."

Sometimes you just have to live a little

Ohh I will always relish popping fresh berries, cherry tomatoes and snow peas fresh from the garden into my mouth, and encourage my kids to do the same. It toughens us up! Everyone is so scared of germs and dirt but studies have found that our immune systems require a bit of ‘dirt’ to strengthen it.

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