Home landscaping can serve many very useful purposes. It can accentuate your home’s design, hide ugly spots, provide privacy from lovely neighbors, and decorate yoru home with colorful flowers. Have you considered that it can also multitask as a food source? Edible landscaping is a concept that allows you to do just that. You can have delicious ingredients growing right alongside your ornamental landscaping plants without giving up a beautiful landscape design. Today, we’ll cover the basics of edible landscaping and I’ll give you a list of some of my favorite edible plants to work into edible landscape designs.
Trust me, there are lots of options out there to include useful, edible plants into your landscape design that actually look incredible. There are plants for every category- vines to cover trellises and pergolas, bushes and hedges to create structure, ground cover, and of course flowers to dot your landscaping with color. So let’s get into it! By the end of this post you’ll have all the knowledge you need to create your own edible landscaping masterpiece!
Table of contents
- Planning your edible landscape
- Best plants for edible landscaping
Planning your edible landscape
Like any good diy garden project, it’s best to start with a plan for your landscape design. Here are some things to consider before you plant your edible landscaping plants.
Assessing your space
Evaluate the available space in your yard for edible plants. Are you looking to fill in a few empty spots, or completely revamp your front yard? Are you looking to add edible plants to your front or back yard? This may factor into your design decisions. In any case, make notes on the space available. Think about what size plant or plants can fit there, and what type would best accent your current landscaping. For example, if you only have room at the very back of a garden bed, you may need to look for a taller tree or shrub. Or maybe you have the perfect corner for a bushy herb or ornamental grass? Thinking through this will help you pick plants from the list below.
Make note of your growing conditions
Next, consider the growing conditions you have to work with. Is the location in full sun or shade? Consider taking a soil sample to find out if it needs to be amended in any way. Pay attention to drainage, too. You may have poorly draining soil that you never noticed simply because the existing plants tolerate it well.
Designing your edible landscape
You have a couple options here. Incorporate food-producing plants seamlessly into your existing garden or create dedicated edible areas. It’s not easy to find pictures of landscape designs created with edible landscaping plants. So, my advice is to look through some inspiration photos and find something similar to what you already have. Then, you’ll be able to pick some edible landscaping plants that have a similar look to the ornamental plants in the design and mix and match!
Essential considerations for edible landscaping
- This overlaps with some of what we discussed above, but to reiterate, select plants that are compatible with your growing conditions, including soil, light, rainfall, and your USDA growing zone.
- For a low maintenance garden, stick with perennials.
- Remember, any fruiting plants can really create a mess if you don’t stay on top of harvesting the fruit.
- Use companion planting principles to incorporate plants that can help keep pests away.
- What structures do you have in place? Uncovered fences, pergolas, and gazebos can be put to use for growing vines.
Best plants for edible landscaping
Provided you have the space to add a new tree to your landscaping, fruit trees can be an excellent addition to an edible landscape design. Here are some of our favorite options.
Apple trees are a great addition to any front yard. When properly pruned, they can provide structure and act as an anchoring feature within a landscape design. You can even learn to espalier your apple tree to grow it beautifully on a trellis as seen below. Here’s a guide if you want to learn. And there’s nothing better than fresh apple pies come fall!
Cherry trees are known to have the most beautiful pink blossoms come spring, incorporate these along your driveway for a beautiful spring display and a sweet snack once they fruit.
Mango trees will only really be an option if you are located in a warm climate, zone 8 or above. These can grow extremely large, so proceed with caution! They will also create a big mess if you don’t stay on top of harvesting the fruit, so keep in mind that it will create a new chore for you.
There is a wide variety of plum trees to choose from, and each one shows off beautiful blooms each spring. The purple leaf plum tree is an excellent choice to include in landscaping. It is often selected for its beautiful foliage that is very similar in color to a japanese maple. We actually had these same trees growing along my parents’ driveway growing up! The fruit is pretty small and sour, but we always enjoyed collecting them as a snack while playing outside.
Vines and climbing plants
If you already have a fence, pergola, or other structure, make the most of it by using it to support your fruit-producing vines! Not only will you be rewarded with sweet treats to snack on, but it will add a gorgeous, romantic element to your landscaping.
Raspberry plants stay a bit smaller than blackberry plants, and are great for filling in a small, uncovered section of fence. They can also be used to create height in planting beds if grown on a tower structure.
Blackberries love to spread, so use them to create a beautiful, productive top to your fencing. With only a little guidance, blackberry plants will readily climb up and along the top of your fence. Your only job will only be to keep it under control and enjoy the bounty.
Grape vines will make your home feel like a mediterranean villa. Grow them along fencing, or a column or trellis. They are simply beautiful anywhere you put them.
I have been told so many times you can’t grow kiwi where we live in zone 7. But let me tell you – we have a kiwi vine that was planted roughly 15 years ago and it is THRIVING. Every year we have more kiwi than we can ever hope to use. It’s important to note that these vines will try to take over and need to be heavily pruned.
If you are concerned your climate might be too cold for kiwi, try a hardy kiwi variety. These little cuties are sometimes called kiwi berries and they are delicious!
Bushes and shrubs
Need to fill some medium to large size gaps in your landscaping? Need some structure to anchor your edible landscape design? Pick from this list of bushes and shrubs.
Very few people realize that artichoke plants actually make beautiful landscaping plants. The party of the plant that we eat is really the bud of a big, beautiful purple flower that will bloom if you leave it be.
Pineapple Guava (Feijoa)
Similar to the kiwi vine, I have been told SO many times there’s no way we had guava growing at my parents’ house. But yep, pineapple guava actually grows very well in zone 7. The fruit is small and delicious, with a bit of a perfume-y taste. While the flowers are not large and showy, they are beautifully intricate. The pineapple guava plant actually works great pruned into a hedge for privacy, too.
Who doesn’t love blueberries? While they are not the neatest, most decorative plants, they do quite well worked into landscape designs. Here’s an article that covers a variety of ways to landscape with blueberry plants, including using them as hedgerows!
Hot pepper plants
Peppers actually grow well in containers, so work them into your flower containers this year! Choose a variety with small peppers and a bushy growth habit like thai chilis so that the pepper plant will grow without getting top heavy and falling over. Here is an article with many other edible ornamental peppers to choose from.
Herbs that work great in landscaping
Whether you go for a dedicated herb garden or simply work some in with your landscaping, herbs are a great addition to an edible landscape design. Especially if you love to cook, you’ll be using your landscaping for ingredients all the time.
Oregano grows into a large, bushy shrub covered in delicate white flowers. Be careful, because it can grow quite large and take over space from other plants. This is a great plant to attract lots of bees and other pollinators to your garden.
The adorable little purple flowers that grow on chives make them a great addition to flower beds. Chives are found in many recipes, won’t create a mess or take over, and attract pollinators. You really can’t go wrong here.
Often used as a ground cover, some even use it as a lawn alternative. Thyme is an excellent addition to landscaping as a garden border or to fill in between pathway stones.
Rosemary is a beautiful landscaping plant that is pretty tolerant of many growing conditions. It also has lots of health benefits and can help with hair growth! So plant it in your landscaping and DIY your own hair treatments!
I honestly think lemongrass rivals just about any ornamental grass. Popular in Asian cuisines, especially Vietnamese and Thai food, this one will be great to have on hand for recipes. All you have to do is harvest a few stalks of the grass, then use the tender center of the base of the stalk in whatever sauce, soup or stir fry your choose.
As an added bonus, lemongrass contains citronella and will help repel mosquitos. Um… sign me up!
If you want to attract hummingbirds to your yard, this is the plant for you. Those beautiful red blooms are hummingbird magnets. Pineapple sage is an excellent addition to flower pots and hanging flower baskets. Just know that it does love to spread.
Here’s one you won’t find on many lists of edible landscaping plants- saffron! Did you know that saffron actually grows from a cute little crocus flower? They emerge in fall, when you’ll get to harvest your valuable new spice to add to your pantry. I grow saffron in a flower pot (I’ll write a post on how I grow it), but it can also be grown within a dedicated flower bed or scattered throughout your yard.
Leafy greens can add a variety of depth and color to your edible landscape- and not just green. Check out these ideas to include nutritious greens in your design.
There are lots of ornamental kale varieties out there and for good reason. Those frilly, deeply colored leaves create a beautiful contrast in landscaping. And since they are very hardy, they are great for fall and even winter planters.
Those beautiful stalks are a great way to incorporate color into a garden that differs entirely from blooming plants. Chard has a wide variety of gem hued stalks to add little pops of color to your landscape design.
A few more options to consider
- Daylilies– not the most common, but some varieties are indeed edible and apparently quite good!
- Hostas– another one you probably didn’t realize were edible, but the shoots can be cut and cooked almost like asparagus shoots
- Asparagus– On that note, asparagus can also be incorporated into an edible landscape. Just know the ferns get quite tall and may topple over if unsupported.
- Edible flowers– this one needs a post all on its own, but some examples include chamomile, bachelor buttons, marigolds, pansies, and nasturtium
- Basil– who doesn’t love it? You’ll appreciate the fresh leaves for cooking, and the pollinators will love the flowers. Added bonus- basil is a great at repelling many pests.
A note on edible plant varieties
Some plants that are generally edible still have certain varieties that maybe be inedible- ranging from just not super tasty to toxic. Always double check that the variety you buy is edible by checking with a trusted source that knows the specific variety you are planting.
Enjoy your edible landscape!
I hope this post has gotten you excited to work on some edible landscape design ideas for your own home. With a bit of planning and creativity, you’ll have a beautiful garden bursting with delicious homegrown produce that also looks incredible. Not only does edible landscaping save on space in your yard, but it can also help manage pests and provide ingredients for home cooked meals. So, what are you waiting for? What plants will you be incorporating into your landscape design?