Edible Landscaping Plants for USDA Zones 10 and 11
The following are examples of edibles for your tropical landscape in USDA Zones 10 and 11–areas where frost seldom occurs and heat and humidity are a major part of the growing environment–primarily Hawaii, most of Florida, and the warmest zones on the Gulf Coast:
Annual Vegetables and Edible Flowers –
Cool season/ can withstand light frosts – all greens: rainbow chard, mustards; cabbages, lettuce, kales etc; flower bud vegetables: broccoli and cauliflower; root vegetables: carrots, beets, radishes, etc; plus peas and pansies.
Warm season/ no frost tolerance – asparagus beans and string beans, bitter melon, black- eyed peas, chayote, cucumbers, eggplants, jicama, malibar spinach, melons, okra, peanuts, peppers, tomatillo, sweet potatoes, squash, slicing and cherry tomatoes.
Herbaceous perennials – bananas (southern Florida), plantains, pineapples, strawberries.
Woody trees, shrubs and vines – low-chill apples (northern Florida), bamboo, most citrus except lemons, dragon fruit, figs, jaboticaba, litchi, muscadine grapes (northern Florida), mango (southern Florida), natal plum, papaya (southern Florida), passion fruit, sapote, sea grape, Surinam cherry, pecan (northern Florida).
Cool season annuals/ can withstand light frosts – cilantro, parsley
Warm season/no frost tolerance – basil, cumin, culantro
Perennials – chives, curry leaf, ginger, galangal, jamaica, lemon grass, lemon verbena, mint, miracle fruit, oregano, sorrel, thyme, and Mexican tarragon.
Edible plants can be combined in many creative ways; with other edibles or with ornamentals. For instance: in winter try a border of red and green lettuces and combine them with inedible impatiens. All types of peppers are striking when planted with a background of tall red salvias, as is a border of strawberries in front of a hedge of Natal plum. Try planting citrus along your driveway or use a selection of citrus as a screen along a private patio, and plant a mixed border of culinary herbs in front of the hibiscus. Use bananas and plantains combined with cannas to give a bold island of tropical foliage and color near the swimming pool. And dwarf yellow pineapples are dramatic when fruiting in a container along with non-edible purple petunias.
The most important design elements for an edible landscape are strong, firm lines and structure. With edible plants, your first design criteria are for a diversity of food on your table not just the look of your yard. Therefore, you will have a greater mixture of textures, forms, and colors than with a typical ornamental landscape. In order to counterbalance this mix of plants, it helps to almost over-emphasize the line and structure of your landscaping elements. An additional design challenge with “edibles” is the seasonal nature of the color of bloom and fruiting and the occasional periods of reduced drama due to transplanting, periods of harvesting, and soil cultivation. It is during these times that the importance of strong lines, as defined by pathways, patios, planters, hedges, evergreens, and structures, becomes so evident. Long curving beds or interplantings of colorful flowering plants, whether edible or not, also help tie together the design and provide accents to intrigue your eye. Without the backbone of an integrated design, your edible landscape can be reduced to just another scraggly vegetable patch.
- With any edible landscape, I urge folks to start small. Small means you can easily maintain what you’ve started. Temper your garden enthusiasm with a knowledge that many edible plants need not only maintenance but also the effort of harvesting, cooking, and if it’s a large harvest, preserving.
- Choose, for example, dwarf fruit trees over standard size trees and select fruit varieties that spread the harvest over many months.
- Good design is important, but if the plants are not healthy, the best of designs is for naught. The keys to healthy plants in the planning stage are choosing the correct plant for the right place and properly preparing the soil. Once planted proper watering and fertilizing will keep them growing well.
- Most edible plants need at least six hours of mid-day sun to produce well and be healthy and with few exceptions, fast drainage.
- Annual fruits and vegetables need soil filled with lots of organic matter and a source of nitrogen.
- Expect that the perennial plants in your edible design will take from three to five years to look mature.
- On the other hand annual beds filled with herbs, vegetables, and flowers can give you a colorful and tasty impact the first summer.