How to Grow: The Right Plant in the Right Place

Probably the simplest way to start with foodscaping in your yard is to substitute plants. Look at the ornamental flowers, shrubs and trees in your yard and consider similarly sized and shaped alternatives that are edible as well. With the advent of so many new plants that blur the line weeping mulberrybetween edible and ornamental, it’s not so hard anymore to find the right substitute for your yard.

This process may start simply because a plant has died, died back significantly or outgrown its location and has to be removed. When looking for a substitute plant use your filter of edibility to find just the right candidate. Of course, if you’re really gung ho on foodscaping you might start pulling out healthy plants and giving them away or landscaping areas that have been neglected!

There are many possibilities when substituting edible plants for purely ornamental ones. The key is remembering the mantra, select the right plant for the right place. Find a plant whose ultimate size, shape and features will fit in the location long term. Sometimes it will seem a bit undersized at first, but remember plants grow, and sometimes grow fast. Your substitute plant will need to have the proper light, soil, hardiness and exposure to thrive. For example, you might think a blueberry is a good substitute for burning bush in your foundation planting (and you’re right it is!), but you also have to remember that blueberries need a lower pH than the burning bush so you’ll have to adjust the soil acidity when planting and keep it low afterward. Citrus trees may be good evergreen substitutes for holies, but be sure you can successfully grow citrus in your region before planting one.

Below, I offer some common lEd kiwi fruitandscape plants and possible foodscape substitutes you might try. These substitutes may be based on a similar flowering time, plant look and feel, or similar growing requirements. Some of the substitutes are very closely related to the ornamental plant while others may take a little more imagining. The key when substituting a foodscape plant for a purely ornamental one is to make sure it’s the right plant for the sun, soil and space allowed. Sometimes you’ll have to select a specific variety of that tree, shrub or flower to be a good match. For example, when replacing an 8-foot tall evergreen holly tree in your yard with a citrus tree, look for those citrus that stay naturally dwarf such as ‘Improved Meyer’ lemon. After you have the right sized plant, then you can look at flowering color and time, seasonal interest, fruit production and other characteristics. There are many other examples that you can imagine, but this list gives you an idea of the possibilities.

Ornamental Trees                                                Foodscape Substitute

Crabapple, Flowering plum

Flowering cherry                                                           Apple, Cherry, Plum


Camperdown elm                                                         Weeping mulberry


Redbud                                                                           Serviceberry


Evergreen holly                                                             Improved Meyer Lemon


Ornamental Shrubs                                               Foodscape Substitute

Burning bush                                                              Blueberry


Dwarf Spirea                                                              Currant or gooseberry


Panicle hydrangea                                                    Elderberry


Hybrid roses                                                              Rosa rugosa


Privet hedge                                                              Asparagus


Flowers                                                                     Foodscape Substitute

African daisy                                                                Calendula


Shasta daisy                                                                Bee balm


Bidens                                                                          Signet marigold


Profusion zinnia                                                         Mounding nasturtium


Zinnia                                                                           Tall marigold


Mounding artemisia                                                 Alpine strawberries


Flowering allium                                                       Chives


Vining/Creeping Plants                                    Foodscape Substitute

Trumpet vine                                                            Hardy kiwi


Wisteria                                                                      Grape


Ajuga                                                                           Mint


Morning glory                                                            Scarlet runner bean


Excerpted from the book, Foodscaping (CSP, 2015)

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