Edible Ornamentals for the Schoolyard
Here are some suggestions for an edible ornamental school garden. We have over 7000 plants in the database so don't feel that you need to stick to this list. Make sure you check the following pages on the website before you start to plan: Before You Start and Design Tips. You can also find information on how to use the database here.
Make sure you take a look at the Known Hazards section for each plant. The plants below are divided into groups of edible parts so students know which bits to eat. Not all parts of a plant are edible and some parts can be toxic, for example: rhubarb leaves and apple seeds can be poisonous. The database gives more information on the edible parts of each plant along with their different uses (medicinal, edible or other). It's always good to put labels on plants so the students can easily identify them. Consider the following when using plants:
- not all parts of edible flowers are necessarily edible. For all but violas, Johnny-jump-ups, pansies, and nasturtiums, remove sepals (green parts at base of flowers) before eating.
- have a positive I.D. a flower before eating it. Many plants share common names, so be sure to purchase seeds and plants only of those identified by their Latin names.
- don't eat flowers if you have asthma or allergies.
- for best flavour, remove pistils and stamens from blossoms.
- edible ornamentals should not be treated with pesticides.
Edible Ornamentals by Plant Part
Information on parts of a plant
Annual Plants with Edible Fruit:
- Eggplant – (Solanum melongena, Aubergine) Tidy bushes with shiny, variably shaped fruits in a range of colors: white, green, orange, pink, and purple. Size; 1 m (3ft 3in)
- Okra – (Abelmoschus esculentus) Green or purple foliage is the backdrop for hibiscus-like blossoms followed by quirky, upward-pointing pods of green or maroon. Large or dwarf varieties available. Size: 1 m (3ft 3in)
- Peanut –(Arachis hypogaea) Perky green plants with bright yellow flowers. They have a fascinating growth habit: After pollination the flower stalk elongates, touches the soil, and fruits (peanuts) develop underground. Size: 0.3 m (1ft)
- Pepper – (e.g. sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum), tabasco pepper (Capsicum frutescens)), Shiny fruits in a wide variety of colors (red, orange, yellow, green, purple), flavours (sweet to hot), and shapes (bell, banana, bonnet, berries, etc.).
Perennial Plants with Edible Fruit:
- Dwarf banana (Musa acuminata) – Tropical plant with evergreen foliage, sweet smelling flowers, and edible fruit. Adapts well to containers. Size: 3 m (9ft 10in)
- Strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) – Excellent ground cover or border plant with runners that spreads by long stems called runners. Features white or pink flowers and delicious fruits. Size: 0.3 m (1ft)
- Grape (Vitis vinifera) – Hardy, vigorous vines can cover a large area quickly. Many varieties to choose from, adapted to a wide range of environments. Look for varieties with disease resistance. Grow on a strong trellis or arbor. Fruit matures in late summer to early fall. Require annual pruning for good fruit production. Size: 15 m (49ft 3in)
- Kiwi (Actinidia deliciosa) – An attractive, vigorous vine for an arbor or trellis. Fruit ripens in fall and is high in Vitamin C. This plant is dioecious – male and female flowers appear on separate plants — so you’ll need to have one of each to ensure pollination and fruit set. Require pruning. Size: 9 m (29ft 6in).
- Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) – Shrubs have long canes that grow to heights of five to 10 feet tall. Look for varieties with thornless stems — they don’t spread like the thorny types do. Fruit matures in mid to late summer. Size: 3 m (9ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a fast rate.
- Blueberry (e.g. low sweet blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), High-Bush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) – Attractive, low-maintenance shrubs with good fall color. Range from four to seven feet tall. Fruit matures in early to mid-summer. Requires acidic soil. Has few pests other than hungry birds.
- Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) – Hardy native shrub with attractive foliage and large clusters of spring flowers. Fruit matures in late summer and is good for jellies, jams, and pie. Caution: Unripe fruit and other parts of the plant are toxic if ingested. Size: 6 m (19ft) by 6 m (19ft) at a fast rate.
- Pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana) – Evergreen shrub growing to 15 feet tall. Has attractive and unusual red flowers, which are also edible. Produces small blue fruits that taste like a blend of pineapple and strawberry. Size: 3 m (9ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a slow rate.
- Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) – Shrubs ranging from four to six feet tall. Summer and fall-bearing varieties are available. Red types are vigorous spreaders that require annual pruning. Black raspberries are not vigorous spreaders. Size: 2 m (6ft) by 1.5 m (5ft).
- Rose – Beautiful blooms go without saying, but several species (R. rugosa, canina, eglanteria, and pomifera) are also prized for their tasty rose hips. They’re high in Vitamin C and make a tangy jam and an ingredient for tea. Some species are vigorous spreaders.
Trees Fruit trees are usually available in various sizes, so look for the size that will work well in your space. For instance, dwarf apple trees grow 8 to 12 feet tall; semi-dwarf, 12 to 18 feet; and standard, 18 to 30 feet. Some dwarfs adapt very well to containers.
- Apple (Malus domestica) – Small trees with beautiful white to pink spring flowers. Many different varieties available adapted to varying climates.
- Apricot (Prunus armeniaca) – Small- to medium-sized tree with attractive white or pink spring flowers. Fruit matures in early to late summer.
- Cherry (Prunus avium). See the database for many other species – Depending on the species, these range in size from small shrubs to medium-sized trees. Some produce tart fruit good for pies, and others feature sweet fruit for fresh eating. All feature spectacular spring flowers. Fruit matures in the summer to early fall depending on the variety.
- Crabapple (Malus sylvestris) – Have a wider range of flower color than apple trees. Look for varieties that feature large, tasty fruit that’s good for jelly.
- Citrus – Tropical fruits that are sensitive to cold weather. Some, such as Meyer lemon (Citrus x meyeri) , limes and satsumas, can grow well in containers – bring them inside for the winter.
- Fig (Ficus carica) – Small trees with interesting lobed leaves reach 10 to 30 feet tall. Fruit matures in mid-summer to fall.
- Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) – Attractive tree that grows 20 to 30 feet tall. Showy white flowers are followed by tasty red fruits in mid- to late summer. Also see the page on japanese Dogwoods
- Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) – Small evergreen tree with large glossy leaves, fragrant flowers, and fruit that matures in spring.
- Peach (Prunus persica) – Small tree 15 to 20 feet tall. Beautiful spring flowers and summer fruit.
- Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) – Large shade tree needing soil with excellent drainage. Nuts mature in late fall.
- Pear (Pyrus communis sativa) – Medium to large tree with attractive spring blooms. Fruit matures during the summer and fall.
- Persimmon (Diospyros kaki) – Small tree; native and oriental varieties available. Some varieties have very attractive foliage and good fall color. Fruits mature in the fall.
- Quince – Shrub-like tree growing to 15 feet tall. Beautiful spring flowers. Fruit matures in fall and is used for jellies.
- Shad/Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp. e.g. Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia)) – Shrubs or small trees have attractive, smooth gray bark, abundant white spring flowers, followed by red blueberry-like fruits. Spectacular reddish-orange fall foliage.
Plants with Edible Leaves (Annuals unless otherwise noted):
- Basil e.g. sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) - a number of different varieties are available, including some with deep purple leaves and curly foliage. Produce attractive flowers (although if harvesting leaves it is best to remove flower buds and encourage vegetative growth). Various flavours available: lemon, lime, anise, and cinnamon.
- Cabbage (Brassica oleracea capitata) – A diverse selection available, including varieties of different sizes and colors (red, purple, and white).
- Dill (Anethum graveolens) – Airy foliage with attractive yellow flowers. Attracts butterflies.
- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – Fine-textured foliage in green and bronze. Tastes of anise. Attracts butterflies.
- Kale e.g. Curly kale (Brassica oleracea sabellica) – Finely curled leaves providing seasonal color with varieties available in a range of reds, purples, and greens.
- Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) – A wide range of varieties available, providing many different colors (reds, purples, and all shades of greens) and textures to the landscape. Cool-season crop for spring and fall harvest.
- Malabar spinach (Basella alba) – A vine with thick, dark green leaves that can be harvested throughout the summer. Grow on a trellis or in a hanging basket.
- Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) – Biennial herb. Some varieties have frilly, decorative leaves and an attractive mounding growth habit.
- Sage (Salvia officinalis) – Evergreen perennial herb. Many varieties of different colors, including shades of green, purple, and even a tricolor variety with variegated pink, green, and white foliage.
- Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris flavescens) – The variety 'Bright Lights' features plants with stems and leaf veins of various bright colors, including yellow, pink, red, orange, purple, white, and green.
Plants with Edible Stems:
- Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) – Perennial plant with sunflower-like blossoms and edible underground stems (tubers).
- Rhubarb (Rheum x cultorum) or Rheum rhabarbarum or Rheum x hybridum – Perennial vegetable with deep red stems. Harvest throughout the summer for use in sauces and pies.
- Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) – Perennial vegetable with edible shoots in the spring. During summer and fall the plant has attractive fern-like foliage.
Annual Plants with Edible Flowers:
- Calendula/pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) – Blossoms of yellow, gold, orange, and bicolor flowers that have a tangy, peppery flavor.
- French marigold (Tagetes patula) – Varieties ‘Lemon Gem’ and ‘Tangerine Gem’ have best flavour.
- Johnny-jump-up (Viola tricolor) – Tiny three-colored blossoms have a wintergreen flavor. Spread readily from seed. Caution: Do not eat in large amounts.
- Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) – Compact plants or trailing varieties with edible lily-pad like foliage and blossoms. Flowers range from white through yellows and dark red. Blossoms are sweet with a peppery watercress flavour. Contain Vitamin C.
- Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) – Popular bedding plants. Different varieties sport a full spectrum of solid and multicolor flowers. Cool-season annuals.
- Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) – Scarlet-colored flowers have a sage flavor with pineapple undertones.
- Scented geraniums (Pelargonium spp.) e.g. Lemon Geranium, Rose Geranium, Apple Geranium – Blossoms of white, red, pink or purple have a wide range of flavors, such as apple, lemon, orange, depending on the species and variety.
- Scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) – Tall, vigorous bean vines with orange- to scarlet-colored flowers with a mild, raw bean flavor. Require a tepee or trellis at least 8 feet tall.
- Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) – Flowers of white, yellow, orange, burgundy, or multiple colors. Unopened buds taste like a mild artichoke. Flower petals are bittersweet.
Perennial Plants with Edible Flowers:
- Artichoke – Immature flower buds are very mild and sweet. The plant itself has attractive gray-green foliage.
- Chives – Blossoms are white, lavender, or purple with a strong onion flavour. Also see our page on Alliums
- Pinks (Dianthus spp.) e.g. Carnation, (Dianthus caryophyllus) Fringed Pink (Dianthus superbus) – Pink, white, and red flowers have a spicy, clove-like flavor.
- Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.) e.g. Common Day lily– Comes in a wide range of flower colors. Buds and blossoms have a mild asparagus or summer squash flavor. Also see the page on Day lilies
- Violet – (Viola odorata) – Perennial with violet or white flowers that have a sweet flavor. Also see the page on sweet violets
Trees and Shrubs with Edible Flowers:
- Apple – has white to pink colored flowers with a floral to slightly sour taste.
- Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) – Sweet white flowers. Caution: Remove stems completely before eating.
- Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) – Orange, red, or purplish red flowers with cranberry and citrus overtones; slightly acidic.
- Plum – Pink to white colored with a mild flavor of flower nectar.
- Rose – White, pink, yellow, red, or orange with a highly perfumed, sweet to bitter flavor.
Based on an article by Sarah Pounders and Barbara Richardson at www.kidsgardening.com
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