Beautiful & Edible: 10 Plants for an Impressive Garden
With colorful blooms, shapely leaves or jewel-like fruit, these crops look as good as they taste.
Glossy purple eggplants, fragrant lavender, colorful Swiss chard — even if you don’t have a dedicated vegetable garden, these beauties are lovely enough to hold their own alongside ornamentals. Here are 10 beautiful edible plants to incorporate into your garden, whether it’s a true veggie plot or a suburban front yard.
With their tall stalks and spiky-leaved heads, artichokes make a dramatic addition to the garden. Not only are they delicious (I’ll take mine steamed with butter, please!), but when allowed to flower, they also transform into the massive and almost otherworldly blooms seen here. The ‘Green Globe’ variety of globe artichoke is delicious, but there are also some stunningly gorgeous purple varieties of globe artichoke worth checking out too.
Growing tips: Artichokes can grow quite tall (about 4 feet), and they love sun or part shade as well as a bit of protection from the wind. The ideal spot would be against a sunny fence, near the back border of a garden bed. In areas with mild winters, artichokes are perennials (although they may produce less after a year or two), but they’re planted as annuals in colder climates.
With the deep purple and long, delicate shape of Japanese eggplant, the variegated pattern of the ‘Graffiti’ eggplant or the diminutive teardrop shape of the ‘Fairy Tale’ eggplant, you have your pick of this beautiful summer vegetable. Smaller varieties can grow well in pots.
Growing tips: Eggplants prefer fertile, well-drained soil and regular deep watering. If they’re growing in pots, you may need to water them more frequently.
Why plant an ornamental when you can tuck fresh herbs right in your garden beds? From the common Italian large-leaf variety (used to make a classic pesto) to more unusual types, like the ‘Mexican Cinnamon’ shown here, you’re sure to find a basil to your liking.
Growing tips: Basil needs full sun to thrive and loves the heat. If your summers are cooler, try planting it near a south- or west-facing wall. Basil grows well in pots.
It’s gorgeous, fragrant, pollinator-attracting and edible (hello, lavender ice cream!) — what’s not to love about lavender? Plant this beauty as a border along paths, tucked in a garden bed or even along a curb strip. Coming home each day will be so much sweeter when you can run your hands through these purple blooms on your way to the door.
Growing tips: Lavender does well in full sun, with low water conditions and poor soil. If your soil holds too much water, mix in sand before planting or grow it in containers.
5. Tuscan kale.
If you’re looking for something with lush green color and an interesting leaf shape, don’t go with an ornamental plant — try Tuscan kale instead. Also known as dinosaur or ‘Lacinato’ kale, Tuscan kale (shown in the back row here) is as beautiful as it is nutritious.
Growing tips: Kale is a cool-season veggie. Sow seeds in late summer or early fall to harvest in fall or early winter. Kale enjoys full sun but will tolerate part shade. Some shade is best if it’s still hot when you plant.
6. Swiss chard.
With dark green leaves and vibrantly colored stalks, Swiss chard makes a lovely addition to any garden. And (bonus!) it does well in spring, summer and fall, so you can continue to add to your chard crop throughout the growing season.
Growing tips: Swiss chard likes full sun but will burn if the sun is too hot. If your summers are very hot, plant it in partial shade.
Quick growing and pretty, lettuces make an excellent choice for filling in little blank spots in your garden beds and around edges. Feeling ambitious? Design an all-lettuce bed with alternating rows of lettuces in different colors, as shown here.
Growing tips: Plant lettuces in early spring and continue to sow every few weeks to provide a continuous crop. Once the weather gets to be about 75 degrees consistently, the lettuce will begin to bolt. Wait until fall to start sowing again.
Being able to pick ripe, juicy strawberries right from your own garden is a delight every gardener should know. The berries themselves are like little jewels, peeking out from the foliage; but even when not fruiting, the leaves are a pleasing color and shape.
Growing tips: Strawberries love really rich, well-drained soil and full to part sun. Plant as a ground cover, to edge a border (though beware, they can take over) or to fill containers.
I can’t imagine a prettier herb than soft, silvery sage. If you love lamb’s ears, think of sage as a nearly-as-soft (and certainly as beautiful) edible alternative. When left to flower, it sports delicate pink- or lavender-hued blooms.
Growing tips: Sage is a perennial herb that loves a sunny spot in well-drained soil, and it does well in containers. It’s difficult to grow sage from seed, so start with cuttings or young nursery plants instead.
Chives are part of the onion family, and like their larger relative, the ornamental allium, these delicate little grassy green stalks spring into pretty pompom-like purple blossoms. Snip the stems before they bloom to add flavor to salads, sauces and herb butter, or harvest the edible flowers to infuse vinegar or add color to a salad.
Growing tips: Plant in early spring in rich soil with good drainage, in a spot that gets full sun. Chives like regular water, so be sure not to let the soil dry out.