Hidden In Plain Sight: Stealth Tropical Food Gardening With Edible Ornamentals

22 June 2015
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Blog


Tropical climates are great for growing food, but there may be some obstacles. If you live in a housing development with a Home Owners Association (HOA) or in a city where front yard food gardens are forbidden, don't get frustrated, get stealthy! You can grow an abundance of food in plain sight without those pesky authorities even knowing.

Tropical Fruit Trees

There are so many tropical fruit trees that are pretty enough to plant in your front yard that it may be hard to choose. Just a few to consider are:

  • Citrus - may not be allowed by some HOAs, so check before planting
  • Bananas and plantains - have large leaves for an excellent tropical look
  • Surinam cherry - often used as a hedge shrub
  • Starfruit - attractive small tree that fruits two to three times a year
  • Lychee - a large tree that produces an abundance of fruit
  • Annona - also known as sugar apple, an attractive small tree with delicious super-sweet fruit

Edible Trees

There are tropical trees that are attractive and also produce edible leaves. They are:

  • Moringa - also called horseradish tree, its feathery, spicy leaves are great in salads. It can be pruned into a shrub to make the leaves more accessible
  • Katuk - also called sweet leaf bush, its leaves have a pea-like flavor. If grown under shade, its limb tips can be harvested and cooked like asparagus
  • Chaya - also called the spinach tree or tree spinach, its leaves and tender growth tips must be cooked before being eaten. It has spectacular clusters of white flowers that attract bees and butterflies

Edible Ground Covers

A good way to hide edibles in plain site is to plant them as ground covers in large raised beds around your edible trees. This also has the advantage of cutting down on the amount of grass you have to mow.

  • Ornamental sweet potato - comes in a variety of colors and leaf shapes. The leaves and roots are edible, but these are starchier and not as sweet as regular sweet potatoes
  • Society Garlic - a beautiful plant with stalks of purple flowers often used in tropical landscaping. The leaves and bulbs can be used just as you would garlic
  • Mints - members of the mint family, including peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, and other flavored mints spread rapidly and can be cut often for use
  • Creeping herbs - thyme, rosemary and oregano all come in creeping forms that make lovely edible ground covers that even bloom

Additional Tropical Edible Ornamentals

  • Taro - also called dasheen, eddoe and malanga, these tropical tubers are the roots of the Colocasia esculenta plant, commonly known as elephant ear
  • Cranberry Hibiscus - a beautiful plant with cranberry colored leaves and pink fall flowers that are edible raw in salads
  • Joseph's Coat - A member of the Amaranth family, the brighty colored red, green and yellow leaves of this plant are edible cooked as a green
  • Lemongrass - used in asian cooking and for making a medicinal tea, this large, flowing grass is well-suited to container growing

If you plan carefully, you can grow a lush tropical landscape that is completely edible without raising the ire of your HOA or municipal government. The key is to plan your gardens carefully and keep them neat and attractive. These are only a few of the tropical edibles available. A professional landscaping company (such as SWF Construction, LLC) can give you more advice on what others will thrive in your area.