Even the most inept gardener will see success with these super easy edible perennials that taste great and look natural among the flowers. A perennial is a plant that lives for many growing seasons. With most plants this means that the top portion of the plant dies back each season and grows back the next year from the same root stock (1). Since perennials only need to be planted once, they are low maintenance additions for the garden, great for the beginner.
There are many perennials that can be difficult, requiring certain soil types, fertilizers, sun conditions, and fussy pruning. Luckily there are many others that thrive with little attention, and a number of these are edible and still beautiful enough to add to the flower garden.
Here are a few of my favourites. These are some of the plants that always look wonderful in my garden among the flowers, provide lots of food, and best of all, require very little care.
Rhubarb – Dramatic And Tasty
I love the look of rhubarb. It grows big lush leaves that start growing very early in the season. The dramatic leaves act as a great filler for forgotten corners of the garden. I have used rhubarb to fill in bare spaces in my garden such as behind my composter, as a decorative low maintenance border behind my vegetable garden, and as an accent plant in a hard to reach corner of my flower garden. My rhubarb has survived being buried by my pumpkins, repeatedly being dug up, and having been transplanted and split many times. This plant seems to take endless abuse from me, and always comes back strong and beautiful the next season.
Rhubarb is not only easy and beautiful, it is also delicious. It has a very tart distinctive taste when eaten raw, making a great snack to nibble on while out in the garden. More commonly, it is used in desserts such as pies and jams, as the taste of it raw is too tart for many people’s palates. My favourite way to use rhubarb is to boil it on the stovetop with a small bit of water and honey until it has a smooth texture for a wonderfully tart pancake topping or pudding.
Best practices for caring for rhubarb are to transplant while the root stocks are still dormant, either early spring or late fall, into well drained, fertile soil. Preferably choose spots in full sun, and fertilize well. Water often, and remove seed stocks as soon as they appear. Do not harvest the first year after planting (2). Although this is all great advice, I have broken all these rules and still have great success with this plant.
Daylillies – Surprising Food Source From A Beautiful Flower
My first memories of daylilies are of a whole bunch of these dramatic orange flowers growing along the fence line in the alley. They grow so easily with no maintenance that they are a common sight along fences or other such places where a beautiful low maintained border is wanted. At the time I had no idea that these beauties were edible.
The flowers, buds, tubers (roots), and young stalks are all edible. Buds taste great sauteed in butter with salt, young stalks are similar to green onions, flowers can be used as a beautiful decoration on cakes or salads, and tubers can be boiled like potatoes.
Growing daylilies is extremely easy. They grow in all soil types, they prefer full sun but tolerate partial shade, and although they like well drained soil, they can survive in wet or even occasional flooded areas. They can be transplanted successfully any time of the year (3). These are truly a no fail flower that works great in areas where lush low maintenance flowers are wanted.
Oregano – A Tasty Ground Cover
Oregano comes in many varieties, some growing bushy and some growing as a ground cover. The oregano that I have in my garden is a variety that grows along the ground. It is beautiful, very attractive to bees, and easy to care for. In my garden, the oregano is one of the first plants in the garden to look lush and green in the spring. It doesn’t take over the garden like many ground covers tend to, and it takes well to being split up, making it a great choice to fill in space between plants in the flower garden.
Be careful when selecting a variety to use. If you plan to use your plant for cooking, make sure you smell and taste the leaves before you purchase it, as some varieties are grown for decorative use and not culinary use, so they have a very mild flavour. It is recommended that oregano not be grown from seeds. Cuttings, divisions, or starter plants work best so you know what your plant will taste like, as the seeds are unpredictable as to the taste of the plant grown (4). However, I grew my plants from seed and my plants are quite mild, but I love them. I probably add more oregano to my meals than other cooks have to, but it always ends up tasting wonderful and I have more greens in my food, so I don’t mind.
Oregano is not very picky about soil requirements. It grows naturally in the mountains, so it appreciates well drained, dry, and rocky soil, but I have seen it thrive in lush gardens as well. As for sun requirements, full-sun or partial shade both work well (4).
Sage – Silver Foliage All Year Round
Sage bushes come in many varieties. The leaves and flowers can vary greatly, but my favourite is the common sage plant. It features silvery soft leaves with bright purple dramatic flowers. It grows into a small bush that takes well to pruning. This plant looks great all year long, even in the winter. The leaves stay on the plant year round, providing an attractive silvery accent to the garden even in the winter.
Most of us are probably familiar with sage in Thanksgiving stuffing or perhaps some other savoury meat dishes, but few of us use it as a mainstay herb in our kitchens. Since this is one of the readily available herbs in my garden, I add it to almost all my meals. It has a beautiful smell and I have yet to make a meal where I regretted adding this wonderful herb.
For best results this plant wants a well drained soil, and to be in full sun. Make sure to keep newly planted plants well watered until they become established. After 4 or five years it is recommended that old plants be replaced to ensure high quality herbs for cooking. As for pruning, it is recommended that each year the heavy woody stems be cut off (5). I tend to prune for the optimal shape which sometimes means I don’t follow this rule and I have yet to replace my plants after more than five years. Since I am using this plant as part of a flower garden, and not heavily harvesting, I have yet to notice any decline in quality.
Growing Food with the Flowers
Adding edible plants to the flower garden is a great way to increase how much food you can grow in your yard and make your flower garden so much more interesting. With so many varieties that look great, taste delicious, and that are easier than the average flower, how could you not include at least a few of them within your flower garden?
Amy grew up on farm property with very large impressive gardens, and eventually found a community garden to practice her skills until she was able to have her own garden at home. She now has a beautiful garden full of edibles, flowers and insects (both predator and prey) where she and her family can be found digging in dirt and snacking on delicious food. Her son has grown up helping in the garden where he has picked up a love and knowledge of plants far beyond his years.
Sources for this article include:
(1) Wildflowers in Bloom: Annual, Perennial, Biennial?
(2) The Old Farmer’s Almanac: Rhubarb
(3) Perennial Resource:
Planting Information – Daylilies
(4) Herb Society: Oregano & Marjoram Oregano & Marjoram
(5) Garden.org: Plant Care Guides – Sage