Variety is the spice of life...and so it is in the garden! If your goal is to create a vibrant and interesting landscape, then you’ll want to make sure to mix together a variety of colors, shapes, sizes and textures. Adding edibles to your ornamental beds is another great way to create a special kind of garden. There are many edibles that make excellent landscaping plants. If you have a space that needs a small ornamental tree, why not plant a fruit tree? You’ll reap all the standard benefits of adding a tree to your landscape: Height, focal point, spring flowers, fall foliage color and a bit of shade. A peach tree can offer you all of these benefits, plus, you’ll get to harvest your very own peaches.
Here in the Houston area, there are a variety of trees that are excellent for our climate. Trees that tolerate our extreme heat, but also have low chill hour requirements are best for our climate. Figs, peaches, plums, citrus and avocados, are all good choices. While some fruit trees, such as fig and plum, don’t require another pollinator plant, apples and Asian pears do. That means you’ll need to have another variety of said trees in close proximity in order for your tree to produce fruit. If you’re trying to grow a fruiting pear tree, it can be successfully pollinated by any nearby Bradford pear.
Figs are a favorite in Texas because of their heat hardiness and delicious sweet flavor. ‘Celeste’, ‘Texas Everbearing’ and ‘Brown Turkey’ are all wonderful choices for the garden. Figs can make excellent small trees or large anchor shrubs in the ornamental landscape. Their large attractive leaves create contrast.
Citrus is a favorite here in the Houston area. If you plant citrus outdoors, you’ll need to watch the weather carefully and protect it in case of a freeze. Or, plant smaller varieties such as Meyer lemon, limes and Mandarin oranges into large patio planters. You can then bring them indoors when the weather reaches close to freezing temperatures. Citrus will bestow upon you a bounty of wonderfully scented flowers come fall and winter. The ripening fruit adds a burst of color to the landscape.
Peach trees make excellent small blooming specimens for an urban setting. Peach trees often grow to between 12- and 20-feet tall, which makes them a versatile option for small spaces. There are even dwarf varieties, such as ‘Bonanza’ and ‘Bonfire’, that reach only 6-feet tall. They can be planted in large patio containers if you’d like. Here in Houston, standard peach trees such as ‘Red Baron’, ‘Tropic Beauty’, and ‘Mid Pride’ are excellent producers.
One of our favorite ornamental fruit trees to grow is the Mexican Plum tree. It produces masses of white blooms in early spring that contrast beautifully against it’s dark gray bark. Their fragrance is unmistakable and a welcome sign of spring. Flowers are followed by multitudes of small tart plums perfect for jellies and jams. Other good plum varieties for Houston are ‘Gulf Beauty’, ‘Gulf Blaze’, ‘Gulf Rose’ and ‘Mariposa’. Mexican Plums grow to about 20- to 25-feet tall on average and so are a good small shade tree for small lots.
Avocados are definitely a super food. They are high in potassium, vitamin B-6 and vitamin C and contain the good kind of fat that can be included in lower calorie diets. But, they can be pricey at the store! Here in Houston, we’re lucky enough to be able to grow certain avocado varieties in our landscapes. Mexican avocado varieties are the most cold hardy and the best choices for your landscape. While avocados can self-pollinate in our early spring climate, your best chance for fruiting success will come if you provide a pollination partner. That means you’ll need to plant two different varieties in order to get fruit production. ‘Pancho’ (syn. ‘Poncho’), ‘Fantastic’ (syn. ‘Pryor’), ‘Wilma’ (syn. ‘Brazos Bell’) and ‘Opal’ (syn.‘Lila’) are all varieties that produce well here. Note that avocado trees can grow larger than you might think; they’ll commonly reach 25-feet tall and 15-feet wide.
*While these are just a few of our favorites, there are many others edible landscape plants you can integrate with your ornamentals.
- Winter is an excellent time to plant fruit trees.
- All fruit trees will require a minimum of six to eight hours of direct sun and a fall and spring feeding.
- Be patient with your fruit trees. Give them two to three years to start putting on an edible harvest.