How to Grow Inedible Plants in Your Backyard

How to Grow Inedible Plants in Your Backyard

Growing inedible plants in your backyard can be a fun and rewarding hobby. While most people focus on growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs for eating, exploring inedible plants opens up many unique options. With some planning and proper care, you can create a beautiful and interesting backyard landscape with plants not meant for consumption.

Choosing Inedible Plants

When selecting inedible plants to grow, consider ones with attractive flowers, foliage, aromas, textures, or other desirable features. Here are some top options to consider:

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses add texture and visual interest to gardens. Popular varieties include:

  • Fountain grass – Graceful, arching green leaves with feathery beige plumes. Grows 2-3 feet tall.
  • Blue oat grass – Steel blue foliage that forms neat clumps. Grows 2-3 feet tall.
  • Pampas grass – Large white plumes on grass that can grow 6-15 feet tall.

Tropical Foliage Plants

Tropical plants with bold, colorful leaves can create a tropical oasis in your yard. Good choices include:

  • Elephant ear – Huge, heart-shaped green leaves sometimes over 3 feet long.
  • Canna lily – Large, wide leaves in green, burgundy, yellow, or variegated colors.
  • Colocasia – Oval-shaped leaves that can be green, black, or purple.

Ornamental Trees and Shrubs

For interesting shapes, textures, and colors, plant ornamental trees and shrubs like:

  • Japanese maple – Finely dissected leaves in hues of red, green, or purple. Graceful shape.
  • Flowering quince – Vibrant red, pink, or orange blossoms cover this bush in spring.
  • Blue spruce – Striking conifer with steely blue needles and conical form.

Unusual Succulents

For unique shapes and textures, try agave, yucca, aloe, and other succulents such as:

  • Snake plant – Tall, stiff, sword-like leaves with jagged yellow edges.
  • Ponytail palm – Curving, swollen base and long, drooping green leaves.
  • Paddle plant – Plump, oval-shaped succulent leaves on thick stems.

Ornamental Vines

Add vertical interest to fences, arbors, and structures with vining plants like:

  • Coral honeysuckle – Trumpet-shaped orange and yellow flowers.
  • Passion flower – Exotic flowers with intricate purple and white blooms.
  • Clematis – Showy flowers in shades of white, red, purple, pink, and more.

The possibilities are endless! Let your personality and garden style guide your plant selections.

Caring for Inedible Plants

While specific care depends on the plant variety, here are some general inedible plant care tips:

Site Selection

  • Choose an appropriate spot based on the plant’s sun and soil preferences. Most need full sun.

  • Amend soil with compost or topsoil to improve drainage and nutrition.

  • Give plants enough space to grow to their mature size.


  • Water thoroughly after planting and provide 1-2 inches per week, adjusting for rain.

  • Water at the base, not overhead.

  • Water in morning so leaves can dry out.


  • Apply a balanced fertilizer or slow-release granules 2-3 times per growing season.

  • Organic options include compost, manure, bone meal, etc.

Pruning and Maintenance

  • Prune dead leaves, spent flowers, and damaged stems to maintain health.

  • Stake tall plants and vines to support growth.

  • Protect from extreme cold and heat. Mulch annually.

With proper siting, watering, fertilizing, pruning, and care, inedible plants can thrive just as well as edible ones!

Designing With Inedible Plants

When planning beds and borders of inedible plants, consider height, color, and texture to create an appealing design. Here are some ideas:

Focal Points

Use large statement plants like elephant ears or pampas grass as bold focal points. Underplant with lower-growing ferns or grasses.

Contrasting Textures

Combine fine, ferny foliage like ornamental oat grasses with large, bold leaves from canna lily and colocasia for dramatic contrast.

Complementary Colors

Plant purple-leaved shrubs near orange or yellow flowers for a vibrant color scheme. Or pair silvery blue foliage with hot red blooms.

Mixed Borders

Incorporate a diverse blend of foliage shapes, sizes, and colors for depth and interest. Allow some messiness.

Themed Gardens

Create a tropical look with banana trees, palms, and elephant ears. Or go for a Japanese feel with maples, iris, and bamboos.

Get creative and have fun designing your inedible backyard plant oasis!

Unique Uses for Inedible Plants

While you cannot eat them, inedible plants can serve many other purposes:

  • Provide cut flowers – Many have beautiful blooms for indoor arrangements.

  • Make crafts and dyes – Foliage, seeds, and flowers can be used.

  • Attract pollinators – Bright flowers supply nectar for bees and butterflies.

  • Clean the air – Some remove pollutants and release oxygen.

  • Reduce erosion – Deep roots stabilize soil on slopes and banks.

  • Screen and divide – Strategically placed plants create privacy.

  • Decorate – Add visual interest to patios, entries, walkways, and more.

With creativity and an open mind, the possibilities are endless for unusual ways to utilize inedible plants.

Growing inedible plants opens up many unique options beyond the typical fruits, vegetables and herbs. With some planning and proper care, you can create a backyard landscape with beautiful, interesting plants meant solely for their ornamental qualities. Try mixing shades, shapes and textures for an eye-catching inedible garden.