This article is about plants that are used mainly for landscaping but also bear fruit. People usually don’t plant them for their fruit but the fruit is an added bonus that you might enjoy. The fruit will also be a big hit with wildlife. Sea grape, Cocoplum, Simpson’s stopper, Beautyberry and Elderberry are all native to south Florida. Surinam Cherry, Cattley Guava, and Feijoa are attractive shrubs originally from South America that have good fruit. Carissa or Natal plum from South Africa is another attractive shrub that has small fruits. All of these plants are low maintenance and will thrive in our area.
Sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera) is an interesting native. It is salt and wind tolerant so it is a very common plant along the coast. It can even be used as a dune stabilizer. It becomes a large tree but can be pruned to be a shrub of any size and even used as a hedge. The large leaves turn red before withering and are very attractive at this stage. The seedy fruit develops in green grape like clusters and is tasty when it turns purplish.
Cocoplum (Chrysobalanus icaco) is a very common landscape plant in southern Florida including coastal areas. It has a nice texture with shiny green round leaves with red tipped new growth. It can also be used as a hedge that can be kept casual or manicured for a formal look. The plums are ready when purple and make an ok fruit.
Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana) is an easy to grow shrub that seems happiest in edges and will grow under trees. It grows rapidly with nice deciduous foliage. The berries are a striking magenta color growing along the stems. The birds love them, but people use the fruit to make an exceptional jelly.
Simpson’s stopper (Myrcianthes fragans) is another native and is one of several stoppers that are used in Florida landscapes. Simpson’s stopper is another attractive, low maintenance shrub that can be used by itself or as a hedge. The flowers attract bees and butterflies and the berries are popular with the birds.
Elderberry (Sambucus) is a common shrub throughout the Eastern US from Nova Scotia to Florida. It is often seen in ditches along highways but will grow in most any condition. It is a willowy shrub that forms dense stands as it spreads by sending out runners. Its white flower clusters are very attractive when in bloom. The dark fruit needs to be cooked and is used in jellies, sauces, and wine.
Cattley Guava (Psidium cattleianum) has either red or yellow fruits and is also known as Strawberry or Lemon guava. It is a very attractive shrub. It is considered an invasive but in our yard that has not been an issue. While the fruit is not as flavorful as its cousin, the guava I like it. In a good year there will be a lot of small tasty fruits.
Surinam cherry (Eugenia uniflora) is considered an invasive by many plant experts but I see it sold and planted everywhere. It can be used as a fruiting shrub by itself but is also commonly used as a hedge. It has attractive foliage that when young has a nice reddish tinge. The fruit is distinctive as it is ribbed. There are red and black varieties with the black tasting better than the red variety which is still good but has a slight resinous flavor not to everyone’s taste.
Feijoa (Feijoa sellowiana) also known as Pineapple Guava is another attractive shrub with silvery foliage, beautiful flowers, and tasty fruit. Unfortunately, it may not fruit this far south as it doesn’t like extreme heat. We have never had fruit ourselves. So, if you plant it try it in some shade. Even if it doesn’t fruit it makes an attractive shrub.
Carissa or Natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa) from South Africa is a densely foliated, low maintenance, slow growing shrub. It tolerates unfavorable conditions and is also salt tolerant so it can be used in coastal plantings. The trunks of the branches have forked thorns so it makes a nice barrier plant. The foliage is a rich glossy green. The fruit tastes like a sweetened cranberry.
Try these plants in your landscape. They will add beauty, make the wildlife happy, and maybe add to your menu. You won’t be waiting in anticipation for the fruit to ripen like mango or papaya but they can make unusual additions to your palette. Even if you don’t harvest the fruit you will enjoy the plants as enhancements to your landscape.
Greg and Linda Nelson are landscape designers who have transformed their Englewood yard using Permaculture techniques. They offer landscape consultations, design services, and free monthly tours through their business: Love Your Yard. Contact them at email@example.com, 207-449-9012 or visit their website at https://weloveyouryard.wixsite.com/swfl.