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Edible Landscaping: Hale Mahi'ai

Edible Landscaping in Hawaii

A friend asked me recently about putting in edible landscaping on his place, and considering the possible general interest in this topic, I am posting it here.

Most of what I would tell you about is from my own experience because I’ve found just reading about the plants is way different from actually growing them. (go figure!)

You have five categories here: edible ground covers, perennial vegetables, fruiting vines, edible trees and edible shrubs. For me, to qualify as “edible landscaping” the plants have to be low-maintenance…otherwise, you’re farming or something. This is all stuff you can just let grow with perhaps a yearly maintenance cycle—some pruning and the addition of nutrients to the soil. They also have to be nutritious and something you could conceivably live on.

It’s important to note that most plants, and especially trees, require fairly intensive care at first to make sure they’ve established themselves, so take that into account when you plan your edible landscape.

Now, right off the top, you know fruit trees are a good idea, but most fruit trees require maintenance, and this is especially true of many of the varieties you would find in a nursery. On this list are all trees that will do OK even if you don’t keep them up. It’s important to note that for some of the plants here, “low-maintenance” also means “potential to be weedy and invasive” so it’s all about choosing where you grow them.

I’m just going to give you the common names if I don’t know the latin right off hand here, I’ll come back and finish that later.


Sissu Spinach

Okinawan Sweet Potato

Jungle Peanut (Arachis hypogaea)

Pineapple (plant ’em tight!)

Perennial Vegetables

Kale (particularly dinosaur, Ethiopian varieties)


Poha (physalis)


Cherry Tomato

Taro (wet areas)

Niʻoi (bird peppers)


Lilikoʻi (passiflora give them a tree or something that can handle a lot of weight to grow on)

Jamaican Lilikoʻi

String Beans, Lima Beans, Wing Bean (they die back and reseed themselves)


Katuk (Sauropus androgynus)


Edible Hibiscus (hibiscus manihot)

Pigeon Pea

Surinam Cherry


Cocona (solanum sessiliflorum)



Moringa (Ethiopian variety is best)

Peach Palm

Citrus (not dwarf or other delicate varieties; too high-maintenance)

Avocado (best to go with a market-grade variety, not a volunteer; also mix seasons with your varieties)

Mango (not the common mango, which is way too big a tree)





Banana (not really a tree; needs lots of moisture and fertility: don’t bother if you don’t have a great spot for it)

“Lokelani Ranch” is a 2.37 acre homestead on the island of Kauaʻi, Hawaiʻi, located just behind the Sleeping Giant near the town of Kapaʻa. This land was originally purchased by my grandparents Kay and Vernon Barker in 1969. At the time there were a few houses around, but mostly it was surrounded by pineapple fields and pastures. My grandmother started calling it the “Ranch House” because of it’s long, low shape and the name stuck. Now it lies within a neighborhood called Wailua Homesteads, a bit of an anomaly in it’s generous lot. It is the home of Roland Barker, Lisa Parker, Joanna Faso, Wiki “The Rat Patrol” and the calico cat Kea.

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