Incredible Edible Shrubs for Your Landscape

Updated: Jun. 27, 2024

Shrubs you can snack on? Yes! These edible shrubs look good in a landscape and provide a tasty treat for you and backyard wildlife.

The longer I garden, the more I appreciate shrubs. These woody, multi-stemmed plants add year-round interest, provide shelter to wildlife and create privacy. And when you select ones that also have edible fruits, flowers, leaves or nuts, it’s as if you’ve won the botanical lottery. Horticulturist and author Steven Biggs of Food Garden Life grows a variety of edible shrubs such as currants, gooseberries, medlars and elderberries in his Toronto garden. “My edible shrubs,” he says, “offer bird habitat, nectar-rich blossoms for pollinators, and reliable annual harvests to eat—or, in the case of elderflower champagne, drink.”

Check out the top 10 edible flowering plants for home cooks to grow.

Edible Shrub Considerations

Growing,blueberries,on,a,sunny,summer,dayDiana Taliun/Shutterstock
Highbush blueberries

Success begins with picking edible species that are best suited for your region. Research or read plant labels to check the shrub’s hardiness zone range. It’s also important to look at the area where you plan to grow it to see how much direct sunlight it’ll receive. Certain shrubs, such as highbush blueberries, grow and produce best in full sun, while others, such as currants, can get away with less light.

Extra Shrub Benefits

Blue,grosbeak,male,perched,on,american,black,elderberry,,marion,county,Danita Delimont/Shutterstock
Blue grosbeak on elderberry bush

If you’re looking for a privacy hedge, consider plants such as shrub roses, which can grow to a variety of heights—some reach up to 7 or 8 feet tall—while offering hips that are high in vitamin C, or sea-buckthorn, a dense-growing shrub with bright orange berries whose thorns keep out unwanted visitors. Low-growing edible shrubs, such as currants, are perfect for creating bed borders or garden edgings.

Birds, squirrels and other types of wildlife also love shrubs with fruits or nuts. If you’re willing to share, grow extra plants so there’s plenty to go around. But if you want to prevent pilfering, drape bird netting over the plants or use a fruit cage.

Top Edible Shrub Picks

Highbush Blueberries

Vaccinium corymbosum, Zones 3 to 9

Not only do highbush blueberries produce a generous crop of summer berries, but they also have dainty spring flowers that are beloved by native bees, along with bright autumn foliage. Plant in a sunny site with well-draining, acidic soil, and check to see if this or any other fruiting plants you plan to grow have winter chill requirements. Most cultivars grow 5 to 8 feet tall, and it’s best to plant two different ones to guarantee pollination and a good fruit set.

American Elderberry

Sambucus canadensis, Zones 4 to 9

A North American native, this deciduous shrub grows 6 to 12 feet tall. It’s a great choice for a damp spot because it’s tolerant of wet soils while also happy in average garden soil. It produces summer sprays of fragrant white flowers you can pick for fritters, custards or garnishes.

By late summer, the purple-black berries are ripe and ready for winemaking, syrups, jellies and pie fillings. American elderberry is self-fruiting, which means it does not require cross pollination and can produce fruit from pollination with the pollen of its own flowers, but you’ll get more berries if there are two or more plants.

Add these plants to a cocktail, mocktail or tea garden.

Gooseberries

Jar Of Gooseberry Jam On A Wooden Table.Fotoatelie/Getty Images
Gooseberry jam

Ribes spp., Zones 3 to 8

Gooseberries are a great option where space is tight. The small shrubs grow just 3 to 5 feet tall and wide and are self-fruiting, so you only need one plant. The light green to pink fruits mature from early to midsummer. Grow this shrub in full sun or part shade along a foundation, in a mixed border or as a low hedge.

American Hazelnut

The,ruffled,green,husks,covering,the,developing,nuts,on,americanNancy J. Ondra/Shutterstock
American hazelnut

Corylus americana, Zones 4 to 9

This is an easy, fast-growing shrub that yields a heavy crop of protein- and nutrient-rich nuts. The plant, also known as American filbert, grows 8 to 12 feet tall and wide and does well in full sun to part shade. You’ll need at least two plants for effective cross-pollination, and they should be grown relatively close together. The nuts mature in late summer and are delicious both raw and roasted.

Currants

Red Currant Jam, edible shrubsIngaNielsen/Getty Images
Red currant jam

Ribes spp., Zones 3 to 8

Compact, cold-hardy and very productive, currant shrubs produce clusters of jewel-like fruits in red, pink, black and white that are perfect to eat fresh or as jams and jellies. “It’s a pity these pectin-rich fruits aren’t better known, because they tolerate shade and many types of soil, making them great for edible landscapes, edible hedges, food forests and traditional backyard gardens,” says Steve.

While currants (and gooseberries) were once prohibited from many states because of white pine blister rust, many bans have since been repealed. But do research before buying to make sure they’re allowed where you live. “We freeze enough currants to make loads of preserves and cordial all winter long,” Steve says.

More Edible Shrubs to Grow

309078659 1 Michele Lam Bnb Pc 2022Courtesy Michele Lam
Flowering quince
  • American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, Zones 2 to 7
  • Chokecherry, Prunus virginiana, Zones 3 to 7
  • Flowering quince, Chaenomeles speciosa, Zones 4 to 8
  • Honeyberry, Lonicera caerulea, Zones 2 to 7
  • Jostaberry, Ribes × nidigrolaria, Zones 3 to 7
  • Medlar, Mespilus germanica, Zones 5 to 8
  • Sea-buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides, Zones 3 to 7
  • Serviceberry, Amelanchier spp., Zones 3 to 8

About the Expert

Toronto-based horticulturist Steven Biggs is the author of Food Garden Life. His passion is finding creative ways to add edible plants into landscapes. He has a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from the University of Guelph.