This guide to edible houseplants will help inspire your indoor space whether you want to grow food indoors or spice up your houseplant collection
No matter how large or small our outdoor gardening spaces are, the popularity of houseplants is on the rise. Bringing them into our homes creates an indoor green oasis and they’re fun to collect too. Aside from being a great hobby, houseplants look incredible with interior design, could improve indoor air quality, and some of them will even produce food. This guide to edible houseplants will give you ideas on plants to grow for both decor and the table!
Guide to Edible Houseplants
The list of plants below will give you inspiration for incredible edible houseplants. I thought I should mention that not all plants will grow well indoors, though. You can bring some of them in over the winter to protect them from the cold, but they might not thrive. Plants like cape gooseberry and garden herbs really need to be outdoors to be happy. I bring both of them indoors for the winter but as soon as the greenhouse warms up enough, out they go.
Our homes are artificial environments where both temperature and humidity are controlled. There’s no wind, few insects, and no rain (unless your upstairs neighbor has a leak!). Some plants form relationships with others under the soil too, and we’re just now beginning to understand the symbiosis between plants, soil organisms, and its correlations to their overall health.
The edible houseplants below are ones that grow indoors well, and that looks good too. Each will have its own needs when it comes to light, humidity, watering, growing medium, and care though. This guide should be a launchpad to growing houseplants for more than just their looks. Houseplants can be food too!
Pineapples as Edible Houseplants
A lot of people are discovering that some vegetable food scraps can regrow. One fruit that can too is the pineapple. What you do is cut the top green part off a supermarket-purchased pineapple, leaving about half an inch of the fruit. Next, plant it in free-draining compost, keep it watered, and it can sprout roots and grow. It may take a couple of years, but you might even find that a new pineapple emerging from the top!
Grow Bay Laurel Trees Indoors
Though many culinary herbs have difficulty growing indoors, bay Laurus nobilis trees are not one of them. A good friend of mine has a beautiful indoor bay laurel that has to be fifteen years old now. It lives by a sunny sliding door and doesn’t need any special care other than a light pruning to keep it below five feet tall, and repotting every few years. It even enjoys being a little root-bound. Although larger bays can be expensive, you can often find smaller, houseplant-sized trees, available through nurseries and garden centers.
Purple Shamrock Oxalis triangularis is a vibrant purple plant that grows well both outdoors in well-drained soil and indoors as an edible houseplant. The leaves taste the same as wood sorrel or French sorrel and have a citrusy flavor thanks to oxalic acid. On an aside, it tastes very similar to the petals of tuberous begonias too! Keep this beautiful and tasty plant out of reach of pets though, since it’s toxic to both cats and dogs.
Aloe vera as an Edible Houseplant
Aloes are commonly grown as houseplants and can do so well indoors that they produce dozens of pups. You might also know them as a great way to treat sunburns! Did you know that you can eat the gel inside aloe vera leaves too? It has a mild and crunchy flavor and you can put it into everything from smoothies to salsa. It needs to be prepared correctly if you do eat it though — the skin and the layer between the skin and the inner gel need to be completely removed. The layer between the skin and the edible aloe vera gel contains latex which is a laxative and can make you sick.
Grow Tomatoes Indoors
Most people who grow tomatoes think of them as outdoor plants. However, in places like the United Kingdom, tomatoes are commonly grown indoors. You can grow both determinate and indeterminate types, but do consider that the latter will need supports. They’ll also need bright sunny rooms such as conservatories, and it helps to grow them near windows that can be opened. If pollinators can make their way in to help pollinate their yellow flowers you can be rewarded with bumper indoor harvests. Otherwise, pollinate the flowers with a paintbrush. Tomatoes can be grown as annual summer crops indoors but can survive with winter providing you give it supplemental light.
Dwarf Avocado Trees
Though you can start your tree off by rooting an avocado seed in water, it’s better to purchase a named variety for growing indoors. Most avocado trees will reach over forty feet tall, making them unsuitable for the house in the long run. However, the miniature variety “Little Cado” can stop growing at 8-10 feet tall. That means that if you have a warm, sunny room with a tall ceiling, you could grow indoor avocados.
Grow Stevia as an Edible Houseplant
Leafy, green, and amazingly sweet, many are turning to growing and cooking with stevia Stevia rebaudiana to avoid calories and make diabetic-friendly desserts. Though it grows well outdoors, it’s frost-tender, meaning that it won’t survive freezing temperatures. No worries though, since it grows really well indoors — either just for the winter or as a full-time houseplant.
Geraniums and pelargoniums are often confused. So don’t get these gorgeously scented plants confused with common ‘geraniums’ commonly grown in window boxes. Scented geraniums have deeply floral-scented foliage and flowers and you can use them to make unique edible flower desserts. The leaves are best not eaten whole, but used as a culinary herb or infused into dishes such as this scented geranium cake. They look really pretty too, whether grown outdoors or indoors as an edible houseplant.
Grow Citrus Trees Indoors
Dwarf citrus trees, such as lemon, lime, mandarin, and calamondin are relatively easy to source and grow. Another bonus is that you can leave their fruit on the tree for months. That means you pick them at your leisure and leave them as decor for the rest of the time. Citrus don’t do well outdoors if it dips below freezing, so will need to grow indoors in many temperate climates. I tend to place mine outdoors for the summer and then bring them back inside in the winter. They can live indoors year-round though.
Citrus trees are long-lived too! I’ve had a calamondin tree for over ten years and it regularly produces small fruit and beautifully scented flowers. The fruit looks like mini tangerines but their flavor is very tart. I use them in place of limes or lemons in recipes like lemon drizzle cake.
Chili Peppers as Edible Houseplants
Some chili peppers make great houseplants, especially those with multicolored peppers. Depending on the variety, you can get compact and attractive plants that have mature chilies for weeks at a time. In general, peppers generally begin green and then transition to yellow, orange, or red so makes for interesting watching. You can also get ornamental chilies like ‘Bolivian Rainbow’. It has purple, red, and yellow fruit all on the same plant.
Grow Your Own Ginger
When we think of ginger, it tends to be of their gnarled brown rhizome that we buy for cooking. If we set that same rhizome in a shallow dish of water it can sprout its own roots though. Then tall palm-like stems and leaves form from the green nodes that form on the rhizome. Ginger grows well indoors, providing they’re kept warm (about 75 F) and their potting mix moist and well-fed. Give it enough time, and it may even reward you with stunning flowers and a lot more rhizomes to harvest.
Grow Indoor Figs
You can grow both ordinary figs Ficus carica and the much-beloved Fiddle Leaf Fig Ficus lyrata as an edible houseplant. Figs grow well in well-lit yet indirect sunlight and normal humidity and can lose leaves in the winter. Ordinary figs trees produce fruit indoors more readily than the Fiddle Leaf fig, but it’s still possible! It may take 3-5 years for a young plant to be able to produce. While you’re waiting for fruit, you can enjoy its incredible foliage.
More Indoor Gardening Inspiration
If you’re looking for more houseplant and indoor gardening inspiration, check out these other ideas.
- Make a Sea Glass Succulent Terrarium
- Houseplants that are Toxic to Cats
- Separating and Repotting Aloe Vera Babies