When Martha Stewart needs advice about how to grow edible houseplants and potted fruit trees, she visits Logee’s Greenhouses in Danielson, Connecticut. The owners of Logee’s, Byron Martin and Laurelynn Martin, are experts on how to grow all kinds of fruiting, tropical, and rare plants.
Their latest book, Edible Houseplants, is a guide to growing 46 edible and fruit-bearing plants inside a home, a greenhouse, or on a sunny patio. The plants featured in the book include citrus trees such as lemon, lime, and grapefruit. They also include advice on growing mangos, bananas, figs, guavas, vanilla vine, black pepper plant, and much more. The book contains colorful photos of each type of plant, along with complete guidelines for growing the plants.
“Because of the Martins, I now grow my own oranges, lemons, grapefruits, limes, carambolas, coffee beans, calamondins, papayas, vanilla, passion fruit, figs, and guavas,” said home maven Martha Stewart. “I rely on them for advice about the care of these extraordinary plants.”
Edible Houseplants is a great book for anyone who is interested in growing tropical edible fruits and plants. Here are some of Byron and Laurelynn Martin’s favorite edible plants to grow in containers indoors. All of these plants and more are available from Logee’s Plants for Home and Garden at www.logees.com.
Mulberry Bush Mojo Berry PP
The wonderful new Mulberry Mojo Berry PP (Morus roundifolia BonBonBerry®) fruits on old wood as well as new wood. That means this plant often bears fruit in the first year of planting. Unlike other mulberry varieties, Mojo Berry fruits for nearly five months, from May to September. The berries look like elongated blackberries that begin red and ripen to black.
When you grow edible houseplants like Mulberry Bush Mojo Berry PP you get a lovely plant and delicious berries. This compact shrub grows to a manageable 3-5 feet tall, so it is ideal for container growing. It’s hardy in zone 8 (and perhaps zone 7 with winter protection). Mojo Berry won the Plant of the Year award at the RHS Chelsea Garden Show. This European variety makes an ideal fruiting plant because it’s long fruiting, self-pollinating and compact. A plant in a 4-inch pot sells for $24.95 from Logees.com.
Grow Edible Houseplants: Mango Tree ‘Pickering’
The ‘Pickering’ Mango (Mangifera indica hybrid) is the perfect mango variety to grow in a pot because it will fruit at an early age. Plant a ‘Pickering’ mango in an 12-inch pot and it will typically set fruit at just 4 feet all. This mango tree has a compact growth habit. Plus, it’s a strong grower and is not as susceptible to diseases as some other mango varieties.
The fruit is very flavorful. The blossoms start appearing in late winter and spring, and the fruits follow in the summer months. The trick to ‘Pickering’ is to give it a bit of a chill in the late fall or winter, which stimulates flowering. For best fruit production, allow the plant to grow for a couple of years before allowing it to set fruit. This will help the tree to develop a sturdy trunk and branches to hold the weight of the mangos in future years. The more sun it gets, the more fruit it produces. Buy a ‘Pickering’ Mango Tree in a 6-inch pot.
Banana Plant ‘Dwarf Lady Finger’
Most people don’t realize that it’s possible to grow edible bananas in a pot. ‘Dwarf Lady Finger’ Banana (Musa acuminata) is a new variety that grows up to 5 feet tall. That’s about as small as it gets for a dwarf banana plant.
Byron Martin, co-owner of Logee’s, was surprised at how early this cultivar came into fruit. It simply out-performed any other container-sized bananas he has ever grown. The trunk and leaves are modest in size, making it manageable for indoor and patio culture. The fruiting flower stem displays itself beautifully, arching from the plant’s crown. The 4-5 inch-long banana fruit is sweet and delicious. Give this tropical plant warmth, sun, water, and fertilizer and you will be rewarded with delicious edible small-sized bananas. Buy a ‘Dwarf Lady Finger’ plant.
Grow Edible Houseplants: Bay Leaf Plant
Bay leaves add a wonderful flavor to soups, stews, curries, or meat marinades. The Bay Leaf plant (Laurus nobilis), sometimes called Bay Laurel, has leathery green leaves. These leaves can be harvested any time of the year to be used fresh or dried for cooking. When bay leaves are cooked, the leaves impart a savory flavor. (Note: it’s best to remove the leaves before serving the food, since they remain rigid even after cooking.)
A Bay Leaf plant makes an excellent houseplant. The plant, which grows to a height and width of 2-4 feet, is perfect for growing in a container. This potted plant can be moved outdoors during the warm summer months and brought inside during colder months. In USDA zones 9 or higher, a bay leaf plant can be planted in the garden. Buy a Bay Leaf plant now.
Fig Tree ‘Fignomenal’
‘Fignomenal’ (Ficus carica hybrid) is a new fig variety that fruits year-round. The medium-sized figs are deep brown with a sweet, reddish interior, and ‘Fignomenal’ produces a prolific amount of fruit for its compact size.
A dwarf ‘Fignomenal’ tree has a low-mounding habit and only grows 28” tall making it ideal for container growing. Similar to Fig ‘Petite Negra’, ‘Fignomenal’ will fruit indoors in northern growing zones. For the best fruit production, grow this plant in full sun. Visit Logee’s Plants to buy a ‘Fignomenal’ Fig plant in a 4-inch pot.
Red Finger Lime Tree ‘Red Champagne’
When you grow edible houseplants like an exotic Red Finger Lime ‘Red Champagne’ tree (Citrus australasica sanguinea) you get something truly unique. ‘Red Champagne’ is highly sought after for its flavorful and unique colored limes. The long finger-shaped fruit has thick skin, which keeps the reddish-pink juice vesicles inside plump and juicy. Simply cut the fruit lengthwise or in half and pop the colorful juice vesicles into a drink or use as a salad garnish.
In greenhouse trials at Logee’s, this variety was the first new Red Finger Lime to produce fruit as a young plant. Fragrant flowers emerge from fall to spring, and the fruit starts to ripen in December. ‘Red Champagne’ is a grafted plant, so you can expect fruit within the first two years. When mature, the tree will produce lots of fruit! Buy a Red Finger Lime Tree now.
Roselle Jamaican Hibiscus Tea Plant
Tasty hibiscus tea is a popular summertime drink that’s brewed from the deep red sepals and calyces of Roselle Jamaican Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa). The bright red beverage is healthy (lots of Vitamin C!). It’s a great no-sugar alternative to sweet tea or other sugary drinks.
Roselle Jamaican Hibiscus is an easy-to-grow annual plant in northern zones, but it also makes a great container plant. The mature plants grow 3-4 feet tall with a bushy growth habit. Flowers are borne in the leaf axils and typically last only one day, after which a red calyx forms. The decorative, 1-2 inch calyx has five large, fleshy sepals. These are harvested to brew hibiscus tea as well as make jelly. If left on the plant, they become seedpods. Visit Logee’s Plants for Home and Garden to buy you own Roselle Jamaican Hibiscus plant.
Ponderosa Lemon Tree
One of the most popular fruit trees that Logee’s sells is also the most famous. It’s called a Ponderosa Lemon Tree. (This variety is also known as American Wonder Lemon.) Way back in the year 1900, a Ponderosa Lemon tree was planted in one of the original greenhouses at Logee’s. Today, that same tree is still growing in the greenhouse.
Over the years, thousands of American Wonder Lemon trees have been propagated from this original tree. When Ponderosa Lemon/American Wonder Lemon trees mature, they can produce huge lemons as large as 5 pounds each! This unique and historic lemon tree variety is still available from Logee’s. (The photo at top of this story shows Martha Stewart holding a lemon that’s growing on the original Ponderosa Lemon tree.) Don’t miss your chance to grow a Ponderosa Lemon Tree.
Grow One More Edible Houseplant: Vanilla Vine
Often called the Vanilla Bean Orchid, this all-green Vanilla Vine plant (Vanilla planifolia) produces the tasty vanilla bean much coveted by bakers. It is a somewhat slow-growing vine, and it needs a stake or trellis to climb on. It is not a difficult plant to grow, and celebrities like Martha Stewart love to grow their own vanilla plants.
Once the Vanilla Vine plant has matured, it will begin to flower. Each beautiful Vanilla Orchid flower only lasts one day, but other flowers will open on the spike on subsequent days. The flowers need to be hand pollinated to produce vanilla beans. Buy a Vanilla Vine now from Logee’s.