Designing a Color Palette for Your Edible Landscape

Updated on February 25, 2017

As with any kind of landscape, a good edible landscape design needs a coherent color scheme to prevent a chaotic appearance, and it is easier than you may think. All you have to do is choose two or three colors (in addition to green), that look good together and with the surroundings and stick to those colors. It really is that simple. However, if you are looking for inspiration or just want to explore options, read on to find out how to match up color combinations and create a coherent, beautiful color scheme.

My palette: Blue-violet (lavender), orange, and yellow.
My palette: Blue-violet (lavender), orange, and yellow.

Using the Color Wheel

The color wheel, such as the one at right, is a remarkable tool for choosing a color scheme. By choosing complements, analogs, or triads (explained later) you will find surprising and pleasing combinations.

Also, the color wheel will help you stick to your color scheme. Without precise colors to match you may find that you miss your mark. When I began my current front yard edible landscape, I chose purple, orange and yellow. However, as I began planting, I discovered that the purple Thai Basil is really much too red to go with lavender or johnny jumpup in my composition. And, though I wanted to grow purple coneflower, I couldn’t find a variety that is actually purple rather than pink.

Finally, a good color wheel will help you match tints and shades that will go with the colors you have chosen. This is especially helpful in matching other features of your yard, such as your house or fence color, to a place on the color wheel.

Red and Orange: Warning!

A word of caution is in order: orange and red can be visually caustic in a landscape, especially in the hot, blazing sun. Though I was overall pleased with my original plan, I did find the orange to be too caustic and have since limited it to a few low-growing flowers as well as some seasonal foliage. However, these colors do not have to be ruled out altogether if they are colors you really love. Rosalind Creasy, a talented proponent of edible landscaping, successfully incorporates red into her gardens, often with purple and in shade. I admire how she matched red flowers with red fruit and a red bench or trellis. It is easy to recognize the beauty in these palettes, yet, I know that I do not want that in my space. Know thyself.

The Lavender-Yellow-Orange palette went well with the orange in the brick and he fence.
The Lavender-Yellow-Orange palette went well with the orange in the brick and he fence.

Before You Begin

First consider what colors you have already in your hardscapes. The color of your house will probably be the most important consideration along with colors of fences and patios. If you often park in front of your house, your car should be another consideration. If you have a boisterously colored neighboring house, you have the choice of incorporating that color into your scheme or perhaps planting some tall bushes to block the view.

Analog
Analog
Complement
Complement
Triad
Triad
Split Complement
Split Complement

Arranging the Colors

The important thing is to find a combination that pleases you. What follow are several kinds of combinations that may help you find something to suit your taste and your place.

Analog: Perhaps the most intuitive of colors to combine are those that appear next to each other on the color wheel. This includes combos such as blue and purple, or yellow and orange. These are called analogs and tend to be calmer than other combinations.

Complement: Choosing colors that appear exactly opposite each other on the color wheel, called complements, produces an exciting, yet still pleasant combination. This includes purple and yellow or blue and orange.

Triad: Triads are three colors found equidistant on the color wheel (each separated by three colors). These are, to me, the most novel arrangements. For instance, the three secondary colors, green, orange and violet, form a surprisingly pleasing and exciting combination.

Split Complement: This is the combination I used in my current front yard. To create a split complement:

  1. Choose a color, in my case blue-violet.
  2. Find its complement, yellow-orange.
  3. Take the colors on either side of the complement, yellow and orange.

In this case the split complement includes blue-violet (lavender), yellow, and orange. This explains why red and violet can work together. They form a split complement with yellow-green.


I hope this doesn't sound like math homework. Experimenting with color can be really fun once you get started. These tools can also help you understand combinations that you see that you like, whether they be around your house or in catalogs or stores.

Planting Suggestions

Color
Plant
Notes
Red
Thai Chili Pepper
Prolific fruits stand out on the ends of stems and hold well.
Red
Red Sorrel (Bloody Dock)
Perennial Green with red veins
Red-Violet
Beet, Bulls blood
Can be planted quite early, have a potted plant ready to fill the space when you harvest
Red-Violet
Rhubarb
Perennial, large leaves add texture to edible garden, stems edible
Red-Violet
Red Basil
 
Violet/Red-Violet
Plum
Small to medium tree. Color depends on variety.
Violet/Red-Violet
Echinacea (Purple Coneflower)
Perennial
Violet
Thai Basil
Strong flavor
Violet
Eggplant
Violet-shaded stems, light violet flowers, shiny violet fruit
Violet/Blue-Violet
Chives
Perennial, first to bloom after tulips
Blue-Violet
Lavender
Perennial, evergreen
Blue-Violet
Hyssop, Korean Hyssop
Perennial
Blue-Violet
Blue Lupine
Nitrogen fixer, may not be edible
Blue-Violet
Red Cabbage
Looks like an enormous purple flower
Blue-Violet
Blue Balloon Flower
Edible root
Blue
Blue Cornflower
Self-seeding annual
Blue
Blueberry
Red foliage in autumn, 'Peach Sorbet' holds on to violet-colored leaves all winter.
Blue
Honeyberry
Needs two varieties for pollination
Blue-Green
Blue Agave
Hardy to zone 5, evergreen.
Blue-Green
Blue spruce
Many sizes, medicinal use, young needles edible, comes in many sizes, evergreen
Green
Lemon Grass
Annual in colder climates, grassy texture unusual in edible garden
Yellow-Green
Golden Sage
Evergreen
Yellow-Green
Chartreuse Elderberry (Sambucus nigra 'Aurea')
Berries for jam or wine, stands out in the shade
Yellow-Green
Aralia cordata 'Sun King'
Young leaves and shoots edible
Yellow
Calendula
Blossoms used for cough tea
Yellow/Yellow-Orange
Shungiku Edible Chrysanthemum
Leaves used in stir-fry and Japanese cooking
Yellow/Orange/Red
Peppers: Bell, Sweet, Hot
Support with a stick painted one of the colors in your palette
Yellow/Orange
Marigold
May repel undesirable insects
Orange
Persimmon
Some varieties hardy to zone 6, look for self-fruiting
Orange
Peach
'Bonfire' has red foliage
Click thumbnail to view full-size

These are but a very few ideas to get you started. I originally tried to use only edible plants but have branched out to include medicinal, nitrogen-fixing, and even purely ornamental plants. So feel free to include your favorite flowers to give a colorful boost to your yard. Also, check out my hub on Designing an Edible Front Yard for more planting ideas.

Questions & Answers

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      • Organic Mama profile image
        Author

        Amelia Walker 14 months ago from Idaho

        Thank you, Ellen. I hope your gardening goes well.

      • LiteraryMind profile image

        Ellen Gregory 14 months ago from Connecticut, USA

        Your garden is absolutely beautiful. I aspire to get mine to look that way. Your instructions will be very helpful.

      • Organic Mama profile image
        Author

        Amelia Walker 14 months ago from Idaho

        That is a good point, Bella Shaikh. Edible landscapes do have the advantage of being safer for the little ones in our lives as well as showing them where our food comes from. Keep in mind that not not all parts of all edible plants are edible. Tomato plants and rhubarb leaves, for instance, are both toxic. Thanks for posting!

      • Bella Shaikh profile image

        Bella Shaikh 14 months ago from UK

        I like this concept and will try it in my own garden. I have a small child at home so its important to keep my garden edible but also pretty and practical.

      • Organic Mama profile image
        Author

        Amelia Walker 15 months ago from Idaho

        Thank you, Au fait. Your color collections are lovely!

      • Au fait profile image

        C E Clark 15 months ago from North Texas

        You have such pretty photos! I've taken the liberty of saving some of your photos to my Pinterest boards and I hope that's OK. I have saved 4 photos to my Green 5, Blue 6, and purple 9 boards. You can view them by accessing my Pinterest account through my profile page if you wish. My color boards are very popular, and hopefully you will receive many visits to this article as a result.

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