Easy-to-Grow Plants for Spectacular Summer Sips

May 1, 2023

The best cocktails are made from the garden! There are endless possibilities for infusions, syrups, and garnishes that can be easily grown in your plot or patio. Planting a cocktail is an easy and cost-effective way to customize your drinking experience. From garden to glass, here is a list of coastal-friendly plants which add amazing flavors or accent for your cocktails. Many of these trees and plants can be grown in your existing landscape or combine them into a small bed. The options below allow for planting in a variety of exposures in our coastside gardens.

Plants for Flavor

Mint - Cuban, Spearmint, Orange, etc. (Lamiaceae)
Mints are a favorite herb because they are essential to a beloved cocktail, the Mojito! These herbs come in a surprisingly diverse range of scents and flavors, from lavender to chocolate varieties; you will never tire of finding ways to incorporate mint into your drinks. While you can grow from seed, mint is best acquired as a small plant. They are vigorous spreading perennials, left unchecked, they can quickly overtake neighbors. The best way to control this delicious spreader is confined to an 8-12” nursery pot and sunken in the ground to control root spread. Mint thrives in moist slightly acidic soils with good drainage. This forgiving plant tolerates all light conditions but thrives in part shade with regular water.

Citrus - Lemon, Lime, Orange (Lime – Citrus aurantifolia)
You can grow a variety of dwarf citrus trees such as lemons and limes in the ground and in large pots. Many coastside residents grow citrus on the patio so guests can smell the sweet-smelling citrus blooms while they sip their infused cocktails. Make sure to understand the full size of your citrus tree and select a large enough space or container to accommodate at maturity. For citrus, the keys are drainage and moderate amounts of fertilizer during the growing season. Citruses need a minimum of 7-8 hours of sunlight and, being subtropical, they do not enjoy the cold. Be mindful of any frost warnings in your area and take precautions to keep them warm.

Plants for Garnish
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
Nasturtiums have always found their way into many gardens. These herbaceous flowers are native to South and Central America and come in vibrant, saturated, jewel-toned colors. Their leaves and flowers are edible and add a peppery twist to your recipes. Nasturtiums are easy to grow and even do best with a little neglect, thriving in generally poorer soils than most herbs and perennials, you can find them enjoying sun to part shade in almost any corner of your garden. This annual  will generally self-seed and produce new flowers for you year after year!

Johnny Jump Up (Viola bicolor)
Johnny-jump-up are favorite edible flowers for their dainty leaves and are a petite ancestor to most of our modern-day garden pansies. Easily started from seed, this petite pansy can grow between larger perennials and serve as a pollinator-friendly ground cover for most of your garden. They thrive in a part shade environment or under larger plants and are not too particular about soil quality. Crowding is no issue for these cute cheerful flowers, but deadhead spent blooms to keep them producing through the growing season. Towards fall, let some of the flowers go to seed and you will be rewarded with new plants in late winter into early spring. While the flowers do not have a distinct taste, they add amazing color and vibrancy to cocktails, cakes, salads and more!

These are just four favorite, easy to grow edibles for the home bartender. With so many plant options for the coastside, you will not run out of inspiration for that next cocktail party!

Jamie Chan, Ed.D, is a SM/SF UC Master Gardener and the Director of Programs and Partnerships at The Gardens of Golden Gate Park and a university professor at SF State University. She is a native San Franciscan who loves to garden while tending chickens and honeybees in her foggy urban backyard. Follow her San Francisco gardening adventures on Instagram and Facebook at @FogCityGardener. The article was edited by Maggie Mah and Cynthia Nations.


By Jamie M. Chan
By Maggie Mah
By Cynthia Nations

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