The Most Popular Options For Food Forest Perennials

Choosing the right perennials for your edible food forest can be a lot of fun. In this post, I will give you some great examples that you can pick from. I have broken these by levels of the food forest. Of course, you should keep in mind that you need to make sure you plant these perennials during the right season for your zone and in the right location.  You can find your climate and zone information here.


If you are new to the idea of an edible food forest, you can learn more by reading How To Establish a Fantastic Food Forest Easily. That post is an extensive post that provides an understanding of what a food forest is and more.


fruit tree

The Most Popular Options For Food Forest Perennials


Choosing the perennials for your edible food forest on your homestead can be a lot of fun. This post shares some options that grow well in most climates.

Canopy Layer Perennials


The canopy layer is, of course, the tallest layer. There are many options for this layer, however, you must be sure you plant for your climate and conditions. These are the trees that can grow to 50 feet tall so make sure you choose low maintenance types that don’t require a lot of trimming.


Tall Trees for the Canopy

  • Standard Apple and Pear Trees
  • European Plum
  • Standard Cherries
  • Chestnut and Chinese  Chestnuts (need to be pruned for open spaces)
  • Korean Pine Nuts
  • Black Locust (nitrogen-fixing) (can be pruned heavily for mulch)
  • Mesquite (nitrogen-fixing) (can be pruned heavily for mulch)
  • Alder (nitrogen-fixing) (can be pruned heavily for mulch)
  • Acacia (nitrogen-fixing in low frost climates)
  • Algoroba (nitrogen-fixing in low frost climates)
  • Tagasaste (nitrogen-fixing in low frost climates)
  • Carob (nitrogen-fixing in low frost climates)
  • Pecan

Canopy Layer Cherry Tree



Lower-Level Trees for the Canopy

  • Apricot
  • Peach
  • Nectarine
  • Almond
  • Medlar
  • Mulberry
  • Persimmon (shade-tolerant)
  • Pawpaw (shade-tolerant)
  • Dogwood (flowering species)
  • Mountain Ash (flowering species)
  • Golden-Chain Tree (nitrogen-fixers) (can be pruned heavily for mulch)
  • Silk Tree (nitrogen-fixers) (can be pruned heavily for mulch)
  • Mountain Mahogany (nitrogen-fixers) (can be pruned heavily for mulch)
  • Banana
  • Any Citrus
  • Dates

peach tree for the sub canopy


Perennials for the Shrub Layer


The shrub layer includes perennials that flower, fruit, and attract wildlife.

  • Blueberry
  • Rose
  • Hazelnut
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Bamboo
  • Service Berry
  • Elaeagnus (nitrogen-fixing)
  • Siberian pea shrub
  • Ever-bearing Strawberry
  • Mulberry
  • Blackberry
  • Gooseberry
  • Currants
  • Raspberries

raspberry bushes for the shrub level


Perennials for the Herb Layer


For sake of the food forest, the word ‘herb’ refers to vegetables, flowers, culinary herbs, and cover crops, as well as mulch producers and other soil-building plants, not just the traditional herbs you may consider.

Traditional Herbs

  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Bay Laurel
  • Chives
  • Lovage
  • Marjoram
  • Mint
  • Lavender
  • Dill
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary

raspberry bush



  • Ramps
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Artichokes
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Radicchio
  • Horseradish
  • Egyptian Walking Onions




  • Sea Kale
  • Malabar Spinach
  • Chives
  • Lemony Sorrel
  • Patience Dock



Perennials that Reseed

  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Marigolds
  • Tomatillos
  • Amaranth
  • Lambs Quarters
  • Cilantro
  • Chamomile
  • Mustard

Amaranth can be used as one of the perennials for the bush layer.



Perennials for The Ground Cover Level


The plants of this layer are low-growing plants that usually offer food or habitat. These plants are usually nestled in between other taller plants.

  • Strawberries
  • Nasturtium
  • Clover
  • Creeping Thyme
  • Ajuga
  • Flowers such as Phlox and Verbena
  • Sorrel (french salad green)
  • Watercress
  • Nasturtiums
  • Nettle
  • Clover



Perennials for the Vine Layer


This layer is for the plants that climb over and around other perennials in the food forest.


Food Plants

  • Kiwifruit
  • Grapes
  • Hops
  • Passionflower
  • Vining Berries
  • Goji Berry
  • Scarlet Runner Beans
  • Chayote

Grapes are an excellent perennial vine for the vine layer.



Wildlife Attracting Plants

  • Honeysuckle
  • Trumpet-Flower
  • Jasmine




Perennials for the Root Layer

These are shallow-rooted, easy to dig root crops.

  • Potatoes
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Radish

Potatoes are perennials meant for the root layer.



There you have it. A pretty extensive list of each layer of the food forest and many perennials to choose from. Make sure you check that each species grows well in your climate before purchasing and planting. Will you be using these and others to establish your own food forest? Drop a note in the comments and tell me about it.

Choosing the perennials for your edible food forest on your homestead can be a lot of fun. This post shares some options that grow well in most climates.




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