21 Edible Native Plants: Growing a Native Food Garden

Do you enjoy both native plants and growing food crops? Did you know there are many beautiful native plants that you can also eat? In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen introduces 21 fantastic native plants that have edible parts so you can grow a beautiful landscape and eat it, too.

native edible plants. Close-up of a flowering Purple Passionflower plant, Passiflora incarnata, in a garden. Its palmate leaves, dark green and deeply lobed, serve as a backdrop for the stunning flowers. Each bloom boasts radial arrays of filaments surrounding a central fringed corona, exhibiting shades of purple and lavender, accented with delicate streaks and spots of contrasting hues. The fruit features a smooth, tough rind of green color.


Edible landscaping is an enjoyable way to grow select plants in your yard that both look good and taste good. You can create an edible landscape in any size yard, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to eat everything you grow. You can grow just a few edible plants or incorporate them into all aspects of your yard and garden, including nut trees, fruiting shrubs, herbs, and edible flowers!

There are also many rewards to growing native plants in your home landscape. When you grow native plants that are also edible, you double the rewards. Some benefits of growing native plants include

  • Low-maintenance
  • Easy to grow
  • Drought-tolerant once established
  • Little to no fertilization needed
  • Fairly pest and disease-free
  • Good for the environment
  • Showy and attractive

You will, of course, want to grow healthy and vibrant plants in your landscape. Choosing the best plants for your local conditions is the best way to start a low-maintenance garden. Check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map and learn your zone. This will help you select plants that are known to perform well in your climate zone. Then, learn about the conditions in your yard, including how much sun you have, your soil type, and the general soil moisture levels. Now that you know about the growing conditions in your yard, you can select plants that thrive in these conditions.

It’s surprisingly easy to incorporate native edibles into your landscape design. You don’t have to create a single landscape style. Many different types of plants will overlap many different styles. When most people think of growing plants to eat, they probably imagine a vegetable garden. If you incorporate native plants that happen to be edible into your landscape, you can have edible roots in your wildflower garden, edible fruits in your privacy hedge, and shade trees with edible nuts.

Keep reading to learn more about 21 uniquely different edible plants that are native to North America. You’re sure to find some that you’d like to try in your own garden!

Allegheny Serviceberry

Close-up of Amelanchier laevis with ripening berries in a sunny garden. Amelanchier laevis, commonly known as Smooth Serviceberry, presents an elegant silhouette with its slender, upright branches adorned with delicate clusters of small round berries in a pink-purple hue. The leaves, oval and smooth, emerge in a fresh green hue.
Transform your garden into a haven for wildlife and flavor.
botanical-name botanical name Amelanchier laevis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 15 – 25 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 8

The Allegheny serviceberry is a large shrub or small tree native to eastern North America. This plant typically grows in moist woodlands and along forest edges. In the home landscape, use it as part of a shrub border or accent tree in a lightly shaded location. If you want your Allegheny serviceberry to grow into a tree-shaped form, you’ll need to prune it, removing some of the lower branches. Otherwise, it will develop into a bushy shrub.

Allegheny serviceberry is covered with pure white blossoms in early spring, attracting a multitude of pollinators. After flowering, the fruits start to form, maturing from green to red or burgundy. These fruits ripen in early to mid-summer, attracting birds. If the birds don’t eat them all, you can harvest some of the small, brightly colored fruits and use them for jams and jellies.

American Cranberry

Close-up of ripe Vaccinium macrocarpon berries in the garden. Vaccinium macrocarpon, commonly known as the American Cranberry, presents a picturesque scene with its trailing branches cascading over the ground. The glossy, elliptical leaves, tinged with a deep green hue, create a lush carpet. The vibrant scarlet berries, plump and glossy, nestled amongst the foliage like glistening jewels.
Create a vibrant habitat with tart treasures and blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Vaccinium macrocarpon
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 7

Not everyone will be able to grow cranberries in their home garden, but if you can, this is a fun plant to cultivate. American cranberry is native to northeastern North America, where it grows in sunny, moist, acidic bogs. To grow cranberry plants at home, you’ll need a cooler climate and acidic soil with a pH between 4.0 and 5.2. The soil should be consistently moist; these plants need constant root moisture.

American cranberry plants are creeping woody shrubs. They have tiny, leathery, evergreen leaves and short, many-branching stems. The white, recurved flowers look a bit like shooting stars, blooming in the spring and summer months. By late fall, their tart red berries are ripe and ready to harvest. Birds and small mammals will also want to help you eat the fruits, and many pollinators will stop by to visit the flowers.

American Persimmon

Close-up of Diospyros virginiana with ripe fruits in an autumn garden. Diospyros virginiana, commonly known as the American persimmon, presents a striking silhouette with its gnarled branches stretching outwards, adorned with glossy, elliptical leaves. Clusters of small, spherical fruits dangle from the branches, gradually ripening to a rich, deep orange hue.
Delight in nature’s bounty with vibrant foliage and sweet harvests.
botanical-name botanical name Diospyros virginiana
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 30 – 80 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 9

American persimmon has some of the showiest fruits of any native North American tree. The fruits linger on these medium-sized deciduous trees until late fall. Their bright orange skins are very appealing alongside the red and orange fall foliage. These trees are hardy and easy to grow and attract a multitude of wildlife, from pollinators to birds to mammals.

The fruits of the American persimmon tree are sweet, soft, and delicious, but only after they are completely ripe or overripe. Do not attempt to eat firm or underripe fruits from the American persimmon tree because they are extremely astringent, a very unpleasant sensation.

Once the ripe fruits become dark red-orange, extremely soft, and start to fall to the ground, they become exceptionally sweet. Some people enjoy eating them fresh, while others prefer to use them in jellies and pies. Either way, a mature persimmon tree can produce a huge number of fruits each year!

American Raspberry

Close-up of Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus with ripe berries. Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus, commonly known as the wild raspberry, presents a picturesque display with its arching canes adorned in lush, serrated leaves. The plant produces clusters of plump, crimson berries.
Welcome wildlife and enjoy sweet, versatile fruits from your garden.
botanical-name botanical name Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3 – 9 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 8

The American red raspberry is a native semi-evergreen shrub found throughout much of North America. It typically grows in thickets, fields, and woodland edges and is a magnet for many species of wildlife, including pollinators, birds, and mammals. American raspberry grows on long, arching stems that can grow up to nine feet long but tend to reach no more than five or six feet tall.

The stems are quite prickly, so you’ll need to choose your planting location carefully. There are several raspberry cultivars that you may find more suitable for the home garden, but these won’t be the original North American native species. 

American raspberry has somewhat non-showy white flowers that bloom in the springtime. One-year-old stems (known as canes) do not flower or fruit. Two-year-old canes are those that flower and produce tasty fruits.

Each year, these plants produce new canes, so you will have an ever-spreading patch of fresh canes to produce next year’s fruits. American raspberry fruits are red and sweet and can be enjoyed fresh, baked, or preserved. You can also make red raspberry leaf tea from the dried leaves.


Close-up of Rubus allegheniensis in a sunny garden. Rubus allegheniensis, commonly known as the Allegheny blackberry, is a deciduous shrub characterized by arching stems armed with sharp thorns. Its leaves are palmately compound, featuring three to five leaflets with serrated edges. The plant produces clusters of edible blackberries of a dark black-purple color, which are comprised of numerous small drupelets.
Embrace the wild with robust growth and sweet rewards.
botanical-name botanical name Rubus allegheniensis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 4 – 8 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 8

Blackberry plants are vigorous, semi-evergreen shrubs native throughout eastern North America. They commonly grow in thickets, along woodland edges, and in disturbed habitats such as power line rights of way.

Blackberry plants are both easy to grow and challenging. The easy part is that they are hearty and vigorous and will grow just about anywhere. The challenging part is that they are quite aggressive and can be difficult to control. They are also very thorny.

Blackberries bloom in early summer, and by mid to late summer, they produce an abundance of fruits. Blackberry fruits can be bitter until they are fully ripe. Once they turn completely black, the fruits are quite sweet and delicious. Enjoy them fresh, preserved, or baked into a pie or cobbler. Birds and other small animals will be happy to help you consume your blackberry crop. 


Close-up of a Blueberry plant with ripe berries on a blurred green background. Blueberry plant (Vaccinium) has a compact deciduous shrub with slender, woody branches that bear alternate, elliptical to ovate leaves that are glossy green in color. The plant produces clusters of small, round berries that range in color from blue to purple-black.
Cultivate a fruitful landscape with vibrant blooms and tasty harvests.
botanical-name botanical name Vaccinium spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 – 12 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2 – 8

There are several species of native blueberries. Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) are two of the most common varieties. Each has been bred to include many delicious cultivars. In fact, if you grow two or more different varieties of blueberries in the same general area, they will cross-pollinate and produce a heavier fruit crop.  

Blueberries are a powerhouse plant for your landscape. These attractive shrubs thrive in full sun with moist, well-drained soil. It’s important that blueberries have soil that is both organically rich and acidic, with a pH less than 6.0.

In ideal conditions, these shrubs are extremely prolific. Their bell-like white flowers bloom in the spring and are a favorite of native bees and other beneficial insects. Their tasty blue fruits are sweet and delicious. And in the fall, blueberry bushes put on a spectacular display of brilliant red foliage.

Common Blue Violet

Close-up shot of a flowering Common Blue Violet plant (Viola sororia) in a garden against a blurred green background. It is a charming perennial herb with heart-shaped leaves arising from short, creeping rhizomes. Its stems, with a slight purple hue, bear solitary, nodding flowers with five rounded petals of a purple hue.
Embrace the beauty and benefits of these edible wildflowers.
botanical-name botanical name Viola sororia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to full shade
height height 0.5 – 0.75 foot
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 7

You may see common blue violets growing on your lawn and in fields, parks, and open woodlands. These familiar wildflowers are native throughout eastern and central North America. While many people consider them weeds, they have many benefits. Common blue violets are native plants with pretty flowers, they support pollinators, and they are edible!

These violets bloom in early spring. Their white or purple flowers attract pollinators and also happen to be edible. They look great mixed in with a tossed salad! The young leaves can also be tossed in salads, or you can leave them on the plant as a food source for fritillary butterfly larvae.

If you grow common blue violets in a container in your patio garden, they’ll be fairly simple to control. If you give them a corner of your flower bed, be prepared to do some annual thinning because they spread quickly by seed and thick, tuberous roots.

Dwarf Huckleberry

Close-up of Gaylussacia dumosa plant with ripe berries in the garden. Gaylussacia dumosa, commonly known as the dwarf huckleberry, is a low-growing deciduous shrub with slender, branching stems and an overall compact form. Its small, lance-shaped leaves are arranged alternately along the branches and feature a glossy green surface. The plant produces clusters of small, round, purplish-black berries.
Cherish the sweet rewards of this resilient native shrub.
botanical-name botanical name Gaylussacia dumosa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 – 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 10

The dwarf huckleberry is a well-behaved little shrub native to eastern North America. It often grows in rocky or sandy soils in full sun or at the forest edge. Spring slowly by rhizomes, the dwarf huckleberry will eventually form small colonies. It can be difficult to get these plants well established unless you have ideal conditions, but if you can grow them, they are well worth the effort.

Dwarf huckleberry produces spring-blooming white, bell-like flowers that attract native bees and other pollinators. By late summer or early fall, you will see many little round huckleberry fruits changing from green to red to dark purple.

The fruits look much like blueberries but aren’t as sweet and have a distinctly different but pleasant flavor. You’ll be sharing your huckleberry harvest with the local birds and small mammals. You can eat the fruits fresh and raw or use them to make jams and pies. 


Close-up of a Crataegus phaenopyrum tree in a sunny garden. Its glossy green leaves are deeply lobed and serrated. The tree produces clusters of small bright red berries.
Experience the beauty and bounty of the Washington hawthorn tree.
botanical-name botanical name Crataegus phaenopyrum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 25 – 30 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 8

Hawthorn, also known as the Washington hawthorn, is a medium-sized deciduous tree native to the southeastern United States. This attractive tree is often grown as an ornamental for its showy white spring flowers. But this tree isn’t finished after flowering, be on the lookout for dense bunches of ornamental berries that ripen in the fall. These dark burgundy-red fruits are long-lasting, beautiful, and edible. 

Enjoy the tart fruits (but not the cyanide-containing seeds) fresh or preserved as jams or jellies. Birds and small mammals will also try to share these tasty fruits with you. Pollinators of all types will come to enjoy the spring flowers, making this a valuable pollinator plant. In the fall, enjoy the colorful display of orange and red foliage of your hawthorn tree, as well as any remaining fruits that may linger on the tree.


Close-up of male hands harvesting hazelnuts from a bush in the garden. Corylus americana, commonly known as American hazelnut, is a deciduous shrub with multiple stems and a rounded form. Its branches are densely packed with small, alternate, broadly oval leaves that have serrated edges and a slightly hairy texture. The plant produces clusters of edible nuts, enclosed in bristly husks, which mature from green to a rich brown color.
Cultivate privacy and harvest nuts with versatile hazelnut shrubs.
botanical-name botanical name Corylus americana
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to full shade
height height 9 – 12 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 9

Hazlenut, also called the American filbert, is a deciduous shrub native to the Eastern United States and Canada. Hazelnuts can grow up to about 12 feet tall and equally as wide. They are densely branching with a rounded form, making them ideal for a privacy screen or hedge row. Hazelnuts spread by suckering, and unwanted suckers should be pruned to keep your patches thinned and minimize the formation of dense thickets.

Hazelnuts have attractive, toothed leaves and hairy stems. In early springtime, they produce separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Fertilized female flowers go on to produce a cluster of edible nuts that measure about one-half-inch across. These nuts can be harvested in late summer or early fall. Hazelnut shrubs attract pollinators, birds, and small mammals during different seasons, making them a good plant for your wildlife-friendly landscape. 

Highbush Huckleberry

Close-up of a flowering Vaccinium stamineum bush against a blurred green background in the garden. Vaccinium stamineum, commonly known as deerberry, is a deciduous shrub with slender, arching branches. Its oval to lance-shaped leaves are arranged alternately along the branches, with serrated edges and a smooth, glossy surface. The bush produces delicate, urn-shaped white flowers.
Create a vibrant garden with flavorful highbush huckleberry shrubs.
botanical-name botanical name Vaccinium stamineum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 5 – 15 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

Highbush huckleberry looks similar to a blueberry bush. These small to mid-sized shrubs are native to the eastern United States and grow in acidic, well-drained soils. They are often found in open woodlands or along forest edges but will have the best flowering and fruiting in full sun. Grow a few highbush huckleberries alongside other shrubs that love acidic soil for a beautiful shrub garden display. 

Highbush huckleberry blooms in the spring. The white, five-petaled blossoms open in loose clusters and attract many pollinators. The round, dark red fruits mature in late summer and early fall. Huckleberries are slightly tart but very tasty. They can be eaten fresh or used for jams, preserves, and pies. You’ll be sharing your huckleberry fruits with the local birds as well.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Close-up of Helianthus tuberosus flowering plants in the garden. Helianthus tuberosus, also known as Jerusalem artichoke, is a perennial sunflower species characterized by tall, sturdy stems bearing large, lance-shaped leaves arranged alternately. The leaves have a coarse texture and serrated edges. The plant produces vibrant yellow sunflower-like blooms with prominent brown centers.
Embrace the grandeur of native sunflowers with Jerusalem artichoke.
botanical-name botanical name Helianthus tuberosus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6 – 10 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

This tall native sunflower is found throughout most of North America. Jerusalem artichoke is vigorous, hardy, and can become rather weedy. The bright yellow flowers bloom from late summer into fall and attract many birds and pollinators. Grow Jerusalem artichoke in full sun for the most robust growth and prolific flowering. These plants prefer rich, well-drained soil with a neutral to alkaline pH.

If you decide to grow Jerusalem artichoke, you’ll need to think big. These plants can grow up to 10 feet tall and will spread to form large colonies. These prolific sunflowers multiply by thick underground tubers that happen to be edible! Dig some tubers, wash them well, and slice them thinly. They can be consumed raw or cooked. If you are digging tubers regularly, you shouldn’t have too much trouble with these plants invading your garden. Just dig out any unwanted plants and enjoy eating their crunchy, tuberous roots.

Mountain Mint

Close-up of a flowering Pycnanthemum incanum plant against a blurred gray-green background. Pycnanthemum incanum, commonly known as hoary mountain mint, is a herbaceous perennial with square stems branching from a central base. Its lance-shaped leaves are densely packed along the stems, coated with fine, silvery hairs. The plant produces clusters of small, tubular pale purple flowers, densely packed into terminal spikes.
Invite pollinators and enjoy minty freshness with mountain mint.
botanical-name botanical name Pycnanthemum incanum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3 – 6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 8

Mountain mint, also called hoary mountain mint, is an herbaceous perennial herb native to the central and eastern United States. Mountain mint typically grows three to four feet tall but can reach up to six feet tall in ideal conditions. Like most mint plants, mountain mint spreads quickly by fast-growing root rhizomes and self-seeding. You can help control its spread by either growing it in a container or thinning your mint patch each year.

Mountain mint has a long blooming period, displaying its greenish-white bracts and tiny white to lavender blossoms throughout the summer. Pollinators, especially butterflies, love the flowers. Its fragrant leaves help repel deer around the garden and can also be used to make flavorful, minty tea.

Muscadine Grape

Close-up of a Vitis rotundifolia plant with ripening berries. Vitis rotundifolia, commonly known as the muscadine grape, is a robust vine characterized by thick, woody stems that twine and climb along the ground. Its large, round leaves have a glossy, dark green hue and are slightly lobed, with serrated edges. The vine produces small, clusters of large, round, dark purple berries with thick, tough skins.
Experience the sweet taste of the South with Muscadine grapes.
botanical-name botanical name Vitis rotundifolia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 50 – 90 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

The Muscadine grape, also known as the Scuppernong grape, is a very long climbing vine native to the southeastern United States. This plant grows in moist woodlands and along woodland edges. It often climbs up tall trees, reaching well into the canopy while its thick, curving stem branches out to form a network of tough tendrils. 

Muscadine grape vines will need a good-sized support to climb on, such as a sturdy arbor. There are many cultivars available, and you are more likely to find a cultivar than the native species at your local garden center.

Muscadine grapes are large, dark purple, and appear singly along the vines rather than the more familiar dense clusters of store-bought grapes. The fruits are round and juicy, with a thick skin and prominent seeds. Enjoy these grapes fresh, juiced, or preserved.


Close-up of a ripening fruit on an Asimina triloba tree. Asimina triloba, commonly known as the pawpaw, is a deciduous tree with a distinctive tropical appearance. Its large, oblong leaves are clustered at the ends of the branches and have a deep green color. The tree produces large, oblong fruits with greenish-yellow skin.
Savor the tropical flavor of pawpaw fruits in your garden.
botanical-name botanical name Asimina triloba
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to full shade
height height 15 – 30 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

Pawpaws are shade-loving fruit trees native to central and eastern North America. These small trees inhabit moist forests and perform well as an understory tree. When grown in a home landscape, plant your pawpaw someplace where it gets dappled sunlight and organically rich, moist soil. These trees tend to form colonies, but new stems can be easily pruned to limit their spread.

Pawpaw fruits are sweet, creamy, and delicious, tasting like a cross between a banana and a mango. You’ll need to be patient, however, while waiting for your trees to fruit. Pawpaws don’t start to bear fruits until they are several years old.

To produce fruits, you will need two different pawpaw trees for cross-pollination. Once your plants are flowering and fruiting, you will enjoy a hearty crop of tasty fruits each year in late summer. And in the fall, you can enjoy their showy yellow foliage.


Close-up of Carya illinoinensis with ripe fruits among green foliage. Carya illinoinensis, commonly known as the pecan tree, is a tall, deciduous tree with a spreading canopy. The tree produces compound leaves with multiple leaflets which are lance-shaped and serrated along the edges. The tree produces oblong to oval-shaped nuts enclosed in thick, woody shells.
Enjoy shade and harvests with majestic pecan trees.
botanical-name botanical name Carya illinoinensis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 70 – 100 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

If you’re in the market for a large shade tree with edible nuts, check out the hardy pecan tree. These trees are native to eastern and central North America and can grow up to 100 feet tall and 75 feet wide. A mature tree often has a thick trunk with many low-growing, broadly spreading branches, making this a very attractive landscaping tree for a larger setting. 

Pecan trees not only make beautiful shade trees, but they also produce an abundance of tasty nuts. Pecans ripen during summer and fall and can be harvested when the brown husk splits in the fall. These trees also attract pollinators, birds, and small mammals. Pecan trees are also appreciated for their golden yellow fall foliage. There are many pecan cultivars to choose from that have varying qualities of interest to homeowners.

Prickly Pear Cactus

Close-up of a Prickly Pear Cactus on a blurred green background. The Prickly Pear Cactus is a striking succulent characterized by flat, pad-like stems called cladodes, which are oval-shaped and covered in sharp, needle-like spines. These pads come in a bright green shade. The cactus produces bears pear-shaped fruits, known as tunas, which come in red color.
Add flair to your landscape with edible prickly pear cactus.
botanical-name botanical name Opuntia spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 0.5 – 15 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 9

As surprising as it may be, prickly pear cactus makes an interesting and edible landscaping plant. There are dozens of different species of prickly pear (Opuntia) native throughout the United States. The greatest number of species are in the desert Southwest, although you can find at least one species in almost every state. They vary in size, height, and flower color, yet all look distinctly similar. 

Prickly pears have large, flat “pads” with a combination of larger spines and patches of tiny spines known as glochids. These cacti are very showy, with large, colorful flowers and thick, colorful fruiting bodies. Both the thick pads and the fleshy fruits are edible, but you’ll need to very carefully harvest them and remove all the sharp spines and glochids to make them palatable. Thoroughly de-spined prickly pears can then be used for juicing, making jellies, and cooking. 

Purple Passionflower

Close-up of a flowering Passiflora incarnata plant in a garden. Passiflora incarnata is a vigorous vine with deeply lobed, palmate leaves that create a lush, tropical appearance. Its intricate, showy flowers feature radial arrays of filaments surrounding a central fringed corona, boasting shades of purple with contrasting darker markings. The plant produces ovoid fruits, about the size of a chicken egg, with a smooth, yellow-green rind.
Elevate your garden with the beauty of Maypop vine.
botanical-name botanical name Passiflora incarnata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6 – 20 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

Purple passionflower, also called Maypop, is a beautiful ornamental vine native to the southeastern United States. This fast-growing vine can grow approximately 20 feet long and spreads by root suckers. Allow your purple passionflower to sprawl along the ground as a native ground cover, or give it a trellis or fence to climb up for a showy vertical display. 

Purple passionflower blooms in late spring to early summer. The flowers are large and colorful, typically in shades of purplish-blue. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees are attracted to the flowers, and the vine is a larval host plant for several species of butterflies, making this an ideal plant for a pollinator or bird garden.

Large, fleshy, yellow-green fruits mature in the fall, filled with seeds surrounded by a juicy, sweet pulp. The fruits are edible and can be pureed in smoothies, strained for juice, or simply enjoyed fresh from the vine.

Wild Leeks

Close-up of a mulched bed with Allium tricoccum growing. Allium tricoccum, commonly known as wild leeks, is a perennial herbaceous plant with slender, smooth stems arising from a bulbous underground structure. Its lance-shaped leaves form dense clusters, displaying a glossy, bright green hue.
Discover the fleeting allure of spring with wild leeks.
botanical-name botanical name Allium tricoccum
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 0.5 – 1 foot
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 8

Wild leeks, also commonly known as ramps, are a spring ephemeral wildflower native to eastern North America. These interesting plants grow in moist woodlands, typically at higher elevations. They don’t grow well in hot, humid, coastal environments, nor do they grow well in wet, poorly drained soils. Ramps will thrive in a shaded woodland habitat with rich, moist, well-drained soil.  

Wild leeks have broadly flattened leaves that appear briefly in early spring. The leaves emerge from a thickened, onion-like bulb. The leaves, bulb, and small white flowers all have a distinctive, pungent, oniony scent. Given time, bulbs will spread to form clumps and, eventually, small colonies. You can harvest a few of the bulbs and fresh spring leaves to mix into salads and cooked vegetable dishes. They have a strong flavor and should be used sparingly.

Wild Plum

Close-up of a Prunus americana branch with ripe fruits in a sunny garden. Its alternate, oval to elliptical leaves are glossy green in color and with finely jagged edges. The tree produces small, round fruits with smooth, red to yellow skin.
Cultivate beauty and flavor with native wild plum trees.
botanical-name botanical name Prunus americana
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 10 – 20 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 9

Wild plum, also called American plum, is a small fruit tree native to eastern North America. Unless pruned regularly, wild plums will spread by root suckers to form dense thickets. When suckers are pruned, individual stems will grow into attractive small trees. Wild plums grow well in either full sun or partial shade with well-drained soil. 

Wild plum trees bloom in the spring. The loose clusters of white flowers are very attractive to pollinators, especially native bees. Pollinated flowers will then develop into edible fruits. Wild plum plants are quite tough and adaptable, although the fruit quality is inconsistent. Ripe fruits turn reddish-purple and are quite ornamental, hanging on the tree. The flesh is yellowish and very juicy. The flavor ranges from sweet to tart, depending on the ripeness and quality. 

Wild Strawberry

Close-up of Fragaria virginiana with ripe fruits. Fragaria virginiana, commonly known as wild strawberry, is a low-growing perennial herbaceous plant with trifoliate leaves that are glossy green and toothed along the edges. The plant produces small conical fruits of bright red color, each adorned with numerous tiny seeds embedded on the surface.
Savor nature’s sweetness with delicate wild strawberries in your garden.
botanical-name botanical name Fragaria virginiana
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 0.25 – 0.75 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

Wild strawberries are small but are some of the sweetest native fruits you will find anywhere. Wild strawberries are found throughout eastern North America. They grow well in full sun or light shade and appreciate rich, moist, well-drained soil. They do not like harsh direct sunlight or exposure to drying winds.

Wild strawberries are a spring-blooming perennial. Their showy white flowers typically have five petals, sometimes four. The strawberry fruits quickly ripen to bright red and should be eaten soon after harvesting because they don’t store well, although they make excellent jams and preserves. These plants are low-growing and spread by long runners. Use them as a ground cover or grow them as a compact border plant. Wild strawberries attract pollinators, birds, and other small animals. 

Final Thoughts

Many people don’t realize how many edible plants grow naturally all around them. If you would like to create an edible landscape, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find plants that are not only ornamental and easy to grow but also have edible leaves, roots, flowers, fruits, or nuts. Growing some of your own food is extremely rewarding and well worth the effort. Your yard and garden may be large enough to include trees and shrubs, or you may have a small space for just a few compact plants. Fortunately, there are wild edibles to suit almost any garden space. 

A close-up of blueberry bushes in large pots, soil rich and brown. Young stems reach skyward, branches sprouting with vigor. Green leaves dance in the sunlight, backdrop of blurred grasses in the garden.


How to Adjust Your Soil pH For Blueberries

If you grow blueberries on your homestead or plan to add some to your garden line-up, you’ll need to adjust your soil pH. Getting pH levels right will allow your plants to uptake the nutrients they need to thrive. Join organic farmer Jenna Rich as she discusses ways to adjust your pH, why it’s important, and when to start.

Close-up of flowering Camassia plants in a sunny garden. A small bumblebee sits on one of the flowers. The Camassia plant boasts slender, grass-like leaves that form dense tufts at the base, contrasting with its striking spike of star-shaped flowers. The flowers come in a soft purple color and emerge from tall stems. Each bloom features six petals arranged in a star-like pattern.


How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Camassia

If you’re looking for a spring-flowering bulb to add to your garden, consider the native camas flower! These low-maintenance spring bloomers send up tall flower stalks that fill your landscape with beautiful color. Join gardener Briana Yablonski to learn how to plant and care for these unique bulbs.

native plants in pots. Close-up of Arctostaphylos 'John Dourley' in a decorative pot outdoors. The plant has a dense, evergreen foliage adorned with oval-shaped leathery leaves in shades of deep green. Clusters of delicate, urn-shaped flowers emerge, enchanting with their soft pink hues.

Ornamental Gardens

Can Native Plants Grow in Pots?

Native plants are stellar additions to the garden, but can they grow in pots? Nurseries advertise natives as fussy, but that is not always true. Gardener Jerad Bryant explores which native plants perform well in pots and which ones fail in containers.

native plants spring. Close-up of a flowering Echinacea purpurea plant in a spring sunny garden. Echinacea purpurea, commonly known as Purple Coneflower, boasts striking daisy-like flowers with prominent, raised centers surrounded by vivid, purple petals that gracefully reflex downward.

Ornamental Gardens

21 Native Plants to Sow in Spring

It’s never too late or too early to sow some wildflower seeds, but spring is an ideal time to start many native plants from seed. There are some beautiful flowers and grasses that you can start early in the spring and even enjoy flowers in the first year. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen introduces 21 native plants you can sow in the springtime.

easy native plants. Close-up of a blooming Echinacea in a sunny garden. A small beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata, sits on a flower. The coneflower flower consists of a cone-shaped copper-colored center surrounded by pink-purple petals.

Ornamental Gardens

15 Easy to Grow Native Plants

Do you want native plants in your garden but fear long lists of growing requirements? Fear not! Many native plants adapt to your local ecosystem and require less care than non-native plants. Gardener Jerad Bryant selects 15 natives for their easy care requirements, their wide range of growth, and their willingness to adapt to new surroundings.