Here is where you’ll find a constantly updating list of Warm Temperate Food Forest Plants. I will add links to detailed descriptions of each as I post them including the most resilient of the lot as observed from our own food forest garden and those we have designed. It’s exciting to see some subtropical plants not only surviving but thriving in this climate if you choose the right microclimate (e.g. against a brick wall or mulch pit with grey water)

The realisation dawned with an artichoke flower bud, this gourmet delight that had not only survived but multiplied under my utter neglect. It had been a dizzying summer in our new garden started too late to harness the mild flush of spring.

Our annuals had struggled under baking sun and then a dreary winter had snuffed out hope of even mild self-sufficiency until the following spring, 3pm the dreaded time that the flats next door snuffed out our sun each day. A year later our annual beds bloomed and tomatoes swayed seductively, it looked great and tasted better but it had been a slog against sun, wind and snail.

We finally turned our attention to our little attempt at a food forest, planted and then forgotten for almost a year. But to our surprise and delight it was not a tangle of weeds or barren earth that the annual bed seems to revert to when your trowel wavers for a moment, the opposite: parsley gone mad, banana plants soaring skyward, almond blossoming, Babaco at almost 45 degrees under its weight of fruit (despite being in full shade all winter) and green manure leaving soil moist and soft. Of course with a little more intervention it could have been more productive, but it had reached a state of balance on its own that meant I didn’t have to fret if I went on holidays, or empty a water tank to quench its thirst. Although a far cry from a true forest, our little “low maintenance” perennial garden was working.

From that moment I changed my design strategy: easy, low maintenance, productive and beautiful… a Food Forest Garden.

Now we have an exciting project on the horizon, a Forest Garden for the Flemington Community Garden. Stay tuned for more!


7 Layers of a Temperate Forest Garden

The 7 layer classification system was developed by Robert Hart from Prehistoric tropical garden methods in the 60s for more temperate climates. It provides a structure similar to that of a real forest that can be adapted from a large scale farm to that of a modest backyard. The architecture of a successful food forest considers not only light requirements of the plants, but water, shelter, root depths and other companion planting principles.

1. Canopy Layer

9m+ high nut, fruit and nitrogen fixing trees (Only larger FFGs)

2. Low-tree Layer

4m high, Dwarf Fruit / Nut Trees
Nitrogen Fixers & smaller trees
Shade tolerant trees
Pruned into open form for light

3. Shrub Layer

Woody perennial plants
Flowering, fruiting, wildlife attracting

4. Herbacious Layer

Perennial vegetables
Self seeding annuals
Bee & poultry forage
Mulch & soil builders, cover crops

5. Groundcover Layer

Less than 30cm high
Low, prostrate, creeping plants
Forms a living mulch – retain, suppress weed growth

6. Rhizosphere (Root) Layer

Edible roots & tubers
Shallow rooted, easy to dig
Longer rooted left to flower for beneficial insects

7. Vertical Layer

Climbers, creepers, vines
Twine around trunks or up fences, trellises, etc.
Habitat and food
Only in established Forest Garden, can strangle young trees


1. Canopy Layer


Alder Alnus
American Persimmon Diospyros virginiana
Apple Malus sylvestris
Arazole / Mediterranean Medlar Crataegus azarolus
Black locust Robinia pseudoacacia
Carob Ceratonia siliqua
Cherry Prunus avium
Chestnut Castanea dentata
Chinese Chestnut Castanea mollissima
Cornelian cherries Cornus mas
European Plum (Myrobalan) Prunus domestica
Hawthorn Crataegus spp.
Highbush cranberries Viburnum trilobum
Honey locusts Gleditsia triacanthos
Japanese Walnut (Heartnut) Juglans ailantifolia
Korean Stone Pine Pinus koraiensis
Northern Pecan Carya illinoinensis
Pear Pyrus communis
Siberian Pea Tree Caragana arborescens
Stone pine Pinus pinea
Tagasaste/ tree Lucerne Cytisus proliferus
Walnut Juglans
Hawthorns Crataegus monogyna
Medlar Mespilus germanica
Mulberry Morus spp.
Quince Cydonia oblonga

2. Low-Tree Layer

Almond dwarf Prunus dulcis
Apple Dwarf Malus domestica
Apricot Prunus armeniaca
Australian Round Lime Citrus australis
Banana (Lady Finger) Musa acuminata
Beech Fagus sylvatica
Cherry Dwarf Prunus avium
Citrus Dwarf Citrus spp.
Crab Apple Malus sp.
Date-plum Diospyros lotus
Dogwood Cornus
Elderberry Sambucus nigra
Japanese peppers Zanthoxylum spp.
Fruit Salad Plant Monstera deliciosa
Nectarine Prunus persica v. nectarina
Olive Olea europaea
Pawpaw, Papaya Carica papaya
Peach Dwarf Prunus persica
Pear Dwarf Pyrus communis
Persimmon Dwarf Diospyros spp.
Plum Dwarf Prunus domestica
Service Tree Sorbus domestica
Tamarillo, Tree Tomato Cyphomandra betacea
Tree mugwort Artemisia arborescens
Bamboo ‘Gracilis’ Bambusa textilis ‘Gracilis’
Serviceberry Amelanchier spp.
Silverberry Elaeagnus
Acacia/Wattles Acacia spp.




3. Shrub Layer


Acacia/Wattle Acacia spp.
Austral Indigo Indigofera australis
Blackberry Rubus fruticosus
Blueberry Vaccinium spp.
Cape Gooseberry Physalis peruviana
Currants Ribes spp
Curry Plant Helichrysum italicum
Edible Savlias Salvia spp.
Goji berries Lycium barbarum
Gooseberry Ribes Uva-crispa
Guavas Myrtus spp.
Jostaberry Ribes x culverwellii
Large Kangaroo Apple Solanum laciniatum
lavender lavandula angustifolia
Lemon Verbena Aloysia triphylla
Mountain Marigold Tagetes lemmonii
Nodding Saltbush Einadia wutans
Perennial Basil Ocimum gratissimum
Perennial Chilli, Rocoto Chilli Capsicum pubescens
Raspberry Rubus spp.
River Mint Mentha australis
Rose Rosa
Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis
Scented Geraniums Pelargonium graveolens
Southernwood Artemisia abrotanum
Tomatillo Physalis philadelphica
Wormwood Artemisia absinthium

4. Herbacious Layer

Asparagus Asparagus officinalis
Balm Melissa officinalis
Borage Borago officinalis
Broad bean Vicia faba
Buckwheat Fagopyrum esculentum
Calendula Calendula officinalis
Comfrey, Knitbone Symphytum officinale
Dill Anethum graveolens
Fennel Foeniculum vulgare
French Sorrel Rumex scutatus
Garden Mint Mentha sachalinensis
Garlic Chives Allium tuberosum
Globe Artichoke Cynara scolymus
Hyssop Cynara cardunculus
Lemongrass Cymbopogon spp
Lovage Levisticum officinale
Marigold Tagetes
Mint Mentha spp.
Oregano Origanum vulgare
Parsley Petroselinum spp.
Pepino, Pepino Dulce, Melon Pear Solanum muricatum
Perpetual/Perennial Spinach Beta vulgaris var. cicla
Phacelia Phacelia Tanacetifolia
Rhubarb Rheum rhabarbarum
Sorrel Rumex acetosa
Stevia Stevia rebaudiana
Tansy Tanacetum vulgare
Yarrow Achillea millefolium



alpine strawberry-groundcover-winter-potager

5. Groundcover Layer


Alpine Strawberries Fragaria x vesca
Sweet Alyssum Lobularia maritima
Basil Thyme Acinos arvensi
Black Cumin Nigella Sativa
Clover Trifolium
Coral Pea Hardenbergia violacea
Corsican Mint Mentha requienii
Cranberry Vaccinium Oxycoccus spp.
Creeping Oregon Grape Mahonia aquifolium
Creeping Snowberry Gaultheria hispidula
Creeping Thyme Thymus serpyllum
Fat hen Chenopodium album
Ground Elder Aegopodium podagraria
Kamchatka Bilberry Vaccinium praestans
Lingonberries Vaccinium vitis-idaea
Lowbush Blueberries Vaccinium angustifolium
Marshmallow Althaea officinalis
Miner’s Lettuce Claytonia perfoliata
Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus
Pigface Carpobrotus modestus
Prostrate Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’ or ‘Huntington Carpet’
Roman Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile
Running Postman Kennedia spp.
Sweet Violets Viola odorata
Vervain Verbena officinali
Warrigal Greens Tetragonia tetragonoides
Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens

6. Rhizosphere Layer

Arrowroot Maranta arundinacea
Beetroot Beta vulgaris
Carrot Daucus carota sativus
Cassava (Tapioca) Manihot esculenta
Chicory Cichorium intybus
Chives Allium schoenoprasum
Daikon Raphanus sativus L.
Daylilly Hemerocallis fulva
Echinacea Echinacea angustifolia
Garlic Allium sativum
Ginger Zingiber officinale
Ginseng Panax spp.
Groundnut Apios americana
Horseradish Armoracia rusticana
Jerusalem artichoke Helianthus tuberosum
Liquorice Glycyrrhiza spp.
Native ginger Hornstedtia scottiana
Oca, New Zealand Yam Oxalis tuberosa
Onion Allium cepa
Parsnip Pastinaca sativa
Potato Solanum tuberosum
Salsify Tragopogon spp.
Sweet Potato Ipomoea batatas
Tree/Egyptian Walking Onions Allium cepa var. proliferum
Welsh onion Allium fistulosum
Yacon Smallanthus sonchifolius
Yam Daisy Microseris scapigera




7. Vertical Layer

Cantaloupe Cucumis melo reticulatus
Chokos Sechium edule
Climbing peas Pisum sativum
Coral Pea Hardenbergia violacea
Cucumbers Cucumis sativus
Grape -Sultana Vitis vinifera
Grapes Vitis spp
Honeydew Melon Cucumis melo inodorus
Honeysuckle (Blue-berried) Lonicera caerulea
Hops Humulus lupulus
Kiwi Berry / Hardy Kiwifruit Actinidia arguta
Kiwi fruit Actinidia spp
Malabar Spinach Basella alba ‘Rubra’
Maypop Passiflora incarnata
Nasturtium (Climbing) Tropaeolum majus
Passionfruit Passiflora edulis
Perennial bean (scarlet runner bean) Phaseolus coccineus
Pumpkin Cucurbita pepo
Soybean Glycine max
Squash Cucurbita
Sweet Potato (‘Bush Porto Rico’/’Centennial’) Ipomoea batatas
Watermelon Citrullus lanatus
Wild grape Vitis vinifera subsp. sylvestris
Zucchini Cucurbita pepo



  1. Wow! What an incredible resource, so many species to learn more about and to experiment with!! Looking forward to hearing more about Food forest at the Flemington community garden!! Awesome stuff 🙂

  2. Such a seductive post- how I wish to linger beneath the lush firest canopy you so artfully describe! You have managed to be at once inspiring and practical; LOVE the layer descriptions and species lists.. I’ll be planting up the rhizosphere (sorry other Layers, but it’s clear who has the coolest name) with you at Farnham St 😀 And to adding to the Groundcover Layer, one in your own garden Jo (if the chickens haven’t gotten to it): Gotu Kola, a.k.a Pennywort, magical tea herb of the ages, aiding memory, complexion, reducing anxiety, anti-ageing.. all-round life-brightener!

    1. Hi Robert, I haven’t seen the fruit listed as edible, I wouldn’t eat it, perhaps there is more information on the subject in Spanish. It is reported that the bark and leaves have been used in folk medicine to induce vomiting and have a laxative effect. It is prized ornamentally for its attractive glossy leaves and fragrant flowers. I’ve heard its wood is very good for construction and the bark can be used for tanning leather. It is very hardy, but prefers a climate that has a lots of rainfall.

  3. Thank you, I’ve been looking for a list like this for a college paper I’m working. This is a great resource. I was wondering what zone most of these plants are listed for?

    1. Hi Jon, thanks for your comment, I hope the paper is going well. The zone is Warm Temperate (Melbourne, Australia) heat zone 4 cold zone 10. As this is a city it is warmer than the cooler temperate areas around (heat island effect) so we can get away with planting some subtropical plants if we place this in warm spots that receive sun most of the day in winter and/or are located near a high thermal mass wall that heats up in the morning (e.g. brick wall). There are certain varieties that are more forgiving of cooler climates as well such as Lady Finger bananas.

      What is your college paper about?

  4. How awesome! So much info here thank you for collecting this so precisely. I am starting our mini food forest now! So excited 🙂 Happy Friday!!

  5. Hiya…great blog! However there seems to be something wrong with the format? All of the plant listings for the different layers are typed vertically so its almost impossible to read…why is this? Im most excited by the listings of plants for a warm temparate climate and that is the information I can’t see!

    1. Hi Jane,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure what you mean as it looks fine on my screen, I thought perhaps it might be because you were reading it on a small screen like a phone or tablet so I changed the coding to be full width for smaller devices. Let me know if you are still having troubles and send me a screenshot so I can see what you mean. All the best in your food forest adventures.

  6. This is as is great site and very helpfu. I was looking for something like this that breaks down the different layers and provides a list of some plants to use. I currently live in New Jersey, but I’m planning to retire to the Caribbean in about 10-11 years, so I started to experiment with different plants. I’m bringing different fruit trees from around the word that fit the climate (Zone 11b I think it’s very hot year around) in the area I’m planning to retire to. Any suggestions on plants (shrugs, trees, grasses) for that type of climate? I’m planning on having chickens, guinea hens, pigeons and rabbit as part of the system. The area I’m setting up for this project is relative small about 150 by 130 or so. With a couple of small areas around the property that can be set up for vegetables and herbs.

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