Edible perennials for Zone 10a/LaBelle

Which edible perennials thrive best in the Pine Flatwoods characteristic of the communities near LaBelle, Florida?  Join us in this journey of adding a whole new yard-to-fork grocery produce section with plants newer to most of our palates but enjoyed for centuries in other parts of the world.  We are in the sweet spot for growing great food year-round, where many temperate and tropical plants overlap. Let's go!


We divided potential food forest plants into three very broad categories to get the ball rolling.  Many plants are versatile to grow together with plants from another group, so permission granted to color outside the lines - this is a general starting place!

Group One: "High & Dry"

Group Two: "Moist & Well Drained"

Group Three: "Variable Moisture/Flood Tolerant". 


A side note about zones: Now considered Zone 10a (LaBelle city area and west), many outlying areas in Glades and Hendry Counties continue to experience the cold drafts coming down the Lake Wales Ridge, pushing the southern edges of Zone 9b down the more central areas of the state.  Many plants are happy in both areas, but some need a microclimate in the more rural areas to thrive.



Who doesn't love established plants that can survive the winter dry spell without irrigation?  These plants are generally more drought tolerant in the winter dry season, yet flourish in the lush subtropical summer rains (did you see there that we completed skipped fall and spring?) 

A side note about seasons: For those newer to Florida, we have "two" seasons - the wet/hurricane season from June through November, and the dry, cooler season December through May.  The third season would be the yearly snowbird migration of Northerners and travelers to our lovely sunny state, typically November through March.  This is when most of the festivals and markets are held as the weather is more forgiving.  Still though, no fourth season!


Sample Genesis Forest (Zone 10a, LaBelle) group one plants:

High & Dry, Full Sun: Tree Layers (tall & low trees - some are pruned to be low)

  • Moringa
  • Cabbage Palmetto*
  • Fig
  • Loquat
  • Tamarind
  • Golden Apple
  • Gumbo Limbo
  • Jujube
  • Strawberry Tree
  • Hickory/Pecan* (Canopy)
  • Magnolia (Canopy)
  • Tropical Almond (Canopy)
  • Honeypod Mesquite
  • Cashew
  • Marula
  • Pistachio
  • Star Apple
  • Toona Tree

High & Dry, Full Sun: Shrub Layer

  • Cassava (Shrub & Tuber)
  • Chaya
  • Mulberry
  • Pigeon Pea/Gandules
  • Prickly Pear Cactus/Nopal*
  • Rosemary
  • Jamaican Mint
  • Lipstick Tree
  • Saw Palmetto*
  • Seashore Palm
  • Spanish Thyme
  • Sweet Acacia*

High & Dry, Full Sun: Herbaceous Layer

  • African Marigold
  • Amaranth
  • Chia
  • Cilantro
  • Lemongrass
  • Sunflower
  • Jung Okra
  • Phenomenal Lavender
  • Quinoa
  • Sage
  • Sorghum
  • Sun Artichoke (Herbaceous & Tuber)

High & Dry, Full Sun: Ground Cover Layer (and tubers & vines, which often form ground cover)

  • Cowpea 
  • Daikon Radish (Tuber & Ground Cover)
  • Echinacea* 
  • Goldenrod*
  • New Zealand Spinach
  • Passionfruit* (Vine)
  • Pineapple
  • Adam’s Needle*
  • Blue Agave
  • Florida Sea Oats*
  • Porterweed*
  • Chicory (Tuber & Ground Cover)
  • Creole Garlic (Tuber)
  • Lab-Lab (Vine)

High & Dry, Variable Sun: 

  • Barbados Cherry* (Shrub)
  • Beautyberry* (Shrub)
  • Egyptian Spinach (Herbaceous)
  • Cuban Oregano (Ground Cover)
  • Geranium (Ground Cover)
  • Daylily (Tuber)
  • Ulluco (Tuber)
  • Atemoya (Shrub)
  • Calamondin (Shrub)
  • Chestnut* (Shrub)
  • Curry Tree (Shrub/Low Tree)
  • Goji Berry (Shrub)
  • Fennel (Ground Cover)
  • Flax (Ground Cover)
  • Dragon Fruit (Vine)


These plants need a bit more attention to not dry out. This could be through Hügelkultur, rain capturing, or irrigation systems. Keep in mind that a more developed the Food Forest sequesters moisture naturally, but it can take time to get there. Thicker ground covers, heavier mulching and plants that function as natural sponges (holding water and then releasing it when the area becomes drier, like banana plants) help balance the ecosystem.  Awareness and observation go a long way.  To keep it simple, don't let these plants get water-logged... or stay dry too long!    


Sample Genesis Forest (Zone 10a, LaBelle) group two plants:

Moist & Well-Drained, Full Sun (taller layers)

  • Avocado (Tree)
  • Jackfruit (Tree)
  • Soursop (Tree)
  • Banana “Tree” (Herbaceous)
  • Ensete “Tree” (Herbaceous)
  • Papaya “Tree” (Herbaceous)
  • Clumping Bamboo “Tree”
  • Olive (Tree)
  • Starfruit (Tree)
  • Gooseberry (Shrub/Herbaceous)
  • Gramichama (Shrub/Tree
  • Rose (Shrub)

Moist & Well-Drained, Full Sun (lower layers)

  • African Basil (Herbaceous)
  • Calendula (Herbaceous)
  • Garlic Chive (Herbaceous)
  • Zinnia (Herbaceous)
  • Society Garlic (Herbaceous)
  • Blue Butterfly Pea (Vine)
  • Loofah )Vine)
  • African Basil (Herbaceous)
  • Calendula (Herbaceous)
  • Garlic Chive (Herbaceous)
  • Zinnia (Herbaceous)
  • Society Garlic (Herbaceous)
  • Blue Butterfly Pea (Vine)
  • Loofah (Vine)

Moist & Well-Drained, Variable Sun (taller layers)

  • Neem (Tree)
  • Sweet Laurel (Tree)
  • Blueberry (Shrub)
  • Cordyline (Shrub/Herbaceous)
  • Cranberry Hibiscus (Shrub)
  • Edible Hibiscus (Shrubs)
  • Yerba Mate (Shrub)
  • Cinnamon (Tree)
  • Florida Prince Peach (Tree)
  • Longan (Tree)
  • Bay Rum (Tree)
  • Chicasaw Plum (Shrub)
  • Pomelo (Shrub)
  • Tea (Shrub)

Moist & Well-Drained, Variable Sun (lower layers)

  • Asparagus (Herbaceous)
  • Juanilama (Herbaceous)
  • Purple Collard (Tree/Herbaceous)
  • Waterleaf (Herbaceous)
  • Longevity Spinach (Ground Cover)
  • Okinawa Spinach (Ground Cover)
  • Chayote (Vine)
  • Everglades Tomato* (Ground Cover)
  • Gai Lon Broccoli (Ground Cover)
  • Nasturium (Ground Cover)
  • Violets* (Ground Cover)
  • Seminole Pumpkin* (Vine)
  • Vanilla (Vine0
  • Winged Bean (Vine)


These plants hold a special place in my heart, because the Genesis Forest has areas of puddling during the rainy season.  Being flood-tolerant doesn't mean a seasonal flood is required, but when the rains come down fast (and then do it again every afternoon) then being flood-tolerant is required for survival.  You can plant group three plants in any other area, but don't plant group one or group two plants here!  Only group three plants can handle the "wet feet". 


Sample Genesis Forest (Zone 10a, LaBelle) group three plants:

Variable Moisture/Flood-Tolerant, Full Sun

  • Coconut
  • Live Oak* (Canopy)
  • Mango (Canopy)
  • Slash Pine*
  • Red Mombin Tree (Low Tree)
  • Saba Nut (Tree)
  • Elm* (Canopy)
  • Walnut (Canopy)
  • Lychee (Tree)
  • Macadamia (Tree)
  • Red Maple Tree (Low Tree)
  • Vegetable Hummingbird (Tree)

Variable Moisture/Flood-Tolerant, Full Sun

  • Cocoplum* (Shrub)
  • Elderberry* (Shrub)
  • Roselle/Flor de Jamaica (Shrub)
  • Achira/Canna (Herbaceous)
  • Gotu Kola* (Ground Cover)
  • Frogfruit* (Ground Cover)
  • Sea Grape* (Shrub/Tree)
  • Simpson’s Stopper* (Shrub)
  • Wild Lime (Shrub)
  • Sugar Cane (Herbaceous)
  • Cattails (Aquatic)
  • Pickerelweed (Aquatic)

Variable Moisture/Flood-Tolerant, Variable Sun

  • Maya Nut/Breadnut (Tree)
  • Breadfruit (Tree)
  • Turk’s Cap (Shrub)
  • Wax Myrtle (Shrub/Tree)
  • Bee Balm (Herbaceous)
  • Katuk/”Sweet Leaf” (Herbaceous)
  • Ice Cream Bean (Canopy)
  • Chocolate Pudding Tree/Black Sapote (Tree)
  • Strangler Fig* (Tree)
  • Basket Vine* (Shrub)
  • Spicebush* (Shrub)
  • Cardamom (Herbaceous)

Variable Moisture/Flood-Tolerant, Variable Sun

  • Water Hyssop (Ground Cover)
  • Betony (Tuber/Ground Cover)
  • Ginger (Tuber)
  • Shampoo Ginger (Tuber)
  • Turmeric (Tuber)
  • Malabar Spinach (Vine)
  • Sweet Potato Tuber
  • Arrowroot (Aquatic Tuber)
  • Cocoa Shrub (Shade) Keep in Shade
  • La Lot (Ground Cover) Keep in Shade
  • Noni (Shrub) Keep in Shade
  • Monstera (Vine) Keep in Shade