One Hundred High-Value Perennials, You Should Know About (California) – SUBTROPICS


The uses and potentials of common (edible) perennials is already relatively known, so they are not included in this list, but some are listed here, so they are not out of sight; chestnut, hazelnut, almond, apricot, plum… Stone fruit/pome fruit, pomegranate, olive, citrus sp., pistachio, pecan, artichoke, asparagus, garlic, kale, rhubarb, ribes sp., rubus sp., fennel…


Important note: all of these observances /guidelines are somewhat relative and not globally absolute. And just as importantly; the performance of any plant will reach full potential when direct seeded (in a suitable environment). If this is not economical, then don’t go past homegrowing it, as outdoors and ‘wild’/natural as possible. Majority of modern day nursery culture is completely industrial, resulting in a lineup of spoiled tropicals destined for subtropical/temperate environments, and if you dont plant in a compost pile and flood irrigate daily, these plants will have a very long establishment period. If you raise your plants by seed, yourself, in a lot of ways they are established before even being planted out.


No specific order (everything is frost+drought tolerant unless otherwise noted) _______________________________________________________________________________________

Sequoia (sequoiadendron giganteum) – very, very large (90m+), and very long-lived evergreen tree, very important ecological function, colossal habitat value for everything and everyone, prefers summer moisture (stream-side/moist valley)

Incense cedar (calocedrus decurrens) – very large and long-lived evergreen tree, fire retardant, fragrant

Holm/Holly Oak (quercus ilex) 25m, evergreen, one of the most edible oak species, (low tannins), one of the top three trees used to establish truffle orchards

Cork Oak (quercus suber) – 20m, evergreen, 200+ years, one of the most edible oak species, very fire retardant, common in southern european agroforestry, commercial source of cork

Stone pine (pinus pinea) – long lived, edible, tall umbrella canopy, very drought/heat tolerant

Bay laurel (laurus nobilis) – very heat/drought tolerant, culinary, psychoactive, large shrub/small tree, evergreen

Chusan/ Windmill Palm (trachycarpus fortunei) – fast growing, moderately edible, tolerates cool, moist summers and cold winters, fan palm

King Palm (archontophoenix cunninghamiana) – fast growing, drought intolerant, flood tolerant, adaptable, hardy to 25F

Chinese Mahogany (toona sinensis) – young leaves are a common vegetable, fast growing, deciduous, 25m

Banana Yucca (yucca baccata) – very heat/drought tolerant, edible

Peruvian Apple Cactus (cereus repandus) – very heat/drought tolerant, edible, thornless fruit, grows to 10m, frost tender

Chilean Wine Palm (jubae chilensis) – huge palm, traditionally used for wine, very heat/drought tolerant

Jaboticaba (myrciaria cauliflora) – some frost tolerance, drought intolerant, prolific fruiting, small tree, some shade tolerance, thorns, slow growth

Golden Chinkapin (castanopsis chrysophylla) – up to 30m, edible (chestnut-like seed), CA native

Pepino (solanum muricatum) – some frost tolerance/tender perennial, drought intolerant + requires humidity, sprawling shrub (tomato-like in growth), edible, prolific

Raisin tree (hovenia dulcis) – hardy to -10F, drought intolerant, fast growing, short forest tree, edible, prolific fruiting, 20m, deciduous,

Quince (cydonia oblonga) – resilient fruit tree, moderately edible, tap-rooted, small to mid-size tree

Longan (dimocarpus longan) – 30m, evergreen, very little frost tolerance, edible, prolific fruiting, requires humidity, requires well-aerated root zone, drought intolerant

Lychee (litchi chinensis) – 15m, evergreen, very little frost tolerance, edible, prolific fruiting, requires humidity, requires well-aerated root zone, drought intolerant

Himalayan olive (elaeocarpus lanceifolius) – some frost tolerance, uniquely edible (characteristics of olive/avocado ‘hybrid’), commonly pickled, adaptable(foothill native)

Wampee (clausena lansium) – 3 to 8m evergreen, some frost tolerance, citrus relative, edible, shade tolerant

Phalsa (grewia asiatica) – small tree, edible, prolific fruiting, shade tolerance, sun-loving

Sapodilla (manilkara zapota) – some frost tolerance, drought intolerant, naturally grows to 30m

Pawpaw (asimina triloba) – small, shade tolerant tree, highly edible, hardy to -20F, suckering -understory fruit tree, adaptable and resilient traits

White Sapote (casimiroa edulis) – 10m, prolific fruiting, evergreen tree, highly edible, intolerant of humidity and strong heat, shade tolerant, citrus relative: (opportunistic citrus-like root system). Tolerant of cold/wet feet (foothill winter)

Loquat (eriobotrya japonica) – sun-loving as well as shade tolerant, edible, hardy to 20F, small tree, intolerant of extreme heat/drought, dense canopy

Tamarind (tamarindus indica) – fast growing, leguminous tree, edible + medicinal, hardy to 28F when established (frost intolerant when small)

White + Black Mulberry (morus alba + m. nigra) Himalayan/Pakistan Mulberry (morus macroura) – very drought/heat tolerant, prolific fruiting, easy cuttings, flood tolerant, some shade tolerance, deciduous, very edible

Fig/ CA Wild Fig (ficus carica) – very drought/heat tolerant, prolific fruiting, easy cuttings, 10m, flood tolerant, shade tolerant, deciduous, very edible

Grape/ CA Wild Grape (Vitis sp.) – very drought/heat tolerant, prolific fruiting, easy cuttings, flood tolerant, shade tolerant, deciduous, edible

Mango (mangifera indica) – some varieties hardy to 20F (kent and Keitt mangoes have survived hard frosts – zone 8), fruit production is a different story, but can be done in zone 9, drought intolerant

Chinese water chestnut (eleocharus dulcis) – very productive crop, aquatic, drought intolerant

She-oak (casuarina sp.) – 5m to 35m, evergreen, some species are flood tolerant, most species are quite salt tolerant, open canopy

Soaplant (chlorogalum pomeridianum) – very heat/drought tolerant, can be used as fiber for clay plaster, bulbous annual used as a natural soap

Miners lettuce (claytonia perfoliata) – shade tolerant annual, reseeds easily, edible salad green

Jelly palm (butia capitata) – quite edible (apricot-like), very drought/heat tolerant, short palm, hardy to 15F

Bilberry (vaccinium myrtillus) – highly edible and medicinal, berry bush, drought intolerant

Chilean Guava/Murta (ugni molinae) – 3m evergreen, small edible fruit (strawberry-like)

Box-leaved Barberry (berberis microphylla) – 1.5m, evergreen, commercial fruit in chile and argentina (highly edible), medicinal, red dye, spines

Sea kale (crambe maritima) – perennial, leafy vegetable, tap-rooted

Water lotus (nelumbo nucifera) – American and Chinese species both highly edible, ornamental aquatic herb

Watercress (nasturtium officinale) – very nutritious, heat intolerant, shade tolerant, loves stream environment

Canna lily (canna edulis) – edible rhizome when raw or cooked, shade tolerant herb, drought intolerant

Jojoba (simmondsia chinensis) – very drought/heat tolerant, edible nuts, dynamic shrub, high value oil (similar in function to whale oil)

CA Wild Rose (rosa californica) – quite edible/nutritiously delicious/medicinal, sun-loving and shade tolerant, thorny shrub

Manzanita (Arctostaphyllos sp.) – quite edible/medicinal: especially when used as a flour, very drought/heat tolerant, shrub, efficient reseeding/prolific fruiting

Purple Star Apple (chrysophyllum cainito) – very drought/heat tolerant, edible, thorns, some frost tolerance, fast growing, 20m

Moringa (moringa oleifera) – very fast growing, diversely edible, easy cuttings, multifunctional tree, prolific fruiting, open canopy

Tipa/Rosewood (tipuana tipu) – very fast growing, aggressive roots, invasive potential, efficient nitrogen fixer, large and long-lived, deciduous tree, dense canopy, (good avocado companion)

Catalina Island Cherry (prunus lyonii) – 10m, narrow evergreen, edible (large black cherries)

Natal Plum (carissa macrocarpa) – spiny evergreen shrub, salt-tolerant (5000 ppm), edible,

Star Fruit (averrhoa carambola) – 6m evergreen, prolific fruiting, some frost tolerance

Ensete (ensete ventricosum) – drought intolerant, staple starch crop(with work), some frost tolerance

Naranjilla (solanum quitoense) – drought intolerant, requires deep shade, edible

Surinam Cherry + Cherry of the Rio Grande (eugenia sp.) – 8m, edible, resilient fruit trees, evergreen

Mountain Papaya (carica pubescens) – quite frost hardy to 20F, drought intolerant, a little less edible than common papaya. Traditionally used in drinks. NOTE: there are several frost tolerant, moderately edible carica species, C. Pubescens is one of the most popular/edible

Moso Bamboo (phyllostachys pubescens) – very tall bamboo in its native habitat (90ft.), spreading, invasive potential, timber quality, edible

Banana (musa sp.) – drought intolerant, there are several frost tolerant banana varieties (dwarf and std. size) that are being fruited in zone 8b with a lot of effort, zone 9b with a little effort (Orinoco, Brazil Apple, Tai Black, Ice Cream, Red, Hua Moa)

Lead-tree/Leucaena (leucaena leucopetala) – very fast growing, one of the most efficient nitrogen fixers, small tree, frost intolerant, after frost it will resprout from roots/hardwood (similar to moringa), invasive potential, multifunctional tree, salt tolerant, open canopy, shade tolerant

Mesquite (prosopis sp.) – very drought/heat tolerant, moderately edible(with processing), prolific fruiting, usually thorns, salt tolerant, great fodder

Pineapple guava (acca sellowiana) – edible, erect shrub, shade tolerance

Acerola cherry (malpighia emarginata) – very drought/heat tolerant, highly edible,

Bael/Wood Apple (aegle marmelos) – hardy to 20F, very drought/heat tolerant, edible, thorns, fruiting requires prolonged dry season (6 mo.)

Carob (ceratonia siliqua) – hardy to 20F, very drought/heat tolerant, slow growing, dioecious, edible, evergreen, dioecious, great fodder

Russian Olive (elaeagnus angustifolia) – one of the most efficient nitrogen fixing plants, moderately edible, deciduous, small shrubs/trees, invasive potential, close relative to goumi and autumn olive

Siberian Pea Shrub (caragana arborescens) – 2 to 6m, edible shrub, fast growing, efficient nitrogen fixer, great fodder

Sea Berry (elaeagnus rhamnoides) – 10m, efficient nitrogen fixer, moderately edible/ highly medicinal, hardy to -40F, thorns, dioecious, large shrub, salt tolerant

Goji berry (lycium chinense) – very drought/heat tolerant, slightly thorny shrub, edible/medicinal, easy cuttings

Comfrey (symphytum officinale) – herbaceous perennial, very fast growing, medicinal, easy root divisions, frost intolerant, invasive potential

Sunflower (helianthus sp.) h. maximiliani, h. divaricatus, h. tuberosus – all three highly edible tuberous sunflower species, vigorous and productive without fertilization or irrigation, invasive potential

Mexican Sunflower (tithonia diversifolia) – very fast growing, easy cuttings, multifunctional shrub, commonly used as a bio-fertilizer

Pigeon Pea (cajanus cajun) – short lived shrub, fast growing, efficient nitrogen fixer, edible, great fodder

Chaya/Tree Spinach (cnidoscolus aconitifolius) – very fast growing, shrub, easy cuttings, edible(with cooking)

Cassava (manihot esculenta) – fast growing, very drought/heat tolerant, tuberous tropical, edible(with cooking), easy cuttings, frost intolerant

Hemp/Cannabis (cannabis sativa) – fast growing, highly medicinal, edible seeds, fiber, hempcrete

Aloe Vera (aloe vera) – very drought/heat tolerant when given some shade, highly medicinal and multifunctional, easy pup divisions, some frost tolerance

Vetiver (chrysopogon zizanioides) – very drought(6 mo.)/heat(110*) tolerant, fast growing, very strong and deep roots, 2m bunchgrass, easy divisions

Chachafruto (erythrina edulis) – tropical legume, prolific fruiting, frost intolerant, invasive potential

Palo Verde (parkinsonia sp.) – very drought/heat tolerant, prolific fruiting, invasive potential

Prickly Pear (opuntia ficus-indica) – very drought/heat tolerant, thorns, easy cuttings, edible(with work)

San Pedro (echinopsis pachanoi) – very drought/heat tolerant, fast growing columnar cactus, medicinal/psychoactive, easy cuttings

Roselle (hibiscus sabdariffa) – (and hibiscus acetosella) – woody-based subshrub, quite edible, popular tea, easy cuttings, fiber, red dye

Monkey Puzzle (aracauria araucana) – very large (30 – 40m), long-lived evergreen, edible, usually dioecious

Princess (paulownia tomentosa) – 15m, one of the fastest growing trees in the world, drought intolerant, pollution tolerant, deciduous, broadleaf,

Date (phoenix dactylifera) – hardy to 20F, very drought/heat tolerant, dioecious, hand-pollination required, prolific fruiting, easy pup divisions, pollution tolerant

Purslane (portulaca oleracea) – edible/medicinal (salad green), low-growing succulent, efficient reseeding, very drought/heat tolerant, pollution tolerant

Elderberry (sambucus sp.) – 9m, deciduous, fast growing, moderately edible/ medicinal, open canopy

Egyptian spinach (corchorus oliterus) – heat tolerant, quite edible and nutritious leaf (raw or cooked), commercial fiber, mid-size herb

Tree collards – easy cuttings, edible, perennial vegetable

Malabar spinach (basella alba) – heat tolerant, edible, prolific vine, frost intolerant

Mexican breadfruit (monstera deliciosa) – requires full shade outdoors, highly edible, house plant, frost intolerant

Black Walnut (juglans nigra) – edible, very drought/heat tolerant, prolific fruiting, pollution tolerant

Madrone (arbutus menziesii) – shade loving, very drought tolerant, moderately edible, large manzanita-like tree

Strawberry Tree (arbutus unedo) – madrone relative, very drought/heat tolerant, edible, small evergreen tree

Strawberry Tree (muntingia calabura) – 12m, fast-growing, resilient pioneer, edible, some frost tolerance, evergreen

Chinese Bayberry (myrica rubra) – 10 to 20m evergreen, edible (flesh is sweet and very tart), dioecious, drought intolerant, n-fixing

Kei Apple (dovyalis caffra) – thorns, hardy to -6C/20F, edible (small apple like fruit), medium sized tree, mostly dioecious, salt and drought tolerant

Cherimoya (annona cherimola) – tap-rooted, fast growing, fruits in a few years from seed, hand pollination required, prolific fruiting*, sun-loving as well as shade tolerant

Dragon fruit (hylocereus undatus) – sprawling/vining cacti, edible, frost intolerant, 10m

Avocado (persea americana) – fast growing, prolific fruiting, heat tolerant,, dense canopy

Guava (psidium guajava) – small evergreen tree, edible, shade tolerant

Jujube (ziziphus jujuba) – 5 to 10m, deciduous tree, very drought/heat tolerant, prolific fruiting, thorns, requires very little winter chill

Passion vine (passiflora edulis) – prolific fruiting, invasive potential

Acacias‘ (acacia senegal, a. baileyana) – very drought/heat tolerant, (a. victorae is edible), prolific fruiting/ self-seeding, small to medium sized trees, efficient nitrogen fixers, invasive potential, usually thorns, salt tolerant, good fodder

Kousa (cornus kousa) – 10m, deciduous tree, edible, dense canopy


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