80 Favorite Plants for Permaculture Guilds in the Midwest

Our 80 Favorite Plants

It is not necessary or even helpful to make permaculture plant designs complicated.
When it comes to designing different planting systems we inevitably come up with many of the same plants, project after project. This is no surprise as there are certain species that most people are familiar with and enjoy. We can create endless permaculture designs of orchard gardens, food forests or plant guilds that are comprehensive and highly functional from this basic list of 80 plants.

“A permaculture system can be as sophisticated or simple as you like.”
Bill Mollison – Cofounder of the Permaculture Movement

From our design team to you… 

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13 thoughts on “80 Favorite Plants for Permaculture Guilds in the Midwest”

  1. Omg NO!! Black locust??!! These are invasive like crazy especially in new developments where everything else was cleared. They’ve shut out the light for oaks and maples and send you suckers everywhere. Their shallow sideways root systems suck so much from the soil and make for ideal habitat for moles, voles which disrupt the roots of anything else trying to establish unless fiercely managed.

    I’ve been through it all and helping manage private and city land where these have spread taken over creating three distinct layers of invasives : locust, buckthorn/honeysuckle, garlic mustard/dams rocket….

    Please please check per state re lists on invasive & troublesome species

    1. I would invite you to be curious about why we recommend black locust as a permaculture plant.

      Personally I work with black locust in an eight acre food forest. It’s true that they aggressively spread from the roots. It’s also true that they are nitrogen fixers, extremely rot resistant, excellent firewood, good fodder, and fast growing. In any situation it is the relationship that matters, I understand what this plant wants to do and use that momentum in my system.

      I think there is a clue in your statement “especially in new developments where everything else was cleared”. Is it the plant that is the problem? Or, is it the actions of humans. It sounds to me like you’re experiencing this plant acting as a first responder to the disturbances caused by human activity, which is incongruent with the work of the ecosystem.

    1. JT = Juglone tolerant. Plant shows little to no response to juglone exposure. JS = Juglone susceptible. Not recommended to plant this within ~50’ from trunk of alleopathic tree.

  2. Love these ideas. We’re in Missouri, and we have 6 acres of invasive honeysuckle. We also have beautiful locusts, Osage oranges, redbuds and mulberries, with some pioneer plants, but the understory is completely overgrown with honeysuckle. Any advice to remove it that doesn’t involve heavy machinery?

    1. Goats will eat honeysuckle, and with time and repeated browsing can control it. With invasions it’s important to not just beat back the invader, but reintroduce and/or favor other species. Goats prefer to browse (rather than graze) so consider seeding aggressive desirable herbaceous species that will enjoy the released sunlight, compete well with honeysuckle seedlings/resprouts and benefit from the goats’ preference for woody plants.

    2. Hi Dana.
      I like John’s reply. Mob grazing some goats will put a lot of pressure on the honeysuckle but I would also look for any damage to the bark of trees you wish to keep. If the goats take a liking to those you may have to protect them, but with ‘mob’ pressure they are not around any specific trees long enough (1-2 days) to do much damage.

  3. Do you have any advice as to how to get rid of ferns? Most of our fields are plagued with them, underneath and in between trees.
    From Ireland zone 8-9

    1. Ferns like shade. They will tend to dominate in shady environments.

      How can you turn the problem into a solution? Why do you have to get rid of them? What specific problem do they cause? Are there other ways to accomplish that goal? What kind of ferns are they?

      I could suggest taking down some or all the trees to create a sunny environment. That would accomplish your goal but you might not like how you get there. Perhaps graze some goats through to help eat them down.

      In permaculture we aim to work with nature, not against. If those ferns want to be there how do we work with that force to create natural abundance?

  4. I don’t see Black Willow (salix negra) on the list. It is unfortunately dying off here in the Chgo. area. I have tried replanting cuttings from some of the old and dying trees. I feel it should be respected and saved. You can root most any plant with ‘willow water’. Cut off canes, chop up and soak in water. Use the water as a rooting agent for other plants. It’s a good water sucker for wet areas.

  5. Hi, thanks for sharing these guild info.
    I’d have a question regarding the drawing above. In the drawing the canopy tree seems to be Robinia Pseudoacacia. How do you deal with its suckering behaviour and how the fruit trees are affected by it.
    Bets regards

    1. I’ve seen black locust (Robinia Pseudocacia) controlled with mowing, your plantings would have to be designed with that in mind. You could also prune back the suckers as you find them. Being the nitrogen fixer it is somewhat of a sacrificial tree. If it’s in a place where you want to do little or no maintenance you might be better off choosing a different canopy tree.

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