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When looking for fruiting ground covers, it’s clear you’re after something that grows low to the ground, just as edible and delicious as strawberries, but want to find anything else other than strawberries!
I’ve included all the tastiest low-growing fruits that mature no higher than 1 foot tall and are all great as ground covers.
If you think I’ve missed a fruiting ground cover in this post, or you found it helpful, please let me know in a comment at the end!
Disclaimer: Food Forest Living or its authors are not responsible for what you choose to consume. Do your own research before consuming as an “edible” or using any herb for medicine. Before planting any of these options check with your local invasive plant council or regional extension office for guidance on plants that may be invasive in your area.
For those who need more edible options in cold climates, see:
- What it Costs to Grow Mushrooms (mushrooms are a fruit, right?!)
- Zone 3 Forest Garden Edible Plant List (Sorted By Layer)
- Zone 2 Edible Food Forest Full Plant List (Sorted By Layer)
Ground cherry (Physalis pubescens)
Many kinds of ground cherries are sold and grown regardless of the zone! They are fast-growing annuals with fruits that come pre-wrapped by themselves. The little lanterns hold a tart-tasting yellow-orange “cherry” inside that becomes deliciously bitter-sweet if you can actually get them ripe!
They ripen after falling off the vine, but for us, the squirrels love them too so we don’t always find them first. We also haven’t tried too hard.
Eat them raw or turn them into something else. Something I’d love to try is a ground cherry sauce.
Our ground cherries crawl and stay low to the ground around 8 inches to a foot tall.
They’ll grow in full sun or partial shade and like moist well-drained soil.
Chinese Lantern (Physalis alkekengi)
If you’d rather have a perennial ground cherry, this is the one. Some people say they dislike the taste or that they are tasteless, however, it seems to be pretty mixed, maybe it’s the same as the annuals. I don’t believe we have this variety so I can’t chime in on the flavor of the fruit but if you have please leave a comment!
In the photo, you can see how they are a ground cover!
Small Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos)
Like highbush cranberries, these small ones are also high in pectin. Enjoy the pleasant flavor raw or cooked to thicken up low-pectin fruits in jams and sauces. Medicinal qualities are similar to bilberries and crowberries (mentioned ahead).
When thriving in full sun or partial shade with moist or wet soil, they cover the ground like a carpet.
They spread via runners at a distance from the main plant. The main plant reaches a low height of 4 inches with cute foliage and trails quickly.
for zones 7-10 this article includes a similar cranberry ground cover variety special for you, and plenty more edible options!
Creeping Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
When I first saw wintergreen growing by the bunkie I was so excited to taste the berries because they smelt divine!
I was prepared to pop the most pure-tasting non-fake wintergreen flavored ‘gum’ into my mouth only to find that it was quite bland.
They are growing in full-shade and partial-shade areas (often under trees) and are between 4 and 8 inches in height.
The plant is wonderfully fragrant and evergreen.
Creeping Blueberry (Vaccinium crassifolium)
This article was originally published on foodforestliving.com. If it is now published on any other site, it was done without permission from the copyright owner.
Creeping blueberry fruit can be eaten raw or cooked and is described as apparently sweet but mild in flavor.
This evergreen creeper grows up to 4 inches and focuses on trailing length along the ground. Used as a carpet-forming ground cover. It’s suitable for drought-tolerant gardens, native/pollinator gardens, rock gardens, and winter gardens.
Like upright blueberry shrubs, acidic and moist soil is a preference. Grows well in like shade but, of course, more sun means more fruit.
Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)
The fruit is much sweeter and more flavorful than the creeping blueberry. Lowbush varieties are highly cultivated for food production in North America.
This low-growing shrub is deciduous and not often used ‘as’ a ground cover, more for fruit cultivation. But many can be planted which will, in effect, cover the ground with tasty and palatable fruit to eat!
Varieties can range from 8 inches to 24 inches tall at maturity. Like other blueberries, acidic an moist soil is preferred. It grows well with some shade, but more sun means more fruit.
Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula)
Creeping “snowberry” produces white berries with a wintergreen mint taste. The leaves can also be used to make a mild minty tea. We find the flavor of leaves seems to be most potent at the peak of summer before flowering.
This plant hugs the ground growing up to 4 inches high and creeps around into a dense mat. Its fast-growing nature makes it an excellent ground cover.
Moist or wet soils in semi-shaded situations are the preferences.
Trailing Strawberry Leaf Raspberry (Rubus pedatus)
The fruits are said to be tasty and delicious—I’d love to try one myself. It’s a creeping type of raspberry but has strawberry commonly in the name variations due to the foliage having a strawberry-like appearance.
The height of this trailing ground cover stays under 1 foot. This plant prefers semi-shade and moist soil.
Strawberry-Raspberry (Rubus illecebrosus)
Okay, now, strawberry-raspberry… is named this because the fruit of this raspberry plant appears much like a strawberry while the leaves remain raspberry-looking—Opposite to the ‘strawberry leaf raspberry.’
As amazing as this sounds, the raw fruit has been described to taste disappointingly sweet. When cooked, however, the sweetness is useful and blandness isn’t noticed.
while used as a ground cover in food forests, these plants can spread and become invasive in an ideal situation so carefully evaluate your needs and local ecology.
Nepalese Raspberry (Rubus nepalensis)
Flavorful fruit can be eaten raw or used in cooking. Like regular raspberry plants, the leaves can also be used for tea. I’m unsure, however, if they have the same medicinal qualities as regular raspberries.
This creeping raspberry is often used as a ground cover under a tree or shrub canopy. This plant thrives in well-draining soils with partial shade conditions.
Creeping Dogwood (Cornus canadensis)
Although the fruit can be pleasant, and rich in pectin, it’s often used more as an attractive ground cover beneficial for wildlife.
This ground cover spreads via runners and grows to about 8 inches or a foot in height. A shady or partially shaded canopy is best but full sun is also suitable.
Creeping dogwood also grows well in heavy clay. If you have heavy clay, see more clay ground cover options here.
Obviously, strawberries make this list. As you can see many variations have less substantial fruit in flavor and size than strawberries offer. So while you may already have strawberries as a ground cover, perhaps you might want other varieties to try?
If not, keep scrolling for some more fruiting ground covers.
If you aren’t growing strawberries, and you like them, do grow them! There’s nothing like eating pesticide-free and freshly picked strawberries from the plant. This is a classic low-growing ground cover often used in food forests.
Loads of types of strawberry varieties exist so plenty of options exist within one type of plant!
Kamchatka Bilberry (Vaccinium praestans)
Bilberry fruit is apparently delicious and somewhat like strawberry in flavor, and look at that, the foliage is so different looking. If you love strawberries and would like foliage variation in your food forest, this might be a great pick for you.
This ground cover is often used for decorative foliage and grows to about 8 inches tall. It enjoys moist soils with good drainage and dislikes drought. Semi-shade or full sun are good positions.
Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum)
The fruit of crowberry is enjoyed by plenty of wildlife. While we humans don’t tend to find them amazingly pleasant or palatable raw and alone, they do have high nutritional value and medicinal uses.
As a ground cover it’s a different-looking texture to add to the ‘scape or forest garden. It prefers moist loose soils in a bit of shade. Hiding them under a dappled canopy might increase the chances of you getting to that valuable fruit first before the birds and such!
Dwarf Huckleberry (Gaylussacia dumosa)
“Huckleberry” pie is a thing because of huckleberries! Berries can also be raw, but probably taste better made into a pie filling.
Huckleberries aren’t generally regarded as a ground cover but they do cover ground effectively when planted and this dwarf variety is low growing. The height stays around 1 foot tall and produces clusters of flowers for essential pollinators and predators.
Huckleberry plants make great additions to edible, native, or pollinator gardens.
Partial shade or full sun in moist but well-draining soil is suitable.
Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)
A medicinal and edible trailing ground cover that produces fragrant flowers but tasteless red berries. The leaves can be used to make tea.
Partridgeberry grows no more than 2-4 inches tall and trails along the ground into a dense broad-leaved evergreen mat. The foliage and flowers are very cute. Full shade, partial shade, or no shade are all fine positions.
A good choice for filling smaller spaces such as a rock garden, or including in a winter garden as the berries stay on the plant well into winter providing a source of food for birds and mammals.
This plant is often confused with Lingonberry (below) I’ve detailed a better comparison between the two in this post.
Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)
Lingonberries produce clusters of fruit with a similar taste to cranberries. It grows well in partial shade but more sun means more tasty fruit! The fruit also stays on well into winter providing food for wildlife or frozen treats for you. Medicinal qualities as well.
A more bushy evergreen ground cover that spreads via runners and stands 1 foot tall or less. Moist and well-drained soil is preferred.
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Okay, this may be another not-so-tasty fruiting ground cover, but I can’t make the headline too long and add “or medicinal” in there too! I think medicinal plants are just as important as tasty edibles. Similar to the “strawberry-raspberry” the sweetness of this fruit stands out with cooking.
It’s a slow-growing low-growing creeping evergreen ground cover. Grows to about 8 inches in height. Preferring moist soil and grows in full shade to no shade conditions. Beautiful foliage, flowers, and berries.
A great choice for pollinator, edible, rock, or winter gardens.
Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
The berry of cloudberry looks like a cloud as it’s similar but more exaggerated than a raspberry. Cloudberries are orange and while raspberries are made up of a whole bunch of smaller single berries to make up a whole berry—as you can see in the photo, cloudberries have fewer but bigger single berries that make up the whole “cloud.”
A delicious and highly nutritional berry. Also found growing naturally next to bilberries so may be great companions in the food forest—if you try it let us know, and we will too if we do!
Cloudberry plants grow up to 1ft in height and are spread by rhizomatous roots. Place them in a sunny or semi-shaded area.
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