Survival Plant Profiles

Growing survival crops should be at the heart of every prepper’s plans. The following survival plant profiles will give you a good start on your Florida garden. I’ve done the hard work already by testing all of these in our state under a variety of conditions. Stay tuned… I’m always adding more to the list.

The Survival Plant Profile List Thus Far


Bush Beans
Canna Lilies
Cayenne Peppers
Jamaican Sorrel AKA Florida Cranberry
Shepherd’s Needles
Snake Beans
Soapberry/Soap Nuts 
Stinking Toe
Sweet Potatoes 
Water Chestnuts
Yaupon Holly


sweet potatoes survival plant

Sweet potatoes are a great survival plant!

Share this post!


  • This is a great list! I wonder if you've looked into a couple we've found essential….Mexican chaya (chayamansa) and cowpeas (we like purpe hull peas). Our chaya plants are as easy to propagate here in SW Florida as sticking a cutting from a branch into the ground and watering it in a little. Hardy in drought and a great butterfly attractor for the Gulf Fritillary, but the best part is that the leaves when boiled (and they do have to be boiled, not eaten raw or undercooked, are a delicious and HIGHLY nutritious green staple. They maintain a rounded bush shape with unobtrusive white flowers, die back to the ground each year with cold weather and come back from the roots every late spring, reaching their same big size by late in the season.
    As for the cowpeas, the young leaves are a traditional green in other parts of the world, with outstanding nutritional content, and the taste is my FAVORITE among nearly all greens, hands down. They of course offer pods that can be opened and the cowpeas cooked fresh per batch by boiling, or can be dried for storage. AND they are natural fertilizers if the plant is tilled back into the soil, or can be used as grazing animal forage, too.
    And, though it's not as high in nutritional content, okra is a welcome addition to the survival garden…loving the heat, taking a lot of punishment, providing shade for other plants during the season, and the very young leaves are said to be good soup additions if finely chopped before adding, though I've never tried them that way. Okras we've grown have had no pests and have been really prolific!
    Love your site…thought I'd pass along these finds, too…can't wait to try canna blossoms after reading your write up on them 🙂 Thanks!

  • Your site is awesome–I'm so glad my friend directed me here. I accidentally learned how easy it is to maintain sweet potatoes/yams while growing my first FL garden. (and now I need to research the dif b/t sweet potatoes and yams b/c I thought they were yams but you are calling them sweet potatoes. lol.

    I'll be back for more info! Gardening in this Tampa climate may be hot work, but it's fun. Such a long growing season!

  • Chaya grows well in Deland if planted in one of your microclimates, although it doesn't seem to like the acidic soil of pine/oak highland forests. The plants are at my mom's house there. They freeze to the ground but come right back.

    I prefer Chaya to Cassava, only because the latter is a heavier feeder. The leaves of both are similar, but I feel Chaya leaf has a better nutritive value and can be prepared more quickly as a leaf than Cassava root.

    I would like to add two plants to your list – Katuk, which has similar climate/soil requirements as Chaya and Waterleaf (Talinum triangulare). Katuk is equal in nutrition to Chaya but may be eaten fresh (Chaya, as you doubtless know, must be cooked or boiled first [*never* being allowed to contact Aluminum!] to drive off the organic Hydrocyanic Acid). Waterleaf may be eaten fresh (especially good in salads) and two kilos of fresh leaves may be placed in a heated, dry pot to wilt and provide water for cooking. Waterleaf loves hot, sunny, fertile soil but survives 8 hours of 24 degrees without perishing. A word of caution: Waterleaf must be controlled by weeding; it is very invasive. Also, because it forms an inedible carrot-like taproot, it must not be allowed to grow near other food plants – it is such an intensively heavy feeder that it is the only plant I have ever seen that will out-compete Moringa and Chaya for available nutrients and cause their death. If those two conditions can be met, Waterleaf is a great addition to the Florida garden.

    My brother is working with depleted alfesol land in Africa – equal in vitality to depleted rain forest soil. We would love to visit your operation to find suitable plants to grow for the local villages. Is visiting permitted? (We're Pinellas County folks…)

  • Katuk will die during a freeze and come back when it warms up. However, you may need to cut it back to encourage new growth. Chaya grows well year round, but will need to be covered during a freeze, again cut it back if your afraid of losing it and it will come back. Both plants are great survival plants as well as every day plants to have in your garden. Oh, remember to cook the chaya before eating it as it does contain cyanide that needs to be cooked off. I cook mine for about 20 minutes but you can get for less time but no less than 5 minutes, and be careful not to inhale the steam. Liquid is usable after you cook the chaya, but you cannot cook it in aluminum or cast iron pots.

  • Thanks so much for all the info on your site. Only have a billion questions I'd like to ask you but I'm sure your a busy man. I'm just starting my journey towards survival and sustainable living and want to produce my own Eden of sorts. Keep up the great work!

  • Hi David
    Thank you for the Chaya and the cassava cuttings you send me last time. I started Chaya in the pot indoors and I've just planted it out as the weather is warming up, but all my cassava cutting didn't survive the cold even if i buried them as you suggested , may be it was better to buy them this month of Feb as its warming up here in Cali.
    I ll send money for more cuttings and plant them right away again thank you for service

  • Great site! I just discovered it and I'm loving what I see. I do have a question though, is there a particular reason regular potatoes are not on your list? We moved to the Tampa Bay area recently and I'm trying potatoes in grow bags and they seem to be thriving but I don't want to waste my time if it isn't going to be a good viable option.

  • i was just given some cattail seeds… you don't have that one yet?

  • You forgot to add Zuccini to the list…..That stuff grows everywhere!

    • There's a reason: if I had to eat zucchini to live, I'd probably kill myself.

      • OMG that was funny. I’m posting a link to your blog on my site and I hope to enjoy some of your vids too!

        [This is huge, because I just moved to a completely shaded location in Minnesota… so we can’t even use the greenhouse. I don’t know why I am reading your blog other than to torture myself. But I admit, a laugh like that one is always appreciated!]

        • I’m glad you’re hanging around. Shade gardening in Minnesota would be a great blog.

          • In a desperate state of hoping to garden when we moved here, I experimented with all the supposed ‘will do ok in partial shade’ veggies I could lay my hands on… all cool season crops… but not one of them got over 6″ high after an entire summer. Just too much shade.
            I didn’t want to grow hostas… which are popular here and do ok in shade.
            Will be renting a plot in the community garden across the street next time! I’m still enjoying your site (for laughs if nothing else) but I will undoubtedly learn something valuable too- because I’m pretty sure gardening is not ALL about climate.

  • I am just starting to prepare a survival garden in central FL Orlando area. Where do you get seeds to start growing the various plants. Thank you for all the great info!

  • You should add honey mesquite to the list. The pods are high in protein, produce very heavily in drought years and fixes nitrogen. If that wasn’t enough the pods of good quality trees actually taste like cinnamon honey crackers. Beans that are still green can be used like green beans as well.

    • I’ve tasted the pods before – they are delicious. If I could grow and test them, it would help. They’re unfortunately not good for my climate.

  • @Walter…. in orlando – central florida, crispy farms in apopka sells locally harvested seeds. Check out her website

    Hoover’s market in Apopka sometimes carries her seeds and you can also find them in Longwood at “Wild Hare Kitchen”.

    Wild Hare also has seeds from another local farm located in east seminole county ( I forget the name).

    Hope this helps,

  • Great site and super information… I love the camel!

    But I live in North Georgia and am a complete newbie to gardening and food production. Any suggestions or “David the Good” clones up here?

    • Hi David,

      Thank you. My recommended book list is a good start: Start with “Gaia’s Garden” for a new way of thinking.

      I’m not sure about other garden gurus in that area, though this fellow has a great site:

      The basics of soil preparation, composting and planting and caring for trees will carry over across the board; the main differences are going to be what species you can grow there compared to what I can grow here. Good luck and I’m glad you stopped by – hope you stick around.

  • I have never heard of chaya or katuck. I will give cowpeas and okra a try. My thinking is changing now because I am looking to feed my extended family of animals.(chickens, turkeys, sheep) also. We also grow guanduly bush beans. Good tasting and the animals love them. The bush grows about 7 ft and lives for a couple of years. We also grow turmeric and ginger in the perennial garden. Both very valuable for health. I don’t know how any of these things handle a freeze since I live in the tropics.

  • The wing bean vine is also great. Young leaves for salad, beans, pods and roots are edible. They have been researching themselves in my personal garden for years. Good for people and animals.

  • Do you have any recommendations of survival foods for Tennessee to plant and “forget”. I’ve got 300 acres of timberland and I would like to set out potatoes, peanuts, or whatever can grow in the wild. It could also be a food plot for deer, turkey, …etc. The timber is about 20 years old with a few open spots. Also, we have wild hogs, which might root up potatoes, roots,….etc.

  • My fave has got to be the canna! I will now look at mine in a new light and give more respect. Thanks for a great list.

  • I’d love to have some of those purple yams, and I don’t live too far from you. Any chance I could buy a few off the great and powerful food forest?

  • Hey David,I live in Milton, FL. and run a tug boat from New Orleans to Texas.During a trip I had a deckhand from LA. that had brought some Purslane on board to use in his gumbo.I had no idea what the stuff was until I looked it up.I think it is one of the best survival plants around,and it tastes great,it is very good for you also.Might want to add it to your list.Captn. Jack

    • That’s a great story. I agree – purslane is wonderful. We grow a relative of common purslane called Surinam purslane (Talinum fruticosum). Good idea – I’ll see if I can add purslane when I get a chance. Got to take some good photos.

  • I second the purslane recommendation. I found some growing in a box of dirt a couple years ago, didn’t know what it was but come to find out it was a gift from God. It’s still growing like a weed out of that box and I forage on it constantly, cook with it, put it in potato salads and other cold salads. And my little dog loves to eat it, it’s a huge treat for him. I’ve caught him snatching it from the box if it grows over the edge! Very, very nutritious for us all.

  • Have you considered dandelions? While not the most awesome food, they are indeed edible and they pretty much grow themselves anywhere.

  • Pingback: Dandelions as a Survival Food? - The Survival Gardener

  • Hi,
    Nice website.
    I’m not sure if you have grown pigeon peas? They grow nicely in southern Florida (probably ok up north also?) and last a few years. They fix nitrogen and grow in sandy soils. Although they do better in rich organic soil. They don’t transplant very well, have to be careful with the root system or they go into shock and die. They are very easy to grow, prolific and produce a lot of edible seeds. I believe the amino acid profile is pretty good. This plant is a good addition to the survival plant list.

    • Hi James – thanks for stopping by.

      I tried growing pigeon peas multiple years in a row up in North Florida. The frost always took my harvests.

      I now live in Central America and get abundant harvests from the pigeon peas I planted here. A survival plant profile is coming soon – I just wanted to grow them successfully before writing on them. They would be very good in South Florida, I’m sure.

  • Hi,

    I have a few names that you can say yes/no to… (also because I need to know if they can grow in food forests in South Florida)
    1. Persimmons
    2. Taro
    3. Sea Oats
    4. Arrowroots
    5. Guava
    6. Sapodilla
    7. Jackfruit
    8. Jerusalem Artichoke
    9. Cucamelon
    10.Strangler Fig
    11. Sunflower

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *