Ground Plum (Astragalus Crassicarpus)

Plant: Table of Contents

Ground Plum (Astragalus crassicarpus): A Guide to Cultivation and Care

Welcome to our comprehensive guide to understanding and cultivating the ground plum, scientifically known as Astragalus crassicarpus. This native North American plant is a member of the legume family, Fabaceae, and is known for its ecological significance, culinary and medicinal uses, as well as its role in landscaping and ecological restoration.

Throughout this guide, we will delve into various aspects related to the ground plum, including its cultural preferences, uses, ecological value, care requirements, and much more. So, let’s embark on an exploration of this fascinating plant and uncover the secrets of its successful cultivation.

What is Ground Plum (Astragalus crassicarpus)?

The ground plum, or Astragalus crassicarpus, is a perennial herbaceous plant that is native to the central region of North America. This plant is a member of the Astragalus genus, which comprises over 2,500 species and is known for its nitrogen-fixing abilities, making it valuable for soil improvement and ecological restoration.

The ground plum is characterized by its pinnate leaves, distinctive flowers, and later, by its elongated pods containing seeds. It can be found in various habitats, including prairies, open woodlands, and roadsides, where it plays an essential role in supporting local ecosystems and providing nectar for pollinators.

Key Takeaways – Ground Plum (Astragalus crassicarpus)

Before we delve into the details of cultivating and caring for ground plums, let’s explore the key takeaways associated with this plant, each of which provides valuable insights into its significance and uses:

  • Ground Plum benefits
  • Astragalus crassicarpus uses
  • Ground plum plant care
  • Astragalus crassicarpus cultivation
  • Ground Plum propagation methods
  • Astragalus crassicarpus growing tips
  • Ground Plum medicinal properties
  • Astragalus crassicarpus herbal remedies
  • Ground Plum drought tolerance
  • Astragalus crassicarpus native habitat
  • Ground Plum ecological value
  • Astragalus crassicarpus wildlife interactions
  • Ground Plum gardening ideas
  • Astragalus crassicarpus landscape uses
  • Ground Plum soil requirements
  • Astragalus crassicarpus companion planting
  • Ground Plum perennial plant
  • Astragalus crassicarpus flowering period
  • Ground Plum natural pest control
  • Astragalus crassicarpus pollinator attractor
  • Ground Plum ground cover
  • Astragalus crassicarpus erosion control
  • Ground Plum conservation status
  • Astragalus crassicarpus endangered species
  • Ground Plum ecological restoration
  • Astragalus crassicarpus ethnobotanical uses
  • Ground Plum culinary uses
  • Astragalus crassicarpus traditional medicine
  • Ground Plum landscape design
  • Astragalus crassicarpus drought-tolerant plant
  • Ground Plum native American folklore
  • Astragalus crassicarpus ethnobotanical importance
  • Ground Plum ecological significance
  • Astragalus crassicarpus nitrogen fixation
  • Ground Plum root system
  • Astragalus crassicarpus wildlife habitat
  • Ground Plum soil stabilization
  • Astragalus crassicarpus nitrogen-fixing legume
  • Ground Plum xeriscaping
  • Astragalus crassicarpus prairie restoration
  • Ground Plum traditional remedies
  • Astragalus crassicarpus ecological benefits
  • Ground Plum plant description
  • Astragalus crassicarpus medicinal uses
  • Ground Plum plant family
  • Astragalus crassicarpus landscape design
  • Ground Plum drought-resistant plant
  • Astragalus crassicarpus native range
  • Ground Plum soil preference
  • Astragalus crassicarpus germination process

Now, let’s further explore these takeaways in the context of its culture, uses, care requirements, and much more.


Understanding the cultural preferences and requirements of the ground plum is essential for successfully cultivating and maintaining this plant. The following factors play a crucial role in the culture of Astragalus crassicarpus:

  • Water: Ground plums are relatively drought-tolerant once established, preferring well-drained soils and moderate moisture levels. In the absence of rainfall, supplemental watering during dry periods can promote healthier growth and flowering.

  • Sunlight: This plant thrives in full sun to partial shade. Adequate sunlight is essential for its growth and flowering, making it a suitable choice for open landscapes and gardens with ample sun exposure.

  • Fertilizer: Minimal fertilizer is generally required for ground plum, especially if grown in natural prairie or woodland settings. However, if the soil is lacking in essential nutrients, a balanced, slow-release fertilizer can be applied in moderation during the growing season.

  • Soil: Ground plums prefer well-drained, sandy or loamy soils with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. These plants are adapted to various soil types and can thrive in nutrient-poor conditions, making them suitable for naturalistic landscapes and low-maintenance gardens.


The ground plum, also known as buffalo bean or ground-plum milkvetch, has a rich history of traditional uses and ecological benefits. Its diverse uses range from culinary and medicinal applications to ecological restoration and landscaping. Let’s explore the various uses of Astragalus crassicarpus in more detail:

  • Culinary Uses: Historically, the ground plum has been used by indigenous communities as a food source, as the pods are edible and were consumed by Native American tribes. However, it’s important to note that while ground plums are edible, caution should be exercised, and consultation with a knowledgeable forager or botanist is recommended before consumption.

  • Medicinal Uses: Within traditional medicine, certain parts of Astragalus crassicarpus have been used for their potential medicinal properties. While research on its medicinal uses is ongoing, some believe that the plant may have properties that support immune function and overall well-being.

  • Wildlife Habitat: Ground plums are valuable components of prairie ecosystems, providing nectar for pollinators and serving as a food source for various wildlife species. Its ability to fix nitrogen also contributes to soil fertility, supporting the growth of other plant species within its vicinity.

  • Landscaping: Due to its drought tolerance and ecological value, the ground plum is increasingly being incorporated into xeriscapes, restoration projects, and naturalistic landscaping designs, where it contributes to the ecological functionality of the landscape.


Understanding the water requirements of ground plum is essential for promoting its healthy growth and vitality. The following key points should be considered when watering Astragalus crassicarpus:

  • Establishment Phase: During the initial establishment phase, ground plums may benefit from regular watering to ensure the development of a strong root system. Keep the soil evenly moist, but avoid waterlogging, which can be detrimental to the plant’s health.

  • Mature Plants: Once established, ground plums exhibit moderate drought tolerance and require less frequent watering. As a guideline, provide water during prolonged dry periods, ensuring that the soil is allowed to dry out between watering intervals.

  • Soil Moisture: While ground plums prefer moderate moisture levels, they are adapted to survive in drier conditions. Conserving water and allowing the natural cycle of soil moisture to influence plant growth can promote the resilience and sustainability of these plants in the landscape.


Proper sunlight exposure is crucial for the healthy growth and flowering of ground plums. Consider the following factors related to sunlight requirements for Astragalus crassicarpus:

  • Full Sun: Ground plums thrive in full sun, where they have access to direct sunlight for the majority of the day. When grown in a full-sun setting, these plants are more likely to exhibit robust growth and prolific flowering, enhancing their visual appeal in the landscape.

  • Partial Shade: While ground plums prefer full sun, they can also tolerate partial shade, especially in regions characterized by intense heat or prolonged sunlight exposure. In such conditions, the partial shade can offer protection from extreme heat and aid in conserving soil moisture.

  • Site Selection: When selecting a site for planting ground plums, prioritize locations that receive ample sunlight, such as open meadows, prairies, or garden beds with minimal shade interference. This will ensure that the plants receive the light they need to thrive.


Understanding the appropriate use of fertilizers for ground plum cultivation can contribute to the plant’s overall health and vigor. Consider the following guidelines when considering fertilization for Astragalus crassicarpus:

  • Minimal Fertilization: Ground plums are adapted to survive in nutrient-poor soils and typically require minimal fertilization, especially in natural prairie and woodland settings. Excessive fertilization can lead to excessive vegetative growth at the expense of flowering and may disrupt the plant’s natural adaptation to nutrient-poor conditions.

  • Soil Testing: Prior to applying fertilizers, consider conducting a soil test to assess the existing nutrient levels and soil pH. This information can guide the targeted application of specific nutrients if deficiencies are identified.

  • Balanced Fertilizer: If necessary, a balanced, slow-release fertilizer with a lower nitrogen content can be applied sparingly during the growing season to support healthy growth and flowering. Opt for a fertilizer with a formulation such as 10-10-10 or similar, with a preference for organic options where possible.


The soil requirements of ground plum play a critical role in its successful cultivation and long-term health. Consider the following factors related to soil preferences for the thriving growth of Astragalus crassicarpus:

  • Drainage: Ground plums prefer well-drained soil that allows excess water to percolate freely, preventing waterlogging around the plant roots. Avoid planting ground plums in areas prone to water accumulation to prevent root rot and related issues.

  • Soil Type: These plants thrive in sandy or loamy soils that offer good aeration and drainage. Soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH range is well-suited for the growth of ground plums, promoting nutrient uptake and overall plant health.

  • Nutrient Content: Astragalus crassicarpus is adapted to thrive in nutrient-poor conditions, and excessive fertility may actually be detrimental to its growth and ecological functionality. Prioritize natural, low-fertility soils in the cultivation of ground plum for optimal results.


Pruning, when carried out mindfully, can help promote the health and aesthetic appeal of ground plum plants. Although ground plums generally require minimal pruning, consider the following guidelines for the selective application of pruning techniques:

  • Deadheading: Removing spent flowers and seed pods can help promote ongoing flowering and prevent the natural process of seed dispersal, thus containing the spread of ground plum within the landscape.

  • Thinning: If necessary, thin out dense growth to improve air circulation and light penetration within the plant canopy, reducing the risk of disease and promoting overall plant health.

  • Selective Pruning: Address damaged or diseased portions of the plant through selective pruning. For optimal results, use sharp, sanitized pruning tools to minimize stress and potential disease transmission.


Understanding the propagation methods for ground plum can offer valuable insights into expanding the presence of this species within a landscape or for ecological restoration purposes. Consider the following propagation techniques for Astragalus crassicarpus:

  • Seed Propagation: Propagation of ground plum from seed is a viable method, and it aligns with the natural reproductive processes of the plant. Collect mature seeds from healthy plants and sow them in prepared soil during the appropriate season for successful germination and establishment.

  • Division: Division of mature clumps can be employed to propagate ground plum, especially if seeking to establish new plantings or expand existing populations. Dividing during the plant’s dormant phase can enhance the success of this propagation method.

  • Transplanting: Transplanting young seedlings or divisions from established plants can facilitate the establishment of ground plum in new locations, provided that proper care and attention are provided to aid in their acclimatization.

Container Popularity

The ground plum’s adaptability and ecological benefits make it a suitable candidate for container cultivation in various settings. The following factors contribute to the popularity of growing ground plums in containers:

  • Xeriscaping: Ground plums are well-suited for container cultivation in xeriscape gardens, where their drought tolerance and low maintenance qualities align with the principles of water-efficient landscaping.

  • Ecological Restoration: Growing ground plums in containers can facilitate their use in ecological restoration projects, allowing for controlled applications in specific locations and promoting the expansion of native plant populations.

  • Landscape Design: Incorporating container-grown ground plums into landscape designs offers flexibility in creating visually engaging compositions, especially in urban or limited-space settings where ground planting may not be feasible.

Common Diseases

While ground plums are generally resilient, they may be susceptible to certain diseases under unfavorable conditions. Familiarize yourself with the common diseases that can affect Astragalus crassicarpus to implement preventative measures and minimize their impact on plant health:

  • Root Rot: Prolonged periods of waterlogging or poorly drained soils can contribute to the development of root rot, which may manifest as wilting, stunted growth, and eventual collapse of the plant. Proper soil drainage and moderation in watering can help prevent this issue.

  • Powdery Mildew: In conditions of high humidity and poor air circulation, ground plums may be vulnerable to powdery mildew, which presents as a powdery white coating on leaves and stems. Provide adequate spacing between plants and promote good air movement to reduce the risk of this fungal disease.

  • Leaf Spot: Various fungal and bacterial pathogens can cause leaf spot diseases, leading to the development of dark lesions on the foliage. To mitigate this issue, avoid overhead watering, remove diseased plant debris, and promote overall plant health through suitable cultural practices.

Disease Diagnosis

Timely and accurate diagnosis of plant diseases is essential in implementing effective management strategies and preserving the health of ground plum populations. Consider the following steps when diagnosing and addressing potential diseases affecting Astragalus crassicarpus:

  • Symptom Identification: Pay close attention to any visible symptoms, including leaf discoloration, wilting, or unusual growth patterns. Document the appearance and progression of symptoms to aid in accurate diagnosis.

  • Pathogen Identification: If possible, seek assistance from plant pathologists or agricultural extension services to identify the causative agents of the observed symptoms. This may involve laboratory analysis to confirm the presence of specific pathogens.

  • Cultural Practices: Upon identifying the disease, implement cultural practices such as proper watering, fertilization, and pruning to support the plant’s overall health and resilience. In some cases, selective removal of infected plant parts may be necessary to prevent the spread of disease.

Common Pests

While ground plums are relatively resistant to pest infestations, they may attract certain insects under specific conditions. Familiarize yourself with the common pests that may affect Astragalus crassicarpus and consider the following management strategies:

  • Aphids: These small, sap-sucking insects may occasionally infest ground plums, leading to distorted growth and the secretion of sticky honeydew. Insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils can be employed as a targeted control measure to manage aphid populations.

  • Leafhoppers: Leafhoppers are another potential pest that may affect ground plum plants, causing stippling and yellowing of foliage. Minimize their impact through the removal of alternative host plants, as well as the selective application of insecticidal sprays if populations become problematic.

  • Caterpillars: Certain caterpillar species may feed on the foliage of ground plums, leading to visible defoliation and potential stress on the plant. Manual removal of caterpillars and the maintenance of plant diversity to encourage natural predators can help manage their populations.

Botanist’s Tips

Equipped with insights from experienced botanists and horticulturists, the following tips can guide the successful cultivation and care of ground plum, maximizing its ecological and aesthetic potential:

  • Sustainable Landscaping: In landscapes and restoration projects, incorporate ground plums within diverse plant communities to enhance ecological resilience and create visually captivating compositions that support local biodiversity.

  • Community Education: Utilize the presence of ground plum in public gardens, parks, and educational initiatives to raise awareness of native plants, their ecological value, and their role in supporting beneficial insect populations.

  • Collaborative Research: Collaboration between botanists, ecologists, and conservationists can further our understanding of the ecological importance of ground plum, aiding in its conservation and sustainable utilization.

Fun Facts

Discover some intriguing facts about ground plum (Astragalus crassicarpus) that highlight its ecological significance and unique characteristics:

  1. Ground plums are important in prairie ecosystems, where their nitrogen-fixing ability contributes to soil fertility and the growth of adjacent plant species.
  2. The seeds of ground plums were traditionally used as food by Native American tribes, showcasing the historical and cultural significance of this species.
  3. Ground plum plants are beneficial for pollinators, providing a nectar source that supports the health and diversity of local insect populations.

Links to External Resources

Further your exploration of ground plum and its ecological, cultural, and horticultural aspects through the following external resources:

As we conclude our in-depth exploration of the ground plum, it’s evident that Astragalus crassicarpus holds vital ecological, cultural, and horticultural significance. By acknowledging its unique attributes and employing suitable cultivation practices, we can further appreciate and harness the potential of this remarkable native plant, contributing to sustainable landscapes and healthy ecosystems.

In summary, the ground plum beckons us to recognize its intrinsic value, both as a resilient participant in natural systems and as a source of inspiration for innovative ecological design and stewardship. Embracing the charm and ecological prowess of ground plums enriches our understanding of native flora and underscores the interconnectedness of plants, people, and the environment.

Picture of Peter Taylors

Peter Taylors

Expert botanist who loves plants. His expertise spans taxonomy, plant ecology, and ethnobotany. An advocate for plant conservation, he mentors and educates future botanists, leaving a lasting impact on the field.