CRISPR-Cas genetic engineering of plants holds tremendous potential for providing food security, battling biotic and abiotic crop stresses caused by climate change, and for environmental remediation and sustainability. Since the discovery of CRISPR-Cas technology, its usefulness has been demonstrated widely, including for genome editing in plants. Despite the revolutionary nature of genome-editing tools and the notable progress that these tools have enabled in plant genetic engineering, there remain many challenges for CRISPR applications in plant biotechnology. Nanomaterials could address some of the most critical challenges of CRISPR genome editing in plants through improvements in cargo delivery, species independence, germline transformation and gene editing efficiency. This Perspective identifies major barriers preventing CRISPR-mediated plant genetic engineering from reaching its full potential, and discusses ways that nanoparticle technologies can lower or eliminate these barriers. We also describe advances that are needed in nanotechnology to facilitate and accelerate plant genome editing. Timely advancement of the application of CRISPR technologies in plant engineering is crucial for our ability to feed and sustain the growing human population under a changing global climate.