Flower and vegetable garden


Flowers in the vegetable garden can reduce pest problems and improve biodiversity. Here are six of my favorite flowers to grow for healthy garden crops.

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I love pollinators and pretty flowers, too, so many years ago I started growing flowers in all of my vegetable beds. I liked the way it looked, and I felt happy growing food for me and food for the bees and butterflies.

However, I didn’t anticipate the power of bringing habitat for beneficial insects right into the places where I needed them.

Ladybugs were devouring aphids on the calendula, while the kale and broccoli nearby were pest-free. Beneficial braconid wasps covered the sweet alyssum and patrolled nearby crop plants. I was instantly hooked on this practice of integration!


Why Use Flowers in the Vegetable Garden?

Many experts encourage gardeners to plant a border of flowers around the perimeter of the garden. I do this, but I also encourage you to plant the following flowers among the crops. This can attract beneficial insects directly to where they’re needed.

That’s because in the permaculture garden, this practice integrates different aspects of the garden to make the overall ecosystem more biodiverse, efficient, and low maintenance.

Learn about bumble bees and several facts about their life cycle that you didn’t know!

This integration increases the chance that beneficial insects will locate pests on your crops and keep things in balance.

Read more about permaculture design.

Further, it’s not only the above-ground pests that flowers can help with. Flowers also help to maintain a healthy garden ecology by holding the soil in place (less erosion) and by feeding the beneficial soil organisms when their roots die back.

See: How to Prevent Soil Erosion in Gardens and On Farms

How to Use Flowers in the Vegetable Garden

I use annual flowers in the vegetable garden. Although many annuals self-sow in following years, each year they can be sown anew within the garden wherever it makes the most sense for that particular year’s arrangement of crops.

Rows of flowers can be alternated with rows of vegetables, or every couple of rows. Sprinkle flower seeds in the spring when the rest of the garden is being planted. Flowers used in this way are considered a living mulch.

Read more about using living mulches in the permaculture garden.

How you alternate your flowers and vegetables depends on many things such as the size of the bed, crop selection, and the types of flowers you choose. The height of the crops and the flowers, as well as sun exposure all play a part.

In a 3-foot-wide garden bed, there are typically three rows of crops. Here are some examples for a bed with the long side facing south (northern hemisphere):

Example 1: Tomatoes are grown as the tallest crop in a bed. To do this, plant tomatoes along the north side of the bed, with medium-height flowers in the middle, and a shorter crop, like carrots, in the southern-most row.

Example 2: Lettuce is the primary crop of a bed. Plant lettuce in the middle row, with shorter flowers in the southern-most row, and a taller or similarly sized crop behind it on the north side, such as radishes. Or plant taller flowers behind it on the north side, with a similarly sized crop in front of it on the south side, such as onions.

Would you like to learn more about using flowers in the vegetable garden to improve biodiversity, reduce maintenance, and increase yield?

You’ll find loads of information just like this in my award-winning book, The Suburban Micro-Farm.

My 6 Favorite Flowers in the Vegetable Garden

Although there are quite a few flowers that can benefit the vegetable garden, the following are my favorites because they are annuals, which means that I can rearrange them every year to correspond with the crops I intend to grow.

All of these flowers work well in the edible landscape, too. Get more edible landscaping tips here!

The following selections are also especially good at:

  • attracting beneficial insects
  • holding the soil in place

They are edible and aren’t too tall.

I reserve tall flowers and perennial flowers for the outskirts of the garden, which I do not cover in this article. See: How to Grow Perennial Sunflowers.

Wanna know what weeds I let grow in my garden? See my article 5 Weeds You Want in your Garden.

Calendula flowers are growing with peppers, chard, and other garden crops.

1. Calendula (Calendula Officinalis)

Calendula might just be my favorite annual flower to grow in the vegetable garden, but don’t tell the other flowers!

This annual herb with a cheerful, yellow, daisy-like flower can grow 18-24 inches tall. It exudes a sticky sap that traps pests like aphids and whiteflies, and keeps them off of nearby crops.

It attracts many types of pollinators and beneficial insects like ladybugs, hoverflies, and green lacewings who enjoy not only the flower nectar, but also the buffet of their favorite pests.

Calendula can even be grown like a cover crop over the winter to hold the soil in place.

For more information about calendula, see my article 7 Reasons to Grow Calendula or buy calendula seeds.

California poppies in the garden.

2. California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

I recently planted perennial flowers in the front yard flower garden that were going to take a year to establish and develop flowers. In the interim, I sowed California poppy in the empty spaces of the bed because it is quick to bloom.

I was fascinated by the deep roots of this plant that mine the clay soil and soften it, as well as the bright yellow flowers that tell you when it’s going to rain by closing up. (They also close up at night).

The lacy foliage is a favorite of beneficial insects.

For all of these reasons, I started sowing it in my vegetable garden and enjoyed the beauty and healthy vegetable harvests.

It will grow to about 12 inches.

Buy California poppy seeds.

Chamomile growing in the vegetable garden.

Photo by Dana via Flickr

3. German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla or Matricaria recutita)

These cute-as-a-button dainty flowers with their lacy foliage attract pollinators and beneficial insects.

Growing to about 12 inches, chamomile is a prairie plant that has deep roots which dredge up nutrients. When the season is finished, cut the plant back to allow the nutrient-rich plant matter to fertilize the soil.

Buy Chamomile seeds.

Flowering cilantro growing in the strawberry bed.

4. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

It seems everyone has a strong opinion about the taste of this herb—either you love it or hate it.

Whether or not you enjoy eating cilantro, it can still be a useful herb in the garden. That’s because its strong scent will actually repel pests.

As a member of the carrot family, its roots reach deep into the soil, loosening as it goes (nature’s free tilling service!). Read more about the no-till garden here. Also as a member of the carrot family, the flower and lacy foliage attract a wide number of beneficial insects.

Cilantro/Coriander will grow to two feet tall. Although this is at the tall end of flowers for the vegetable garden, I find that its upright growth habit allows sunlight to get through to shorter crops around it.

Buy cilantro seeds.

Yellow nasturtiums growing with trellised sweet potatoes.

5. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Nasturtium is an annual herb that has peppery leaves and flowers. Giving off a strong scent, it repels pests.

Its dense, low growing habit (12-18 inches) makes it an excellent living mulch as it covers the soil underneath taller crops, and feeds the soil as it dies back.

The showy flowers and foliage are a favorite in the edible landscape.

Buy nasturtium seeds.

Sweet alyssum growing with Swiss chard.

6. Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

Sweet alyssum is a low-growing plant that is popularly grown in landscape borders. It has a pleasant scent.

Although there are many colors to choose from, the white flowers attract the most beneficial insects. I have never seen so many hoverflies as when I’ve planted sweet alyssum in the garden!

It is effective as a living mulch because its shallow roots hold the soil in place.

My favorite way to grow it is in the edible landscape with Swiss chard. Find out more about this winning edible landscape combination!

Buy sweet alyssum seeds.

What to do at the end of the garden season with flowers in the vegetable garden?

Using flowers in the vegetable garden is a really great idea, but you might be wondering how to clean up your garden beds at the end of the season.

For one thing, you can improve the ecology of your garden by leaving the roots of the flower plants intact. Cut them off at the base, rather than pulling up the spent plants, when you’re cleaning up at the end of the season.

The plant matter can be chopped and dropped in place to act as a mulch. Roots left intact will decay and feed the soil life, becoming rich soil. For more soil improvement ideas, see these articles:

  • 7 Ways to Improve Soil Quality
  • 9 Organic Amendments that Improve Soil Structure and Texture

The Following Spring

The following spring, these old roots may still be present when you’re ready to plant.

No worries, simply adjust your planting a little to the left or right to avoid the root. Your row might not be the straightest line, but the plants sown directly next to the old root will reap the benefits of the biological activity and richness of the decaying root.


  • How to Develop the Permaculture Homestead in Phases
  • 5 Reasons to Grow Chives
  • Does Your Permaculture Garden Need Daffodils?

Do you grow flowers in the vegetable garden? What are your favorites?

Planting flowers in the vegetable garden will deter pests and add beauty. Learn more in this video about the benefits of companion planting with flowers—and discover the best flowers to grow.

Attract Beneficial Insects

Grow flowers such as calendula (marigolds) in or near to your vegetable garden to attract beneficial insects such as hoverflies (syrphid flies) that feed on pests.

Foil Pests

Growing flowers amongst veggies creates a mosaic of colors, textures and aromas that will literally throw many insects off the scent. Some flowers, for instance marigolds, will repel pests like whitefly while at the same time attracting beneficial insects.

Suppress Weeds

If a bed will be empty for a time between crops, sow a flowering cover crop such as buckwheat or phacelia. The flowers will attract pest-gobbling bugs while the foliage smothers weeds. Many cover crops will also help improve soil structure and fertility.

Low-growing, non-invasive flowers with wide leaves or dense foliage—for instance, marigolds or poached egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii)—sown between rows of vegetables can also help to keep weeds to a minimum.

Annuals, Biennials and Perennials

Annual flowers complete their life cycle within a year, while biennials grow in the first year, and flower in the second. They can be grown alongside veggies, separately in a dedicated bed, or even as a mini wildflower meadow.

Hardy annuals can often be sown in the fall. Rake soil to a fine tilth them scatter the seeds and rake them in. In subsequent years, many annual and biennial flowers, such as poppies, foxgloves, cornflowers and calendula, will self-seed so you won’t need to sow them again.

Perennial flowers die down in winter but resprout each year. They’re a great choice for growing in borders near the vegetable garden to draw in pest predators and pollinators such as bees, butterflies and moths.

Excellent perennial flowers to grow include helenium, astrantia, monarda, penstemons and hollyhocks. Many perennial herbs such as oregano also have flowers that are beneficial insects love.

Plan Your Flowers

Remember to make space for flowers when planning where you’re going to grow vegetables.

Our online Garden Planner includes a selection of suitable flowers.

  • Once you’re in the Garden Planner, click on the ‘Information’ button of a flower in the selection bar to discover why that plant is useful, suggested companions, and full growing instructions.
  • Click on the flower to select it then drop it into your plan, using the corner handles to expand or contract the block as necessary. The handy Plant List shows you when all the plants in your plan can be sown, harvested…or simply admired!

Try the Garden Planner for free for 7 days—ample time to plan a garden!

Flowers for vegetable gardens? Yes, you read that right! Flowers are not only beautiful but are amazing companion plants for your vegetables. Flowers can deter bugs, attract beneficial insects like pollinators, enrich the soil and even improve the flavor of the vegetables in your garden. I have 7 flowers that you should consider planting in your veggie garden!

What are some tips on gardening for beginners?

Maybe you’re just starting your first vegetable gardening and this whole companion planting thing seems a bit much. Don’t fret! I have some great tips for beginning vegetable gardeners to get you started right from the get-go!

Know your planting zone. This is KEY for planting the right vegetables at the right time. Trust me if you live in Augusta, Maine then you won’t be planting at the same time those here in Phoenix, AZ! Find your planting zone here!

Start Small! The biggest mistake I see in new gardeners is trying to go too big right from the start. When I started my vegetable garden it was ONE 4×4 bed. Yep, just one. Add one each season or each year as you feel more comfortable and have success.

Plant what you eat. Don’t start planting crazy veggies, just plant what you already know you and your family enjoy eating. This will make the most out of your garden and garden experience.

Pick seeds and transplants that work for your area. Again, zones / areas come into play when picking the right variety of any vegetables. SeedsNow does a great job of offering varieties by gardening zones.

For More Tips See – Advice for New Gardeners

How should I prepare soil for a vegetable garden?

This is a great, and very important, question. Your soil is the foundation for your garden. If it isn’t rich, healthy and full of life, your garden won’t be either. Compost is really the key here. Either you need to be composting or you need to find a good source for your compost.

More on Vegetable Garden Soil

  • DIY Soil Mix
  • Soil Amendments
  • Composting 101
  • Use Orange Peels for a Better Garden
  • Rabbit Poop as Fertilizer
  • Improving Garden Soil Without Your Own Compost

What is your favorite vegetable to grow?

I have 10 vegetables that I plant every year because they are delicious and VERY easy to grow.

  1. Radishes
  2. Carrots
  3. Tomatoes – See my guide to growing tomatoes at home.
  4. Swiss Chard
  5. Sweet Potatoes – How to grow sweet potatoes.
  6. Peppers – especially Bell Peppers
  7. Lettuce
  8. Beets
  9. Onions
  10. Zucchini – Tips on growing summer squash.

You can read more about easy to grow vegetables here!

Flowers to Plant in Vegetable Gardens

Ok now that we’ve gone over some gardening basics let’s get down to those flowers you want to plant in your vegetable garden!

Borage in the Vegetable Garden

Often referred to as the “bee plant”, borage is a great at attracting bees to your garden. Without bees and other pollinators we wouldn’t have any growth! Borage will also attract other beneficial bugs to your garden. Borage will also repel pests like horn or tomato worms and cabbage moths! And if that wasn’t enough for you, borage planted near your squash will actually improve its flavor.

Find out more about Growing Borage for Health and Home.

Add Some Marigolds

When it comes to planting flowers in the vegetable garden, NOTHING beats the marigold. Marigolds are a beautiful and powerful companion plant for your vegetables. They will attract pollinators and repel pests. Marigolds are especially good at protecting your tomatoes from nematodes (nematodes), slugs and tomato horn worms. They will also keep beetles, slugs and leaf hoppers at bay.

See more about Marigolds in Your Garden here/

Calendula in Your Vegetable Garden

Calendula is a wonderful medicinal herb as well as a companion plant. However it is important to plant it strategically. Calendula will repel beetles and horn worms but can attract the dreaded aphids. However, t is a great “trap crop” to plant next to vegetables that are often plagued by aphids; the aphids will munch on the calendula and leave your peas alone.

How to Make & Use Calendula Oil

Lavender as a Companion Plant

Lavender is one of the most universally wonderful plants around. But let’s just keep the talk to lavender in your vegetable garden. Lavender will work to repel bugs like cabbage moths. But it will also help to keep deer, mice and rabbits away as well; they don’t like how aromatic it is. Lavender is particularly good for Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and celery.

Planting Nasturtiums in a Vegetable Garden

Nasturtiums are another great trap crop for aphids and do well in cooler fall temperatures. Planted with squash they will give them protection from squash bugs and beetles.

Try planting your nasturtiums with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, pumpkins, radish, squash, tomato, and potatoes.

BONUS: Nasturtiums are edible!

Are Sunflowers Good Vegetable Companions?

Sunflowers aren’t often listed as a companion plant for vegetable gardens but you really should give them a look. They offer shade for crops like lettuce as well as attracting pollinators. They can attract aphids too so planting them with chives can help to repel them and still get the benefit of the sunflower.

More on How Sunflowers Help at Garden

Zinnias in a Vegetable Garden

Zinnias are master magnets for bees and hummingbirds. You know why bees are good but did you know that hummingbirds eat nasty pests from your garden too? I love them because they’ll eat whiteflies which have been an issue for us in the past.! The zinnia will deter cucumber beetles and horn worms but attract predatory wasps that feast on aphids, caterpillars, beetles, scale, and flies!

I love to plant flowers for their beauty and scent; and I did this long before I became a vegetable gardener. Now I choose beauty with the power of companion planting – that is a win-win for me.

What are you favorite flowers to plant in vegetable garden?

See my list for the Top 10 Companion Plants

Also see 6 Flowers to Grow in the Vegetable Garden

Wise Pairings: Best Flowers to Plant with Vegetables

In addition to bringing in more “good guys” to munch pests, flowers will give you more control because they can act as a useful barrier — a physical barrier as opposed to the chemical barriers created in non-organic systems. The hornworms on your tomato plant, for instance, won’t readily migrate to a neighboring tomato plant if there’s a tall, “stinky” marigold blocking the way.

Create Cool Combos of Flowers and Vegetables

To begin establishing your edible landscape, you should plant flowers with a variety of colors and textures, different sizes and shapes, and an overall appealing aesthetic. After you’ve shed the notion that flowers and vegetables must be separated, a surprising number of crop-and-flower combinations will naturally emerge, especially if you keep in mind the following six guidelines.

1. Stagger sizes. Pay attention to the eventual height and width of each flower and food plant (check seed packets and nursery tags), and place them accordingly. Tall plants, for the most part, belong in back. They’ll still be visible, but they won’t block the smaller plants from view or from sunshine. A good rule is to put the taller plants on the north and east sides of your garden, and the shorter ones on the south and west sides.

2. Consider proportions. A 6-foot-tall sunflower planted next to an 18-inch-tall cabbage would look lopsided. Instead, place plants of graduated heights from tallest to shortest so your eye will travel naturally from one location to the next.

3. Experiment with complementary colors. Use the hues of your edibles — red tomatoes and peppers, yellow squash flowers, purple cabbage and basil — as a starting point. Look for flowers that will highlight those shades, such as bright yellows or soft purples, or choose a hue on the opposite side of the color wheel to provide an unexpected pop. For foliage, experiment with different shades of green to give your landscape more depth.

4. Play with textures and shapes. Pair a sprawling squash with more upright basils. Partner thick-leaved plants with those that don delicate leaves. Surround a straight-edged tipi of runner beans with a bed of rounded dwarf marigolds.

5. Plant for all seasons. Grow plants with a range of different blooming times so something will always be in flower from early spring to late fall. Not only will this mean a feast of colors to enjoy all year, but, more importantly, it will yield a steady source of pollen and nectar for beneficial insects.

6. View your garden holistically. An ideal landscape draws you in with its diversity, and also with repeating elements, whether those elements are plants, shapes, types of containers or beds, colors, or textures. Browse gardening magazines, books and websites for landscapes you like, and substitute some of your favorite edibles for some of the ornamentals. An article on foliage plants might show a container of ornamental coleus, and that same composition may work just as well if you swap in some crimson chard or curly, chartreuse kale. A feature on flowering vines might inspire you to add scarlet runner beans to the mix.


Pick the Best Blooms

Choosing the right flowers for your space is at once simple and complex. It’s simple because there’s a lot of research out there about flowers that attract birds, bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. It’s complex because dozens of flowers appear on those lists, and pinpointing the ones that will work best in your climate and with your vegetables and your overall garden design may take some time.

Keep in mind that different insects are attracted to different flower characteristics, such as color, scent and blossom shape. The more diverse range of flowers you offer them, the more diverse the insect population in your garden will be. Try some plants in the daisy (Asteraceae) family, such as black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers and zinnias. Also consider the parsley (Apiaceae) family, especially carrots, cilantro, dill and parsley; the mustard (Brassicaceae) family, including nasturtiums and sweet alyssum; and the mint (Lamiaceae) family, with basil, sage, Victoria salvia and, of course, mint. For a much more comprehensive list of insect-coaxing flowers, see The Best Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects and Bees.

Plants native to your area will naturally attract the insects and birds vital to your ecosystem, so seek out native plants. Try heirloom flowers, too, as they’re often packed with nectar and pollen, and some are wonderfully fragrant. If choosing modern hybrids, look for varieties with those same characteristics. For more flower choices, see 10 of the Best Flowers to Plant with Vegetables.

After you’ve enticed plenty of beneficial insects and birds to your garden, you’ll want to keep them there. To do so, first place shallow water sources, such as small birdbaths, around your garden. Second, allow flowers to grow and spread to provide shelter. Third, don’t be too quick to clean things up. Let a few of your herbs, such as basil and parsley, and vegetables, such as broccoli and lettuce, mature to their flowering stage to attract insects. Finally, trust nature to keep things in balance rather than jumping in with controls and chemicals. Be patient, allowing the interactions among flowers, insects and crops time to play out.

I’d like to say that I had an “Aha!” moment when I realized how effectively and elegantly all of this worked. Actually, though, it took a while before I finally understood that, when it comes to flora, what we compartmentalize as “edible” and “ornamental” are in fact an interconnected system, and if you take out the flowers, you’ve removed a critical part. Growing flowers and vegetables together isn’t just a pleasing way to garden — it’s an essential way to garden.

10 of the Best Flowers to Plant with Vegetables

I usually choose heirloom annuals because they’re versatile and add substance and height to my plantings. Many popular modern flower varieties are short, so they only work well in front of a border. Plus, some modern varieties — sunflowers, for example — have actually been bred for decreased pollen production so they won’t shed on your tablecloth. (What a terrible breeding project, from the bees’ perspective!) While heirloom flowers tend to work wonderfully in edible landscapes, they’re not always conveniently available at the nearest big-box store. Thankfully, several mail-order sources offer heirloom varieties (see Flower Seed Sources), and these plants are usually easy to grow from seed.

So where should you start? After 40-plus years of creating and evaluating edible landscaping combos, I recommend these common flowering plants that provide pollen and nectar for beneficials, plus a few suggested edible companions for each.

Alyssum. These plants spread along the ground and produce hundreds of tiny flowers that bloom all season. Combine the purple and pink varieties with eggplants and purple varieties of basil, bush beans, lettuce and sprouting broccoli. The white varieties will give a frilly setting for stiff, dark kales, chards, bok choys and red-leafed beets, and fill in nicely between chives, leeks, onions and shallots.

Calendulas. Orange, yellow and apricot calendula flowers brighten cool-season vegetable beds filled with beets, broccoli, bush peas, cabbage, carrots, collards, lettuce, kale and parsnips. The tall heirloom varieties grow to 18 inches and are less prone to mildew than the 6-inch dwarf varieties. Bonus: You can save calendula petals for use in teas and natural body care products.

Coreopsis. This endearing plant is a perennial native to the North American prairie that furnishes a seasonful of sunny yellow flowers held well above its foliage. I give these flowering plants a permanent home near the edge of trellises built for beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. Again, I gravitate toward the tall, native variety sold as Coreopsis grandiflora, which I typically stake. The shorter varieties work well in small areas near basil, endive, eggplants, kale, peppers and other short edibles.

Cosmos. There are two common types of cosmos: Cosmos bipinnatus, the familiar pink and white varieties, such as the old-time ‘Sensation’ mix, and C. sulphureus, which comes in orange, red and yellow. Both attract beneficials and, if you let the flowers go to seed, flocks of yellow finches. I combine the 4-foot-tall ‘Sensation’ cosmos with artichokes and cardoons, and plant the 2- to 3-foot-tall sulphureus varieties, such as ‘Diablo,’ in front of tomatoes and okra, and next to trellises of cucumbers and beans.

Echinacea. A native plant prized for its healing properties and a favorite with bees, this perennial forms clumps of upright leaves and pink-purple, daisy-like blooms off and on all summer. The plant can grow to 4 feet tall and comes in numerous varieties. I plant echinacea at the end of mixed vegetable-and-herb beds, and combine the plants with tall herbs, such as dill, fennel, lovage and sage.

Marigolds. These annual flowers come in shades of yellow, orange and reddish-brown, and bloom from spring through fall. The tall, older varieties grow to 4 feet, and I use these in front of a trellis full of tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and other climbers. The dwarf marigold varieties range from 6 to 18 inches, and these are ideal for creating a compact flowering hedge to border a bed of bush beans or peppers, for interspersing among kale and other greens, and for surrounding a squash plant or two. My favorite dwarf marigolds are the ‘Gem’ series, which have fine, citrus-smelling foliage and small edible flowers.

Sage. The stately sages, such as ‘Victoria’ and other non-edible natives, bear spikes of either red or blue flowers that are especially enticing to bees and hummingbirds. Varieties range from 18 inches to 3 feet tall. While some are perennial, some native sages common to home gardens are often treated as annuals. Interplant them with okra, tall pepper varieties and shorter tomato varieties.

Sunflowers. These cheerful, towering plants attract many beneficials and several varieties offer edible seeds for you, too. Some varieties reach 8 feet and pair well with a patch of corn or behind a planting of large winter squash. The dwarf varieties can be used behind large zucchini plants or a bed of bush beans or soybeans. When choosing varieties, skip any that have been bred to produce little or no pollen.

Violas. You can really paint your garden with this family of edible, cool-season annual flowers. Violas come in a pleasing palette of purples, blues and yellows, and their whiskered, up-facing, flat blooms make perfect fillers among members of the cabbage family. They can also accent a geometric bed of lettuces and shine in colorful containers.

Zinnias. Butterflies adore the blooms of this family of annual flowers, which come in an array of sizes and colors, making them suitable for almost any vegetable combination. Try the dwarf ‘Mexican’ varieties in a bed of chiles, and pair the tall, pastel varieties with artichokes, Brussels sprouts or fennel. Edge a planting of edamame with a mix of dwarf zinnias, and combine these petite varieties in a large container with a mix of basil plants.

Plan Your Plot

Map out your garden with effective edible-landscaping combos using our Grow Plannerapp, which we’ve just released in an updated version with a sleek, new design. This app, now available for iPhone and iPad, puts growing guides, crop spacing requirements, planting dates for your exact location, and more planning tools right at your fingertips.

Flower Seed Sources

• MOTHER’s Seed and Plant Finder
• Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
• Burpee
• Renee’s Garden Seeds
• Seed Savers Exchange
• Select Seeds

Ros Creasy has been cultivating stunning plant combos for 40 years. She coined the term “edible landscaping,” which is now common lingo in the gardening world, and even penned the book Edible Landscaping.

Don’t Forget These Companion Flowers For Autumn!

Some flowers have an important role in the garden beyond bringing colour and joy. They are also particularly attractive to bees and butterflies which we need to pollinate our vegetable crops. Some are also good companions as they help deter unwanted pests that can cause damage to our vegetable crops.

Here are 7 of the best companion flowers for Autumn:

1. Nasturtiums

Plant near your brassicas. Attracts beneficial insects especially hoverflies whose offspring (larvae) eat aphids. (Adult hoverflies feed on pollen and nectar.) Popular to our range: Nasturtium Empress of India, Nasturtium Jewel Double Dwarf, Nasturtium Peach Melba, Nasturtium Tip Top, Nasturtium Trailing Mixed Colours.

2. Marigold

They make great companions for beets & carrots as well as attracting beneficial insects.

Popular to our range: Marigold Boy O Boy, Marigold Carmen, Marigold Dwarf Double Mixed, Marigold Kee’s Orange, Marigold Lemon Gem

3. Lavender

You will not only attract bees and other nectar seeking insects, but they love being next to cabbages, silverbeet and most herbs. You’ll find the scent also deters some pestsPopular to our range: Lavender English Dwarf, Lavender Hidcote Blue Strain

4. Calendula

The roots of Calendula plants have been known to work with soil fungi to clean contaminated soil.Popular to our range: Calendula Lemon Daisy, Calendula Pacific Beauty Mixed

5. Borage

If planted near your brassicas it is reputed to deter cabbage moths. Borage is also a bee magnet.

6. Chamomile

As well as making a nice tea, this flowering herb loves to have cabbages as neighbours. Chamomile also attracts beneficial insects like hoverflies and predatory wasps whose offspring eat aphids and other pests

7. Alyssum

It will attract nectar feeding pollinators of all kinds, including delicate green lacewings whose offspring voraciously feed on aphids.Popular to our range: Alyssum Carpet of Snow, Alyssum Aphrodite, Alyssum Royal Carpet

Looking for other Autumn flowers seeds to sow? to view our ‘What vegetable seeds to sow this Autumn’ page for inspiration and ideas.

Visit our Bee and Butterfly attracting page for a full range of pollinator friendly flower mixes.

12 Best Herbs and Flowers for Companion Planting With Vegetables

Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, so, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through one and make a purchase. This in no way influences my opinions or recommendations.

Two of the main challenges we face when we grow our own food organically are controlling pests and maximizing our crop yield. Knowing the best companion planting combinations helps you solve both problems without resorting to nasty chemical solutions. You can of course further optimize your crop yield by using any of our homemade organic fertilizer recipes, too. It’s not just about mixing plants to deter pests – in fact, many combinations attract beneficial insects as well as birds to eat any invading pests and encourage pollination. Companion planting also helps you get the most from whatever growing space you have available and is equally useful in tiny urban spaces and sprawling rural properties. We’ve put together a list of our favorite companion planting herbs and flowers to help you get larger amounts of healthy crops from your organic garden, whether you have several acres, a square foot garden, or a vertical garden.

1. Marigolds

All varieties of marigolds, including pot marigolds (Calendula), French and Mexican (Tagates) are among the best companion plants for vegetable gardens as well as ornamental gardens. The only vegetables you shouldn’t plant marigolds near are beans and brassicas (the cabbage family). Plant marigolds to repel whiteflies and ward off nematodes. As companion plants, marigolds are an organic gardener’s best friend, because they help keep slugs off your food crops. We all know slugs are a total menace, munching their way through masses of young vegetable crops and causing devastation. But slugs have a weakness: They adore marigolds. Instead of chomping on your veggies, they’ll head to the marigolds and feast there. so plant multiple patches all over the garden – just not too close to beans and brassicas.


Sink containers, like disposable cups, into the ground and add a couple of inches of cheap beer. The slugs can’t resist. They climb in, gorge themselves, and drown. It’s not pretty – but it’s definitely an effective way to control slugs naturally!

2. Chives

Chives, along with onions, are the ideal carrot companion planting choice. They repel the insanely annoying carrot fly. As an added bonus, chives also deter whitefly and aphids, they’re easy to grow, and they taste great. Just remember to keep them away from peas and beans.

3. Sweet Alyssum

The primary function of companion planting sweet alyssum is natural, organic weed control. It grows quickly, creating thick, low-growing mats that help to prevent weeds, and you can use it as a green manure, too. Plant sweet alyssum on bare earth or in between crop rows, or anywhere else you don’t want to see weeds. When the growing season finishes, just dig the mats back into the ground to help replenish the nutrients in the soil. When they bloom, the fragrant flowers attract bees to the garden to help with pollination of your vegetable crops.

4. Nasturtiums

Nasturtium companion planting has multiple benefits. Firstly, they act as decoy companion plants for pests like aphids. This means that nasturtiums attract aphids to themselves and away from neighboring crops. Acting as both decoy and trap, the bright flowers of the nasturtium attract larger predatory insects that feast on tiny insect pests. Nasturtium companion planting also repels a long list of other insects. Brilliant for planting near members of the squash family, nasturtiums repel squash bugs, pumpkin beetles, and vine borers. Their ability to deter common cabbage family pests like white fly is another reason for their popularity among organic growers. And, the flowers have a strong, peppery flavor that makes a fabulous addition to salads.

5. Dill

For many organic vegetable gardeners, dill is their staple companion plant, particularly in when used in close proximity to members of the cabbage family. Dill firstly improves the growth, health, and flavor of these crops. When in bloom, it also attracts large, predatory wasps that feast on the pests that commonly attack squash and cabbage crops. It’s important to note that dill is irresistible to tomato hornworms, so can be used as a trap crop, but shouldn’t be planted too close to tomatoes.

6. Sage

Sage has a strong scent and makes an outstanding companion to the cabbage family, carrots, and tomatoes. This herb wards off the dreaded cabbage moth, along with whitefly and carrot fly. Companion planting sage with tomatoes invigorates the tomato crop, deepens the flavor and repels troublesome pests like hornworm.

7. Catnip

Yep, companion planting catnip is a genuine “thing” practiced by organic growers all over the globe. We all know that catnip is irresistible to cats, and growing catnip gives your cats a healthy, organic supply. Yes, it does attract cats to your garden, but they’re so entranced by the catnip that they forget all about having a poop or digging up your crops. Plus, having cats around helps to keep rodent populations down. Planting catnip as a border around crops that are vulnerable to rats, mice, and other rodent pests does wonders, as these little critters loathe the scent of catnip. While we’re not certain, we assume it’s because they associate the scent with their natural predators. Companion planting catnip also deters a long list of insect pests, including ants, flea beetles, Japanese beetles, weevils, aphids, and squash beetles.

8. Yarrow

Yarrow has multiple benefits in the vegetable garden. It attracts bees to aid pollination and predatory insects that consume large volumes of pests like aphids. It also acts as an organic fertilizer, returning large amounts of nutrients to the soil Yarrow has clusters of tiny blooms that draw predatory and parasitic wasps that attack pests like tomato hornworm.

9. Chrysanthemums

There are a huge number of chrysanthemum varieties, and quite a few of those prove very useful in the vegetable garden. C. coccineum, for example, repels root nematodes, as does C. cinerariaefolium. Both of these varieties, commonly known as painted ladies or painted daisies, contain high concentrations of pyrethrum. This natural insecticide contains six distinct pyrethrins which make up a very effective form of natural pest control. While live chrysanthemums will repel a whole host of bugs, including Japanese beetles, without doing them much harm, the plants don’t discriminate. Not being sentient, they can’t distinguish between an insect pest and a bee going around pollinating, for example.

Create a general purpose organic insecticide by drying chrysanthemum flowers, then grinding them with a mortar and pestle. Simply sprinkle the powder all over the garden. You can also steep the powder in some hot water to create a pyrethrum tea. Once it cools, pour the liquid straight onto the insects or the infested area. Pyrethrum, when it dust or tea form acts as a double-action insecticide, killing a variety of insects on contact and with ingestion. It’s particularly effective against small, soft-bodied beasties like aphids. It’s non-residual, too, so it doesn’t hang around and is non-toxic, so is safe for humans and pets alike.

10. Dahlias

Another awesome nematode-repelling choice, dahlias also have large, bright blooms that attract pollinators. When companion planting dahlias, remember that earwigs cannot resist them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as most earwig species devour pests like aphids. The drawback is that they’re omnivorous, and are partial to certain vegetable crops, too. So we advise keeping dahlias away from crops like corn that earwigs love.

11. Geraniums

Geraniums make a beautiful addition to the vegetable garden, and they’re a great choice for attracting pollinators. Companion planting geraniums with cabbage repels troublesome cabbage worms. White geraniums are particularly effective against Japanese beetles and beet leafhoppers.

12. Basil

Companion planting basil with tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, and other herbs (apart from oregano and rue), improves their flavor, health, and vigor. It’s exceptionally useful to tomatoes, peppers, and asparagus because it repels nematodes, aphids, asparagus beetles, white fly, black fly, mosquitoes and tomato hornworm. Beets, potatoes, pole and bush beans also benefit from being planted near basil. Because basil attracts butterflies, unless your cabbages and other brassicas are particularly well netted, it’s not a good idea to plant them in close proximity.

Now, we know there’s an array of other flowers and herbs that belong in the vegetable garden as companion plants, but these are a few of our favorites. We also love garlic, but we’re covering that in a separate post, so watch this space! What are some of your favorite companion herbs and flowers?

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The benefits of Companion Planting – Herbs and Flowers

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Companion planting is the method of using mother nature to either ward off ‘bad’ bugs or encourage ‘good’ bugs to help benefit the plants and crops you are growing. Below are the herbs and flowers to use in your garden.
Plant with tomatoes and strawberries to increase growth and flavour. Borage flowers are not only edible they are great for atracting bees for polinating.
Garlic is one of the plants that you should use as a dot plant round your garden. It gets on with most of your veggies apart from peas and beans as this will stunt there growth and some say not to put it with sage or parsley to. Garlic will repel aphids from your vegetables and do very well planted with Marigolds or Tagetes.
Marigold Pot Calendula
Not many bugs like this plant as they have tiny hairs all over their stems, which makes it hard for the bugs to walk across. They have stunning orangy/yellow flowers which will attract the beneficial bugs like Ladybirds Hoverflys and Lacewings which love Aphids! Dead head regulaly otherwise they will spread at a whoping rate!
Planted pretty much anywhere in your garden they will attract the apdids away from your veggies. Their pretty colourful flowers will attract the beneficial bugs in to eat them. If planted in your green house with your toms they ward off white fly.
Use as a dot plant around your garden to help attract Aphids and Flea beatles away from your veggies. Then their pretty yellow flowers will also attract beneficial bugs like Lacewings and Ladybirds to feed on what they attract! Clever plant!
Plant mint in pots and place around your veggies like your cabbages toms and carrots, this will repel flea beatles and ants hate it too.
Use as a dot plant all around your garden! They have brightly coloured flowers ranging from yellow/orange and red and have a very strong pungent smell. This smell helps to repel white fly and when planted near cabbages reduces the number of cabbage moth damage because they are unable to smell the cabbages. The flowers not only look great but they help attract the beneficial bugs like hoverfly’s which eat aphids.

Companion Planting for Vegetables, Herbs, Garden Flowers and Plants

Companion Planting for vegetables, herbs and flowers is the idea that some plants have a beneficial effect on others growing nearby and other plants have a detrimental influence. This is an ancient idea that was seen during the times of the Romans, and perhaps even before then.

One only has to look at the old-age tradition of North American agriculture of planting corn, beans and squash together. Corn grows tall, trying to steal as much sun as possible and taking out a lot of nitrogen from the soil. Beans grow up the stalks of the corn looking for the sun too, but putting nitrogen back into the soil.

Planting squash at the same time does well on the conditions and grows and spreads on the ground growing and harvested long after the harvest of the beans and the corn. Therefore, by inter-cropping, or companion planting, you have been able to grow 3 different vegetables in the same space as you would one.

Companion Planting for Deterring Insects

Although many will disregard companion planting and see it as old wives’ tales, many plants, flowers and herbs do defend themselves against insects by being poisonous to them or developing a strong scent that frightens them away, and it is possible that a plant growing close by might benefit from being in this bug-free zone. So, although companion planting is also mixed up in folklore, there is also an element of fact and this method can be happily adopted by those who practice organic gardening.

For example, French marigolds (Tagetes patula) secrete an enzyme or a hormone into the soil that deters nematodes from infesting their roots, and it does seem that tomatoes or other nematode susceptible plants growing as neighbors will be protected. It may be significant that most of these beneficent plants are strongly aromatic.

Planting dill with your tomatoes will attract the tomato worm for you. Interplanting your tomatoes with basil is done because basil will help repel the tomato hornworm.

Planting nasturtiums will take care of cabbage white butterfly caterpillars and great for repelling white fly. They are also good for planting under apple trees to get rid of colding moth .
Nasturtiums are planted among cucumbers for protection against the cucumber beetle and the Mexican bean beetle. Planting tansy among your cucumbers will also send the cucumber beetles packing!

Nasturtiums and tansy help get rid of the Colorado potato beetle, and catnip and nasturtiums for repelling the green peach aphids.
If you want to get rid of aphids then you will need to interplant with sow thistle , stinging nettles or broad beans . Planting chives will also repel aphids.
Sunflowers will help trap harlequin bugs, and potatoes, calendula daisies are good for earwigs.
Rue is good for Japanese beetles as is white geraniums.

Herbs too have been known to repel certain insects. Southernwood is good for repelling the cabbage butterfly and tobacco for flea beetles.

Companion Planting for Benefiting other Plants

Many times, planting certain plants together is also for practical reasons. Planting lettuce next to corn means that the lettuces can be shaded during hot summers.

When you plant cabbages in the late summer, at the same time, and in the same bed, you can also plant garlic. Where cabbages will use of a lot of nutrients, and where the cabbages will be harvested in the autumn, the garlic will continue growing until the following summer resulting in good crops for both.

Planting mint with your cabbages will protect them against the cabbage worm

Chives and onions planted near carrots will help also deter the presence of carrot rust flies.

Radishes when planted next to Chervil benefit from the shade the herb casts, and the result is lovely juicy radishes that are not woody at all.

Beans are heavy feeders and therefore it is advisable to companion plant it with something less greedy. Therefore mustard is a perfect companion.

Companion Planting for Attracting good Insects

You may be surprised to learn that companion herbs can be planted with good effect.

The common dandelion that some see as a scourge in the garden should think again. It is now known that dandelions attract pollinating insects. Furthermore, they also release ethylene which is a gas that encourages fruit setting and fruit ripening.

Daisies, dill, corriander and parsley are all good for attracting beneficial insects into the garden. The pollen they provide make them wonderful bee plants, but in addition they also attract parasitic wasps that prey on insect pests. These plants should be planted throughout the garden at regular intervals as many of these wasps are tiny and fly only over short distances.

Corriander also known as cilantro is will attract beneficial insects like baraconid wasps, hover flies and lacewings.

Mint attracts hover flies and spiders.

Fennel attracts braconid wasps, hover flies, lacewings, ladybirds.

Tansy attracts insidious flower flies, lacewings, ladybirds, and parasitic waspsp.

Yarrowattracts bees, hover flies, ladybirds and parasitic wasps.

Larger predatorial insects like lacewings and hoverflies also feed on pollen. By allowing these plants to go to seed, not only are you keeping the insect population in check, but you can save seeds at the same time for next planting season.

Other Good Companion Plants:

Queen Anne’s lace attracts hover flies, ladybirds and spiders.

Flowering buckwheat attracts a whole host of good bugs; hover flies, lacewings, ladybirds, minute pirate bugs, predatory wasps and tachinid flies.

Sweet alyssum attracts braconid wasps, chalcids and hover flies.

Having Deep Roots Brings nutrients to the surface, benefiting other plants. Comfrey, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion.
Enriching the Soil Build up of minerals in leaves. Excrete material from their roots.

Plants add nitrogen to the soil.

Comfrey, dandelion and stinging nettles.

Marigolds’ root exudate is fatal to nematodes.

Beans excrete mycorrhiza, which benefits plant roots.

Peas & peas ‘fix nitrogen’.

Strong-Smelling Plants Oil in some plants has fragrance that repels insects. Garlic, pyrethrum and rosemary
Attracting Pollinators Flowers attract pollinators, increasing yields. Yellow and blue flowers attract bees eg. blue borage.
Attracting Other Predators Plants attract other predators to the pests that attack them. Parsley, celery and carrot family attract hover flies. Their larvae consume aphids, when in seed.
Confusing Pests Planting close together causes camouflage of odor and appearance. Pennyroyal camouflages cabbage smell and celery camouflages cabbage shape.


  • Asparagus with tomatoes and parsley
  • Basil with tomatoes, asparagus, beans, grapes, apricots and fuchsias
  • Beans with carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, cabbage, celery, potatoes and sweetcorn
  • Dwarf beanswith cabbages and winter savory
  • Broad Beans with corn, early potatoes, and intercrop with spinach
  • Beets with onion, dwarf beans and kohlrabi
  • Borage with strawberries
  • Broccoli and Cabbage with dill, potatoes, sage, rosemary and mint
  • Brussel Sprouts with peppermint and spearmint
  • Carrots with lettuce, chives, peas, aided by dill in early stages, but dill must be removed before it flowers. Carrot fly repelled by onions, leeks, rosemary, wormwood, and sage
  • Cauliflowerwith celery, lad’s love, rosemary, pennyroyal
  • Celeriac with leeks – plant in alternate rows, and scarlet runner beans
  • Celery with beans
  • Chives with carrots, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes. Onions and chives when interplanted with carrots repel both onion and carrot fly without competing for nutrients below the soil. Good to plant with roses to keep away aphids
  • Citrus with guava trees
  • Corn with potatoes, beans, peas, melons, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers
  • Cucumbers with corn, cabbages, chives, marjoram, oregano, early potatoes and radishes.
  • Eggplants with beans and potatoes
  • Fruit Trees with chives, nasturtiums, nettles, tansy, horseradish, lad’s love, and garlic
  • Garlic withroses, apples, apricots and peaches
  • Geraniums with grapes
  • Gooseberries with tomatoes
  • Grapes with mulberries and mustard greens, hyssop, elm trees and tansy
  • Horseradish with almost any fruit tree
  • Hyssop with cabbages and grapes
  • Irises with roses
  • Kale – cabbage moth is repelled by tomatoes, sage, rosemary, hyssop, thyme, mint, wormwood, lad’s love
  • Leeks with celery, celeriac, carrots
  • Lettuce with carrots, onions, radishes, chervil and strawberries
  • Marigolds (French)with tomatoes, roses, potatoes, daffodils and beans
  • Melons with sweetcorn and radish
  • Mint with cabbages and other brassicas, and peas
  • Nasturtiums with cucumbers, zucchini, squash
  • Onions with beets, carrots, kohlrabi and turnips. Also winter savory and chamomile (1 plant every 4 yards).
  • Parsley with roses, asparagus and tomatoes
  • Peas with carrots, radish, cucumbers, onions, sweetcorn, beans
  • Potatoes with beans, sweet corn, cabbage, peas, marigolds, eggplant and horseradish
  • Pumpkins with beans, sweet corn, cabbage, peas, marigolds and horseradish
  • Radishes with peas, lettuce, nasturtiums and cucumbers
  • Roses with grapevines, garlic, onions, chives, lupins, mignonette and marigolds
  • Sage with cabbages
  • Spinach with strawberries
  • Strawberries with beans, lettuce, borage and spinach
  • Sunflowers with squash and sweetcorn
  • Tomatoes with asparagus, nettles, basil, cabbage, parsley, French marigolds, nasturtium and cucumbers. When you plant tomatoes with brassicas (cabbages, broccoli, etc.)they help reduce the pest numbers for both types of vegetables.
  • Turnips with peas
  • Thyme with any Brassica
  • Wallflowers with apples


  • Apples with potatoes. Do not store with carrots
  • Artichokes with garlic
  • Broccoli with strawberries
  • Beans with garlic, onions, fennel, early potatoes
  • Cabbages with strawberries and tomatoes
  • Cauliflowers with tomatoes
  • Cucumbers with potatoes
  • Garlic with peas and beans
  • Gladioli with strawberries, beans and peas
  • Hyacinths with carnations
  • Lettucewith fennel
  • Mint with parsley
  • Onions with all beans and peas as inhibits growth
  • Peas with potatoes
  • Potatoes with tomatoes and sunflowers
  • Pumpkin with potatoes
  • Radish with potatoes
  • with potatoes and blackberries
  • Runner Beans with beets
  • Spinach with cabbages
  • Sunflowers with any vegetable but squash
  • Tomatoes with fennel, potatoes and kohlrabi
  • Turnips with mustard
  • Wormwood with just about everything

So next time you are planting your vegetables and flowers choose their neighbors carefully. When looking at people some neighbors are helpful, beneficial and nice to have around. Others are spawned in Hell and do untold damage. Make sure that the next time you plant out, you choose good neighbors for your flowers and vegetables!

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Edible Landscaping: Mixing Vegetables And Herbs With Flowers

Edible landscaping is simply a way of using veggies, herbs and flowers in the garden that will perform multiple functions, such as for food, flavor and ornamental appearance. Let’s take a look at how to mix edible plants in the garden.

Veggies, Herbs and Flowers

The idea of mixing edible crops with ornamental plantings was once frowned upon. However, grouping veggies, herbs and flowers together is a great way to add interesting textures and colors to the garden. Mixing vegetables and herbs with flowers also creates year-round interest. Many gardeners also prefer to mix these plants to camouflage and repel pests.

Choosing Edible Landscape Plants

When adding edible landscape plants to flower gardens, consider the overall look of each plant and choose those that complement one another as well as those sharing the same growing requirements. For instance, some enjoy sun while others prefer shade. Some are tolerant of drought-like conditions while others require plenty of water. For best results, make sure when mixing vegetables and herbs with flowers, they are situated in the same beds as those sharing the same conditions.

Mixing vegetables and herbs with flowers can increase garden yields and flower production. The flowers increase nectar production, attracting more beneficial insects that protect edible plants and pollinators that increase flower production.

Companion planting also helps. For instance, certain vegetables, such as onions, can help deter aphid attacks on plants like roses. Marigolds have the same effect and work well with tomato plants, fending off snails. Another good example might include placing petunias with beans to repel bean beetles.

Landscaping with Vegetables

While there are a number of methods for landscaping with vegetables, here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Fill in empty areas of flower borders or beds with ornamental vegetables.
  • Rhubarb has lovely cream-colored flower stalks that fit in nicely with flowering plants.
  • Once asparagus crops have faded, their feathery foliage will add interest to the flower border.
  • Put a little heat in the flower bed with peppers. Peppers come in a variety of colors and shapes, making them exceptional choices for flower borders and beds. Choose a variety complements the surrounding flowers or foliage.

Landscaping with Herbs

Many edible herbs also work well mixed with flowers. Try some of the following ideas for landscaping with herbs:

  • Fill in empty spaces with parsley to add foliage interest.
  • Basil is available in many varieties and this herb can be tucked into the garden as an accent nearly anywhere.
  • Thyme, mint, and oregano can all be used as ground covers in the flower garden.
  • Many herbs have attractive flowers and fragrant foliage, which can be easily integrated into the garden such as pineapple sage, lavender, and bee balm.

Other Edible Landscaping Plants

Dwarf fruit trees and other edibles, such as berries and fruiting vines, look great when planted with flowers. Use dwarf fruit trees for accents or anchors to flower borders and island beds. Fruiting and flowering shrubs are also an asset of edible landscaping and good for adding structure. Edible plants, like strawberries, can also make delightful ground covers in the flower garden.

For even more beauty and extended blooms, mix some edible flowers in with your vegetables and herbs. It’s not only a great way to extend the look of the garden, but it will also increase your overall yields. After all, it’s an edible garden. Why not have the best of both.

We habitually grow flowers and vegetables in different beds. As a result, in a small garden, there may seem little point trying to fit in a vegetable patch. You may worry that it means less room for flowers, or that it might make the garden less attractive.

In fact, as long as each plant’s individual requirements are met it can be planted in any context. So why not mix flowers and vegetables together?

Decorative vegetables

Many vegetables are beautiful in their own right and can add even more to an established flower bed. Peas and beans, the classics of the summer vegetable patch, can easily scramble up a wigwam or obelisk in the border or up a fence or wall. Varieties with particularly attractive flowers include runner beans ‘Painted Lady’, broad beans ‘Crimson Flowered’ and purple flowered mangetout peas ‘Carouby de Mausanne’. There is still just about time to sow any of these and given fair weather into the autumn there should be a crop to be had. Ideally you would raise them in pots or cells first and then transplant into fertile soil.

Other vegetables deserve a place in the flower bed on account of their architectural shapes or attractive foliage. Cardoons – smaller relations of globe artichokes – make a good focal point. The leaves can be blanched and eaten and are particularly popular in Italy. Asparagus grows delicate ferny foliage after the early spears have been harvested. Herbs can likewise be grown with flowers; green and bronze fennel with their airy fronds and yellow flowers are gorgeous for months at a time. The foliage of asparagus and fennel also makes a delightful addition to cut flowers.

My particular interest is perennial vegetables, some of which are very attractive plants, for example ground nut (apios americana) and mashua (tropaeolum tuberosum). Ground nut actually belongs to the pea family and is nothing to do with peanuts; it produces strings of edible tubers in the autumn. Its flowers are dusky pink-cum-brown, but not guaranteed in the British climate. However it has attractive foliage, reminiscent of wisteria.

Mashua leaf – characteristic leaf shape but scalloped around the edges. Photograph: Anni Kelsey

Mashua, in the nasturtium family, has the characteristic leaf shape but somewhat scalloped around the edges. A cultivar ‘Ken Aslett’ is available in garden centres. Mashua’s flowers are orange trumpets but again they are not guaranteed, mine have never flowered yet. Mashua is a feisty plant that will scramble all over a supporting structure or, failing that, over the any adjacent plants. It produces edible shell-shaped tubers.

… and petals in the patch

When I moved from experimenting with perennial vegetables to growing them in polycultures my own garden became much, much more floral and attractive. Using plants such as marjoram, thyme, phacelia, calendula and comfrey to attract insects and improve health and fertility brings the bonus of flowers for months at a time and the satisfied hum of happy insects through the long summer days.

Then there are the vegetables that can also flower, but which are usually harvested well before they reach that stage. One of my favourites is the humble carrot. I grow them amongst flowers, fruit bushes, herbs and other vegetables but would happily add them to an ornamental flower bed. Mine is ‘Lisse de Meaux’, an open pollinated (by insects, not artificially) variety and I just cast the seeds onto the ground without any preparation. This is not in accordance with conventional advice and practice and it may take longer for them to germinate this way; however they grow well even on stony clay.

In the first year there is delicately cut foliage to look at whilst the roots develop. I wait until late autumn or even winter to harvest by which time the carrot fly have ceased their marauding life cycle and leave for the following year(s). My current second year carrots have now shot up to over a metre tall, some are 1.4 m and almost form a hedge! Each plant has one main head plus several on side shoots; the flower heads are large, intricate and complex, with white flowers visited all summer by innumerable grateful insects. By autumn the exquisitely shaped seed heads dance in the breeze and I can save the seed to grow again. (Hybrid seeds cannot be saved, but open pollinated ones can.)

Carrot plants can grow to over metre, with large, intricate white flowers. Photograph: Anni Kelsey

Radish is another very ordinary vegetable with an unexpected bonus. Initially neither particularly interesting nor attractive; they are easily hidden amongst taller flowers. Leave some in place and next spring they will bear masses of light mauve flowers waving in the breeze. The pods which follow are edible, best steamed or stir fried.

Possibilities abound; vegetables in the flower bed, flowers in the vegetable patch, or a pre-planned mixture of both. You can have a spirited mixture that is both beautiful and functional in any setting. If the natural world makes no distinction between flowers and vegetables why should we? If ever there was a time to be done with age old conventions and to try new things it is now.

Anni Kelsey is the author of Edible Perennial Gardening and blogs about her gardening exploits at annisveggies.wordpress.com.

Interested in finding out more about how you can live better? Take a look at this month’s Live Better Challenge here.

The Live Better Challenge is funded by Unilever; its focus is sustainable living. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled advertisement feature. Find out more here.

About Kristen Raney


Have you always wondered what flowers keep bugs away from the vegetables in your garden? Today we’re talking about companion planting flowers and vegetables, and which flowers can keep the bugs at bay in your garden naturally.

Flowers and vegetables don’t have to have separate spots in your garden. Flowers help you grow better vegetables by attracting pollinators, beneficial insects (the ones that kill the pests) and keeping pests away. Any brightly coloured flower will do for pollination, but these 14 companion flowers are especially good at delivering benefits to your garden.

Bachelor’s Buttons

Bachelor’s buttons are wonderful for attracting pollinators and beneficial bugs to your garden.

Bee Balm

One of the few perennials on the list, bee balm attracts bees to your garden–as the name suggests. It can become invasive, so plant it in an area you’re okay with it spreading.

Related: The 53 Best Perennials Flowers to Plant in your Garden


Borage is an edible blue flower that attracts beneficial bugs. It can even improve the flavour of your squash and adds nutrients to the soil.


Calendula is a pretty daisy-like flower that exudes a sticky sap that traps aphids and white flies. It also attracts beneficial bugs who will make a lunch out of the pests. Love it for it’s powers in the garden, then take it into the kitchen and dry some for tea.

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Chamomile attracts predatory insects, and can be dried and used for tea.


Attracts Predatory Insects. Keep picking the blooms to encourage more to flower.

Related: 38 Cut Flowers for Flower Arrangements all Summer Long


Daisies bloom practically all summer and are a good choice for beginner gardeners. They attract predatory insects.


The strong smell of lavender can deter deer and keep pests away. It also smells beautiful as you walk by in your garden.


Marigolds attract beneficial insects and deter pests. They can also discourage cats from using your raised bed as a litterbox, and keep rabbits from munching your vegetables. Bonus: Marigolds are very easy to grow and start from seed.

Related: How to Seed Start From Your Window


Aphids love nasturtiums! Plant a few so they leave your vegetables alone. Harvest a few nasturtiums for yourself for a peppery (and pretty!) take on your next salad. There are climbing varieties for trellises, and compact varieties that work better in a garden.


Plant poppies to attract beneficial insects, then collect the seeds for use in baked goods in the winter.

Get your free Garden Planner and worksheets and start creating the garden of your dreams.


Sunflowers provide some much needed shade to crops that prefer cooler conditions, and can repel whiteflies and aphids.

Related: How to Begin Gardening When You Have No Clue

Sweet Alyssum

Sweet Alyssum attracts garden pests and can be used as a living mulch because of it’s shallow roots and short stature.


Attracts pollinators like bees and monarch butterflies. One year I planted zinnias by my tomatoes and had one of the best harvests I’ve ever had, while almost everyone else in the community had terrible tomatoes. Coincidence? Maybe not. . .

Tips for Companion Planting Flowers and Vegetables

  • To reap the full benefits of companion planting flowers and vegetables, you need to have a lot of the flower planted. For example, one lone marigold amongst your cabbage will do nothing, but a whole row of them nearby will help.
  • Alternate the rows or squares (for square foot gardening) that you plant your flowers and vegetables from year to year. Planting the same crop in the same spot year after year will result in disease.
  • New to growing flowers? Marigolds, zinnias, sunflowers, and nasturtiums are all easy to start from seed.

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Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots. She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden. She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.

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