Flowers not only look great in a vegetable garden, but they’re also the unsung heroes when it comes to attracting pollinators, improving soil health, and boosting yields. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the best flowers for vegetable gardens that you should definitely consider adding this season.
Healthy vegetable gardens play host to a diverse range of plants and insects that work together to create a balanced ecosystem. You’d want to bring in bees, butterflies, ladybugs, and more to pollinate your veggies and prey on pests. You’d also want to incorporate companion plants to improve soil quality, suppress weeds, and deter unwanted guests.
Flowering plants are an excellent choice to achieve all these goals. So, which flowers should you grow in the vegetable garden? Let’s find out!
What Will I Learn?
- Why Plant Flowers in Your Vegetable Garden?
- The Benefits of Planting Flowers with Vegetables
- The Best Flowers for Vegetable Gardens
- Some Other Suggestions:
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
Why Plant Flowers in Your Vegetable Garden?
First off, pollinators like bees and butterflies depend on flowers to survive. So, by adding flowering plants to your garden, you’re helping out the ecosystem. As the number of pollinators increases, your veggies will have a better fertilization rate, resulting in a better harvest.
Many flowers also help mitigate pests by repelling them with their scent or attracting natural pest predators. This means you can cut down on pesticides, which are not only bad for the environment but also for your health. Sometimes, flowering plants also act as trap crops or natural boundaries so that pests go after them instead of your precious vegetables.
The Benefits of Planting Flowers with Vegetables
Flowers bring a variety of benefits to your vegetable garden, such as:
- Attract pollinators to your garden, improving overall yield.
- Deter pests by attracting beneficial insects that feed on them.
- Improve soil health by adding nutrients and organic matter through their roots and decomposing leaves.
- Suppress weed growth by shading the soil and competing for resources.
- Act as a trap crop, luring pests away from your vegetables and protecting them.
- Spruce up your garden with some extra beauty and diversity.
The Best Flowers for Vegetable Gardens
Now that we know how flowers can be super helpful, let’s check out the top flowers to plant in a vegetable garden.
If there’s one flower you absolutely need in your vegetable garden, it’s marigolds. They’re hardy, low maintenance, and have the most amazing pest-repellent properties ever. But don’t get them mixed up with pot marigolds, which we’ll talk about later. French and African marigolds grow tall, with deep green foliage and a strong odor that repels thrips, tomato hornworms, whiteflies, as well as rabbits and mice.
They also release a chemical called ‘α-terthienyl’ from their roots that suppresses nematodes—soil-borne pests that feed on plant roots. This makes them a handy ally in maintaining the health of the soil.
Just a heads up: marigolds can actually attract slugs. It’s a bit of a trade-off, though. On the bright side, they can lure slugs away from your veggies. But, full disclosure, they can also increase the slug population in your garden. So, watch out if you’re already dealing with a slug infestation.
Nasturtium is a low-growing annual that quickly covers the ground and acts as a living mulch. It comes in bright hues of red, orange, and yellow and attracts bees, butterflies as well as hummingbirds. But most importantly, it’s grown as a trap for aphids, whiteflies, and squash bugs. That’s why it’s an excellent companion plant for brassicas, cucurbits, and beans.
Plus, nasturtium is a cooker. Both its flowers and leaves are edible and add a peppery, tangy flavor to your salads or stir-fries.
3. Sweet Alyssum
Alyssum is a small but mighty annual that looks absolutely amazing along garden edges, hanging baskets, or spilling over walls. Its delicate white and purple flowers are like a magnet for hoverflies and lacewings, which are the natural enemies of many garden pests.
But the best thing about sweet alyssum is that it’s super adaptable—it can grow anywhere in your garden, whether under the shade of taller veggies or in the scorching sun. Plus, it blooms for a really long time, all the way into fall. So, if you’re after a low-maintenance ground cover that adds both beauty and function to your garden, sweet alyssum is the way to go.
Lavender is quite the social butterfly, attracting bees and other vital pollinators who help boost the productivity of your veggies. But it’s most peculiar for its ability to repel moths and ticks, which aren’t easy to deal with otherwise. (Some people even grow it to ward off deer, but it’s not a sure shot.)
Not to mention, lavender is very drought tolerant, so it’s perfect for those dry corners where nothing else survives. And, of course, the flowers are gorgeous and smell heavenly. You can use them to make fragrant sachets or add them to your tea for some extra relaxation.
Another pollinator magnet, borage, is a great all-rounder herb to plant with vegetables. It flowers in the prettiest shade of red and blue and can grow quite tall, so it’s perfect as a living fence or back border. Just remember, borage can be a bit untamed, so a little pruning now and then might be needed.T
Borage is also an excellent trap crop for flea beetles and Japanese beetles, which makes it a perfect companion for tomatoes, strawberries, and squash. Plus, it’s edible and has a cucumbery taste, so you can add the flowers to salads or whip up fancy borage drinks.
6. Calendula/Pot Marigolds
Calendula, also known as pot marigold, is an early bloomer that can handle light frosts. That makes them the perfect cover crop to keep your soil healthy and weed-free in the spring before more warm-weather veggies can be added.
These little beauties grow fast and produce a bounty of golden orange flowers that release a thick sap, which attracts pests like aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. But don’t worry, that’s a good thing! As these insects get drawn to the vibrant blooms, they’ll leave your vegetables pest-free.
Zinnias are a classic garden flower that comes in all sorts of colors, shapes, and sizes. They’re hardy annuals that grow tall and bushy, with thick stems that can handle wind and rain without a hitch. And they stay in bloom until the first frost, giving pollinators a long-lasting food source.
They attract a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Its bright colors are particularly effective in luring Japanese beetles, which is why they’re often used as trap crops for these pests.
Cosmos are a great choice for those with smaller vegetable gardens. They grow tall and airy, with delicate pink, white, or red flowers that attract ladybugs and lacewings, two of the best natural predators for aphids, mites, and other small pests.
Cosmos are easy to grow from seed and can be directly sown into your vegetable garden. They’re fast-growing and bloom profusely until frost hits. And if you let them go to seed, they’ll self-sow in your garden next year.
9. German Chamomile
Another ‘can-do-everything’ flower, the German chamomile attracts pollinators, suppresses weeds, and adds a calming presence to your garden. Its dainty white flowers with yellow centers bloom all summer long and can easily grow in full sun or partial shade.
But the best thing about German chamomile is its ability to repel cabbage moths and cucumber beetles that often attack brassicas and cucurbits. On top of that, it has several medicinal properties that help soothe upset stomachs and promote sleep.
No list of companion flowers for vegetables would be complete without mentioning sunflowers. These majestic annuals are the champs of attracting bees, butterflies, and ladybugs. In addition, their tall stems provide a cozy hideout for ground beetles, spiders, and other predatory insects.
Sunflowers also release chemicals that fight off weeds, and their deep roots help loosen up compacted soil. These traits are a huge bonus for a veggie garden, but be careful not to plant them too close to sensitive plants like beans or lettuce. To get the best results, let sunflowers shine in a corner with plenty of room to show off their full potential.
Some Other Suggestions:
- Let your herbs go to seed: Many common herbs like dill, cilantro, and parsley produce attractive flowers that pollinators love. So don’t be too quick to cut them down after they’ve bolted.
- Plant potted flowers near your vegetables: If you’re short on space in your veggie garden, enjoy the perks of companion planting by placing potted flowers near your vegetables. They offer the same benefits with less commitment.
- Choose flowers that bloom at different times: To ensure a constant pollinator presence in your garden, choose flowers that bloom at different times of the year. This will provide a steady food source for your pollinator friends and keep them coming back to help your vegetables thrive.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best flowers to plant with vegetables?
Flowers that attract pollinators, repel pests, and promote a healthy ecosystem are the best to plant with vegetables. Some popular choices include marigolds, nasturtiums, sweet alyssum, lavender, borage, zinnias, cosmos, German chamomile, and sunflowers.
What flowers should not be planted with vegetables?
Avoid invasive and aggressive flowers like moneywort, wisteria, fennel, or anything in the mint family. They can compete for nutrients or may even take over your vegetables.
Do I need to prune my companion flowers?
It depends on the flower species. Some, like borage, require occasional pruning to keep them from taking over, while others, like calendula, need deadheading to promote continuous blooming. Research the specific flower’s needs before planting them in your vegetable garden.
Can I let my companion flowers go to seed?
Absolutely! Harvest the seeds from your garden flowers and use them for future plantings. Just be aware of their self-seeding habits to avoid overcrowding your vegetables.
The secret to successful companion planting is finding the right balance between beneficial interactions and potential conflicts among plants. So, pick flowers that not only help your veggies but also match your gardening style and space. And don’t hesitate to try different combinations and see what works best for your particular garden.