What Are The Best Flowers To Plant In Your Vegetable Garden?

Erica Groneman + photo

Erica Groneman

Jan 14
5 min read
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flowers and vegetables sitting on a table outside

Increase Fruit and Vegetable Production

Did you know that planting flowers in your vegetable garden will help increase fruit and vegetable production? It’s true. Some flowers and vegetables have a symbiotic relationship. This means that they protect or encourage each other to be healthier and have greater growth. This is because groupings of plants can increase local humidity, reduce evaporation, retain soil moisture, and diversify soil nutrients and microbial activity. Plants can also encourage a symbiotic relationship with beneficial insects such as ladybeetles. Using flowers or other plants in this way is called companion planting. If you haven’t yet discovered the benefits of companion planting for yourself, I invite you to give it a try.

Flowers Attract Pollinators to the Vegetable Garden

Flowers attract pollinators like bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, and other insects. Pollinators are obviously crucial to a thriving garden. More pollinators mean more produce throughout the growing season. Flowers also beautify your garden space and can be used as cut flowers to beautify the dinner table.

parts of a flower

If you are seeing many blooms that do not start developing into fruit, there may be a reason for that. For example, cucumbers often only set male flowers in the first blooms set. For plants that are not self-pollinating, male and female flowers must be present to be pollinated by a pollinating insect.

In the example of cucumbers, you must wait until the second set of blooms, where both the male and female flowers will be present. “Perfect” flowers, such as can be found with tomatoes or peppers, have both the male and female parts required to complete pollination. A shake of the flower due to insect activity or wind will cause pollination to occur.

Vegetables that rely on pollinating insects include squashes, pumpkin, melons, eggplant, okra, and cucumbers. These plants, some of which are often called vegetables (by association, not botanically), are the fruit (mature ovary) of the flower and contain seeds. True vegetables often only require pollination if you are planning on saving the seeds. This is because the vegetable is a harvest of the roots, stems, shoots, or leaves. Examples include beets, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, mustard, radish, and turnips.

Flowers in the Vegetable Garden to Deter Pests

Some plants will deter pests, making them incredibly valuable not only for the health of your plants but for your enjoyment as well. I love gardens and plants, especially adding some water features here and there. Unfortunately, plants and water are a magnet for bugs and pests throughout the garden. However, they can be controlled and deterred by using a variety of well-placed plants. Here you can find a list of plants for targeting a variety of pests. You can find another list specifically targeting mosquitoes in our “Plants Naturally Repel Mosquitoes” article.

Asters

Asters - Deter many insects and pair well with sunflowers for an assortment of color.

Calendula

Calendula - Has some antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Deter asparagus beetles and tomato hornworms.

Geraniums

Geraniums - Great for cabbage and leafy greens. Known to repel cabbage worms, corn earworms, and Japanese beetles.

Herbs

Herbs - Many herbs do well at detering pests because they are often extremely aromatic, or contain natural flavors or chemicals that are disliked by many insects and animals. Common herbs for detering pests include basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, and lemongrass.

Lavender

Lavender - Does not like to grow near mint or impatiens. Does especially well with roses and herbs. Repels many insects.

Marigolds

Marigolds - Many insects, especially Mexican bean beetles and nematodes. Great with tomatoes, pepper, potato, and eggplant.

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums - Deter aphids, squash bugs, striped pumpkin beetles, and whiteflies. Do well near beans, cabbage, and cucumbers.

Petunias

Petunias - Does well near tomatoes, beans, squash, or potatoes. Repel many insects and attract hummingbirds.

Tansy

Tansy - Deter flying insects, ants, and beetles. Does well near potatoes and squash.

Flowers to Improve Soil Quality and Nutrients

Whether you are growing flowers or vegetables, it is important to protect and improve your soil from year to year. One of the ways to do that is by growing a protective and working living mulch. A living mulch can help control weeds, retain moisture, reduce erosion, encourage healthy microbe activity, increase organic material, and attract pollinators, as mentioned above. While you can and should utilize spring or fall cover crops, you can continue to utilize them in the form of a living mulch throughout the growing season as well.

garden cover crop mix

Sunflowers - have deep root systems help pull up and keep water in the root region. Its roots also decompose into organic matter when the plant is cut at ground level. The foliage may be cut and dispersed to decompose on the surface over winter.

Sweet Pea - nitrogen fixing legume.

Sweet Alyssum - groundcover and living mulch.

Borage - improves water drainage and compact soils as a groundcover, is edible.

Bachelor Buttons - living mulch.

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9 comments

Rosie

I am 75 years old and never knew cucumbers first flowers where only male and needed the 2nd blooms to produce cukes ! Never to old to learn!. About 22 years ago I read some seed companies and the U.S government were trying to produce seeds that would not reproduce. Well they did it. We finally stopped planting a garden when it took 3 plantings in just one row to get a full row of beans! Government controlling our food supply!! So they can control us is coming true ,just like Russia did to their people. In early 1900’s !


Cindy Dancer

I always plant marigolds and nasturtiums in my garden. I also plant them on my deck. I use lavender as well on the deck to deter pests. Plus it adds a pop of color!


Jennifer Flowers

This was the first year I really interplanted flowers and I love all the color. I had several types of marigolds, zinnia, chamomile, asweet alyssums, begonias and panseys among others


Son

It’s good to know there are more natural ways to deter pests by planting different types of plants and flowers. Definitely going to try planting some marigolds in my garden. Thanks for the idea!


Christine Hiebel

When we moved to Florida and put in a garden, there was so much to learn… and unlearn! It is different gardening here for sure. One of the challenges I had was something you discuss…. not enough pollinators! Adding flowers has not only helped, but made my gardening so much more fun! and I have learned the joy of edible flower too!


Naomi Olson

This was my first year growing nasturtiums in my garden. I grew them because I learned that you can brine the green seeds and have a substitute for capers. I used the flowers in my cooking as well, I really loved growing this and I will always grow this from now on.


Manasseh Joseph

Very nice read on the use of flowers to benefit the garden. I would love to have these beneficial insects as I plant some flowers around the garden.


Yvonne Hernandez

Growing is such an exciting thing to do. But when you add flowers it makes it such much more exciting and rewarding. Marigolds are one of my champion flowers, they are lovely to see bloom, they are eatable and the chickens love them as well. They truly are a champion flower in my book.


Niccole Celeste Radhe

Great article! I love Marigolds, zinnias and sunflowers because not only do they attract pollinators but they make great indicator plants of the moisture in the soil too! I live in the arid climate of Tucson, AZ and am always running into dry conditions out of nowhere. These flowers starts to wilt slightly when its dry and lets me know I need to up my irrigation game for that week. Another great thing about marigolds in this climate is that they grow year round in almost any type of soil! They are very low maintainance.


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