More than 70% of the plants in our food supply depend on insects and other animals for pollination.
By growing flowers in the vegetable garden you’re not only adding color and making your garden a beautiful place, you’re increasing your yields! Flowers deter pests, attract pollinators, and improve biodiversity. Here are my top 5 best flowers for the vegetable garden.
Why Plant Flowers
I love growing flowers, almost more than I love growing vegetables. I cut them occasionally for bouquets but mostly I just love seeing them and the bees and butterflies they attract. These beneficial insects will provide a healthy, thriving vegetable garden all while making it beautiful.
The benefits are both above ground and below. Above ground, certain flowers can repel certain insects and attract others, keeping them off of your vegetables. Below ground flower roots can hold soil in place, so you have less erosion, and they feed beneficial soil organisms.
How to Use Flowers
I plant annuals within my garden, it is also recommended to use flowers as borders. You can alternate rows of vegetables with flowers. You can also plant them interspersed within the row. The possibilities are really endless and you can use your creativity!
Here are some examples:
The 5 Best Flowers for the Vegetable Garden
These are number one on my list because I think they are often overlooked and underestimated. Marigolds fend off pests both above and below ground, plus they are easy to grow! They also multiply like crazy and their seeds are super easy to save.
If you use Marigolds as a border, it will deter rabbits from entering your garden. Interplanting them between bean plants will also confuse bean beetles. They also deter squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, and whiteflies. Marigold roots also put off a chemical that kills root nematodes by leaving the roots in the ground at the end of the season.
They do best in zones 9 to 11 and come in a variety of colors. Marigolds do well in full sun and their soil needs are very moderate. Companion vegetables they do well with are beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and lettuce.
Seed saver tip: When you pluck the dead heads off, let them dry completely, then bag them up for next year! The seeds replant themselves easily as well if you just drop the dead heads on the ground.
Varieties I love:
Nasturtiums can deter squash bugs and beetles and they are favored by aphids so they make a great trap crop. They are also delicious edible flowers and leaves!
Both the flowers and leaves can be eaten in your favorite salads, they add a spicy, peppery kick. Think Arugula. The flowers can be eaten as buds or in full bloom. The leaves are best when young and tender so pick new growth. Fun Fact: The leaves get spicier as the day goes on so pick early for a milder flavor and later for more spice.
Nasturtiums grow well in all zones and come in a variety of colors. They like full sun to partial shade, preferring cooler temps. They do well in poor to average soil. Companion vegetables they do well with are radishes, brussel sprouts, winter squash, cabbage, broccoli and kale.
Seed Saver Tip: The seeds are large and easy to collect and many varieties will reseed on their own. Rubbing them with sandpaper, also called scarifying, will help them germinate.
Varieties I love:
Another favorite of mine, Zinnia’s are so easy to grow and come in so many different varieties you can add a lot of color to your garden with these alone. Not only do they attract bees and butterflies but hummingbirds love them as well.
They also attract ladybugs, Japanese Beetles, and wasps. Since Japanese beetles love beans, you can plant zinnias around your beans and the beetles will be drawn to the annual flowers instead.
Zinnias grow well in all zones and are very hardy. They can handle a light frost and can tolerate a lot of heat. They come in a variety of colors and prefer full sun and average soil. Companion vegetables they do well with are tomatoes, lettuce, beans, cucumber, potatoes, and asparagus.
Seed Saver Tip: They easily replant themselves year after year. When the seed heads fall, they regenerate on their own. Or you can dry the heads and save the seeds in bags.
Varieties I love:
Like Zinnias, these dainty flowers come in so many colors that they can really add a lot of pop in your vegetable garden. I didn’t know much about these when a friend gave me a bag of seeds she had saved and I quickly fell in love.
Cosmos attract many helpful insects like green lacewings and they are voracious eaters, vacuuming up all sorts of soft-bodied insects, including aphids, scale, and thrips. That’s the kind of beneficial insect we want in our gardens!
Cosmos grow best in zones 9-11 and come in a huge variety of colors. They prefer full sun and average soil. Companion vegetables they do well with are tomatoes, beets, peppers, and pumpkins.
Seed Saver Tip: When the pod is mature, the seeds will fall off from the pod with a simple touch so if you are planning to save the seeds for future planting, make sure to collect the seeds before they spill into the garden.
Varieties I Love:
Last but certainly not least, and I could continue this list up to 10 very easily but for this article we will end with Sunflowers. Sunflowers steal the show time and time again due to their large blooms and towering heights. But they are beneficial as well!
Sunflowers can make great trellises for climbing plants and they have lots of nectar to attract pollinators. Birds also love the seeds.
Sunflowers grow best in all zones and come in a huge variety of colors and sizes. They prefer full sun and average soil. Companion vegetables they do well with are radishes, cucumbers, onion, tomatoes, corn, and squash
Seed Saver Tip: Dry the heads completely and store in bags. Due to the size of the seeds it is very easy to collect and save them.
Varieties I Love:
Zinnias, Cosmos and Sunflowers all make great cut flowers for quick and easy bouquets! Don’t forget to add them to your table with your fresh garden vegetables.
Don’t forget your native flowers as well! Do a little research and find out what is native to your area. Here in Florida the UF|IFAS provides great resources on native plants and The Florida Wildflower Foundation has seeds and info on their site: https://www.flawildflowers.org/. Some of my favorite native flowers in our area are Phlox, Spiderwort, Black Eyed Susans, Coreopsis, Firewheels and Wild Argeratum.
Do you plant flowers in your vegetable garden? What are your favorites? Share in the comments below!