9 Best Flowers for the Vegetable Garden

Edible Flowers, Cutting Flowers, and Flowers to Deter Pests

Ornamental cabbage and zinnia flowers

 

typo-graphics / Getty Images

Introducing flowers to a vegetable garden is full of perks beyond simply adding beauty. Flowers can be used in companion planting to help deter pests and attract beneficial insects, such as pollinators. Interplanting also saves space and time, as you can grow and tend to more of your plants in one place.

Even without companion benefits, the vegetable garden is a lovely place to plant flowers intended for cutting. You can snip them as you're selecting vegetables for dinner. Here are nine of the best flowers to add a new dimension to your vegetable garden.

  • 01 of 09

    Borage (Borago officinalis)

    Borage flowers

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    Borage grows into a wide, gangly plant that is lovely in a cottage garden, though it can be somewhat messy in more formal borders. It is an herb that is right at home in a vegetable garden. The flowers are a beacon for bees and a delight for gardeners. Both its leaves and flowers are edible with a subtle cucumber flavor. The plant is fast growing and can be directly sown in the ground. After that, it tends to reseed itself.

    Some flowers are pink, and some are blue. Light, temperature, and other external conditions can cause this color variation. One theory is the color changes from pink to blue as the flowers age and lose their pollen. Presumably, the blue color tells pollinators the flower is no longer worth their effort. Pulmonaria, which is in the same family, does this with its flowers.

    • USDA Growing Zones: N/A (annual plant)
    • Color Varieties: Blue, pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining
  • 02 of 09

    Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis)

    Calendula flowers

    AKuptsova/Pixabay 

    Calendula, or pot marigolds, are part of the daisy family and are not related to marigolds of the genus Tagetes. Pot marigolds are considered an edible flower, though they have a predominately bitter flavor. It is their brilliant orange color that livens up a plate.

    In the garden, calendula is a mixed blessing. It repels some pests, such as asparagus beetles, and tomato hornworms. But it also attracts a few others, including aphids. Do not let that deter you. You can use the flower as a trap crop, putting it on the other side of the vegetable garden from plants aphids often attack, such as peas.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Color Varieties: Yellow, orange, pink, cream
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, slightly acidic to neutral, well-draining
  • 03 of 09

    Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

    cosmos flowers blooming in a field

    Mongkol Kaewchum/EyeEm/Getty Images

    Few flowers grow as easily and bloom as profusely as cosmos. And those blooms can be put to practical use in the vegetable garden, as they attract many helpful insects. For instance, if you want to draw in green lacewings, choose a white or bright orange variety, such as 'Cosmic Orange'.

    Green lacewings are voracious eaters, vacuuming up all sorts of soft-bodied insects, including aphids, scale, and thrips. Thus, they are considered a beneficial insect, and making them at home in your vegetable garden will help to prevent pest problems.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Color Varieties: Pink, purple, red, yellow, orange, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, moderate moisture, well-draining
  • 04 of 09

    Lavender (Lavandula sp.)

    Lavender flowers

    Tim Graham/Getty Images

    It's not difficult to find a reason to plant some lavender. In addition to its beautiful blooms and much-loved fragrance, the herb can be used to repel several common vegetable garden pests.

    Deer tend to avoid it, along with many insects, including ticks. Of course, having lavender around doesn't guarantee a tick won't bite you, but it should cut down on the number of ticks in the area. In addition, moths—including those pesky green cabbage moths—also find the scent offensive. Even mice typically find somewhere else to snack.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Purple, violet-blue, rose, pale pink, white, yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Lean, alkaline, well-draining
    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Marigold (Tagetes sp.)

    Marigold flowers

    sarangib/Pixabay 

    Marigolds do not get the respect they deserve. They deter pests both above and below the ground, and they look great doing it. Ring your garden with marigold plants, and rabbits will think twice before crossing the line. Plus, confuse Mexican bean beetles by interplanting marigolds with bean plants in your vegetable garden.

    Marigolds also have been credited with repelling squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, and whiteflies. Some even exude a chemical that kills root nematodes in the soil. However, if nematodes are a problem, you will need to leave the marigold roots in the soil at the end of the season.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Color Varieties: Red, orange, yellow, gold
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 06 of 09

    Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

    Orange blossom of nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus L.)

    Vaughn Greg/Getty Images

    Cheerful nasturtiums prefer cooler temperatures and continue blooming well into the fall. Nasturtiums offer some protection from squash bugs and beetles. They also are favored by aphids and make a great trap crop. But they are one of the more delicious edible flowers (and leaves), so do not sacrifice them all to the insects.

    The seeds are large and easy to collect for replanting next season. Many varieties will seed on their own. Plant the seeds after scarifying them first (nicking them or rubbing them with sandpaper) to help their germination. Or you can try turning them into nasturtium capers.

    • USDA Growing Zones: N/A (annual plant)
    • Color Varieties: Red, orange, yellow, cream
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Poor to average, slightly acidic, well-draining
  • 07 of 09

    Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

    Sunflowers and a butterfly

    Greyerbaby/Pixabay 

    Sunflowers are a perfect flower for the vegetable garden. They make great trellises for climbing plants, and they have lots of nectar to attract pollinators.

    Unfortunately, sunflowers also tend to attract squirrels, which can be a problem if you are growing them to save the seeds. However, a coarse-leaved vegetable, such as squash, planted beneath the sunflowers can go a long way to deter animals.​

    • USDA Growing Zones: N/A (annual plant)
    • Color Varieties: Yellow, red, burgundy, chocolate
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, moist, well-draining
  • 08 of 09

    Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus)

    pink, purple, and white sweet peas

    Michael Boys/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

    Sweet peas are not edible for humans (the seeds are poisonous), but many other creatures find them delicious. So if you have difficulty keeping them in your flower garden, planting them in a protected vegetable garden is an alternative.

    Growing sweet peas with tall, edible peas and pole beans is a way to squeeze them into the garden and get the benefit of attracting more pollinators to your beans. They will not cross-pollinate with the edible peas, as they belong to different genera.

    • USDA Growing Zones: N/A (annual plant)
    • Color Varieties: Red, pink, blue, purple, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Humusy, medium moisture, well-draining
    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

    Zinnia

    MrGajowy3 / Pixabay 

    Nectar-rich zinnia flowers are magnets for bees and other pollinators. They are also popular with hummingbirds. The paler, pastel varieties seem to be attractive to Japanese beetles and can be used as a trap crop. On the other hand, you might not want to plant anything that attracts Japanese beetles unless you already have a problem you're trying to solve.

    Moreover, planting zinnia flowers in the vegetable garden gives you the opportunity to use them as cut flowers without having to worry about the gaps left behind from your cuttings. Gaps are expected in a vegetable garden as you harvest your crops.

    • USDA Growing Zones: N/A (annual plant)
    • Color Varieties: Red, pink, yellow, orange, lilac, purple, green, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Humusy, well-draining