Companion Planting Flowers and Herbs in the Vegetable Garden

Attract the good bugs and repel the pests

Vegetable garden with flowers, vegetables and herbs mixed in raised beds

The Spruce / Valerie de León

There is no rule that states vegetables and flowers can't mix. In fact, a vegetable garden benefits greatly from the addition of flowers and herbs. But it's not just aesthetics that make flowering plants welcome in the vegetable garden.

Companion planting flowers and herbs with vegetables offers several beneficial features that can protect your vegetables from insect pests and may even make them more productive.

They Act as Trap Crops

If you can't repel a pest, plant a sacrificial plant to attract them. This is often accomplished with another vegetable crop, such as surrounding cabbage with a trap crop (or catch crop) of collards to attract the diamondback moth.

The pest insect will congregate on the trap crop, which you can then hand pick and destroy. The most famous flower trap crop is probably nasturtiums, which attract aphids. Nicotiana is also a viable trap crop. Chervil keeps slugs away from your leafy greens, and mustard attracts lygus bugs (tarnish bugs) to keep them away from your apples and strawberries.

Before you plant trap crops, weigh the risk of attracting more of the pest to your garden than before. The trap crop technique is generally used the year after a pest has done significant damage to your plants. If you can, time it so that the trap crop is more mature than the plant it's protecting.

Nasturtium plant with large round leaves and yellow flowers closeup

The Spruce / Valerie de León

They Attract Pollinators

Vegetables don't always have the showiest flowers. To make sure bees and other pollinators can find your vegetable plants, companion plant flowers with high nectar concentrations or in shades of blue, yellow, or white. And, don't overlook flowering herbs.

Herbs in the mint family, such as oregano and thyme, are particular favorites of bees. Of course, you will have to stop harvesting a few plants to give them time to set buds and flower. Some additional choices include cosmos, larkspur, mints (watch for invasiveness or plant in a container), sunflowers, sweet peas, and zinnias.

Head of broccoli surrounded by large leaves and small yellow flowers

The Spruce / Valerie de León

They Attract Beneficial Insects

Most insects are not garden pests, and some insects prey on the actual pests. These beneficial include insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps, and ground beetles.

As with every other insect, beneficial insects have certain preferences in plants. Companion-plant their favorites, and you'll eventually have beneficial insects patrolling to consume your bad insects. Parsley, dill, coriander, and flowers from the aster family are especially good for attracting beneficial insects.

Red ladybug sitting on mint leaf

The Spruce / Valerie de León

They Repel Garden Pests

It is still questionable whether some plants actually repel garden pests or just make for a healthier ecosystem. But the topic is worth further study, and it sure can't hurt to try some of these companion pairings if you have a problem in your garden:

They Promote Biodiversity

What all this companion planting is leading to is the concept of biodiversity, or planting a wide variety of plants rather than a single monocrop. Diversity helps to confuse insect pests by planting things they love with things they won't touch as well as to attract beneficial insects that can keep pests in check. Whether there is also a symbiotic relationship between different plant species is still being studied.

Vegetable garden mixed with tall yellow and green flowers near herb plants

The Spruce / Valerie de León

You Can Hide the Cutting Garden

One final bonus of companion planting flowers in the vegetable garden is the ability to place your cutting garden where it won't be judged for its design or appearance. If you want to plant black-eyed Susan, celosia, salvia, and zinnias in straight rows that will always be halfway cut down, plant them among the vegetables where looks don't count as much as function. Let them do dual duty as cut flowers and pollinator lures.

Companion planting vegetables, herbs, and flowers is how the original cottage garden style evolved. Sectioning off gardens for specific types of plants was a luxury of the rich.

Besides all of the benefits outlined above, if you are short on space or time, companion planting could be the answer to some gardening dilemmas.

Vegetable garden mixed with purple and orange flowers

The Spruce / Valerie de León