Flowers in the Kitchen Garden

A few years ago I started planting flowers in my vegetable garden. At first, it was because I simply ran out of room in my yard and had nowhere else to go but the vegetable garden.

By adding flowers and herbs throughout my vegetable garden I had unknowingly created a habitat for beneficial insects. I started to notice my vegetable plants were thriving and producing more with less bug and disease problems.


I was hooked and started planting more flowers in a border around the perimeter of my vegetable garden. It is now packed full of perennials like nepeta, bee balm and echinacea and annuals such as cosmos, poppies, zinnias and salvias. I interplanted annuals and herbs among all the vegetables inside my garden such as calendula, alyssum, marigolds, violas, zinnias, borage, and nasturtium.

Flowers are essential in maintaining a healthy and biodiverse vegetable garden. They attract beneficial insects that help control pests and pollinate crops for higher yields.

Some flowers help repel harmful insects such as aphids, tomato hornworm, cucumber and squash beetles: while other flowers help attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, tiny parasitic wasps and flower flies to control pests naturally.
Interplanting a wide range of annual flowers and herbs throughout the vegetable garden will also help mask the pheromones and scent of any one plant, thus helping to confuse the harmful bugs that are attracted to your vegetable plants.

The following are some of the annual and perennial flowers and herbs I like to use in my garden.


Zinnias attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. They provide a landing pad for insects to rest and soak up the sun while providing them with pollen and nectar. They are easy to care for and are great to cut for bouquets. One of my favorites, shown above left, is ‘Benary’s Salmon Rose’.

Calendulas attract bees and butterflies. The petals are edible and are used fresh in salads or dried for use in teas and body creams. My favorite is ‘Zeolights’ shown above right.

Echinacea, a native plant known for its healing properties, attracts bees and butterflies. Let some flowers go to seed to nourish songbirds. ‘White Swan’, pictured above left, is my favorite.

Borage is an herb that is usually grown for its light blue, star-shaped flowers that attract pollinating bees. The edible flowers have a cucumber taste and are used in salads or as a garnish. It is pictured above left growing with my purple coneflower.

Nasturtium is an edible flower that has peppery leaves and flowers. Its low-growing, dense habit makes it great as a living mulch. Flowers are beautiful in salads or as a garnish. ‘Mahogany’ pictured above right is growing beside my red-veined sorrel.

Alyssum spreads along the ground like a living mulch with hundreds of tiny flowers that bloom over a long season with an added benefit of having a beautiful fragrance. The white variety is highly attractive to flower flies.



My favorite marigolds are from the ‘Gem’ series: ‘Lemon’ and ‘Tangerine’. They have edible, fine, citrus- smelling foliage and small edible flowers.

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Some of my favorite herbs mingle in and around my garden. Pictured above are boxwood basil and dill.   Radishes, pictured bottom right, have beautiful flowers and I love to plant them around my cucumbers. 

Choosing the right flowers for your space can be a challenge.  Finding information on flowers that attract bees, butterflies and beneficial insects is easy, but choosing the appropriate flowers for your space that benefit your vegetable plants and complement your garden’s overall design isn’t. That is what we love to do! 

At Sweetgum Horticulture we are always excited to design creative combinations of plants that help make your vegetable garden productive, healthy, and beautiful. 

Text and photos by C. George, Garden Supervisor at Sweetgum Horticulture.

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Sweetgum Horticulture is serving clients in the Metro West communities of Boston, MA, including Wellesley, Weston, Newton, Needham, Natick, Wayland, Lincoln, Dover, Sherborn and Sudbury.

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