Edible and ornamental plants needn’t be grown in separate areas of the garden. In fact, there are many benefits to growing them side by side.
Veg crops have traditionally been incorporated into floral borders in cottage gardens. And kitchen gardens (or potagers) such as Villandry can be a great source of creative ideas for combining fruit, veg and herbs with ornamentals.
Companion planting can be a design feature as well as a practical means of combating pests and diseases. It entails growing strongly scented plants alongside edibles, in order to deter pests, or lure them away from the crops.
10 companion plants to grow
Many edible crops have striking, architectural foliage that can look great in ornamental planting schemes. Glaucous kale and colourful Swiss chard both work particularly well.
Browse our ideas for mixing edible and ornamental plants, below.
An easy way to combine edible and ornamental plants is by underplanting. On a larger scale, this is ideal for fruit trees, which can be underplanted with many plants, including spring bulbs, lavender or native wildflowers. On a smaller scale, try filling in gaps in containers with herbs, lettuce or mizuna.
Pots and containers
Edible crops and ornamentals can work very well together in pots. For a Mediterranean feel, grow thyme, rosemary and sage with lavender, santolina and salvias. Annuals work well too – the pot pictured is planted with Irish poet (Emilia javanica), colourful chard and fiery chilli peppers.
Window boxes are a good choice if you’re short of space or don’t have a garden. Edibles to grow in them include tomatoes, lettuce, herbs and strawberries. Nasturtiums can be used as a companion plant, luring away pests and attracting beneficial hoverflies, the larvae of which prey on aphids.
Borders and veg plots
In garden borders, don’t be afraid to plant fruit and vegetables among your dahlias – aside from providing fresh crops, they can make colourful, architectural and elegant additions. On the veg plot or allotment, try edging with a mix of wildflowers. It’ll boost the value to wildlife and is a good chance to grow companion plants like fennel, Calendula and borage.
Growing a mix of edible and ornamental plants in raised beds can transform them from regimented blocks to beautiful, productive plots. For quick colour, bedding plants dotted among the crops are perfect, and they should thrive in the rich soil that many vegetables enjoy.
Grow plants together that like the same conditions
When pairing up your plants, make sure they enjoy the same growing conditions. For example, Mediterranean plants like lavender and thyme enjoy a hot, sunny spot in well-drained soil. Whereas basil, which enjoys warm, tropical conditions, would be better planted in a more rich, moist soil, with plants like sweet peas and chives.