Five Annual and Perennial Pairs for your Vegetable Garden

Loosen up the traditional “rules” of gardening to create space for new ideas like planting perennial flowers with your vegetables.

It’s long been a fairly stringent rule that in the case of edibles, you should keep annuals and perennials separate: Plant annuals with annuals and plant perennials apart from annuals in separate beds. Why?

Photo of garden with kale, sunflowers, and other vegetables and flowers.
In this exuberant, densely packed front-yard garden, lush Tuscan kale mixes with sunflowers, four o’clocks, and other vegetables and flowers. Photo © Derek R. Trimble.

In my garden, a few perennial herbs and flowers mingle among the annuals year after year. I’m not claiming the following are true companions in the sense of benefiting one plant by reducing pests or disease, but they have grown together successfully and beautifully.

SAGE + BROCCOLI Folk wisdom considers sage a companion for plants in the mustard family such as arugula, kale, and broccoli. The strong scent of sage may confuse cabbageworm moths that like to lay eggs on mustard-family crops.

ECHINACEA + TOMATOES I love the bright blooms of echinacea (coneflower) that come back each summer. The color complements the green tomato plants and brightens up the bed until the fruit starts to mature. Bees also love echinacea.

Photo of hot pink echinacea next to ripening 'Indigo Apple' tomatoes.
Hot pink echinacea sustains summer color next to ripening ‘Indigo Apple’ tomato. Cut back echinacea in midsummer to encourage another flush of bee-, butterfly-, and bird-attracting blooms in early fall. Photo © Derek R. Trimble.

VERONICA + SQUASH I first found veronica when I was looking for an in-bloom plant that bees might love. In the garden center, the display of veronica plants was literally shaking with bee activity, and it’s been that way in my garden, too. Veronica is a good partner for squash, which needs ample pollination from bees.

STRAWBERRIES + LETTUCE Strawberries grow a strong root system, so they pair well with lettuce, which is lightly rooted. These spring berries and greens also go together in the kitchen and make a great combo in planting containers.

THYME + PEPPERS Low-growing thyme can develop well underneath ­peppers, shading the soil and perhaps deterring some pests with its scent. Growing peppers above thyme also makes good use of space.

Excerpted and adapted from The Creative Vegetable Gardener © by Kelly Smith Trimble.

Kelly Smith Trimble

Kelly Smith Trimble

About the Author

Kelly Smith Trimble is the author of Vegetable Gardening Wisdom. She has been a lifestyle editor for nearly 20 years, working for brands such as HGTV, Southern Living, Lowe's, Bonnie Plants, the National Park Foundation, and more. A certified Master Gardener, she grows vegetables, herbs, and flowers in her suburban backyard and loves cooking and preserving. She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. Her web site is and her Instagram handle is @kellysmithtrimble.

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