Easy Container Combos: Vegetables and Flowers

Vegetables and flowers make wonderful companions -- and look beautiful together -- in container gardens. Try these tips from author Pamela Crawford.

Grow peppers with pretty ornamental flowers and foliage in a container.

"Learn to grow easy vegetables in great looking container combos." That is the tagline in a book that teaches gardeners to do just that. Author and landscape architect Pamela Crawford makes vegetables beautiful. It's more like a journal of trial and error, where Pamela, an accomplished flower gardener, shares her first stab at vegetables.

You'll love the candid advice and even the "bloopers" as she trialed over 1,700 plants in 200 containers to gather the material for this book. We interviewed Pamela to share some of her ideas and advice here, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Vegetables and flowers can make beautiful pot buddies. This book and anyone who enjoys pretty pots will be good friends. Like Pamela said in one of her earlier flower books, "This book is for anyone who has ever killed a plant."

Keep It Simple

"Don't mix too many veggies in a pot. Keep it simple, like one tall vegetable in the center surrounded by a few flowers. Or, some big bold vegetables like okra and squash do better alone."

Use Pretty Pots

"Pretty pots add to the overall effect, but they don't have to be expensive. Pamela used colorful buckets from the dollar store with holes punched in them for drainage to add pizzazz without costing much. Nice supports like painted trellises help the overall look, too. Many things work as containers: buckets, bushel baskets, washtubs, old wicker baskets. Make sure that homemade containers have drainage holes, or make them yourself. Larger veggies, like tomato and eggplant, will need at least a 5-gallon container. Use the largest containers you can afford and have space for, especially with the big summer vegetables like squash, eggplant, tomatoes, and okra. The big plants need the room for the roots to grow."

Some Veggies are Okay Alone, but Most Like Flowers

"Big bold plants can stand alone in a pot, but most look much better accented with flowers. Use large plants in the center surrounded by smaller flowers and trailing flowers. Great vegetable centerpieces include pepper, tomato, eggplant, collard, cabbage, and kale."

Easy Container Combos: Vegetables and Flowers is available at bookstores and online book retailers.
Easy Container Combos: Vegetables and Flowers is available at bookstores and online book retailers.

Here are some other "take-aways" from her book:

  • Plant tiny veggies first. Add flowers later.
  • Space plants closer than if in the ground.
  • Vegetables are easier in larger pots.
  • Use colorful trellises and pretty obelisks for supports.
  • Production varies a lot. Her record: 236 Habanero peppers from one plant.

One last piece of advice: make watering easy on yourself

"Use a drip system with a timer and never drag a hose around again. I will never go through another summer without one," says Pamela.