Do You Know Which Plants Can Help or Hurt Your Garden?

Maria Trimarchi

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Tomato and basil are a classic culinary pairing, but are they a complementary duo in the garden? There are many "companion" plants, like broccoli with beets or peas with carrots, that are known to help each other stay healthy and fruitful. But not all plant pairings play well together. See how good you are at figuring out what should be in your garden, and what shouldn't.

Which herb can keep away pests, and maybe even help your tomatoes taste better?

You need it for caprese salad, but did you know basil can do good things before you harvest it? It's a good companion plant, which means that when it's grown near some vegetables it can help keep away pests -- and maybe even help your tomatoes taste better.

Which herb has been relied upon for centuries to reduce stress and improve sleep?

Lavender needs to grow in full sun, but it doesn't require much water or fertilizer, or even much attention. But it can also help deter moths, slugs and even deer from snacking on your plants.

Which flower contains a natural insecticide that repels the hard-to-repel Japanese beetle?

Chrysanthemums are a natural fit for your garden, and not only because they provide a pretty pop of color. These flowers contain a natural insecticide called pyrethrin that helps to deter all kinds of pests -- including the hard-to-repel Japanese beetle.

Which of these flowering plants is great for soil but considered a weed?

Why fight it? Dandelions are considered weeds, but they're actually helpful in your garden. Not only do they attract ladybugs and pollinators, they also benefit the soil if you let them die down and regrow back on their own. Plus, the whole plant is edible.

Which aquatic plant, which happens to be invasive, is popular in water gardens?

Well-known in the world of water gardening, the water hyacinth has striking blue flowers and thick root system. So thick, in fact, the plant is considered an invasive species, and will choke anything growing or living in your water garden.

There's no proof it can help battle wounds as is said in Greek mythology, but which perennial will bring butterflies to your yard?

Yarrow may best be known for its legend: in Greek mythology, Achilles uses the perennial to stop bleeding wounds of his soldiers in battle. While there is no scientific proof it can do that, it is known to attract butterflies, and is a pest-resistant and drought-resistant addition to your yard.

Which memeber of the mint family is too invasive to plant in your garden?

The leaves of this plant smell a little bit like lemon and a little bit like mint -- which isn't a big surprise since it's a member of the mint family. Many use it as a culinary herb, and it's also been used for centuries for its calming qualities. But don't plant it in your garden, unless you're prepared to keep it from taking over.

What plant is a popular companion in shade gardens?

Hostas are hearty plants that like the shade and moist conditions, and create unique green spaces where many plants won't grow. They're a good choice to plant with spring bulbs, and will fill in the space when the flowers aren't in bloom.

Which evergreen perennial is one of the most difficult to control plants in yards and gardens?

Ground ivy, an evergreen perennial, is part of the mint family. But unlike mint leaves muddled for a mojito, ground ivy is considered one of the most common and difficult to control weeds -- not just of lawns, but gardens, as well.

What berries, known as brambles, are vulnerable to disease if planted near tomatoes or potatoes?

There are two things to know about these berries. First, raspberries are more vulnerable to disease if they're planted in soil where you are or have grown tomatoes, potatoes or anything else in the nightshade family. But on the flip side, raspberries spread by sending out underground runners -- and they can spread quickly. Which is great for raspberry lovers, but not so great for other plants in your garden. Be sure to give these bushes their own large berry patch.

Which plant contains oil that's used as a natural insect repellent?

Lemongrass' anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties come from lemonal or citral -- did you know it's also called, citronella grass? Its oil, while used as a natural insect repellent, also attracts bees.

The strong smell of which colorful flower confuses pests who want to dine in your garden?

They probably won't help with rabbits and deer, though -- in fact, you may find animals don't find marigolds offensive. But to nematodes, a type of worm that's destructive to plants, marigolds are like kryptonite.

Which popular culinary herb can repel cabbage moths and carrot flies in your garden, and make roasted chicken smell divine?

It was once thought that rosemary could strengthen your memory, and was a symbol of fidelity commonly seen in old European wedding customs. Today, it's a popular culinary herb, more likely to be seen in your meal than on the bride. And it's also good to have around in your garden, as it may be a deterrent for several destructive insects, including the bean beetle, cabbage moth and carrot fly.

Which non-edible flower is a great defense against ants?

Sunflowers make a great defense against ants, who like to live on the flower, but that's not their only contribution to your garden. They provide shade for the plants that need it, like lettuce -- and their seeds (which are edible) make a healthy snack for human.

Which plant is good at deterring all sorts of garden pests, from cabbage maggots to corn worms?

Thyme is a pest-repelling powerhouse. Planting this herb near your plants can help ward off whiteflies, cabbage maggots and corn earworms, to name just a few.

Which licorice-flavored plant attracts ladybugs to your garden?

Back in the day, people didn't eat much fennel -- they hung the "magical" herb over their doors to keep evil spirits away. Today, we mostly eat our fennel, but it's also a plus to grow in your garden because it attracts beneficial visitors like ladybugs while being a repellent for one of the most common garden pests, aphids.

Which plant can help keep both snails and vampires out of your garden?

Garlic adds flavor to your meals, has health benefits and can ward off vampires -- well, maybe on the vampires. But, it turns out, it is a great way to keep root maggots, snails and other pests from taking over your garden.

Which herb can be used to keep plants healthy, keep your drink tasting fresh and keep away mosquitoes?

Its leaves are what's used to give us the minty flavor we like in our food and drinks. But those are also a big help in the garden, where, used as mulch, they can invigorate broccoli, cabbage and turnip plants. Mint will spread, and quickly, so it's best to keep it contained in pots in the garden -- and in another pot on your patio to keep away mosquitoes.

Which member of the onion family should be planted near carrots, to repel carrot flies?

Chives are part of the same family as garlic, leeks, scallions, shallots and onions, but have a much subtler flavor when you cook with them. In the garden, chives are best planted near carrots, as they repel carrot flies. They are also helpful in warding off aphids and Japanese beetles.

Which popular culinary herb is known to invade the space of other plants if it's not contained?

This popular culinary herb is packed with antioxidants. In your garden, though, oregano can quickly become aggressive and invade your plot and other growing plants -- remember to keep it contained.

Which plant has fragrant golden flowers, but should be avoided since it's both invasive and poisonous?

Common tansy is fragrant, with button-like golden flowers. But it, and tansy ragwort (which is a different plant with a similar name), are both invasive and poisonous -- and best kept out of your plot.

Which yellow-petaled flower, the state flower of Maryland, will attract bees to your garden?

The bright yellow petals of the black-eyed Susan, which is the official flower of the state of Maryland, is known for more than its happy outlook. It won't repel pests, but it will attract pollinators to your yard.

Which member of the mustard family is hearty enough to replace a fence around your garden?

Sweet alyssum is a fragrant member of the mustard family, known to stand up to hot and dry conditions without a lot of maintenance. It makes a hearty border, instead of fencing, and its small flowers attract small but beneficial insects, such as wasps.

Which edible flower is good for distracting aphids from your plants?

This edible flower not only makes a peppery addition to salads, it can also help repel pests, specifically those interested in ruining your cabbage and cabbage-related plants. Nasturtiums also good at keeping pumpkin beetles (also called squash beetles) away, and can be used to distract aphids from your fruits and vegetable plants.

Dill can attract predatory wasps (that's good), and can also help the health of which popular garden plant?

Dill is a good flavor companion with cucumber in the kitchen, but in the garden, it's plants in the cabbage family that it works best with. Dill not only can improve the health of cabbage plants, it also attracts wasps -- and wasps will help control pests, too.

Which fast-growing plant is too hard-to-control to be good natural fencing?

If you think bamboo would make good fencing in your yard or around the garden, think again. It's one the most invasive and hard-to-contol plants in the world, and it grows as much as one foot in one day -- and you'll find it growing outside of where you planted it, even if you do try to contain it.

Which herb, which tastes like cucumber, attracts butterflies to your garden?

Also known as a starflower, borage is an herb that tastes like cucumbers and blooms blue flowers. It's a great attractor of butterflies and other pollinators.

Which plant, also called pigweed, is well-known to be invasive and should be kept out of your garden?

Its spinach-flavored leaves are nutritious, and eaten in many countries around the world, and its flowers were part of ancient Aztec ceremonial feasts. But you probably know Amaranthus as Amaranth, an ancient grain that's used like rice or quinoa.

Which plant is not only attractive to bees and butterflies, it's resistant to deer, too?

The flowers of allium plants -- the onion family, are big news to bees, butterflies and other pollinators, who are attracted to the bright color. And, bonus, allium is, itself, pretty resistant to deer and rodents who may want to snack.

Which plant, popular in herbal tea, is a delicious and nutritious invasive weed?

Tea drinkers may want to plant chamomile in their garden, but you may want to consider growing it in its own container. And that's because chamomile, which is a close relative of ragweed, is ... a weed. And, if given the chance, it will overrun your vegetable plants.

Which plant, which is excellent for erosion control, is not known for keeping to itself in the garden?

Bugleweed, also known as ajuga, has both deer-resistant leaves and rabbit-proof flowers. Plus, it's good for erosion control. But, this plant is far from well-behaved, and will take over not only your vegetable garden but your yard as well.

Once considered ornamental, and medicinal to some, which of these plants is actually considered a noxious weed?

Once considered ornamental, and considered medical by some, St. John’s wort is actually not a friendly plant -- in fact, several states consider it to be a noxious weed. If you choose to grow it, keep it in a container to keep it under control.

Which plant, known as "wild morning glory" because of its appearance, is one of the most invasive and destructive choices for a garden -- or yard?

Bindweed, which is also called wild morning glory for its resemblance to the plant, is one of the most invasive and destructive weeds that you can have in your yard and garden. Don't plant it -- pull it out!

Although it's technically a weed, which ground cover is good for soil and attracts pollinators?

White clover may technically be a weed, but unlike a lot of other weeds and ground covers, it's a beneficial ground cover that, when used near your garden, attracts ladybugs and pollinators. It's also good for the soil, and often pops up in soil as a nitrogen fixer.

While it's great for erosion control in your yard, which blue-flowered evergreen will take over a garden in no time?

Periwinkle, which is also known as vinca or creeping myrtle, is one of the hardiest ground covers you can plant -- it's especially good as erosion control on sloping areas of your yard. That said, this blue-flowered evergreen will leave you feeling blue if you plant it in your garden -- it won't be long before it takes over.

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