Classification of Vegetables according to Plant Families

Images of vegetables that belong to each plant family named in the post

A family of plants is a scientific grouping used to describe plants that share certain characteristics. As a gardener, knowing which family a vegetable plant belongs to can be very helpful because the conditions needed for optimum growth, nutrients absorbed, and care required for plants in a particular family are usually similar.

Knowing which family your vegetable plants belong to can help you choose the best companion plants, cover crops, and help identify which plants should be grown in succession for crop rotation in your organic vegetable garden.

Additionally, certain diseases or pests only affect a particular family of plants. For example, cucumber beetles affect cucumbers and other cucurbits but don’t usually damage other vegetable plants. If you have a cucumber beetle issue, knowing which plants are most likely to be affected can help you provide extra care to those vulnerable plants and maximize your efforts.

Note: This list is not at all exhaustive. There are other families of plants that contain plants used as vegetables, while all vegetable plants that belong to the plant families listed below have not been listed as examples.

Cucurbits (gourd family)

The cucurbits are also known as the gourd family as they contain all vegetables that are generally referred to as gourds. This includes pumpkins, squash, cucumber, bitter melon, and luffa. Many of these plants are annual vines with white or yellow flowers easily distinguishable as male or female. The fertilized female flowers proceed to grow into gourds.

Solanaceae (nightshade family)

This family of vegetables includes many plants that produce very colorful vegetables. This may be because most vegetables in this family are the fruits of the plant.

Nightshades include tomato, eggplant, peppers, chilies, and surprisingly, even potatoes. This is why potatoes produce fruits that look like tomatoes but remember potato fruits are not edible.

All vegetables of the nightshade family, except potatoes, are usually grown in summer or in warmer climates.

Alliums (onion family)

This plant family is commonly known as the onion family and contains onion, garlic, leeks, and shallots. Alliums are rarely affected by pests, either insects or rodents, due to their strong but unique smell and taste.

Umbellifers (carrot family)

This family of vegetables includes carrot, parsley, celery, coriander, cumin, dill, anise, and fennel. Almost all parts of plants in this family are edible, although only certain parts are more frequently used than others. For example, although carrot roots are the most frequently eaten part of the plant, its leaves are edible and taste similar to parsley.

Legumes (bean family)

Although the term legumes can also refer to pulses, such as lentils, this family also includes the green bean, long bean, pea, and other pod vegetables. The formation of nitrogen-fixing structures in the roots of legumes is used in crop rotation to reduce the amount of fertilizer that needs to be added.

Amaranthaceae (beetroot family)

This family of plants includes beetroot and similar-looking vegetables, such as sugar beet, as well as leafy vegetables, such as swiss chard, spinach, and amaranth.

Crucifers (cabbage family)

Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, radish, horseradish, kale, bok choy, brussels sprouts, and garden cress. Most plants in this family are shrubs.

Asters (sunflower family)

This family of plants all produces flowers that have a similar structure to a sunflower. The vegetable plants included in this family are lettuce, artichoke, dandelion, and even sunflower itself, as sunflower seeds are a great addition to salads. Sunflower is also an ideal companion plant for your vegetable garden.

Arums

The arum family is a large family that includes many tropical ornamental flowering plants that have a distinctive shape, including Anthuriums. The edible members of this family include elephant foot yam, taro, and tania.

Mallows

Okra is the only member of the mallow family that is considered a vegetable. However, this same family contains other well-known plants, such as hibiscus and cotton, and is thought to have originated from Africa or South Asia. All members of this family prefer warm tropical growing conditions.

Zingiberaceae (ginger family)

This family of plants includes many ornamental, medicinal plants and vegetables that are regarded as spices. These include ginger, turmeric, and cardamon.

Grasses

Most edible grasses are considered to be grains. Maize is the only member of the grass family to be considered a vegetable. There are several varieties of maize (Zea Mays), and the sweeter varieties, saccharata and rugosa, are known as sweet corn and are the most frequently used for human consumption.

Morning-glories

As you may have guessed, this family includes the ornamental flowering plant, morning-glory, as well as sweet potato, a tuber vegetable that grows well in warm areas.

Euphorbias (spurge family)

Although this is a very large family of plants that includes the well-known Poinsettia. Cassava, also known as manioc, is a tuber vegetable that is the best-known vegetable in this family.

Another family worth mentioning is the Lamiaceae or the mint family. Although this family includes some lesser-known tuber vegetables with limited distribution, its most notable members are grown as herbs. Mint, basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano, which are not vegetables but are commonly grown and used with vegetables, are all included in this family. Additionally, chia, from which chia seeds are obtained, also belongs to this family.

Although vegetables in certain plant families look different from each other, knowing which family they belong to can help you instantly know a lot more about a plant, especially if you have experience in growing a plant from that particular family.

To make it easier for you to quickly refer back, we’ve created an easy reference sheet that has images and names of the most common vegetables that belong to each family. Sign-up below to get your FREE Vegetable Plant Families Classification Chart sent directly to your inbox.

Product Image Classification of Vegetables according to Plant Families for Gardeners

Classification of Vegetables according to Plant Families

9 thoughts on “Classification of Vegetables according to Plant Families

    1. You can start with just one or two types of vegetables and just a few plants of each, and then add more as you get more comfortable.

  1. Thank you for all the great information! We are getting ready to start “winter sowing” and planning out our vegetable garden.

    1. I’m glad you found it informative. Thank you and best of luck with your vegetable garden too.

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