All plants belong to the Plante Kingdom. They are further classified by division, class, order, family, genus and species. Scientists use formal names to identify plant families. Most gardeners call plant families by their common names.
Vegetable plants in the same family have similar characteristics, including growth habits and nutrient requirements. Familiarity with plant families gives gardeners keen insight to plants’ unique needs and problems. Gardeners can use their knowledge of plant classification to make informed decisions about crop rotations and how to best manage soil fertility. An example is rotating heavy-feeding members of the Brassicaceae family with nitrogen-fixing Fabaceaes to replenish spent soil.
Diseases and pests often infect an entire family of plants. Planting members of the same family side-by-side encourages the spread of bacteria and pests. Keep plants healthy and aphids and nematodes at bay by planting members of the same family as far apart as possible, or utilizing the companion technique of planting herbs and flowers like chives and marigolds between rows.
Understanding plant classification is particularly beneficial for gardeners who save seeds and breed plants. Unwanted cross-pollination within a family produces interesting looking and bad tasting cucumber/melon and gourd/zucchini combos. Plant members of the same family a safe isolation distance from one another or use hand-pollination techniques to prevent unwanted cross-pollination.
Scientific name: Amaryllidaceae
Common name: Aamaryllis family
Onions, leeks, chives, garlic, shallots
Scientific name: Apiaceae
Common name: Carrot family
Carrot, parsnip, celery, fennel, parsley, celeriac
Scientific name: Asteraceae
Common name: Sunflower family
Endive, artichoke, lettuce, celtuce, sunflower, salsify, dandelion, chicory, radicchio
Scientific name: Brassicaceae
Common name: Mustard family
Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, radish, rutabaga, turnip, watercress
Scientific name: Chenopodiaceae
Common name: Goosefoot family
Beet, chard, spinach, amaranth, quinoa
Scientific name: Cucurbitaceae
Common name: Gourd family
Cucumber, melon, pumpkin, squash, watermelon, summer squash, zucchini, gourd
Scientific name: Fabaceae
Common name: Pea family
Bean, Peanut, Pea, lentil, soybean, alfalfa, cowpea
Scientific name: Pocaceae
Common name: Grass family
Corn, millet, rice, barley, wheat, rye, oats, sorghum
Scientific name: Polygonaceae
Common name: Knotweed family
Scientific name: Solanaceae
Common name: Nightshade family
Eggplant, pepper, potato, tomato, tomatillo, tobacco