Plant Rotation in the Garden Based on Plant Families

Knowing what family a plant belongs to can be useful in making decisions about rotating plants for managing pests and soil fertility in the garden.

Knowing what family a plant belongs to can be useful in making decisions about rotating plants for managing pests and soil fertility in the garden. Plants in a family are genetically related, so they have similar characteristics. As an example, members of the Cucurbitaceae, among other shared characteristics, have deeply lobed or divided leaves, separate male and female flowers on each plant (termed “monoecious” plants) with five fused petals, similar fruit types and tendrils for climbing. Besides having similarities in appearance, plants in the same family often have similar susceptibilities to various garden pests such as diseases, insects and/or nematodes.

In general, it is not recommended that an area be planted with plants of the same family in succession to avoid the buildup of shared pests. Some plants should not follow members of other families either because of susceptibility to common pests. For example, strawberries (and other members of the Rosaceae) should not be planted after members of the Solanaceae (and vice versa) because they are all susceptible to the disease verticillium wilt. Keep in mind that various weeds also belong to these same families and can also host the same pests. Knowing plant families can also be useful in determining appropriate pesticides to use, when warranted. This can apply to both targeted effects and non-targeted effects such as being toxic to desirable garden plants.

Plants can be rotated to manage soil fertility. This is done by including plants in the rotation to improve the fertility status of the garden soil and rotating among plants that are heavy users of certain nutrients. For example, members of the Fabaceae (legume family) can be grown to add nitrogen to the soil and many members of the Liliaceae are heavy users of potassium.

The table on the following pages lists several vegetables, herbs, fruit, cut flowers, bedding plants, cover crops and weeds by plant family. Plant family names can be easily identified because they end in “-aceae”; however, some families also have “old” or traditional names that end in “-ae.” Traditional names as well as common names are included in the table. Note that some plants are listed in more than one grouping.

Family Name
Aliases Crops & Cover Crops
Herbaceous Ornamentals
Solanaceae solanaceous crops;potato, tomato or
nightshade family
peppers (bell and
chile), tomatoes,
potatoes, eggplant,
tobacco, tomatillo
petunia, million bells nightshade,
jimsonweed, henbane,
buffalobur, horsenettle
Brassicaceae Cruciferae; brassicas;
cole crops; cruciferous
crops; mustard family
horseradish, cabbage,
cauliflower, broccoli,
kohlrabi, kale, Brussels
sprouts, turnips,
Chinese cabbage,
radish, rapeseed,
mustard, collards,
watercress, pak choi,
bok choi, rutabaga
stock, alyssum,
shepherd’s-purse, field
pennycress, yellow
Cucurbitaceae cucurbits; cucumber
family; squash family
cucumber, melons,
watermelon, summer
squash, pumpkin,
gourds, winter squash
Rosaceae rose family, rosaceous
apples, peaches,
apricots, nectarines,
plums, strawberries,
raspberries, pears,
  multiflora rose
Fabaceae Leguminosae;
leguminous crops;
legumes; bean, pea or
legume family
beans, peas, lentils,
peanut, soybean,
edamame, garbanzo
bean, fava bean, hairy
vetch, vetches, alfalfa,
clovers, cowpea,
birdsfoot trefoil, black
  various vetches,
clovers, black medic
Poaceae Gramineae; grass
corn, wheat, barley,
oats, sorghum, rice,
millet, rye, ryegrass,
fescue, timothy
ornamental grasses brome, wild oats,
quackgrass, fall
panicum, foxtail,
Polygonaceae knotweed family buckwheat, rhubarb   knotweed, smartweed
Liliaceae lily family; alliums (for
members of the Allium
asparagus, onions,
leeks, chives, garlic,
tulips, daffodils, hosta,
wild garlic and onions
Lamiaceae Labiatae; mint family lavender, basil,
marjoram, oregano,
rosemary, sage, thyme,
mints, catnip
salvia, Molucella (bells of-
mints, catnip, henbit
Ericaceae heather or blueberry
blueberries, cranberries heather  
Chenopodiaceae goosefoot family spinach, beets, chard,
sugar beets
  kochia, lambsquarters
Apiaceae Umbelliferae; carrot
carrots, parsnips,
celery, dill, chervil,
cilantro, parsley,
caraway, fennel
Trachymeme, Buplerum poison-hemlock, wild
Asteraceae sunflower family; aster
sunflowers, lettuce,
endive, escarole,
radicchio, dandelion,
Jerusalem artichoke,
artichoke, safflower,
chicory, tarragon,
chamomile, echinacea
marigold, mums,
zinnia, aster, Calendula,
cosmos, Rudbeckia,
Tithonia, Centaurea,
Helichrysum, yarrow,
echinacea, sunflowers
dandelion, Jerusalem
artichoke, chicory,
echinacea, thistles,
knapweeds, cocklebur,
yarrow, ragweeds,
goldenrod, groundsel,
galinsoga, sunflowers

Prepared by Elsa Sánchez, assistant professor of horticultural systems management, and Kathleen Demchak, senior extension associate, Department of Horticulture, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.

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Plant Rotation in the Garden Based on Plant Families



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Contact Information

Kathy Demchak
  • Senior Extension Associate
Phone: 814-863-2303
Elsa Sánchez
  • Associate Professor of Horticultural Systems Management
Phone: 814-863-2433