Companion Planting Guide for Vegetables

New Evidence for Which Vegetables Should Be Planted Together

June 3, 2021
Companion Planting Guide

The Companion Planting Guide for Vegetables has been updated this year! Additional evidence reveals which vegetables, herbs and flowers should be planted together for a better harvest.  Wondering which plants should be paired with tomatoes, onions, carrots & other crops? See our definitive Companion Planting Guide and chart with the 20 top garden vegetables….

What Is Companion Planting?

Companion planting is the practice of growing different plants together. Certain combinations of plants make them more productive—often because some plants have complementary characteristics, such as their nutrient requirements, growth habits, or pest-repelling abilities.

A familar example of companion planting is the Three Sisters trio—maize, climbing beans, and winter squash—which were commonly planted together by various Native American communities due to the plants’ complementary natures: the tall corn supports climbing beans, the low-growing squash shades the ground to prevent moisture loss and its big, prickly leaves discourage weeds and pests; and the fast-growing beans are ‘nitrogen fixers’ which make nitrogen available to other plants.

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Image: Three Sisters technique. Note that the traditional seeds were different than today’s seeds. See recommended varieties to plant.

Benefits of Companion Planting

There are plenty of good reasons to plant certain crops together:

  • Deterring pests: Certain plants act as insect repellents or deter critters. For example, garlic’s smell is unappealing to many pests.
  • Attracting beneficials: Some plants also attract beneficial insects. For example, borage attracting pollinating bees and tiny pest-eating wasps.
  • Shade regulation: Large plants provide shade for smaller plants in need of sun protection. For example, corn shades lettuce.
  • Natural supports: Tall plants, like corn and sunflowers, can support lower-growing, sprawling crops such as cucumbers and peas.
  • Improved plant health: When one plant absorbs certain substances from the soil, it may change the soil biochemistry in favor of nearby plants.
  • Improving soil fertility: Some crops, like beans, peas, and other legumes, help to make nitrogen more available in the soil. Similarly, plants with long taproots, like burdock, bring up nutrients from deep in the soil, enriching the topsoil to the benefit of shallow-rooted plants.  
  • Weed suppression: Planting sprawling crops like potatoes with tall, upright plants minimizes open areas, where weeds typically take hold.

Vegetable garden using companion planting practices
Image: Vegetable garden using companion planting practices.

The Best Companion Planting Pairings

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has practiced Companion Planting for over a century, based on time-honored wisdom. Over time, as we’ve gathered more scientific evidence, we’ve evolved our thinking on the best companion planting combinations.

  1. Traditionally, it was thought that vegetables had “friends” and “foes”—companion plants that either benefitted the vegetables’ growth or impeded it. This isn’t necessary wrong, but we’ve found that nearly all the associations are positive ones; there are perhaps 2 or 3 “bad” combinations (e.g., black walnut trees, which secrete growth inhibitors through their roots) and a few plants that perhaps compete because roots are on a similar soil level. Bottom-line: there is simply more evidence for “good” companion planting combinations than “bad” plantings, so we now focus more on why vegetables need friends!
  2. There are misconceptions about companion planting on the internet, which we found concerning. Many examples of companion planting were based folklore or hearsay. While observations in our own garden can be valuable, we decided that our reference guide should only highlight companion plant pairings backed up by scientific evidence and tried-and-true practices.
  3. While traditionally, companion planting refered to vegetable plant pairs, we’ve added more flowers to our chart; many are excellent natural insect repellents. Nasturtiums, for example, are so favored by aphids that the devastating insects will flock to them instead of other plants. Also, flowers can attract beneficial insects; growing calendula or cosmos nearby will attract tiny parasitizing wasps to aphid-hungry hoverflies. Dill attracts ladybugs, which eat small garden pests such as aphids and spider mites.

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Image: Dill attracts beneficial ladybugs, which eat aphids. Dill is also a food source for caterpillars and butterflies.

Popular Companion Plants for Vegetables

Here are examples of some of the best companion planting combinations for your garden. (See more in the chart below.)

  • Basil pairs well with tomatoes, repelling whiteflies, mosquitoes, spider mites, aphids; basil also attracts bees, which improves pollination, tomato health, and flavor.
  • Parsley also draws insects away from tomatoes. Plant these herbs between tomatoes.
  • Borage pairs well with tomatoes, attracting pollinating bees and tiny pest-eating wasps. Borage also pairs well with strawberries, enhancing their flavor and vigor.
  • Sage is a useful herb that repels carrot fly. Also plant it around a cabbage patch to reduce injury from cabbage moths.
  • Mint deters aphids, ants, and flea beetles. Just be careful to plant mint nearby in its own pot or bed, as it is a very aggressive grower!
  • Garlic and garlic spray has a strong scent deters aphids, onion fliles, ermine moths, and Japanese beetles. Useful with many plants including cabbage, cane fruits, fruit trees (especially peaches), roses, tomatoes. A garlic tea helps repel late potato blight.
  • Poached egg plants (a wildflower) draws in hoverflies, which control aphids on nearby lettuce. 
  • Crimson clover grown with broccoli was shown to expand the local spider population, which in turn controlled pests.
  • Tansy discourages cutworm, which attacks asparagus, bean, cabbage, carrot, celery, corn, lettuce, pea, pepper, potato, and tomato plants. (As with mint, plant tansy in containers, since it is considered invasive in some areas.)
  • Nasturtiums attract hungry caterpillars away from brassicas like cabbage and broccoli, and also lure blackfly away from fava beans.
  • Sunflowers pair well with cucumbers and pole beans: Sunflowers help provide support for climbing plants, as well as shade for crops which, in hotter climates, can become sun-stressed.

Nasturtium planted next to cabbage
Image: Nasturtium planted next to netted cabbage. Credit: Catherine Boeckmann

Companion Planting Chart: 20 Vegetables and Their Companions

In this chart, you’ll find some of the most common garden crops and their suitable companion plants. For more plants, we’d point you to the online Almanac Garden Planner, which has a large database of companion plants and a new companion planting feature that makes it easier than ever for you to find perfect matches for your plants. (Simply select a crop, then click on the heart-shaped Companion Planting button. The selection bar will then show only those plants that your chosen crop will love. Select one and drop it into your garden plan.)

Companion Planting Chart

Crop Name Companions Benefits and Notes

ASPARAGUS

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Calendula
Petunias
Tomatoes
Calendula, tomatoes, and petunias are thought to deter asparagus beetles.

BASIL

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Lettuce
Peppers
Purslane
Tomatoes
Purslane is used to shade the soil around basil plants, helping them to remain fresh in hot weather.
Basil improves the growth and flavor of tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce.

BEANS
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Beets
Corn
Lovage
Nasturtium
Rosemary
Squash
Strawberries
Sunflower

Nasturtiums can be used as a trap plant to entice aphids away from beans.
Lovage and rosemary also have excellent insect repellent qualities.
Sunflowers can be used to create shade for sun-stressed crops.
Corn will benefit from the beans’ nitrogen-fixing capabilities. Pole beans can also provide structural support for tall corn.

BEETS

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Brassicas
Bush beans
Garlic
Lettuce
Onion family

Beets make great companions for onions, garlic, leeks, lettuce, and plants in the Brassica family, like broccoli and cabbage.
Onions are thought to protect against borers, mites, slugs and cutworms and maggots of all types.
Beets adds minerals to the soil, as beet leaves are composed of 25% magnesium.

Note: Beets won’t grow well if shaded by runner beans or taller crops.
 

BROCCOLI

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Oregano
Other Brassicas
(Cabbage, brussels sprouts,
cauliflower, etc.)
 
Oregano has insecticidal properties.
Plant Brassicas together so that they can all be covered with nets to protect from pests such as cabbageworm.
They also all like lime added to the soil.

CABBAGE

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Garlic
Nasturtium
Sage

Nasturtiums deter insect pests such as beetles and aphids.
Garlic planted alongside cabbage repels insects with its odor.
Sage deters cabbage moth.

CARROTS

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Cabbage
Chives
Early potatoes
Leeks
Lettuce
Onions
Peas
Radishes
Rosemary
Sage
Tomatoes
Chives improve the growth and flavor of carrots and deter aphids, mites and flies.
Rosemary and sage repel carrot fly.
Leeks are thought to repel many flying pests (including carrot rust fly).

Foes: Dill can reduce the yield of carrots.
Dill, coriander, celery, and other members of the Parsley family should not be planted near carrots (they tend to cross pollinate).

CORN

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Beans (pole)
Cucumbers
Dill
Marigolds
Melons
Peas
Squash
Sunflower
Dill is thought to protect against aphids and mites.
Beans can provide more nitrogen to the corn.
Sunflowers can act as a structure and a windbreak for the corn.
Marigolds prevent nematodes in the soil over time.
Pole beans are sometimes interplanted with corn, as they add nitrogen to the soil and provide structural support.

CUCUMBERS

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Beans
Borage
Dill
Lettuce
Nasturtiums
Oregano
Radish
Sunflowers
Tansy
Dill is thought to protect against aphids and mites.
Nasturtium deters aphids, beetles and bugs and improves growth and flavor.
Oregano deters pests in general.
Sunflowers can provide a trellis and shelter for shade-loving cucumbers.
Tansy deters ants, beetles, bugs, flying insects, as does borage, which is also supposed to improve growth and flavor.

(Note: Tansy is considered invasive in some areas. See local guidelines before planting.)

LETTUCE

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Basil
Beets
Cabbage
Carrots
Chives
Onions
Poached Egg plants
Radishes
Scallions
Spinach
Strawberries

Chives, onions, and garlic deter aphids and other pests by masking the scent of the lettuce with their aroma.
Basil is thought to improve the flavor and growth of lettuce.
Radishes can be used as a trap crop for flea beetles.
Poached egg plants (Limnanthes), a wildflower, will bring hoverflies and other beneficials that eat aphids.

ONIONS

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Beets
Chamomile
Cabbage
Carrot
Chard
Lettuce
Strawberry
Summer Savory
Tomatoes
Onions are thought to protect against borers, mites, slugs, and cutworms, as well as maggots of all types.
Chamomile and summer savory improve onion growth and flavor.

PEAS

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Alyssum
Beans
Carrot
Chives
Corn
Cucumber
Mint
Radish
Turnip
Chives deter aphids.
Mint improves health and flavor.
Alyssum brings in pollinators and encourages green lacewings, which eat aphids.

Foes: Do not plant near garlic and onion, as they will stunt the growth of peas

PEPPERS

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Basil
Carrots
Marjoram
Onions
Oregano
Tomatoes
Herbs like basil, oregano, and marjoram have a protective, insectidal quality.

POTATOES

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Basil
Beans
Brassicas
Calendula
Catmint
Cilanto
Eggplant
Horseradish
Peas
Squash
Tansy

Beans can improve the size of potato tubers.
Cilantro is thought to protect against aphids, spider mites and potato beetles.
Calendula, tansy, and horseradish planted at the corner of a potato patch wards off Colorado potato beetles.
(Note: Tansy is considered invasive in some areas. See local guidelines before planting.)
Catmint also repels Colorado potato beetles, but can bring cats into the vegetable garden,
so it is a good idea to plant it in pots around the edge of the plot.

Foes: Potatoes tend to be smaller when planted with corn, which is also a heavy feeder.

RADISHES

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Chervil
Lettuce
Nasturtium
Peas
Chervil and nasturtium improve growth and flavor.
Lettuce tenderizes summer radishes.
Radishes are often used as trap crops for flea beetles.

SQUASH (WINTER)
and PUMPKINS

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Beans (pole)
Borage
Calendula
Corn
Marigold
Nasturtium
Oregano
Nasturtiums are thought to protect against pumpkin and squash beetles.
Borage attracts pollinators and improves growth and flavor.
Oregano provides general pest protection.
Calendula deters beetles and root nematodes.

Note: Pumpkins do grow well with other winter squash, as they have the same growing requirements.

SPINACH

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Beans
Brassicas
Cilantro
Eggplant
Peas
Strawberries
Peas and beans provide natural shade for spinach.
Cilantro is thought to repel insects.
 

TOMATOES

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Asparagus
Basil
Borage
Calendula
Carrot
Celery
Chives
Cucumber
Garlic
Monada (Bee Balm)
Nasturtium
Onion
Parsley
Pepper
Monarda and chives improve health and flavor.
Calendula deters general garden pests
Parsley draws insects away from tomatoes.
Asparagus is thought to repel nematodes.
Basil is thought to repel whiteflies, mosquitoes, spider mites, aphids.
Basil also attracts bees, which improves pollination, tomato health, and flavor.

ZUCCHINI (SUMMER SQUASH)

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Oregano
Nasturtium
Zinnia
To attract pollinators, plant oregano and zinnias.
Nasturtium is thought to protect against aphids, and whiteflies.

More Companion Gardening Tips

Much of companion planting considers the height of different vegetables.

  • Lettuce, radishes, and other quick-growing plants sown between hills of melons or winter squash will mature and be harvested long before these vines need more leg room.
  • Leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard will grow in the shadow of corn.
  • Bush beans tolerate the dapple shade that corn casts and, since their roots occupy different levels in the soil, don’t compete for water and nutrients.

How to Plan a Garden With Companion Plants

Figuring out a garden plan that integrates companion planting is traditionally challenging. But the new companion planting feature in our online Almanac Garden Planner lets you select the perfect matches for your plants.

When you select a vegetable crop, you simply click on a heart-shaped Companion Planting button. The selection bar will then show only suitable companion plants. Easy peasy! Learn more in this video and try the Garden Planner out for yourself with our free 7-day trial

 

We hope you find ways for companion planting to help improve your growing! At the same time, don’t get too fixated with pairing up crops. Correct spacing, sun, water, and good soil management are the most important influences on your growing – think of companion planting as a bonus!

Learn More

Watch our video on Companion Planting: Why Vegetables Need Friends!

For ideas and inspiration, see readers’ companion garden plot plans with plant lists.

Just getting started with gardening or need a refresher course? Check out our Vegetable Gardening for Beginners how-to page.

Need plant-specific growing advice? Read through our many Growing Guides for vegetables, fruit, flowers, and herbs.

Have you tried companion planting? What’s your go-to pairing? Tell us in the comments below!

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