Companion Planting Guide

Companion Planting Tips, Plant List, and More

George and Becky Lohmiller
Marigold

Close-up of an orange marigold.

Angela Altomare

Do you follow the principles of companion planting in your garden? See our tips on what plants to plant next to each other—and which to plant far apart—including popular crops like tomatoes, basil, potatoes, beans, and more.

What is Companion Planting?

It takes more than good soil, sun, and nutrients to ensure success in a garden. Time-honored gardening wisdom says that certain plants, when grown together, improve each other’s health and yields. For instance, some plants attract beneficial insects that help to protect a companion, while other plants (particularly herbs) act as repellents. Additionally, plants that require a lot of the same nutrients as their neighbors may struggle to get enough for themselves, producing lackluster crops.

Which vegetables should you plant next to each other? Which shouldn’t you plant together? Let’s take a look at the benefits of companion planting, then a list of the best companion plants.

Benefits of Companion Planting

There are plenty of reasons to plant certain crops together. For example…

  • Shade regulation: Large plants provide shade for smaller plants in need of sun protection.
  • 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.
  • Healthy soil: Some crops, such as bean and peas, help to make nitrogen available. 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 upright plants minimizes open areas, where weeds typically take hold.

Companion Plants for Vegetables

Some plants, especially herbs, act as natural insect repellents. They confuse insects with strong odors that mask the scent of the intended host plants.

  • Companion plantingDill and basil planted among tomatoes can protect from tomato hornworms.
  • Sage scattered about the cabbage patch reduces injury from cabbage moths.
  • Marigolds are as good as gold when grown with just about any garden plant, repelling beetles, nematodes, and sometimes even animal pests, like deer.
  • Some companions act as trap plants, luring insects to themselves. Nasturtiums, for example, are so favored by aphids that the devastating insects will flock to them instead of other plants.
  • Carrots, dill, parsley, and parsnip attract beneficial insects—praying mantises, ladybugs, and spiders—that dine on insect pests.
  • Much of companion planting is common sense: 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 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.
  • Tansy discourages cutworm, which attacks asparagus, bean, cabbage, carrot, celery, corn, lettuce, pea, pepper, potato, and tomato plants.
  • Catnip, hyssop, rosemary, and sage deter cabbage moth, which is detrimental to a host of edible crops, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnip, and radish.
  • Mint wards off cabbage moth and ants.
  • Thyme thwarts cabbageworm, which munches broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard, horseradish, kale, and kohlrabi
  • Lavender is known to deter codling moths, which wreak havoc on apple trees
  • Zinnias attract ladybugs, so when planted near cauliflower, which is susceptible to cabbage flies, the ladybugs are there to control the pest population.

See our companion planting chart for advice on popular vegetables.

Incompatible Edibles

Plants that are not compatible with each other are sometimes called combatants. Here are a few:

  • White garlic and onions repel a plethora of pests and make excellent neighbors for most garden plants, but the growth of beans and peas is stunted in their presence.
  • Potatoes and beans grow poorly in the company of sunflowers, and although cabbage and cauliflower are closely related, they don’t like each other at all.

Sunflowers
Sunflowers

One of the keys to successful companion planting is observation. Record your plant combinations and the results from year to year, and share this information with other gardening friends. Companionship is just as important for gardeners as it is for gardens.

More Companion Plantings

Even plants in the woodlands are companions:

  • Blueberries, mountain laurel, azaleas, and other ericaceous (heath family) plants thrive in the acidic soils created by pines and oaks.
  • Shade-loving plants seek the shelter provided by a wooded grove. The shade-lovers in return protect the forest floor from erosion with their thick tangle of shallow roots.
  • Legumes and some trees, such as alders, have symbiotic relationships with bacteria in the soil that help them to capture nitrogen from the air and convert it to fertilizer, enriching the soil so plants can prosper in their presence.

Peas
Pea pods

Strange Plant Pairings

Sometimes plants may be helpful to one another only at a certain stage of their growth. The number and ratio of different plants growing together is often a factor in their compatibility, and sometimes plants make good companions for no apparent reason.

  • You would assume that keeping a garden weed-free would be a good thing, but this is not always the case. Certain weeds pull nutrients from deep in the soil and bring them close to the surface. When the weeds die and decompose, nutrients become available in the surface soil and are more easily accessed by shallow-rooted plants.

Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle

  • Perhaps one of the most intriguing examples of strange garden bedfellows is the relationship between the weed stinging nettle and several vegetable varieties. For reasons that are unclear, plants grown in the presence of stinging nettle display exceptional vigor and resist spoiling.

Learn More

Want to learn more about companion planting? Watch our companion planting video about why vegetables need flower friends!

Reader Comments

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Keeping Ants off Corn Stalks

How can I keep ants off my corn stalks without damaging the corn?

Sunflowers and beans

I planted beans away from sunflowers and in the same container with one to see if it made a difference. The ones I planted in the container with the sunflowers did much better than the other ones.

agricultural

companion croping it's good, it help a farmers to control weed and pest without chemical

deer in the garden

we have deer in the neighborhood who like to nibble and crunch down the yard plants.. any idea how to stop them? or do we go without a garden? I know fencing and other barriers are needed but that is expensive. I like deer, also I want some plants.

garden pests

Oh, we have many ways to deter deer in the garden! See our deer page here.

I can relate to the deer

I can relate to the deer issue for years they have eatin most things in my garden so I put up some fencing around I didn't want to spend the money either but I will be eating this year I like the deer also but they find other things on my property to munch on as host as and my other perennial s but they sure won't be eating my food
Good luck with the deer

Control deer

IF you put Irish spring (cut in fourths)in cheese cloths around the garden. It will smell of humans and keep away rabbits and deer. Cinnamon will keep away ants and other bugs. Look up holistic remedies for gardening. We use pie plates on strings to keep birds like crows out.

Flowers

What flowers should I plant in my garden to attract bees / insects for pollination?

Attracting Bees for Pollination

This is a great question!  Attracting bees is so important for your crops to produce. One out of every three bites of food is thanks to the bees.

It depends what time you wish to plant as well as your climate but here are some ideas:

Bees love:  Bee balm, purple coneflower, butterfly-bush, common lavender, black-eyed susans, red and white clover, cosmos, sunflowers, common mallow, foxglove, allium, healther, dandelion, and many more! 

You may enjoy this post on helping bees and butterflies in the garden: http://www.almanac.com/blog/celestes-garden/helping-bees-and-butterflies

How far apart to plant non-compatable veggies?

How far apart is optimal when keeping non-comparable plant away from each other. Like the Onions and Beans for instance.

non-comptible plant distances

You really have to deal with the space you have. Ideally, it would be several to many feet. But if you have only a small space—even maximum 20 feet at the widest point, that’s your distance. Keep rotation in mind, too. You know, our Garden Planner would provide you the most optimal for your space—no heavy sell here, but a lot of people like it! See here: https://www.almanac.com/content/online-garden-planner-old-farmers-almanac

and consider the 7-day free trial… just sayin…

Just beginner gardener, would

Just beginner gardener, would like some tips on a good healthy garden. From amherstburg, ontario

I am trying to educate myself

I am trying to educate myself about better companion planting though I have had a garden many years and had good crops for the most part. Some things I quit planting because I wanted to be organic, but had no way to fight the pests, i.e. worms in cauliflower and broccoli. I have heard that planting onions near them will help. Do you agree? Also can you plant cauliflower and broccoli near each other?

Hi Jerrene, Yes, you can

Hi Jerrene,

Yes, you can plant cauliflower and broccoli near each other. You can see a friend/foe chart for the 10 most common vegetables at
almanac.com/content/plant-companions-list-ten-common-vegetables

We don't recommend growing onions near the broccoli and cauliflower. Tomatoes and celery on the other hand are known to keep the cabbage worm away. They also grow well near broccoli and cauliflower. You can also try a garlic spray (soak 4 cloves in a quart of water for a few days and then blend in a mixer, strain and put the liquid in a spray bottle with a couple of drops of dish soap).

Please help me! I am looking

Please help me! I am looking for something that I can plant in my flower garden and among my shrubs to keep the voles and moles from eating the roots. I have tried lots of commercial things.

Hi Barbara, Try planting some

Hi Barbara,
Try planting some garlic cloves between the flowers and shrubs. Some of our readers swear by it.

My mother in law swears by

My mother in law swears by placing crushed eggshells around the bases of tomato plants for keeping cut worms and the like away- she sure has an awesome garden!

Yes and crushed eggshells are

Yes and crushed eggshells are amazing around bases of hosta and other slug loving plants to keep the slugs off.

I planted broccoli with

I planted broccoli with lettuce. The list of companion plants states that they are foes. The lettuce is almost fully mature but the broccoli is only 2 inches in height. What should I do? Any background on reasons why these two are foes and what will happen would be greatly appreciated.

I have the self watering

I have the self watering planters on patio by pool. I have planted eggplant, tomatoes and peppers. Aphids has covered eggplants and parts of tomato and now is attacking the new growth on pepper plant. I've sprayed a 3 in 1 spray for several days in a row, is there another more effective way to destroy these pest?

If the aphids are getting

If the aphids are getting crazy, there are organic insecticides. See our Aphids page for different ways to tackle this issue: http://www.almanac.com/content...

Milk thistle plant has a pest

Milk thistle plant has a pest which is a known enemy of the aphids. I planted them in my garden and have no aphids. I have gardenias that were attacked last year from aphids. I pulled off a portion of the milk thistle that was covered in the pest of that plant, and placed in on my gardenias. This year, no aphids at all on my gardenias!

I went online through amazon

I went online through amazon and ordered ladybugs. I think $7, shipping included, bought 1500 ladybugs. I didn't count them bought they were all alive upon arrival.

A very large problem I have

A very large problem I have in my garden is the ants. We've tried everything to locate the nest but it seems they are everywhere and attract all our vegetable s, fruit trees and even ornamental plants!!!! Please help as we'd really hate to give up garden ing

Some people suggest mixing

Some people suggest mixing about one pound of used coffee grounds with one quart of hot water and then pouring that over the ant hills. Other sources suggest sprinkling dry grits on the ant hills. Even plain boiling water may help.

I used boiling water for

I used boiling water for anthills in my suburban Colorado back yard. Works like a charm. They either die and/or move very far away.

A mixture of 1/3 icing sugar

A mixture of 1/3 icing sugar and 2/3 borax has always worked for me. The ants are drawn by the sugar, eat the borax, then take it back to the ant hill. The borax kills the ants.

Use food grade diotamacuse

Use food grade diotamacuse earth flour,(I get mine at the feed store), sprinkle around the garden. The ants walk in it, it sticks to their legs and they take it back to the ant hill. The diotamacuse earth is transferred from ant to ant and takes care of the problem for you.

Spread corn meal around. The

Spread corn meal around. The ants bring it back to their nest and eat it. Thhey can't digest it and they die. They only thing we found that successfully fought our huge amount of ants.

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