Companion Planting Guide

Companion Planting Tips, Plant List, and More

By George and Becky Lohmiller
February 10, 2019
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 nematodes which attack vegetable roots, especially tomatoes.
  • 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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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

The Editors's picture

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.

My go-to, always successful

My go-to, always successful remedy for ants is 1# of fine sugar and 2# of INSTANT grits. I mix it in a 2qt container and sprinkle it on the hills or problem areas. The sugar attracts the ants and when they deliver the grits to the queen and eat it, the grits expand and it kills them. Works fantastic for fire ants. It must be done a couple days in a row when the ground is dry. Its safe for pets, very inexpensive and I've never used anything that works better!

Ants in garden

Diatomaceous Earth sprinkled around any opening in the ground with ants coming and going helped but was a years long battle. The solution that solved the ant problem was guinea hens. Just allowing them garden access in the off season here in Utah was enough to annihillate the remaining ants.

I used to plant gardens every

I used to plant gardens every year with my mother. Now the only way I can plant a garden is in econtainers. Someone told me that I could use the plastic storage boxes with holes for drainage and adequate rocks and tree limbs as well as good soil. They also said to make sure they were deep enough for any roots. Any suggestion as to what type of plastic box to use and will the heat that might build up in them affect the roots or growing?

Hi Jo Anne, Yes, you can use

The Editors's picture

Hi Jo Anne,
Yes, you can use plastic storage boxes as containers (don't use the clear plastic ones). Make sure to make holes for drainage and put rocks in the bottom. Use a good potting mix that is not too heavy. Get boxes that are at least 1 foot deep. You can also find big plastic pots at garden centers and department stores that work nicely.
 

Hi JoAnne, I have been using

Hi JoAnne,

I have been using plastic buckets, available at local hardware stores, for 25 years for toms, peppers, strawberries, flowers and herbs.
I start with small river stones, filling the bottom of the bucket for 4-5 inches then drill 1/4 holes 1" below the top of the stone level. This is so storm water will weep out of the bucket. Add in my compost on the stones then I add black dirt mixed with sand. The sand is to help keep the black dirt from compacting but don't add so much sand that the plant stems are not supported. I add used coffee grounds and eggs shells after planting as a mulch. I change the top of pot soil very couple of years with new mix.

This worked great for salad plants and when I moved I took my roses with me.

Good Luck, Rob

when is comes to mustard

when is comes to mustard greens and or turnips and turnip greens or even poc salad what is the best compainan plant and foe plant.

Turnips do well planted by

The Editors's picture

Turnips do well planted by peas.
However, keep turnips away from mustard which inhibits their growth.

I am not sure what a borer

I am not sure what a borer is, however, we had a small black bug, with orange and white dots on its back, almost opposite of a ladybug, get into our b. sprouts. They sucked the juice out of the limbs, ect. and they did not fly, but climbed up the stalks. Is that a borer...? We did use potash, from our fire pit, sprinked on them, and it seemed to help. You just have to do it everyday or two, until they smother. It seems the potash gets into their noses, lungs, ect. and they cannot breathe. If this is not a borer, can anyone tell me what it is, pleaz. Thanx for any help, or suggestions.

The borer that you refer to

The borer that you refer to is a fat, white larva (sort of like a caterpillar w/o legs)that chews into the stalk and then tunnels through the stalk thereby depleting the vine of it's nutrients. Take a sharp knife, clean it first with some rubbing alcohol to sterilize it so you don't contaminate with any bacteria, then slice through one side of the stalk where the entry hole was made until you find the borer. It will be inside continually feeding on the stalk. Remove it - I gather all I find and put them in a bird feeding tray so the insect eating birds can feast on them. The catbirds love them!! then cover the area of the open stalk with soil. The plant will continue to grow if not severely eaten by the borer. Here is a link to more info: http://www.uri.edu/ce/factshee...

I keep having my squash

I keep having my squash getting attacked by borers that just destroy the plants and causes plant to wither. Any recommendations? Thank you for any help give me to get rid of of these nasty pests!

Plant a few radishes around

Plant a few radishes around your squash plants and let them grow without picking them and that should help.

Plant a few radishes around

Plant a few radishes around your squash plants and let them grow without picking them and that should help.

I fought them for years until

I fought them for years until I found Spinosad. I buy it under the name captain jacks' dead bug brew. It's organic and works on everything in my garden including the fruit trees. Start around the first day of summer and continue as directed all season

In reply to "an error" about

In reply to "an error" about Herbs & Tomatoes... I planted both Dill & Basil in amongst my Tomatoes last year and didn't have a single worm all season! or bugs! It was great! Now if I could just keep the Bean Beetles away.....

I am thinking of trying the

I am thinking of trying the Three Sisters Planting method this year. Would planting cucmbers instead of the squash work just as well??

As long as your cucumber is a

As long as your cucumber is a bush variety, not a vine ;)

As a child, we had nettles in

As a child, we had nettles in our garden area. We would rub the nettles all over our legs and arms, then go to the "doctor" aka sibling - and get a mud compact put on the stings. It took the sting away and off we were for another round of nettles. We thought it was great fun - then of course, we were young and carefree. I had a great childhood with wonderful memories.

This year will be my second

This year will be my second time to plant a garden. Last year my garden did very well. My question is, "do I need to rotate my plants this year?"

It is always a good idea to

The Editors's picture

It is always a good idea to move your plants to a different spot in the garden every year. It helps to keep diseases and pests down.

I have often wondered if the

I have often wondered if the practice of succession planting would "replace" crop rotation. In other words, maybe I plant the a certain vegetable in the same spot next year, but that spot has been occupied by other crops. (Maybe lettuce, then legume, then corn, then cover crop to be turned under prior to lettuce next spring)

Note that there is an error

Note that there is an error in the article above which states: "Dill and basil planted among tomatoes protect the tomatoes from hornworms...".

Basil is certainly good for tomatoes, but dill? Not only does dill not protect tomatoes from hornworms, it actually ATTRACTS them! DO NOT plant dill weed anywhere near your tomatoes!

Note that along with tomato hornworms, dill will also attract the Braconid wasps that prey on them (as will cilantro), so it is good, but you don't want to invite that battlefield directly to your tomatoes by planting dill next to (or even near) them.

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