Companion Planting: Plants That Thrive Together

Discover plant BFF’s you can use in your vegetable garden to make everything grow better, plus, learn what not to put next to each other.

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Staff for Tower Hill Botanic Garden at TowerHillBG.org

Photo By: Staff for Tower Hill Botanic Garden at TowerHillBG.org

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Mary Kocol for Tower Hill Botanic Garden at TowerHillBG.org

Photo By: Mary Kocol for Tower Hill Botanic Garden at TowerHillBG.org

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Mary Kocol for Tower Hill Botanic Garden at TowerHillBG.org

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Mary Kocol for Tower Hill Botanic Garden at TowerHillBG.org

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: SelectSeeds.com

Swiss Chard + Chamomile

Companion planting is the practice of placing plants in the garden so that they help one another in some way, such as growing better, fighting pests, creating shelter or supporting one another. Many herbs, including chamomile, attract beneficial insects like parasitic wasps or hoverflies. These insects attack chard pests, such as aphids. Other good chard companions are lettuce, beans, peas, cabbage. Do not plant with beets or spinach.

Tomato + Basil

Tomato and basil are a classic companion planting, with basil said to repel pests and diseases. Basil, especially in flower, attracts beneficial insects, including various wasps, which prey on caterpillars like the tomato hornworm. Plant basil on the edges of tomato rows, not between plants, so they get enough sun, or place pots of basil and tomato side by side on a patio. Other good tomato companions include lettuce, chives, garlic, borage and marigold. Do not plant with corn, dill, fennel, peas, potato or cole crops.

Swiss Chard, Kohlrabi + Kale

Swiss chard (in the beet plant family) is a great companion plant for cabbage family members, including kohlrabi and curly purple kale. The plants also stage a beautiful edible display with contrasting colors and leaf textures. Other good cabbage family companions are lettuce, carrots, rosemary, oregano, marigold and nasturtium. Do not plant with beans, tomato, pepper or strawberry.

Dill, Cucumber + Lettuce

Dill is a helpful plant in the vegetable garden because its small flowers attract beneficial insects, including hoverflies and ladybugs (both prey on aphids), wasps of all sorts (prey on caterpillars and other insects), spiders and pollinating bees. Other good dill companions: cabbage, onion, cucumber, corn and lettuce. Do not plant with fennel, tomato, carrot or cilantro.

Bachelor’s Button, Cosmos + Corn

Include flowers planted among your vegetables to lure in pollinators, like bumblebees. Arrange flowers in drifts or clusters. Some of the best bloomers to use include calendula, sweet pea, cosmos, alyssum, bee balm and nasturtium. Bachelor’s button makes a great companion for corn, which helps to shade the bloomer as summer heat arrives.

Corn, Pumpkin + Beans

Corn has a long history of companion planting. Native Americans taught the Pilgrims to plant corn with pumpkin, squash and climbing beans. The science behind these pairings is that prickly squash and pumpkin vines help repel corn pests like raccoons and deer, while the beans add nitrogen to soil (corn has a big appetite for nitrogen). Shown is an heirloom Japanese popcorn with red-stemmed amaranth grain. Other good corn companions include cucumber, peas, zucchini, sunflower. Do not plant with tomato.

Bush Bean, Radish + Cole Crops

Beans of all types make wonderful companion plants and additions to the vegetable garden because the plant roots add nitrogen (fertilizer) to soil. Grow beans in your crop rotation in a spot that will host fertilizer-hungry veggies like corn. Good bean companions include cole crops (broccoli, Brussels sprouts), cabbage, kale, cucumber, chard, peas, radish, strawberry. Do not plant with onion family members (chives, garlic, onion, leek) and sunflowers.

Snow Peas, Carrot + Squash

Like beans, snow peas add nitrogen to soil. They are a natural pairing with spring sweet peas (plant on separate trellis supports to avoid picking inedible sweet pea pods), radishes and lettuce. Other good pea companions are cucumber, beans, cabbage, cucumber, Brussels sprout, carrot, parsley, zucchini and other squash. Do not plant with onion family members (chives, garlic, onion, leek).

Leek, Carrot + Garlic

Onion family plant members, including leek, chives, garlic, onion and shallots, pair perfectly with carrots because they repel carrot fly. The two crops also create a beautiful combination in the garden with contrasting leaf textures. Other good carrot companions include beans, rosemary, parsley, lettuce, tomato. Do not plant with parsnip, dill or coriander (cilantro).

Cucumber, Tomato + Marigold

Cucumber grows well with several pretty bloomers, including marigold, nasturtium and cosmos. Or plant it with sunflower and use the tall-stemmed flower to support cucumber vines. Dill is a good companion for cucumbers because it attracts so many predatory insects. Other good cucumber companions are beans, kohlrabi, peas, lettuce, tomato. Do not plant with potato, tomato or sage.

Sunflower, Pepper + Squash

Add sunflowers to your vegetable garden to beckon bees of all types, which help pollinate squash, pumpkin, peppers, cucumbers and melons. These sunny flowers also lure ladybugs, which prey on aphids. Other good sunflower companions include corn, cucumber, watermelon. Do not plant with potato.

Watermelon, Okra + Morning Glory

Watermelon and other melons, including cantaloupe and musk melon, need plenty of sunshine to yield well. Avoid planting them near other crops that will shade them. Include flowers like dill, chamomile, cosmos and pineapple sage to attract predatory insects that eat melon pests, including beetles, caterpillars and aphids. Other good watermelon companions are corn, okra, morning glory. Do not plant with potato.

Zucchini, Spinach + Oregano

Zucchini flowers need to be pollinated to produce squash, so vines benefit from having flowers nearby to beckon bees. Good flower choices include salvia coccinea, oregano, marigold, borage, dill and nasturtium. Other good zucchini companions include corn, garlic, radish, pea, spinach. Do not plant with potato.

Marigold, Tomato + Pepper

Marigolds are probably one of the best-known companion planting flowers. French marigold types help repel root-damaging soil nematodes by releasing a compound through their roots. It takes up to four months for effects to appear, and only certain marigolds are effective against certain nematode species, according to scientific research. Gardeners swear by marigolds’ effectiveness in repelling tomato hornworm, aphids and other pests, including rabbits. Signet marigolds attract beneficial predatory insects that feed on pests. Other good marigold companions are cucumber, pepper, tomato, kale. Do not plant with beans.

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