Companion Planting: 43 Combinations for Maximum Yield

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In the world of gardening, companion planting is an age-old technique that harnesses the power of plant partnerships to optimize growth, deter pests, and improve overall yield.

By strategically planting compatible plants together (a.k.a companion planting), you can create a healthy garden ecosystem that thrives with minimal effort. These tried-and-true companion planting combinations blend tested wisdom with a touch of old folklore and will help you achieve maximum yield from a healthy and fruitful garden.

A corn cob, small pumpkins and other various veggies laying on a wood table.

Why Practice Companion Planting?

Companion planting holds significant importance in today’s world of gardening and agriculture for several reasons. Here’s why you should incorporate this essential practice into your garden:

  1. Natural Pest Control: Companion planting offers a natural and sustainable approach to pest control. By strategically pairing plants that repel or deter pests, we can reduce the reliance on chemical pesticides, which can have harmful effects on the environment and beneficial organisms. Companion plants can confuse pests with their scents, repel them with their natural compounds, or attract beneficial insects that prey on pests, creating a balanced ecosystem within the garden.
  2. Biodiversity and Resilience: Companion planting promotes biodiversity, which is crucial for building resilient ecosystems. By intermixing different plant species, we create habitats that support a wide range of beneficial insects, pollinators, and microorganisms. Increased biodiversity helps maintain ecological balance, reduces the risk of pest outbreaks, improves soil health, and enhances the overall resilience of the garden or agricultural system.
  3. Soil Fertility and Nutrient Cycling: Companion planting can enhance soil fertility and nutrient cycling. Certain plants have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, such as legumes, and by intercropping them with nitrogen-demanding plants, we can naturally replenish soil nutrients. Additionally, plants with deep taproots can bring up nutrients from lower soil layers, making them available to shallower-rooted plants. This dynamic nutrient cycling improves soil health and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers.
  4. Weed Suppression and Soil Protection: Companion plants can play a vital role in weed suppression and soil protection. Some plants, like legumes and dense groundcovers, act as living mulches, smothering weeds and reducing weed growth by shading the soil. This helps conserve soil moisture, prevents soil erosion, and reduces competition for nutrients among crops.
  5. Improved Pollination and Yields: Many companion plants attract pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects, which play a crucial role in pollination. By incorporating flowering companion plants, we can enhance pollination rates, resulting in improved fruit sets and higher yields for crops that require pollination. This is particularly relevant in the context of declining pollinator populations worldwide.
  6. Space Optimization and Intercropping: Companion planting allows for efficient use of space, especially in small gardens or urban settings. By intercropping compatible plants, we can maximize productivity and yield from limited areas. Tall plants can provide shade or support for climbing plants, while low-growing plants can take advantage of the available space and provide ground cover.
  7. Cultural and Culinary Benefits: Companion planting is not just about practical benefits; it also offers cultural and culinary advantages. It allows us to explore traditional and heritage plant combinations that have been passed down through generations. These combinations often have cultural significance and can enhance the flavor profiles of crops, leading to unique and diverse culinary experiences.
A woman picking a head of red lettuce out of her garden.

Things To Consider When Companion Planting

When practicing companion planting, there are several additional factors to consider to ensure successful plant pairings and maximize the benefits. Here are some key aspects to keep in mind:

  1. Plant Compatibility: It’s essential to choose companion plants that are compatible in terms of their growth habits, sunlight and water requirements, and soil preferences. Some plants may compete for resources or inhibit the growth of their companions. Understanding the specific needs of each plant and selecting compatible combinations will help create a harmonious planting arrangement.
  2. Succession Planting: Consider the timing and lifespan of plants when planning companion planting. Succession planting involves planting crops in a sequence to maximize space and extend the harvest season. By interplanting fast-growing crops with slower-growing ones, you can optimize the use of space and ensure a continuous supply of fresh produce.
  3. Crop Rotation: Rotate your crops each season to minimize the risk of soil-borne diseases and pests. Avoid planting closely related crops in the same area year after year, as this can deplete soil nutrients and increase the likelihood of disease and pest buildup. Companion planting can be incorporated into crop rotation plans to further support the health and productivity of your garden.
  4. Height and Shade Considerations: Take into account the height and spread of plants when selecting companion combinations. Taller plants can cast shade on shorter ones, affecting their growth and development. Place taller plants on the north or east side of the garden to avoid shading smaller companion plants and ensure adequate sunlight exposure for all plants.
  5. Timing and Growth Rates: Consider the growth rates and maturity periods of companion plants to avoid overcrowding or imbalances in the garden. Plant combinations where one crop matures faster can provide temporary shade and weed suppression for slower-growing plants. Proper timing of planting will help ensure that all companion plants thrive together.
  6. Observation and Adaptation: Observe your garden regularly to assess the success of companion plantings. Note any signs of pest infestations, nutrient deficiencies, or plant interactions. Adapt your companion planting strategies based on your observations, making adjustments as needed to optimize plant health and overall garden performance.
  7. Record Keeping: Maintain a gardening journal or record of your companion planting efforts. Keep track of plant combinations, successes, and challenges you encounter. This information will be valuable for future reference and can help refine your companion planting techniques over time.

Remember, companion planting is not an exact science, and it may require some experimentation to find the best combinations for your specific garden. Embrace the opportunity to learn and adapt as you discover which companion plants work well together and yield the desired results in terms of pest control, improved growth, and overall garden health.

Two gloved hands planting small plants in a dirt row.

Companion Planting Plant Combinations

While there are many combinations that fall under the companion planting arena, these are the ones I’ve found most beneficial:

  1. Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, and Squash Inspired by Native American agriculture, the Three Sisters trio is a classic companion planting combination. Corn provides sturdy support for climbing beans, while beans fix nitrogen in the soil for the corn’s benefit. The sprawling squash acts as a living mulch, suppressing weeds and conserving moisture. Together, they create a mutually beneficial relationship, maximizing space and yield.
  2. Basil and Tomatoes: The aromatic properties of basil help repel pests that commonly afflict tomatoes, such as aphids and whiteflies. Planting basil alongside tomatoes not only acts as a natural pest deterrent but also enhances the flavor of the tomatoes. This dynamic duo exemplifies the concept of mutual enhancement in companion planting.
  3. Marigolds and Vegetables: Marigolds are renowned for their ability to repel nematodes, harmful insects, and even rabbits. Planting marigolds as a border around your vegetable garden can provide a natural defense system. Their vibrant blooms add a splash of color while protecting your precious crops from unwanted intruders.
  4. Carrots and Onions: The combination of carrots and onions is a classic gardening practice. Onions help repel carrot flies, which can damage carrot roots, while carrots, in turn, deter onion flies. This partnership not only improves pest resistance but also optimizes space utilization, as the taller onions provide shade and reduce weed growth around the delicate carrot seedlings.
  5. Cabbage and Dill: Cabbage and dill make for excellent companions. Dill attracts beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings, which prey upon cabbage pests such as aphids and cabbage worms. Additionally, the pungent aroma of dill confuses and repels pests, providing a natural defense mechanism for your cabbage plants.
  6. Nasturtiums and Brassicas: Nasturtiums are well-known for their ability to repel pests like aphids, whiteflies, and cabbage worms. By planting them alongside brassicas like cabbage, kale, or broccoli, you can create a shield against these common garden pests. As an added benefit, nasturtiums are edible and add a peppery flavor to salads.
  7. Roses and Garlic: To keep pesky aphids away from your prized roses, try planting garlic nearby. Garlic’s pungent smell acts as a natural deterrent, while its sulfur compounds provide a systemic insecticide effect. This time-tested combination will help keep your roses healthy and vibrant.
  8. Radishes and Spinach: When planted together, radishes help deter leaf miners, a common pest that affects spinach. Radishes serve as trap crops, diverting leaf miners away from the tender leaves of spinach. Furthermore, radishes help break up compacted soil with their long taproots, benefiting shallow-rooted spinach plants.
  9. Peppers and Basil: Basil and peppers make an excellent pairing in the garden. Basil not only enhances the flavor of peppers but also acts as a natural repellent for pests like aphids and spider mites that often affect pepper plants. Planting basil near peppers can help deter these pests and contribute to healthier, more flavorful peppers.
  10. Beans and Cucumbers: Beans and cucumbers have a mutually beneficial relationship when grown together. Cucumber vines provide a beneficial shade for beans, helping to retain soil moisture and protect the delicate bean plants from excessive sun exposure. In return, beans fix nitrogen in the soil, providing a natural fertilizer for cucumbers. This combination promotes healthier growth and improved yields for both crops.
  11. Spinach and Strawberries: When spinach and strawberries are grown together, they form a powerful combination. Strawberries act as a living mulch, creating a protective layer around the shallow-rooted spinach plants. This mulch helps suppress weed growth, conserve soil moisture, and maintain a more stable temperature for the spinach. The strawberries benefit from the shade provided by the spinach leaves, which reduces the risk of sunscald on the strawberries’ fruits.
  12. Tomatoes and Calendula: Calendula flowers, also known as pot marigolds, are an excellent companion for tomatoes. The bright, cheerful blooms of calendula attract pollinators to the garden, which is beneficial for both tomatoes and other flowering plants. Additionally, calendula has natural repellent properties that help deter pests like tomato hornworms. By planting calendula alongside tomatoes, you can create a vibrant and pest-resistant garden.
  13. Beets and Lettuce: Beets and lettuce form a beneficial partnership in the garden. The tall, leafy beet greens provide shade and shelter for the delicate lettuce leaves, helping to prevent them from bolting or becoming bitter in hot weather. The beet greens act as a natural protective barrier, reducing moisture loss from the soil and creating a microclimate that promotes healthy growth for both crops.
  14. Sunflowers and Pumpkins: Sunflowers and pumpkins create a visually stunning and mutually beneficial combination in the garden. Sunflowers provide a trellis-like structure for climbing pumpkin vines, allowing them to reach for the sun while minimizing the need for additional support structures. The large leaves of the pumpkin plants provide shade to the soil, helping to retain moisture and reduce weed growth. Together, sunflowers and pumpkins create a productive garden space.
  15. Radishes and Squash: Pairing radishes with squash is a clever way to naturally deter pests and protect your squash plants. Radishes have a strong aroma that repels pests like squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and vine borers. By interplanting radishes with squash, you create a natural barrier that discourages these destructive pests from reaching your valuable squash plants. This combination promotes healthier squash plants and reduces the risk of pest infestations.
  16. Chives and Carrots: Chives and carrots form a beneficial partnership in the garden. Chives release compounds that help deter carrot flies, which can damage the roots of carrot plants. Planting chives near carrots acts as a natural pest deterrent and can help protect your carrot crop. Additionally, chive flowers attract beneficial insects like bees, which play a crucial role in pollination and can further enhance the overall productivity of your garden.
  17. Sage and Cabbage: Sage and cabbage make a powerful combination in the garden. The strong aroma of sage acts as a natural repellent for cabbage moths and cabbage loopers, which are common pests that can wreak havoc on cabbage plants. By planting sage near cabbage, you create a barrierI apologize for the abrupt ending. Here’s the complete description for the remaining combinations:
  18. Chives and Carrots: Chives and carrots form a beneficial partnership in the garden. Chives release compounds that help deter carrot flies, which can damage the roots of carrot plants. Planting chives near carrots acts as a natural pest deterrent and can help protect your carrot crop. Additionally, chive flowers attract beneficial insects like bees, which play a crucial role in pollination and can further enhance the overall productivity of your garden.
  19. Sage and Cabbage: Sage and cabbage make a powerful combination in the garden. The strong aroma of sage acts as a natural repellent for cabbage moths and cabbage loopers, which are common pests that can wreak havoc on cabbage plants. By planting sage near cabbage, you create a barrier of scent that confuses and repels these pests, reducing the risk of infestations and allowing your cabbage plants to thrive.
  20. Marjoram and Eggplant: Marjoram and eggplant are ideal companions, both in the garden and on the plate. Marjoram enhances the flavor of eggplant when planted nearby. Furthermore, marjoram emits a fragrance that deters pests like spider mites and aphids, helping to keep your eggplants healthy and pest-free. Enjoy the benefits of improved flavor and natural pest control by combining marjoram with eggplant.
  21. Cilantro and Spinach: Cilantro and spinach create a mutually beneficial partnership. Cilantro attracts beneficial insects like bees and parasitic wasps that prey on spinach pests such as aphids and leafminers. By planting cilantro near spinach, you invite these beneficial insects into your garden, which can help naturally control pest populations. Additionally, cilantro adds a fresh, flavorful element to your culinary creations.
  22. Zinnias and Beans: Zinnias and beans create a visually appealing and functional combination in the garden. Zinnias produce vibrant, colorful flowers that attract pollinators, including bees and butterflies, enhancing the pollination process for both zinnias and beans. Furthermore, zinnias also attract beneficial insects that prey on pests like aphids and bean beetles, offering a natural pest control solution for your bean plants.
  23. Oregano and Broccoli: Oregano and broccoli are natural companions in the garden. Oregano has strong aromatic properties that repel pests like cabbage worms, a common pest of broccoli plants. By planting oregano near broccoli, you create a protective barrier that deters these pests, reducing the risk of infestation. Additionally, oregano is a versatile herb that adds a delightful flavor to various dishes.
  24. Hyssop and Cabbage Family (Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi): Hyssop is known to attract beneficial insects like bees, which aid in pollination. By planting hyssop near members of the cabbage family, you can increase pollination rates, leading to healthier and more abundant harvests.
  25. Chamomile and Cabbage Family: Chamomile is not only a calming herb but also acts as a beneficial companion to the cabbage family. Its aromatic properties help repel pests like caterpillars and cabbage worms, protecting your cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kohlrabi plants from infestations.
  26. Wormwood and Roses: Wormwood is a natural deterrent for pests like Japanese beetles. Planting wormwood near roses can help deter these destructive insects, protecting your prized roses from their feeding damage.
  27. Pole Beans and Corn: Pole beans and corn form a classic companion planting combination. The tall cornstalks provide support for the climbing beans, and the beans, in turn, help fix nitrogen in the soil, benefiting the corn plants. This symbiotic relationship improves overall growth and yields for both crops.
  28. Flea Beetles and Leeks: Leeks are less susceptible to flea beetle damage compared to other plants. Planting leeks near susceptible crops like potatoes and brassicas can help distract flea beetles, reducing their impact on these vulnerable plants.
  29. Chard and Fruit Trees: Chard is an excellent companion for fruit trees. Its large, vibrant leaves provide shade to the soil, helping to retain moisture and reduce weed growth around fruit trees. Additionally, chard attracts beneficial insects that prey on pests harmful to fruit trees, promoting a healthier orchard ecosystem.
  30. Raspberries and Horseradish: Horseradish acts as a natural deterrent for pests that commonly affect raspberries, such as raspberry cane borers and Japanese beetles. Planting horseradish near raspberry bushes can help repel these pests and protect your raspberry crop.
  31. Celery and Asparagus: Celery and asparagus make compatible companions in the garden. Celery is known to repel pests like aphids and carrot flies, which can affect asparagus plants. By planting celery near asparagus, you can create a natural pest barrier and reduce the risk of infestations.
  32. Parsley and Roses: Parsley is a beneficial companion plant for roses. Its aromatic foliage attracts hoverflies and other beneficial insects that prey on aphids and other pests harmful to roses. Additionally, parsley can improve the flavor of nearby roses.
  33. Borage and Strawberries: Borage is a fantastic companion plant for strawberries. Its vibrant blue flowers attract bees and other pollinators, enhancing pollination rates and fruit set for strawberries. Borage also repels pests like hornworms and Japanese beetles, providing additional protection for strawberry plants.
  34. Fennel and Catnip: Fennel and catnip make a great combination to attract beneficial insects. Fennel attracts predatory insects that feed on pests like aphids and caterpillars, while catnip entices beneficial insects like lacewings and ladybugs. Planting these two herbs together can help promote a healthy balance of insects in your garden.
  35. Potatoes and Mint: Mint is known to repel pests like aphids, flea beetles, and Colorado potato beetles. Planting mint near potatoes can help deter these pests and reduce the need for chemical interventions. However, it’s important to contain mint as it can become invasive.
  36. Peas and Parsnips: Peas and parsnips are compatible companions in the garden. Peas are nitrogen-fixing legumes that improve soil fertility, benefiting parsnips and other neighboring plants. In return, parsnips provide a natural trellis-like support for climbing pea vines.
  37. Rosemary and Thyme: Rosemary and thyme make a delightful pairing both in the garden and on the plate. These aromatic herbs attract beneficial insects and repel pests like mosquitoes and cabbage loopers. Planting rosemary and thyme together can create a fragrant and pest-resistant garden corner.
  38. Members of the Cabbage Family and Nasturtiums: Nasturtiums are beneficial companions for plants in the cabbage family. They repel pests like cabbage worms, aphids, and cabbage loopers, providing a natural defense mechanism. Nasturtiums also act as sacrificial plants, attracting pests away from your cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kohlrabi crops.
  39. Mosquitoes and Catnip: Catnip is known to repel mosquitoes due to its strong scent. Planting catnip in your garden or near outdoor seating areas can help deter these pesky insects naturally.
  40. Melons and Radishes: Radishes can act as trap crops for pests like cucumber beetles and squash bugs, which commonly affect melons. By interplanting radishes with melons, you can help divert these pests to the radishes, protecting your melon plants from damage.
  41. Grapes and Borage: Borage is a beneficial companion for grapevines. Its attractive blue flowers attract pollinators and beneficial insects while repelling pests like Japanese beetles. Planting borage near grapevines can promote healthier grape clusters and improve pollination rates.
  42. Apples and Chives: Chives are a beneficial companion for apple trees. They repel pests like aphids and deter apple scab, a common fungal disease. Planting chives around apple trees can help protect them from pests and diseases.
  43. Horseradish and Potatoes: Horseradish acts as a natural deterrent for pests like Colorado potato beetles. Planting horseradish near potatoes can help repel these beetles and protect your potato crop.

It’s Not Rocket Science

If you don’t really know where to start with companion planting, here are some basic steps to get you started.

  1. Choose Simple Companion Plant Combinations:
  • Start by selecting a few simple and well-known companion plant combinations. Some popular combinations for beginners include marigolds and tomatoes, basil and peppers, and radishes and lettuce. These combinations offer pest control benefits and are relatively easy to implement.
  • Look for plants that have complementary growth habits and can coexist harmoniously in terms of light and water requirements.
  1. Prepare Your Garden Space:
  • Clear the area where you plan to plant your companion crops. Remove any weeds or debris and loosen the soil to create a suitable planting environment.
  • Amend the soil with organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve its fertility and structure.
  1. Plant and Maintain Your Companion Garden:
  • Follow the recommended spacing guidelines for each plant and sow or transplant your companion crops accordingly. Take into account the specific planting requirements of each plant, such as sun exposure and soil depth.
  • Water your plants regularly, ensuring they receive adequate moisture without becoming waterlogged.
  • Keep an eye out for any signs of pests or diseases. Take appropriate measures, such as removing affected plant parts or using organic pest control methods, to prevent the spread of problems.
  • Mulch around your plants to conserve moisture, suppress weed growth, and promote overall soil health.

As a beginner, it’s important to start small and gradually expand your companion planting efforts as you gain confidence and experience. Observe and learn from your garden, making note of what works well and what may need adjustments. Over time, you can experiment with more intricate companion plant combinations and expand the diversity of your garden to reap the full benefits of companion planting.

By incorporating these additional plant combinations into your garden, you can create a diverse and thriving ecosystem that promotes healthy growth, pest resistance, and overall garden productivity. Experiment with different pairings and observe the positive impact they have on your plants.

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Writer for MSN and AP Newswire, cookbook author, food blogger and travel writer. Lover of sunflowers, Elvis music and coastal living.

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