Companion Planting 101: How to Plan and Grow a Successful Garden

Companion Planting 101: How to Plan and Grow a Successful Garden

Jun 10th 2024

Much like life, Gardening is about building relationships that encourage growth and harmony. Just as we choose friends who support us, certain plants in the garden flourish the best when grown beside specific crops. Companionship planting has been in effect since the Indigenous tribes to improve plant health, leading to healthier and fuller yields.

In companion planting, you strategically place mutually benefiting plants together to fuel growth, improve soil fertility, and keep pests at bay. For example, when beans and corn grow together, beans fix the nitrogen in the soil, which is used up by corn for its development. Similarly, sage repels garden flies, protecting its neighboring carrot crop from pest invasions.

Want to learn more? Read on for a detailed guide to companion planting and grow a lively garden today!

How Does Companion Planting Work

Companion planting is a gardening practice that suggests particular fruit and vegetable crops grow better when planted together than alone. It is based on mutual benefit, where plants help each other with physical support, growth and development, and pest control. Besides, some plants, like basil, help attract bees and butterflies for pollination, supporting their tomato neighbors in reproduction.

Here are a few examples of how companion planting works:

1. Garlic & Potatoes

Garlic contains sulfur, which acts as a natural insecticide, protecting potatoes from aphids and other similar pests. A study found that 75% of aphids can be killed by only a 2% garlic solution, making tomatoes and garlic a potent duo.

2. Sunflowers & Cucumbers

When grown alongside, sunflowers provide much-needed shade for climbing plants like cucumbers, protecting them from the intense summer sun.

3. Onions & Marigolds

Marigolds help repel pests when planted between 2 to 3 rows of onion crops and limit weeds' growth by limiting available space and light. The two also help attract pollinators for each other, forming good companions.

Benefits of Companion Planting

Companion planting has many benefits that can improve the health and productivity of your garden. By grouping complementary crops, you will have a thriving garden. Here's why you should companion plant certain crops.

1. Weed Suppression

Companion planting is a great strategy for suppressing weeds as a natural and sustainable alternative to chemical herbicides. Growing plants with large, broad leaves next to each other form a canopy that blocks sunlight from reaching the soil surface. Without enough sunlight, weed seeds have a hard time germinating and growing.

The practice suppresses weeds by using low-growing plants that work as living mulch, covering the ground throughout the growing season. For example, in the Three Sisters (corn, beans, and squash) combination, the broad leaves of squash create a dense ground cover that blocks light access for weed seeds. Likewise, the beans and corn grow tall and create even more shade, facilitating weed suppression.

2. Pest Management

When you stop planting single crops in rows, you make it harder for pests to spot and attack their favorite snack. Plus, some plants give off a strong scent making it harder for pests to locate their companion crops. For example, the roots of Marigolds release a chemical called alpha-terthienyl, which works as an insecticide for aphids, nematodes, and white flies. Thus, growing tomato plants around marigolds can help keep these attackers away, keeping your tomatoes healthy and pest-free.

Similarly, some companion plants attract beneficial insects that can feed on pests, thereby naturally reducing pest populations. Dill and fennel are classic examples of this, both of which invite insects like parasitic wasps and ladybugs. These wasps lay their eggs inside caterpillars, causing slow and steady death, while ladybugs directly munch on aphids.

3. Soil Health & Fertility

A healthy companion planting combination not only helps attract aphid-eating insects and deter pest species, but it also helps boost soil fertility. One of the main strategies companion plantings improves your soil health is through nitrogen fixation. Since nitrogen is a must-have nutrient for plant growth, many plants, like legumes (clover, beans, and peas), can convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that plants can consume.

This process is facilitated by symbiotic bacteria called Rhizobia, which live in the root nodules of legumes. So, when legumes like beans are planted with other crops like corn, they enrich the soil with nitrogen, providing a natural fertilizer for their companion plants. Likewise, other plants like carrots have deep root systems that break up compacted soil and help improve aeration for other crops.

4. Attract Pollinators

If you want your vegetable garden full of bright-colored petals and sweet fragrances, your best bet is to plant pollen-rich crops. Borage, calendula, and cosmos attract pollinators like bees and butterflies to your lawn, facilitating fertilization.

For example, lavender's purple flowers produce a chemical compound called linalool, which makes the flowers smell sweet. Lavender blooms are also rich in nectar, making them a favorite among bees.

Companion Planting Chart with Suitable Plant Combinations

Now that you know the benefits of companion planting, it's time to start planning a productive garden. To begin, assess your available space and garden conditions. Is there enough sunlight for full-sun plants?

Does the area have well-drained soil? Is your climate suitable to support the growth and well-being of crops? After considering these factors, the next step is to choose the best companions for all your desired species.

Here's a companion chart to help you pick the right pairs for different types of plants.

Main Crop

Companion Plants


Basil, Marigolds, Carrots


Radishes, Dill, Sunflowers


Onions, Leeks, Rosemary


Corn and Squash


Basil, Onions, Spinach


Borage, Thyme, Spinach


Lettuce, Peas, Nasturtiums


Roses, Carrots, Cucumbers


Dill, Onions, Marigolds


Oregano, Cilantro, Beans

Tips for a Successful Companion Planting Garden

Companion planting is an efficient gardening technique that is based on the interrelationships of plants to build a productive space. To have a thriving garden, you must systematically approach the process, taking calculated measures for the well-being of your crops. Here are some tips for a successful companion planting garden:

  1. Pick a few simple and beneficial plant pairs initially and expand gradually
  2. Record the planting dates, plant pairings, and pest attacks in a gardening journal
  3. Rotate your crops every season to reduce the risk of soil depletion
  4. Plant taller crops like sunflowers or corn to provide shade for spinach-like crops
  5. Use a drip irrigation system to deliver water directly to the root zones of plants


Companion planting is a time-tested strategy for building a healthy, sustainable garden. By understanding how different plants support each other, you can improve the growth rate of your crops, boost soil fertility, control pests, and even attract pollinators. Whether you're a homeowner with a few inches of yard space or a successful gardener, companion planting can help you achieve a more productive garden space.

However, remember, while placing beneficial plants together can certainly benefit your space, it is not the only thing you need for fuller yields and prospering crops. A consistent, precise watering mechanism is essential for any garden to hit its best potential, hosting healthy crops year-round. This is where drip irrigation comes in.

This practice targets water directly to the base of plants, helping minimize water waste while keeping crops hydrated.