Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits and I’m looking at growing them soon. The only problem is, I wasn’t sure which companion plants to provide them, so I did some more research. Here’s what I found.
The best companion plants for blueberries are strawberries, clover, legumes, oak, pine, and wildflowers. Keep in mind that blueberry plants prefer a soil pH of 4.5-5.5, which is more acidic than what most plants can tolerate. Avoid planting blueberry plants with tomatoes and acid-sensitive annuals.
So, while these are a few of the best companions for blueberry plants, what are some others? And exactly how do these plants help blueberry plants? Let’s take a closer look.
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Benefits of Companion Planting
Companion planting is selecting specific plants to place together to achieve benefits, such as increasing pollination or repelling pests. Sometimes these benefits are one-sided, while others are mutual.
A famous example is The Three Sisters—planting corn, beans, and squash together. The corn provides a trellis for the beans to climb, the squash provides a ground cover, and the beans fix nitrogen in the soil. Plus, all of them provide food!
Here’s a list of the benefits that gardens gain from companion planting:
- Boost Pollination
- Repel Pests
- Prevent Weeds
- Fix Nitrogen
- Amend the Soil
- Cover the Soil
- Reduce Evaporation
- Provide a Living Trellis
- Maximize Space
- Produce More Food
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of companion planting, check out my other post: The Top 10 Benefits of Companion Planting.
Strawberry plants are one of the best companion plants for blueberries because they both require an acidic pH. According to Oregon State University, strawberry plants require a soil pH of 5.4 to 6.5 (source).
To make both berry plants happy, aim for a soil pH of around 5.5.
Two good ways to measure soil pH are with pH strips or a pH meter. I prefer using a pH meter since they’re affordable and easy to use. To see which pH meter I use and recommend, check out my recommended tools page.
Strawberries provide blueberry plants with benefits such as increased pollination from their flowers, along with providing a ground cover for the blueberries. As a result, more of the blueberry’s flowers can be successfully fertilized (leading to more fruit) and the plant’s soil has reduced evaporation from the cover.
Also, consider planting blueberry and strawberry plants with borage.
For example, a recent study showed that borage interplanted with strawberries saw an increase in strawberry production, with 35% more fruits and 32% more yield by weight (more on borage later).
Other companions for strawberry plants include asparagus, sage, and thyme. Avoid planting strawberries with mint, cabbage, and melons.
2. Cover Crops
Many legumes (along with some grasses such as annual ryegrass) are also called cover crops as they are great pioneer plants for depleted soils.
Legumes are part of the pea family and typically include:
- Other beans
Cover crops are used to improve soil health by slowing erosion, retaining water, preventing weeds, and controlling pests and diseases. They’ve even been shown to increase crop yields.
In the drought of 2012, corn and soybean farmers reported a 9.6-11.6% yield increase when they used cover crops, likely due in part to the cover crop’s ability to add 50-150 pounds of nitrogen per acre.Source
Cover crops fix nitrogen in the soil by promoting beneficial bacteria which take nitrogen from the air and store it into the soil as nitrates for other plants to use (source).
Like comfrey, you can mulch cover crops for even more nitrogen and other nutrients (as well as reducing evaporation), and many cover crops provide a good source of biomass and food.
With cover crops such as clover, you can even grow them in-between the blueberry plants and run livestock through the alleys. Your livestock gets free food, and your blueberry plants get an amazing fertilizer in the form of manure.
3. Oak Trees
While oaks can take a while to grow, they’re an amazing choice to use as an overstory companion plant. Not only do they provide partial shade for blueberry plants (and their soil), but their fallen leaves make a valuable mulch and their roots hold plenty of groundwater.
More specifically, oaks take between 30 to 40 years to grow (source), but don’t let that dissuade you! Oaks are super valuable and their acorns are even used to fatten up pasture-raised pigs.
Since oaks and blueberries both do well in temperate climates, they make a great pairing.
For example, using the above graphic, here’s how a temperate companion plant group could look with blueberry plants:
- Oak (overstory)
- Elderberry (midstory)
- Blueberry (understory)
- Strawberry (ground cover)
- Comfrey (in swale)
4. Pine Trees
Pine trees also make a good overstory for blueberry plants, especially due to their slight increase in soil acidity.
These trees (and their needles) are commonly thought to prevent many other plants from growing based on their acidity, but in my research, I found this to be mostly false. For this reason, blueberry plants can be interplanted with pine trees, as long as the blueberry plants receive enough sunlight and aren’t smothered by pine needles.
Don’t discount that pine needles are highly beneficial as mulch since they regulate soil temperature and reduce evaporation.
Comfrey is one of the most popular companion flowers at the moment because not only can it be used to attract pollinators but it grows incredibly fast and tall—eventually falling over and making a great mulch for other plants.
This mulch then reduces evaporation, provides protection from the elements, and adds nutrients to the soil.
Comfrey also fixes nitrogen in the soil, meaning its roots attract beneficial bacteria which take nitrogen from the air and store it as nitrates in the soil, ready for plants to use. Because of this, comfrey is a great plant to use for growing in and improving poor soils, making it a pioneer plant in ecological succession.
So, if you need more pollination, mulch, or nitrogen in your garden, grow comfrey!
For best results, plant comfrey next to fruit plants like blueberries, as well as vegetables like asparagus. However, comfrey grows well with just about any plant.
Keep in mind that while comfrey doesn’t have any foes, it can grow and spread aggressively. Because of this, many gardeners prefer to grow Russian comfrey due to its sterile seeds.
So, what exactly are wildflowers?
Wildflowers are defined as any flower that has not been genetically manipulated (source).
- Bee Balm
- Queen Anne’s Lace
- Purple Coneflower
- Meadow Cranesbill
- Black-Eyed Susan
Wildflowers are an amazing addition to your garden, especially if they’re within range of your strawberry plants. Ideally, this is no more than 50 feet away as it maximizes the chances pollinators will visit both the wildflowers as well as your strawberry plant’s flowers.
The wildflower’s variety of colors is visually appealing to pollinators and provides a good mix of nectar and pollen they can use as energy and food.
Not only do wildflowers greatly attract pollinators, but they also attract beneficial insect predators such as birds, ladybugs, and beneficial wasps.
Any of the above wildflowers will work great as a companion plant for just about any fruit, vegetable, or herb plant. However, this isn’t an exhaustive list, so feel free to explore other wildflower varieties!
Borage is technically a wildflower (more on wildflowers later), but I thought it deserved a special mention. First, it’s incredibly useful for blueberry plants as it attracts pollinators, makes a great mulch, and prevents many pests and diseases (source).
Also known as starflower, borage is an annual herb native to the Mediterranean. As a result, this plant is fairly drought tolerant, especially once mature. After planting, borage is easy to grow as it self-seeds and its flowers are also edible.
As mentioned earlier, one study showed that planting borage with strawberries significantly increased the yield and market quality of the berries, with 35% more fruits and 32% more weight. And similar benefits can be found when interplanted with blueberry plants.
To see more companion flowers, check out my other post: The Top 10 Companion Flowers for Gardens, Vegetables, & More.
Thyme is native to Eurasia, with a history dating back to 2750 BC—noting that thyme can be dried and mixed with pears, figs, and water for a topical medical paste (source). It’s also a great drought-tolerant plant.
Like just about all of the flowers on this list, thyme’s flowers and scent are incredibly useful at attracting pollinators, specifically honey bees. You can expect thyme to flower from May to September.
Similar to nasturtiums, thyme is resistant to pests including cabbage worms, weevils, and cabbage loopers (source). It’s also said that thyme also reduces aphid populations by attracting ladybugs (an aphid predator).
Of course, thyme has a lot of other uses. At our home, we often use thyme in our bone broths and roasts. We’ve come to really appreciate thyme’s strong floral scent and taste, giving our dishes much more flavor.
Thyme is best planted with blueberries, strawberries brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc), rosemary, and lavender. Avoid planting thyme near basil.
Speaking of basil, this plant is believed to be native to India. But since it’s been cultivated for over 5,000 years, it’s difficult to pinpoint (source).
Basil provides blueberry plants with increased pollinators (when it flowers) and ground cover.
Generally, basil prefers a mild climate and well-draining soil. In my experience growing basil, I’ve found it to be a fairly sensitive plant, needing warm (but not hot) weather and regular (but not soaking wet) soil moisture.
Most of the time, the cooler morning sun is better suited to grow basil than the hot afternoon sun. For this reason, plant basil facing east, and not west or south. You can also plant taller companion plants such as corn or sunflowers on its west side to provide afternoon shade.
Pro-tip: If you find your basil plant is thin and twiggy, consider strategically pruning it to grow into a bush. To do this, cut the basil just above its new leaf sets where you want the plant to split. For every cut, each of the two leaves will then grow its own stem, quickly increasing the width of the plant (and giving you more basil leaves!).
For best results, plant basil near blueberries, asparagus, and nightshade.
However, basil is known to attract slugs and snails, so interplant with strongly scented herbs such as rosemary, sage, and lavender to help repel them (source). Avoid planting basil with rue and thyme.
Like thyme, dill is another drought-tolerant herb, native to the Mediterranean, and is part of the parsley and celery family.
One of the most well-known companion qualities of dill is its ability to attract pollinators and beneficial insects such as ladybugs (which feed on spider mites and aphids). So if your blueberry plants commonly get aphids, plant lots of dill!
You can also use dill in your garden to repel pests such as spider mites and cabbage loopers (source).
Plant dill with brassicas, lettuce, onions, corn, cucumbers, and fennel. However, avoid planting dill with carrots, caraway, and nightshade.
To see more companion herbs, check out my other post: The 10 Best Companion Herbs.
What Not To Plant With Blueberry Plants
Avoid planting blueberries with tomatoes and acid-sensitive annuals such as arugula, radish, and brassicas.
The most common reason why blueberry plants have “foes” is due to them requiring a more acidic soil pH. For example, blueberry plants prefer a soil pH of 4.5 to 5.5, while most other plants prefer a soil pH between 6.0 to 7.0.
You can avoid mixing soil types by using two separate raised beds—one with more acidic soil for the acid-loving plants like blueberries, and the other with more neutral soil for the majority of other plants, like annuals.
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