My parents have a good-sized garden in their backyard and they were wondering which companion herbs were best to grow with their vegetables, fruits, flowers, and other herbs. So, to help them out, I did some research. Here’s what I found.
The best companion herbs for gardens are rosemary, parsley, mint, basil, and thyme. These herbs have benefits such as attracting pollinators, repelling pests, and providing ground covers. For best results, interplant with vegetables, fruits, flowers, and other herbs. Provide full sun and rich, well-draining soil.
To help show the most common herbs with their friends and foes, here’s a quick table I made (there are also more companions and foes listed in the following sections).
|Rosemary||Lavender, Thyme, Legumes||Tomatoes|
|Parsley||Asparagus, Corn, Tomatoes||Alliums, Lettuce|
|Mint||Beets, Cabbage, Nightshade||Strawberries|
|Basil||Asparagus, Nightshade, Rosemary||Rue, Thyme|
|Thyme||Brassicas, Strawberries, Rosemary||Basil|
|Dill||Brassicas, Lettuce, Onions||Carrots, Caraway, Nightshade|
|Oregano||Lavender, Basil, Nightshades||–|
|Garlic||Fruit Trees, Carrots, Tomatoes||Legumes|
|Chives||Fruit Trees, Grapes, Carrots||Legumes|
|Cilantro/Coriander||Cabbage, Lettuce, Spinach||Fennel|
So, while these herbs are great choices for companion plant gardens, which specific benefits do they bring, and which other plants should you interplant with them? Let’s take a closer look.
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Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean, which makes it a great plant to use in drought-tolerant gardens. It grows best in well-draining soil and in full sun, but can still grow with some partial shade.
Aside from its culinary uses, rosemary attracts pollinators and naturally repels pests such as snails and slugs (source).
Additionally, rosemary essential oil can be diluted and used as an organic pesticide (source).
Pro-Tip: When cooking with rosemary, don’t use the woody stems, only the leaves. The best way to remove the leaves is to pinch and slide your fingers along the stem, opposite the direction of the leaves.
Rosemary grows best when planted alongside lavender, thyme, legumes, carrots, and cabbage, but should be planted away from tomatoes.
Like most herbs and plants, rosemary can be tied in a bundle with some twine, and hung upside down to dry out. Once dry, it can be picked or blended into a powder and stored. If you’re in a dry climate, rosemary and its companions (especially lavender) are great plants to grow.
Also native to the Mediterranean, parsley is part of the carrot family (also including fennel and parsnip). Parsley is most often used as a garnish or condiment in cooking, but its leaves, seeds, and roots also have some uses (more on the health benefits of herbs later).
Parsley’s flowers are great at attracting pollinators and beneficial wasps, as well as attracting flies away from plants such as tomatoes.
Growing up to 1 1/2 feet tall, parsley grows best with asparagus, corn, and tomatoes. Avoid planting parsley with alliums and lettuce as it can overcrowd them.
For more companion plants that repel pests and diseases, visit my other post: 10+ Companion Plants That Prevent Pests and Diseases.
Mint is a perennial native to North America and has many popular uses from mojitos to essential oils. This plant does best in full sun but tolerates partial shade.
It grows by sending runners along the top of the soil and if left on its own, mint grows vigorously and can take over parts of the garden. For this reason, many gardeners prefer to keep mint’s runners at bay by keeping the plant in a pot.
When mint flowers, it’s great at attracting pollinators. Varieties such as peppermint normally get their flowers from mid-summer until fall.
According to the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, Ohio, mint is also used in gardens where its strong scent repels pests such as aphids, ants, cabbage moths, and mice (source).
We have found that placing peppermint cuttings (fresh or dried) where mice are a problem is very effective in driving them off!Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
For best results, plant mint alongside companions including alliums, beets, cabbage, lettuce, and nightshade fruits (such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers).
Since mint grows with runners, the same as strawberries, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it should not be planted near strawberries as they can compete. Additionally, they’re known to expose strawberries to the common fungal disease Verticillium wilt (source).
Basil is believed to be native to India, but since it’s been cultivated for over 5,000 years, it’s difficult to pinpoint (source).
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!).
Plant basil near asparagus and nightshade. When planted alongside tomatoes specifically, basil can help reduce their pest damage (source).
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. Avoid planting basil with rue and thyme.
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 paste (source). It’s also a great drought-tolerant plant.
Like just about all of the herbs 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 attracts aphid predators such as ladybugs.
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 brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc), strawberries, rosemary, and lavender. As mentioned above, avoid planting thyme near basil.
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Dill is another Mediterranean native herb 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 garden commonly gets 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.
Surprise! Oregano is yet another herb native to the Mediterranean. As a result, it prefers full sun and light to moderate water—making it perfect for drought-tolerant gardens.
Aside from attracting pollinators, oregano provides a ground cover for other plants, and can even reduce pests such as aphids by attracting their common predators (source).
Fun Fact: The name oregano comes from ancient Greek words “oros” and “ganos”, meaning “mountain” and “joy”.
Oregano is best planted alongside lavender, basil, nightshades, pumpkins, and grapes.
To see more companion flowers, check out my other post: The Top 10 Companion Flowers for Gardens, Vegetables, & More.
Garlic is native to Middle Asia and has long been an incredibly useful herb, with most historical uses being medicinal (source).
While the other companion herbs on this list are great at attracting pollinators, garlic is great at repelling pests. This is widely believed to be due to garlic’s sulfur smell, which is also useful as a natural fungicide.
More specifically, garlic repels aphids, beetles, cabbage moths/maggots, snails, slugs, rabbits, and many other pests. You can also plant garlic between tomato plants to protect them from red spider mites (source).
Pro-Tip: When planting garlic, you can use store-bought bulbs and break off the cloves. Each clove can then be planted, root-side down, and grow into its own garlic plant. This is an incredibly quick way to multiply the number of your garlic plants.
Plant garlic near its companions such as apple trees, carrots, tomatoes, and brassicas. Avoid planting garlic close to legumes.
Chives are a multi-use perennial herb that prefers full sun and well-draining soil. Unlike many herbs, chives are cold hardy down to zone 3.
A relative of garlic (although, with milder benefits), chives also repel pests such as aphids and harmful beetles.
They’re also good at preventing certain diseases, especially ones of a fungal nature.
According to Pennsylvania State University Extension, chives help prevent apple and pear scab when planted at the base of apple trees and also prevents black spot on roses (source).
Interplant chives with grapes, carrots, rose, and tomatoes. It’s even said that chives can help carrots grow larger. Avoid planting chives near legumes such as beans and peas.
Cilantro is another herb native to the Mediterranean and its leaves and seeds are popular in many cuisines.
When cilantro is allowed to grow past its tender green, herb state, it gets woody and tall, offering many flowers and seeds. It’s at this point it’s no longer called cilantro, and instead is named coriander.
Coriander has many companion benefits including attracting pollinators and repelling pests such as aphids, potato beetles, and spider mites (source).
In my experience growing cilantro, it’s a vigorous grower and when left to go to seed as coriander, it will often regrow from its many seeds on its own as an annual, year after year. After collecting coriander seeds from the plant, I’ve found them to have a great germination rate.
While coriander can be difficult to get rid of, it’s not considered to have invasive qualities and likely won’t harm your garden if it grows wild.
Plant cilantro and coriander with cabbage, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, anise, and legumes. Keep cilantro and coriander away from fennel.
Whether you’re planting herbs with veggies, fruits, flowers, or other herbs, the above list of companion herbs will do a great job bringing many benefits to your garden. You can choose to either plant your companion herbs in pots or in the ground. Although, they might offer more benefits in the ground (except for mint).
Keep in mind that there are more companion “friends” than there are “foes”, so it’s hard to go wrong. The best way to identify successful companion plants is to observe your garden. Double down on positive connections between plants and reduce negative connections if possible.
Aside from their companion benefits, there are many, MANY health benefits of herbs (and their essential oils). However, I’m not super knowledgeable on this particular subject, so I’d rather leave this one to the health experts. If you’re interested to learn more about herbs and their benefits (in health and in the kitchen) check out this resource by the State Government of Victoria, Australia.
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