We’re currently adding more avocado trees to our garden, and while it’ll take a while for them to grow, we were wondering of ways we can maximize the space and benefits they bring. For example, are there plants that would grow well underneath the canopy of avocado trees? Or maybe ones that help keep pests away? How about increasing flower fertilization and fruit yields? I did some more research to find out what the best companion plants are for avocado trees.
The best companion plants for avocado trees include lavender, comfrey, garlic, strawberries, and sweet potatoes. While each plant has a different benefit, they all grow well next to, or underneath the canopy from avocado trees. Some attract pollinators, while others keep away pests or provide a living ground cover.
So, while these are a few examples of companion plants for avocado trees, what are some others, and exactly what benefits do each of them bring? Let’s take a further look.
Lavender is one of the best companion plants for avocado trees because they’re easy to grow, drought-tolerant, do well in partial shade, and attract pollinators.
While avocado trees are self-pollinating, they can benefit from cross-pollination. So, not only should you keep multiple avocado trees if possible, but flowering plants like lavender will attract many pollinators such as hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.
Lavender does well in both full sun and partial shade, so you can choose to plant lavender underneath the canopy of avocado trees, or just nearby.
Keep in mind that the avocado saplings should be at least 2-3 times the size of the lavender and at least 3-4 feet away to prevent competition (this is also true for most of the other plants on this list). Larger and more mature avocado trees can have plants closer (1-2 feet away), depending on the plant’s root depth. It’s best to not disturb the avocado tree’s shallow roots when planting or growing other plants.
Like lavender, basil does well planted underneath the shade of avocado trees. Since avocado trees grow best in tropical climates, there’s a good chance the sun in your region is hot and strong. Basil can quickly die if overheated, so pairing it with avocado trees can protect it and provide some extra herbs in your garden.
For best results, prune basil when it starts to grow multiple sets of leaves and it’ll grow into a luscious basil bush. You can also plant bushier varieties such as purple basil.
While pruning basil flowers can help keep basil leaves productive and tasty, letting the plant flower can also attract many pollinators and beneficial insects, so you can’t go wrong either way.
Onions are a natural pest deterrent and a good companion plant for avocado trees. They can repel rabbits and some harmful bugs such as aphids, mites, and maggots.
Some plants like potatoes have roots (and tubers) that grow too deep to be planted near avocado trees. These plants can disturb and even compete with the avocado roots. However, onion roots are relatively shallow and grow at a maximum depth of 12-18″.
Onions also like partial shade and do best if planted under or just outside the canopy of avocado trees. Even with a small amount of afternoon shade, onions have a better chance of surviving the hot sun.
Like onions, garlic is a natural pest deterrent. Pests that garlic can repel include mites, aphids, mosquitoes, and some harmful beetles. You can even crush and use the garlic cloves as an insect repellent for other plants in the garden.
Garlic plants also have shallow roots, about the same as onions—12-18″. For best results, plant garlic under the canopy and shade of the avocado tree. Plant each clove 1-2″ deep and 4-6″ apart. They should start shooting out of the ground within a few weeks.
Comfrey has a long taproot and lifts some of the nutrients higher in the soil, which not only benefits younger avocado plants but also other nearby plants. Some of the nutrients include phosphorus, potassium, and calcium.
You can even use comfrey leaves as a mulch for avocado trees, adding a good amount of nitrogen into the soil and increasing water retention (just be sure not to add too much mulch to your avocado tree’s soil, as this can prevent drainage and cause issues such as drooping leaves).
These plants are also great at keeping away slugs, but be aware that they’re hard to get rid of once you plant them, so plan accordingly!
Melons such as honeydew and watermelon can be planted near and under avocado trees and have some benefits, but they also have some drawbacks.
First, the good news: melons provide a great ground cover and increase water retention in the soil. They also protect the soil (and its beneficial microbes) from drying out in the hot sun. Additionally, the partial shade provided by avocado trees is a good environment to grow melons.
The bad news: melons can grow deep roots and compete with avocado trees. Melon roots can grow as deep as 24-36″. For this reason, make sure your avocado trees are mature and have well-established roots before planting melons nearby.
If you’d like to use melons as a companion plant for your avocado trees, I’d recommend planting the melons just outside of your avocado tree’s canopy. This way they’ll be less likely to interfere with the avocado tree’s roots, but can benefit from some shade, especially in the hot afternoon.
If you liked the idea of using melons as a ground cover for your avocado trees, but want something with less invasive root depth, then consider growing strawberries.
I’m growing some strawberry plants on a gardening rack and found they typically have a root depth of about 5″ inches. However, these are in containers, so strawberries planted in a garden could exceed this slightly.
One thing to know—strawberry plants send out runner roots, which can quickly create more strawberry plants throughout your garden. While they make a great ground cover and do well in the partial shade of avocado trees, strawberry plants are hard to limit and can smoother avocado saplings, so consider pairing them with more mature avocado trees.
Also, if you live in a climate that doesn’t get a hard frost, strawberries will function well as a perennial, so you can plant them once and they’ll last many, many seasons (I believe they’re the only plant on this list that are perennials and not annuals).
If you’re a coffee drinker and are wondering if coffee grounds can be used as a strawberry plant fertilizer, make sure to check out my recent post: Are Coffee Grounds Good for Strawberry Plants?
8. Sweet Potatoes
Another living ground cover, sweet potato plants make a good companion to avocado trees. Like other ground covers, they keep the soil cool and moist and protect beneficial insects and soil bacteria from the sun.
Unlike some of the plants on this list, the leaves of sweet potatoes are edible and can be a substitute for spinach and other leafy greens (regular potato plants aren’t related to sweet potatoes and are part of the nightshade family, which means their leaves are poisonous. Don’t mix these two up!).
Sweet potato plants are fairly easy to grow, spread quickly, and their tubers make a high-calorie food (making it a good choice for self-sufficiency and survival gardening).
However, keep in mind that sweet potatoes need 24-36″ of depth to fully grow their roots and tubers. So, to prevent root competition, I’d suggest keeping them around the outside perimeter of your avocado tree.
9. Winter Squash and Pumpkins
The last ground covers on this list are winter squash and pumpkins. I chose winter and not summer squash because winter squash is similar to pumpkins in that they’re a vining plant. While summer squash can still grow as a companion plant to avocado trees, they’re usually more of a bush variety.
Like sweet potatoes, winter squash and pumpkins are good ground covers that also provide a sugary, high-calorie food. This makes squash and pumpkins another great option for self-sufficient gardens.
Many varieties also have fruits with thicker rinds, which means they can store incredibly well. Native Americans commonly harvested squash and pumpkins in the fall, which stayed good at least 3 months into the winter.
Unlike sweet potatoes, the fruits from squash and pumpkin grow above ground. However, their roots can still grow to depths of 24-36″ inches, so keep this in mind when pairing with avocado trees.
10. Cilantro and Coriander
Last on this list are cilantro and coriander (if you didn’t know, coriander is the same plant as cilantro, just when it’s seeding).
Cilantro and coriander are more like basil in that they don’t provide much in soil amendment or pest resistance, but they grow great in the partial shade of avocado trees, sheltered from the hot sun. Also like basil, they have shallower roots, attract pollinators with their flowers, and are a great addition to any herb garden (I like using cilantro whenever we make homemade salsa or pho).
When your cilantro plant flowers and becomes coriander, you can harvest the seeds either for cooking (like in pho), or save them to plant more cilantro in the next seasons.
Avocados are a tropical fruit, so if you have avocado trees, there’s a good chance you’re in a tropical or subtropical climate. With this in mind, I make sure to include companion plants that also do well in these hot and humid environments.
Companion planting is a great way to not only save space but to gain many of the benefits that come along with practicing permaculture, such as increased pollination and fruit yields.
In this same permaculture-spirit, consider mulching the ground around your avocado trees to further improve the water retention of the soil and protect it from drying in sun. Mulch will also slowly decompose into extra nutrients for your avocado tree. Some good mulches for avocado trees include leaves, bark, and pine needles. You can also add coffee grounds in with the mulch (along with any of the tree’s yellow or brown leaves) to provide some extra nitrogen and food for the soil.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend planting anything under a potted avocado tree as it’ll easily compete with the tree’s roots and nutrients. Generally, while avocado trees can grow successfully in pots, they grow best when planted in the ground. Avocado trees have strong roots and can quickly become root bound in pots. Because of this, there’s limited root space for other plants sharing the pot to grow well.
With our avocado trees, I’m planning on growing strawberries, lavender, and basil underneath them. From there, I’ll see which companion plants work best with the trees and double down on them.