I’m often looking at ways to maximize the space and efficiency of our garden, and that means pairing companion plants. This time, I’m taking a look at cherry trees. So, let’s find out what companion plants we can use for cherry trees.
The most common companion plants that support cherry trees include marigolds, dandelions, lavender, and rosemary. Ideally, companion plants attract pollinators, build healthy soil, repel pests, and are visually appealing. Depending on their shade tolerance, some plants can be planted under the tree itself.
While all of the companion plants on this list are great for cherry trees, some of them even accomplish all four of the above tasks at once! If you want to add some great companions to the area around your cherry tree but aren’t sure which ones, I’ve gathered a list of some of the best buddy plants here.
Marigolds are a well-known companion plant for fruit and vegetable gardens (especially with tomatoes), but they are an excellent companion plant for cherry trees as they help manage the soil-borne populations of nematodes. Marigolds have been used as a cover crop in India for many hundreds of years in areas where the count of nematodes is high.
These nematodes often afflict home gardens and have no available chemical pesticide. Luckily, marigolds, are natural repellents towards nematodes because they produce a substance called alpha-terthienyl, which is deadly for the nematodes. Planting several of them under or near your cherry tree will reduce the nematode population and keep them from making knots in the roots of the tree.
Just make sure that you plant a true marigold from the genus Tagetes, not Calendula, which sometimes goes by the same common name. The LSU College of Agriculture recommends the ‘Tangerine’ variety.
True comfrey is an important plant in herbalism and traditional medicine, which often uses dried or ground-up portions of its root to treat stomach aches and toothaches.
But another variety called Russian comfrey is useful in the garden, too. Its long taproot breaks up soil and brings nutrients up from the lower soil. Its leaves are extremely rich in nitrogen, which makes it a great mulch, and it’s a trap plant for slugs and other insects, which prefer to dwell within its cool leafy depths instead of other plants in your garden. Comfrey even attracts pollinators with its blue-purple flowers. This makes comfrey a multipurpose companion plant for cherry trees.
Comfrey is a sturdy perennial and is hard to remove once it is established, so plan its placement carefully.
Many people consider dandelion to be a weed, but its yellow flowers are extremely valuable as early forage for pollinators, and its leaves are almost as rich in nitrogen as comfrey.
And like comfrey, dandelions have a long, sturdy taproot that brings up nutrients from deep in the soil to the upper layers where they are more available to other plants, including your cherry tree.
Dandelions also naturally protect your soil from wind and water erosion, from temperature extremes, and generally act as an effective mulch.
Chives, like garlic and onions, have natural anti-fungal properties. Since cherry trees are vulnerable to fungal infections, planting chives nearby will support a fungus-free environment.
Chives also bloom in spring and summer with beautiful purple flowers. They’re easy to care for, and have a ton of uses in the kitchen!
Daisies attract green lacewings and assassin bugs, which are both highly beneficial insects since their diet consists of all the pests that like to take up residence in cherry and other flowering trees.
Daisies are also hardy perennials that can live in almost all growing zones, and produce lush green foliage and big white or yellow flowers.
6. Spring Bulbs
Spring bulbs are bulbs that are planted in the autumn, are dormant throughout the winter, and flower when spring arrives. Some of the more popular spring bulbs are tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, irises, allium and crocus.
Cherry trees and spring bulbs bloom at almost the same time. A large planting of spring-blooming bulbs near your cherry tree will make be highly aesthetic, as well as draw in pollinators early in the season.
As an added bonus, bulbs are low-effort to maintain, only requiring water and the occasional fertilizer. Many bulbs like irises, tulips, daffodils, and narcissus will grow on their own, filling up the space around them with sturdy foliage and bright blooms.
Nasturtiums are edible, beautiful, fast-growing, and are great companions for cherry trees because they also attract aphids away from the tree.
They come in a wide range of colors, and their sand-dollar-shaped leaves are attention-grabbing. They also have no problem growing in poor soil, as long as it drains well.
You can interplant nasturtiums with any plant on this list for added color and interest by your cherry tree.
8. Sweet Alyssum
Sweet alyssum grows in a low mound covered in tiny white flowers which smell like honey. This flower is beautiful to look at, and the blossoms provide contrast to larger blooms like dandelions, daisies, and nasturtiums.
It’s not only one of the best flowers for attracting beneficial insects like lacewings and assassin bugs, but also parasitic wasps and bees. These beneficial insects will naturally manage common cherry tree pests like the Oriental fruit moth, the tarnished plant bug, and the cherry fruit fly.
9. Lupine and White Clover
These two plants are in the same family as beans and peas, which are often used as cover crops in agriculture. Legumes “fix nitrogen” in the soil, which means that they can absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere and make it available in the soil.
Even though nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients for plant growth, not many plants can do this. So planting these plants will do a lot to build your soil and make it richer. This helps your cherry tree (and other companion plants) thrive.
Plus, lupines and white clover both have pollinator-friendly flowers. Lupines bloom on tall spikes known as panicles, while clover creates small, white pom-poms (which are highly attractive to honeybees) and spreads green foliage.
10. Lavender and Rosemary
These two aromatics are superb companion plants for almost anything, including cherry trees. They are hardy perennials and have a high resin content, which means that their leaves and flowers are usually too tough and oily to be of interest to pests like deer, rabbits, or squirrels.
Their fragrant purple flowers are always of interest to beneficial insects like bees. Rosemary usually blooms early, around the same time as cherry trees. This can benefit the pollination of cherry flowers.
Lavender is known for repelling ticks and fleas due to its strong oils, and may even drive away mice too. Both of these plants like hot, dry conditions, which makes them good choices for gardens that experience intense summer heat.
Where Do You Plant Cherry Tree Companion Plants?
Companion plants can either be planted next to or underneath cherry trees. The main determining factor is how much sun or shade the companion plants need.
For companion plants that need more sun, such as marigolds, daisies, and rosemary, consider planting them outside of the canopy. Others such as clover, sweet alyssum, and chives like partial sun and can be planted underneath the cherry tree.
Do You Need To Plant Two Cherry Trees?
Sweet cherries typically need a second cherry tree nearby to properly cross-pollinate and produce fruit. Other cherry trees, such as the sour varieties, are normally self-pollinating and can be planted separately. Cross-pollination can be done by pollinators (butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds), the wind, or by hand.
As mentioned, sweet cherries need at least one other cherry tree nearby to produce fruit. In a process known as cross-pollination, insects visit flowers on both trees and transfer pollen between them, fertilizing the blossoms to begin the development of fruit.
Sour cherries are often self-fertile and don’t need a partner, but check the type of cherry tree you have since exceptions always exist.
Other Flowering Companion Plants for Cherry Trees
In addition to the flowering plants mentioned above, you can plant some of these flowers to draw pollinators to your cherry trees and help promote a good harvest: