I have a brown turkey fig tree as well as a fiddle leaf fig, and I was wondering if there are any companion plants that could benefit them. So, I did some research to find out more. Here’s what I found.
The best companion plants for figs are comfrey, wildflowers, strawberries, and lavender. Ideally, companion plants attract pollinators, build healthy soil, repel pests, and are visually appealing. Depending on shading and spacing, some companion plants can even be planted directly underneath the fig plant.
So, while these are some of the best choices for companion plants for figs, what are some others, and how should they be planted? Let’s take a closer look.
Comfrey has a variety of benefits such as using its deep taproot to bring up water and nutrients to the soil’s surface. This helps feed the fig plant’s more shallow roots, along with the beneficial soil bacteria. Because of this, it’s a great plant to use to help amend heavy clay soil.
Another benefit of comfrey is its leaves are great to use as mulch and compost. Since figs are native to Mediterranean or drier climates (source), mulching and composting are highly beneficial practices.
Mulching not only dramatically reduces evaporation from the soil, but it protects the beneficial soil life and nutrients from eroding from sun and wind. As an example, think of how forests are always lined with a thick layer of leaves and branches as mulch. And comfrey is a great way you can do this from your backyard.
On the other hand, comfrey’s leaves break down fast and help feed the bacteria that accelerate a compost pile’s decomposition.
Compost greatly improves the soil’s richness, which increases water retention. For example, every 1% increase in the soil’s richness can hold an additional 20,000 gallons of water per acre (source). It also provides amazing nutrients for the fig plant, to the point that it will eventually remove the need for chemical fertilizers.
If you do decide on growing comfrey near your fig plants, consider growing Russian comfrey since its seeds are sterile and won’t take over your garden like other varieties might.
Wildflowers are another amazing addition to your garden, especially if they’re within range of your fig plants.
Not only do wildflowers greatly attract pollinators, but they also attract beneficial insect predators such as birds, ladybugs, and beneficial wasps.
While most figs trees are technically self-fertile, they’re pollinated by small, beneficial wasps (source).
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
The wildflower’s variety of colors is visually appealing to pollinators and provides a good mix of nectar they can use as energy.
As a general rule, keep wildflowers within 50 feet of your figs trees to maximize their pollination effects.
Any of the above wildflowers will work great for both fig trees and fiddle leaf fig plants. However, this isn’t an exhaustive list, so feel free to explore other wildflower varieties!
Strawberries are an incredibly popular choice for a fig companion plant as they’re easy to grow perennials with tasty, juicy, berries. Spreading by their runners, or vining roots, strawberries only need to be planted once, and you’ll get their benefits for many years.
Additionally, strawberries have flowers that attract pollinators and provide ground cover for beneficial insects and pest predators such as lizards. This ground cover also helps retain water in the soil, reducing the amount and frequency you’ll need to water your garden.
Because of their shallow roots, strawberries can be planted near or directly underneath fig trees. Just as long as they have enough sunlight.
Strawberries also pair great with sage (more on sage later).
Keep in mind that once planted, strawberries will continue to spread via their runners, so you may need to keep an eye on them!
Like figs, lavender is another Mediterranean plant and does well in the same climate as fig plants.
Lavender is also an amazing pollinator and pest deterrent. Its tough and oily leaves have been said to repel fleas, ticks, and browsing herbivores such as deer.
My parents have several lavender plants in their backyard, and they are almost always lots of bees on them. This is a GOOD thing as they are one of the best pollinators out there and will help provide better fruiting yields and larger fruits (even on your self-pollinating fruit trees).
All varieties of apple trees require some cross-pollination for fruit set. Even though some varieties are listed as self-fruitful, they will set fruit more heavily and more regularly if they are cross-pollinated.Washington State University
In my research, I’ve found the above to not only be true for apple and citrus trees, but for just about all other fruiting trees, including figs. So, the pollinators that lavender attracts will likely boost your fig tree’s fruit production!
Because of its appealing fragrance, lavender is a common ingredient in homemade soaps, lotions, and more. It’s also used as a garnish in some recipes (I sometimes like a sprig of lavender in my lemonade). This makes lavender a great dual-purpose plant.
Lavender is also a great pairing with rosemary.
Rosemary is another Mediterranean plant, making it a good plant for your garden, especially if you have the occasional drought spell.
Similar to lavender, rosemary helps repel pests through its high-resin leaves.
Rosemary is also super versatile in the kitchen. My girlfriend and I cook almost every night, and rosemary is one of our favorite herbs to use. We made this roasted leg of lamb the other night and it was SO good! This recipe used a lot of our rosemary, but it was totally worth it.
You can also take cuttings of your rosemary plant, bundle them, tie them with twine, and hang them upside down to dry them out and store them for later.
Since rosemary can grow into a fairly tall bush, it’s best to plant it along the drip line or near your fig tree. As long as you plant it within 50 feet of your fig plant, you’ll get most, if not all of its benefits.
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Marigolds are a well-known companion plant (especially for potatoes) as they help manage the soil-borne populations of nematodes. This is true for fig plants as well.
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.
For this reason, marigolds have been used as a cover crop in India for many hundreds of years in areas where nematode populations are high.
Of course, since marigolds are flowering plants, their appearance and nectar attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
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.
Nasturtium is a unique companion plant as it not only attracts pollinators, but it attracts aphids away from your fig plants and garden.
Aphids can pose a big problem for fig plants as they feed on the underside of the leaves, draining them of their nutrients and moisture. Over time, the fig plant can weaken and begin to drop its leaves.
If you’d like more information about dealing with aphids on your fruit trees (and the rest of your garden), check out my recent post: Get Rid of Aphids on Fruit Trees: The Top 3 Ways.
Additionally, nasturtium has shallow and soft roots, which don’t compete with the fig’s shallow roots.
Nasturtium’s vining nature also makes it a great (and pretty) ground cover for your garden. If your garden soil tends to dry out quickly, nasturtium would help create shade for the soil and retain water.
Chamomile is a great companion plant for figs because it’s easy to grow, fixes nitrogen in the soil, attracts beneficial insects, and grows well in partial shade.
There are two main types of chamomile: German (Maricaria recutita) and Roman (Anthemis nobilis). Both are beneficial to have as companion plants.
First, chamomile helps fix the nitrogen in the soil by bringing up nutrients from deeper in the soil. Their flowers also attract beneficial insects such as hoverflies, ladybugs, beneficial wasps, and honey bees.
If you’re not already aware, many of these helpful bugs are predatory to pests. For example, ladybugs are a natural predator of aphids and will help keep their populations down.
Additionally, you can plant chamomile underneath or near your fig trees. For best results, plant on the east side of the fig tree to provide the chamomile with partial shade during the hot afternoon sun.
Chamomile also grows well with mint and basil (two other great companions for fig plants).
If you haven’t guessed by now, most herbs serve as great companion plants for figs, and thyme is no different. And like the other herbs so far, it’s also natively from the Mediterranean and has a history of growing alongside fig plants.
Because thyme is from the same climate as figs, they have similar needs in terms of temperature and water. While fig trees of course need more water due to their size and fruiting capability, they’re both highly drought resistant.
Thyme actually goes way back, to the Egyptians and ancient Greeks, who used it for incense and bathing, along with other uses (source).
Naturally, thyme is also a common ingredient in many recipes (including the amazing leg of lamb I linked above).
You can plant thyme alongside other herbs, as well as strawberries. It’s said that thyme planted between rows of strawberries helps repel worms from getting to the berries, as well as provides ground cover.
While we included a lot of herbs on this list, sage gets a special mention as it pairs amazingly well with strawberries. Because of this, planting a combination such as sage, strawberries, and wildflowers makes a great mix of companion plants for figs.
Sage is a huge pollinating plant, offering many flowers for pollinators to choose from. However, sage is also known to repel pests such as snails, beetles (such as black flea), as well as cabbage moths.
Other uses for sage include culinary, fragrance, and cleansing (such as burning sage).
While it’s not natively from the Mediterranean like the other herbs on this list, it is native to the drier regions of the Southwest US (source). As a result, it’s another drought-tolerant plant.
Some other companion plants that pair well with sage include thyme, rosemary, and oregano. However, avoid planting sage near rue, cucumbers, or onions as they’re not compatible.
What Not To Plant Near Fig Plants
Avoid planting nightshade plants or those with deeper roots near fig plants. Nightshade, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers, have been known to introduce disease to some fruiting trees. Additionally, plants with deeper roots like potatoes can damage and compete with the fig plant’s shallow roots.
Keep in mind the depth of the companion plant’s roots. If they dig too deep, they can create competition for the fig plants in terms of space as well as nutrients. For this reason, avoid planting potatoes, carrots, and other fruit trees next to your fig tree.
On the other hand, fig trees have one of the most invasive roots from the fruiting trees, so avoid planting them near structures such as foundations and walls. For best results, keep them at least 25 feet away.
For more information on spacing your fruit trees, check out my recent post: Planting Multiple Fruit Trees Together (How Far Apart?).
Where Do You Plant Fig Companion Plants?
For companion plants that need more sun, such as marigolds, wildflowers, and rosemary, plant them outside of the fig tree’s canopy. Other plants, such as chamomile, like partial sun and can be planted underneath the fig tree. Generally, plants that require more sun and space should be planted outside of the tree.
Companion plants can be planted just about anywhere, as long as they don’t damage the fig plant’s shallow roots and are within 50 feet of the tree to maximize pollination results. Any further, and the likelihood that pollinators will visit your fig tree after the companion plant will reduce.
For potted fig plants, while some gardeners successfully grow companion plants in the same pot, this can create more issues than it’s worth. For best results, grow plants in separate containers and place them near each other.
More Companion Plants For Figs
As a bonus, I found even more companion plants for figs in my research. I’ll include them in a list below. Enjoy!