I sometimes get questions from my readers, especially about companion plants. This week, it was about companion planting with pear trees. So, to help answer their question, I did some research. Here’s what I found about pear trees and their companion plants.
The best companion plants for pear trees are sunflowers, comfrey, wildflowers, nasturtium, and legumes. These plants benefit pear trees by attracting pollinators, providing mulch, covering the ground, and fixing nitrogen. Ideally, plant these plants within 50 feet of pear trees to maximize their benefits.
So, while there are many companion plants for pear trees, which are some of the best, and why? Let’s take a closer look.
Sunflowers are one of the lesser-known sisters of the Three Sisters companion plants (corn, beans, and squash). Because of this, you could call them the fourth sister.
When it comes to pear trees, sunflowers are great at attracting pollinators, providing mulch material, and breaking up compact soil.
However, only some sunflower varieties offer nectar and pollen to pollinators. For best pollination results, plant sunflower varieties Lemon Queen, Mammoth Grey Stripe, and Black Russian (source).
Like corn, the tall stalks of sunflowers provide other plants (like legumes—also on this list) with a living trellis to vine up. They also attract aphids away from other plants, similar to nasturtiums (source).
Aside from planting with pear and fruit trees, plant sunflowers with any of the other sisters, including squash, beans, and amaranth. Avoid planting sunflowers with potatoes.
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 trees like pears, 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 pear trees. Ideally, this is no more than 50 feet away as it maximizes the chances pollinators will visit both the wildflowers as well as your pear tree’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!
Most people I know have never heard of nasturtium, but when I show them a picture they quickly recognize it. Nasturtium is often believed to be weed, likely because it grows quickly and horizontally along the ground. However, because of this, nasturtium makes a great ground cover, reducing evaporation and protecting the soil from the elements and erosion.
Nasturtium’s edible flowers have nectar that’s sweeter than most others. This is because it’s made from highly concentrated sucrose instead of glucose or fructose. As a result, it’s a highly desirable plant for pollinators.
Another reason why it’s great at attracting pollinators is that its long flowers evolved alongside the hummingbird’s long tongue (source).
Aside from providing ground cover and pollination, nasturtium has another benefit in companion planting—it attracts pests such as aphids and cabbage worms away from other plants (source). Nasturtium is pretty durable when it comes to pests, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it being damaged.
However, if your nasturtium starts to get overrun with pests, plant dill, calendula, and cosmos nearby. For more info about these companion plants and others that repel plant pests and diseases, check out my other post: 10+ Companion Plants That Prevent Pests and Diseases.
Nasturtium’s shallow roots also mean that it’s not difficult to remove if you decide to part ways with it.
Plant nasturtiums along with pear (and other fruit trees), legumes, tomatoes, asparagus, and brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale). Avoid planting nasturtiums with squash and other vining plants since they can easily get tangled and compete.
So, if you’d like a ground cover that attracts many pollinators (especially hummingbirds), plant nasturtium!
You can also check out nasturtium’s companion plants.
Legumes typically include:
- Other beans
Legumes are amazing as companion plants for pear trees (as well as the rest of the garden and pastures) as their main function is as a nitrogen-fixing cover crop.
Cover crops include grasses and legumes and 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.
For example, 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 added per acre (source).
Overall, legumes are easy to grow and can be planted around and even under pear trees.
Many legumes are also a good source of protein and can be grown as fodder for livestock. This makes them a great choice for any homestead.
Keep in mind that while some legumes are vining, others can be a bush variety. So, make sure to check before planting them with your pear trees. Generally, either type will work, but the bush varieties should be planted outside of the pear tree’s canopy as its larger root system can compete with the tree’s roots.
My parent’s lavender plants always attract pollinators in the dozens, mostly including bees. But its oily, aromatic flowers also naturally repel pests such as snails, slugs, and other pests (source).
Lavender is also native to the Mediterranean, which makes it a natural drought-resistant plant.
Because of lavender’s appealing fragrance, it’s 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 also grows well when planted alongside sage and rosemary (which both offer similar benefits).
7. Onion Family
Garlic, chives, and onions are all part of the same family and, no surprise—they’re more potent-smelling than lavender. More specifically, this is likely due to their naturally occurring sulfur, which is great at repelling pests as well as its use as a natural anti-bacterial and fungicide.
It’s believed that sulfur from these plants helps prevent pear tree diseases such as fire blight to some extent. For example, a common companion plant pairing is to interplant chives near apple and pear trees to prevent scab (source).
However, if fungal or bacterial diseases do take hold, garlic cloves can also be mixed into organic sprays along with neem oil and applied as a treatment.
Regarding pests, planting garlic, chives, and onions near your pear trees will help repel aphids, mites, maggots, as well as rabbits and deer (source). This is because their pungent sulfur smell and taste are not appealing to these pests’ strong senses.
In fact, these plants’ scents are so effective that some deterrents are even made from garlic.
Garlic, chives, and onion plants also have shallow roots that typically don’t exceed 12-18″, making them a good companion to plant near (or even under) pear trees.
These three plants all do well in both full sun and partial sun. However, if you’re in a warmer climate, consider planting them on the perimeter or underneath your pear tree so they can get a couple hours of relief from the hot sun.
Overall, you can plant any of these onion-family plants with just about any other plant, except for legumes.
Chamomile is a great companion plant for pear trees 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 promoting beneficial bacteria to store nitrates in the soil (similar to comfrey). Their flowers also attract beneficial insects such as hoverflies, ladybugs, beneficial wasps, and honey bees.
If you’re not already aware, many of these bugs are helpful since they are predatory to common 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 pear trees. For best results, plant on the east side of the pear tree to provide the chamomile with the cool morning sun and partial shade during the hot afternoon sun.
Chamomile also grows well with mint and basil (two other great companions for pear plants). You can also make chamomile tea with its flowers, but the more common variety to use for this is Matricaria chamomilla.
Borage is technically a wildflower, but I thought it deserved a special mention. First, it’s incredibly useful for pear trees 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, it’s fairly drought tolerant, especially once it’s mature. After planting, borage is easy to grow as it self-seeds and its flowers are also edible.
You can also interplant borage with strawberries or tomatoes for a similar disease-resistant effect.
You may be thinking, “How did a weed make this list?”. But what is a weed other than a plant we think we don’t want?
The reason why we see dandelions growing everywhere is that it’s one of the first plants in ecological succession. In other words, it grows because it’s taking advantage of damaged soils, and is trying to improve them. As a result, dandelions roots are great at fixing nitrogen in the soil, similar to comfrey.
Also like comfrey, dandelions naturally protect soil from erosion and extreme temperatures, and generally—are a highly effective mulch.
For all of these reasons, dandelions make a great companion plant for pear trees.
As a bonus, dandelions also have edible leaves and flowers and are commonly made into many homemade products.
Where to Buy Companion Plants
Generally, you can find these companion plants at your local nursery. However, many gardeners have found that online nurseries such as Fast Growing Trees are a bit more convenient (with delivery and all).
I’ve also found this to be the case after ordering several fruit trees (apple, fig, and cherry) from Fast Growing Trees. All of the plants were delivered swiftly, neatly, and healthy.