I have some family in Florida who recently reached out to me, curious about which companions would work well with their ginger and turmeric plants. So, I did some research to help them out. Here’s what I found.
The best companion plants for ginger and turmeric are bananas, Mexican sunflower, and nitrogen-fixing legumes such as pigeon pea, acacia, and vetch. Ideally, grow ginger and its companions in tropical or subtropical climates (USDA hardiness zones 9-11). Avoid planting ginger with walnuts, pecans, or any invasive herbs.
So, while these are some of the best companions for ginger and turmeric, what are their benefits, and what are some other companions (and foes)? Let’s take a closer look.
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Benefits of Companion Planting
Companion planting is selecting specific plants to place together to achieve benefits, such as increasing pollination or repelling pests. Sometimes these benefits are one-sided, while others are mutual.
A famous example is The Three Sisters—planting corn, beans, and squash together. The corn provides a trellis for the beans to climb, the squash provides a ground cover, and the beans fix nitrogen in the soil. Plus, all of them provide food!
Here’s a list of the benefits that gardens gain from companion planting:
- Boost Pollination
- Repel Pests
- Prevent Weeds
- Fix Nitrogen
- Amend the Soil
- Protect the Soil
- Reduce Evaporation
- Provide a Living Trellis
- Maximize Space
- Produce More Food
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of companion planting, check out my other post: The Top 10 Benefits of Companion Planting.
Ginger and Turmeric Companion Benefits
Ginger and turmeric go hand in hand as they’re closely related and both native to the tropics. Since the tropics contain many bugs and pests, ginger and turmeric have adapted to fend them off, making these plants some of the best pest repellents and natural defenses in the garden.
They also team up to improve soils.
The results showed that intercropping turmeric and ginger with patchouli can improve soil microbial abundance, diversity, and community structure by boosting the number of dominant bacteria, and by improving soil bacterial metabolism and the activities of soil enzymes.PubMed
Ginger and turmeric also grow in the same niche (herbaceous or understory layer), so interplanting them is fairly straightforward as they won’t compete.
Now, let’s take a look at the top 10 companion plants for ginger and turmeric.
Like most, if not all, of ginger and turmeric’s companions, bananas are also from the tropics. Banana plants provide ginger and turmeric with an overstory layer, which is great at providing them with partial shade during the intense summer heat in the tropics.
Since banana plants only take 9 months to fruit and die after fruiting (they have new “pups” from the root-base that sprout constantly), banana plants are an amazing source of biomass and mulch for ginger and turmeric.
Simply chop and drop the main banana plant when it’s done fruiting and place it as a mulch at the base of your ginger and/or turmeric plants. Keep the mulch at least 3 inches away from the plant’s stem as it can introduce mold.
However, avoid pruning canopies during tropical springs and summers when understory plants (like ginger and turmeric) need the most protection from the heat.
Pro-tip: it’s a common practice to have banana pups growing at different stages to quickly replace the main banana plant after harvesting.
Legumes are one of the most popular companion plants as they’re the best at fixing nitrogen in the soil. They do this by attracting beneficial bacteria with their roots, which feed on nitrogen in the air and store it as nitrates in the soil for other plants to use (source).
Generally, legumes are known as beans and peas, but they can also include leguminous shrubs and trees. Here’s a list of popular and useful legumes:
- Black Locust
Let’s now explore the best leguminous plants for ginger and turmeric in more detail.
3. Pigeon Pea
Pigeon pea is a perennial leguminous shrub that’s native to North-eastern Africa or India. It can reach between 3 to 12 feet tall (source). As a legume, it’s amazing at fixing nitrogen in the soil.
Because pigeon peas are a midstory plant, they’re great at providing ginger and turmeric with partial shade during hot weather. Ideally, plant the pigeon peas on the west side of ginger and turmeric to shade it from the hot, afternoon sun.
As with banana plants, aim to prune pigeon peas back during the fall and winter, when ginger and turmeric can use more sunlight. Its prunings are also highly nutritious for other plants, so they make a great mulch.
Another leguminous plant, Acacias are evergreen trees from the tropics and subtropics, native to Australia. As a supportive species, acacias grow incredibly fast, paving the way for more sensitive, productive crops like fruit trees.
Acacias can swiftly grow up to 20-40 feet tall (source) and make a fantastic overstory for ginger and turmeric, providing them with benefits such as partial shade, fixing nitrogen, breaking up compact soils, providing mulch, and holding groundwater.
In our backyard, we have a black acacia and it grows quickly, providing tons of biomass, mulch, and nitrogen for our other plants.
Vetch is an interesting legume as it’s actually a ground cover, providing ginger and turmeric with amazing benefits such as increased water retention, soil temperature regulation, and reduced soil erosion. Of course, as a legume, vetch is highly beneficial at fixing soil nitrogen.
This plant is incredibly easy to grow and thrives when planted near swales—channels of still-water that capture rainwater and soak it into the ground.
Generally, swales are a great water retention method for tropical and subtropic climates but avoid using them in cooler, rainy climates (such as western Oregon). In these cooler climates, the soil has reduced evaporation and can easily become waterlogged. Instead, use swales that are slightly off-contour or draining.
To learn more about swales and planting in vetch, check out this video by the Weedy Gardener.
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6. Mexican Sunflower
Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia diversifolia) attract pollinators like crazy and grow best in USDA hardiness zones 9 and above, so they’re great to plant with your ginger and turmeric. This flowering plant grows to a height of 4-6 feet.
I first heard of Mexican sunflowers from Pete Kanaris at Green Dreams Farm. He claimed that, when mulched, it the same amount of nitrogen pound for pound as chicken manure. Because of this, they’re often called green manure. And based on his backyard food forest’s growth, I’d say that it’s clearly working!
To see Mexican sunflower mulch in action, check out this video by Pete.
Garlic, onions, and chives are all part of the same family (allium) and, no surprise—they’re more potent-smelling than most plants. 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.
In fact, these plants’ scents are so effective that some deterrents are even made from garlic (source).
For pests, plant garlic, chives, and onions near your ginger and turmeric to 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.
For diseases, it’s believed that the sulfur from these plants also helps prevent certain ones to some extent. For example, a common companion plant pairing is to interplant chives near apple trees to prevent apple 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.
Garlic, chives, and onion plants also have shallow roots that typically don’t exceed 12-18″, making them a good companion to have alongside ginger and turmeric.
These three alliums all do well in both full sun and partial sun.
Alliums have many companion plants, but avoid planting them with legumes and other alliums.
For more companion plants that repel pests and diseases, visit my other post: 10+ Companion Plants That Prevent Pests and Diseases.
8. Palm Trees
Like bananas and acacia, palm trees are a good overstory plant for ginger and turmeric.
Generally, it’s best to keep palm trees on the west side of ginger and turmeric to provide partial shade from the hot, afternoon sun. Because of this, avoid planting palm trees on the east or south side of the plants if possible as they can block too much sun.
Palm tree fronds also make a fantastic mulch for ginger and turmeric and attract beneficial predators such as birds.
You can also use other palm tree companions such as bamboo for more of a mid to overstory effect. Just make sure they don’t crowd out and block the sun from your ginger and turmeric.
9. Sweet Potatoes
Similar to vetch, sweet potatoes are an amazing perennial ground cover (annual in temperate climates) and provide much-needed water retention, soil temperature regulation, and reduced soil erosion.
Since sweet potatoes are not related to regular potatoes (part of the nightshade family), their leaves are actually edible.
Sweet potatoes are also easily propagated as you just need a single slip (either from the tuber or vine). As long as you have decent, loose soil, and moderate watering, you’ll have tons of sweet potatoes ready to harvest in a single season.
So, while ginger and turmeric provide medicinal benefits, sweet potatoes provide dense nutrients and a high-calorie snack. As a result, these plants are a great pairing for survival gardens.
Despite their name, the kiwi plant is from mainland China, which explains why they’re also called Chinese gooseberry. While these fruits grow best in tropical and subtropical climates (9-11), there are hardy kiwi varieties that can survive down to zone 3 (source).
Kiwi benefits ginger and turmeric by functioning as a vining plant—closing the gaps in the food forest system and providing partial shade (especially when they’re grown up on a vertical trellis). It also attracts pollinators and beneficial predators.
Unlike many fruiting plants, which are self-pollinating, kiwi plants require both a male and female plant to fruit.
If you’re not a fan of kiwi, you can fill the vining niche with other companion vines including grapes, cucumbers, and squash.
More Companion Plants for Ginger and Turmeric
As a bonus, here are some other companions for ginger and turmeric:
When looking for more companion plants for ginger and turmeric, it’s best to check that the plant is:
- Natively from the tropics or subtropics
- Non-competing with ginger or turmeric (as long as they’re not in the same understory niche, they’re generally not competing)
Many more plants are friends than they are foes, so don’t be afraid to experiment in your garden!
What Not to Plant with Ginger
Speaking of foes, avoid planting walnut, pecans, and invasive herbaceous plants such as mint. Walnuts and pecans are allelopathic and produce juglone (inhibiting the growth of other plants), while mint and other invasive herbs can compete and smother ginger and turmeric—especially if they’re not yet established.
Where to Buy Companion Plants
Generally, you can find these companion plants at your local nursery. However, lots of nurseries have had reduced availability over the past few years. Because of this, many gardeners have found that online nurseries such as Fast Growing Trees have more selection, good prices, and healthy plants.
And I’ve also found this to be the case—I’ve ordered several fruit trees from Fast Growing Trees, including apple, fig, and cherry, and all plants were delivered swift, neat, and healthy (see below).