We have two lemon trees and we want to provide them with more companion plants around the garden. While we know some of the companions, we wanted to gather a complete list so we can provide our lemon trees with the best support. So, I did some more research.

Here are a few of the best companions for lemon trees that I’ve found across the web and in our own garden:

  • Nasturtium: Increases pollination, provides a ground cover, and deters aphids
  • Banana Plants: Increases humidity and can be pruned as mulch for lemon trees
  • Comfrey: Increases pollination, nutrient accumulator, and can be used as fast-growing mulch
  • Mexican Sunflower: Increases pollination, provides shade for soil, and used as a fast-growing mulch/green manure
  • Rosemary, Lavender, and Sage: Drought-tolerant herbs that increase pollination and repel pests, especially slugs and snails

So, while these are some great companions to pair with lemon trees, what are the best companions for your climate, and what are more of the best overall companions for lemon trees? Let’s take a closer look.

our backyard with avocado lemon and tangerine trees copy
Our dwarf Meyer Lemon tree next to a tangerine, lupine, avocado, rose, and other companion plants

Lemon Tree Companions – Dry & Wet Climates

First off, lemon trees are native to the tropics, so if you don’t live in USDA hardiness zones 9-11, you might have a hard time growing them. This is because lemon trees aren’t tolerant of temperatures under 25ºF (-4ºC).

Some say lemon trees can grow down to zone 8, but I lived in Austin, Texas (zone 8) and my lemon tree quickly died in the winter. Tropical zones (9-11) are much better suited for lemon trees.

You can find your hardiness zone by using this map from the USDA.

Now, if you live in a dry climate, such as California, I recommend more drought-tolerant companion plants for lemon trees such as acacia, sweet pea, and lupine (all nitrogen-fixers), as well as ground covers such as nasturtium. Covering the soil is essential in these climates to retain water.

On the other hand, if you live in a wet climate (such as Florida), you’ll likely have more sandy soil and more pests. Sandy soil typically means poor nutrient retention (due to higher drainage). So, the focus in wet climates should be on providing nutrients by mulching and planting pest-repelling companion plants such as alliums, ginger, and turmeric.

To help with this, I put together this table of the different lemon tree companions based on your climate (along with the plant’s size or “niche” on the left).

Dry Climate CompanionsWet Climate Companions
AcaciaPalm Trees
Avocado TreesAvocado Trees
Other Citrus TreesOther Citrus Trees
Sweet PeaBanana Plants
Birds of ParadiseBirds of Paradise
SagePigeon Pea
RosemaryTurmeric
LavenderGinger
NasturtiumSweet Potato
GrapesJasmine

Keep in mind each of these plants has a different “niche” or layer. For example, palm and avocado trees are great overstory (canopy) plants, while birds of paradise are shrubs (understory), and turmeric and ginger are in the herb layer. Stack these layers for best results (also called a food forest).

Layers of companion plants in a food forest graphic made by couch to homestead

Now, keeping this in mind, let’s get into the 30 best companion plants for lemon trees.

1. Comfrey

comfrey growing in front of a fruit tree

Originally from Europe, this hardy perennial is a super-plant in permaculture designs. With deep roots that act like a drill, comfrey mines the soil for valuable nutrients. Comfrey grows fast and tall, eventually falling over as a mulch. And when its leaves decompose, its minerals become available to other plants (like your lemon tree) at the soil surface.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9
  • Benefits: Nutrient accumulator, increases organic matter when used as a green manure
  • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
  • Niche: Herb layer
  • Other Companions: A good companion for almost all trees and shrubs due to its nutrient-gathering abilities

2. Lupine

our lupine flower next to our orange, tangerine, and lemon trees
Our lupine flower (bottom right) next to our dwarf Meyer lemon tree (left)

Lupine is a beautiful flowering plant that’s also nitrogen-fixing. This means it improves soil fertility around your lemon tree, promoting healthier growth. Plus, its tall flowers attract pollinators to your garden. We planted our lupine just outside the canopy of our tangerine and lemon trees.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8
  • Benefits: Nitrogen-fixing, attracts pollinators
  • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
  • Niche: Herb layer
  • Other Companions: Works well with other nitrogen-loving plants, especially fruit trees and vegetables.

3. Rosemary, Lavender, & Sage

rosemary and lavender planted in a garden

Rosemary, lavender, and sage are all Mediterranean herbs, and as a result—they are highly drought-tolerant. They also provide significant pest-repelling properties as their strong aromas deter many pests (especially snails and slugs). Their flowers also attract pollinators helping your lemon tree provide more (and larger) fruit.

We have all three of these herbs in our garden and constantly notice how many bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds visit them. Also, I don’t remember the last time we watered them, they’re so drought-tolerant.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: Mostly 5-9
  • Benefits: Pest deterrent, attracts pollinators
  • Sunlight: Full sun
  • Niche: Herb and shrub layer
  • Other Companions: All three herbs go great with cabbage, beans, carrots, and thyme.

4. Acacia

our black acacia tree with bean pods
Our acacia tree with bean pods

Acacia trees are drought-tolerant, nitrogen-fixing trees, which means they can improve soil fertility by converting nitrogen from the air into the soil. This nutrient boost can significantly benefit the health and productivity of your lemon trees (especially since lemon trees require double the nitrogen compared to other fruit trees).

If positioned well, acacia trees can also provide afternoon shade for lemon trees.

Tip: In Ben Falk’s Book, The Resilient Farm and Homestead, he recommends planting at least one nitrogen-fixing plant for every “feeder” plant such as lemon trees or berry plants.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
  • Benefits: Nitrogen-fixing, improves soil fertility, provides shade
  • Sunlight: Full sun
  • Niche: Overstory
  • Other Companions: Works well with other nitrogen-loving plants like citrus, peaches, and plums.

5. Sweet Pea

our sweet pea shrub planted in front of our grapefruit tree
We grow the sweet pea shrub variety “Petite Butterflies” (pictured bottom).

Sweet peas are a shrub or climbing plant that provide your lemon trees with additional pollination and nitrogen-fixing support. They attract a variety of pollinators with their sweet-smelling flowers such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. If you’re growing the vining variety, make sure they have a trellis or something to climb on that doesn’t interfere with your lemon tree.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-11
  • Benefits: Attracts pollinators, fixes nitrogen
  • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
  • Niche: Shrub/vine layer
  • Other Companions: Works well with other fruit trees and vegetables.

6. Pigeon Pea

pigeon pea with pods

Pigeon pea is a drought-tolerant, nitrogen-fixing perennial shrub that provides your soil with much-needed nutrients. This plant is particularly beneficial in areas with poor soil quality or in regions that experience dry seasons.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 10-12
  • Benefits: Nitrogen-fixing, drought-tolerant
  • Sunlight: Full sun
  • Niche: Shrub layer
  • Other Companions: Great with other nitrogen-loving plants like other citrus trees, corn, and squash.

7. Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia)

Mexican sunflower

Mexican sunflower, or Tithonia, is a strong and drought-tolerant plant that grows especially fast. Because of this, it’s commonly “chopped and dropped” or cut and used as mulch for plants, such as your lemon tree. When it decomposes, it releases its nutrients, which makes it a great “green manure”.

Its large orange flowers attract pollinators like bees and butterflies which can increase the successful fruiting (and fruit size) of your lemon trees.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
  • Benefits: Attracts pollinators, drought-tolerant, mulch, green manure
  • Sunlight: Full sun
  • Niche: Shrub layer
  • Other Companions: Works well with other pollinator-attracting plants like salvia and zinnia.

8. Banana Plants

our backyard food forest with lime, banana, avocado, and other plants
Our banana plant near our citrus and avocado trees

Banana plants are fast-growing fruiting plants that provide valuable shade and wind protection for lemon trees, which can be sensitive to harsh conditions. They also increase the humidity around the lemon tree which can benefit fruit production.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
  • Benefits: Provides shade and wind protection, increases humidity
  • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
  • Niche: Canopy layer
  • Other Companions: Great with other tropical and subtropical plants like pineapples and palms.

9. Ginger and Turmeric

ginger and turmeric plants

Ginger and turmeric are tropical perennials that can serve as great understory companions for your lemon trees. Not only do they enjoy the same humid conditions, but their broad leaves also help retain soil moisture. Additionally, these plants repel pests for your lemon tree, including aphids and nematodes.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 7-10
  • Benefits: Retains soil moisture, repels pests
  • Sunlight: Partial shade to full sun
  • Niche: Herb layer
  • Other Companions: Works well with other tropical plants like bananas and citrus.

10. Palm Trees

our palm tree next to our house
Our palm tree and birds of paradise with our lemon tree in the back

Palm trees are a great overstory companion for lemon trees. They provide gentle shade and help to create a microclimate that can protect your lemon trees from extreme temperatures, strong winds, and harsh sunlight. Just remember to give both trees plenty of space to grow!

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: Varies depending on the species
  • Benefits: Provides shade, creates a beneficial microclimate
  • Sunlight: Full sun
  • Niche: Canopy layer
  • Other Companions: Great with other tropical and subtropical plants like bananas and citrus.

11. Birds of Paradise

birds of paradise planted under my parents palm tree
Our birds of paradise in our garden

Birds of Paradise sometimes look similar to banana plants and are tropical plants that have large, broad leaves that provide a lot of shade and create a humid microclimate for your lemon tree. Their vibrant flowers are also great for attracting pollinators.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 10-12
  • Benefits: Provides shade, attracts pollinators
  • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
  • Niche: Understory layer
  • Other Companions: Works well with other tropical plants like hibiscus and citrus.

12. Hibiscus

roselle hibiscus

Hibiscus (also called Roselle) is a great addition to any permaculture garden as its bright flowers attract beneficial insects, such as bees and butterflies, which aid in the pollination of your lemon tree. Its flowers are also commonly made into herbal tea.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-9
  • Benefits: Attracts beneficial insects and adds visual appeal
  • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
  • Niche: Shrub layer
  • Other Companions: Works well with roses, lavender, and sage

13. Avocado Trees

my parents avocado tree with fruit
Our avocado tree near our citrus trees

Avocado trees and lemon trees both enjoy similar growing conditions (full sun, well-drained soil) and provide each other with increased pollination and shade, which reduces water loss from the soil.

However, be mindful of spacing to ensure both trees can grow without competition. Keep them at least 10 feet apart to allow their canopies to receive sufficient sunlight and for their roots to have enough nutrients. For example, our lemon and avocado trees are about 15 feet apart.

Tip: Avocado and lemon trees require the same type of fertilizer, which is double the nitrogen to phosphorus and potassium (NPK). For example, a fertilizer with an NPK of 6-3-3 works well.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
  • Benefits: Provides mutual shading and pollination
  • Sunlight: Full sun
  • Niche: Canopy layer
  • Other Companions: Mexican sunflower, sweet potato, and comfrey

14. Nasturtium

Nasturtium growing near our neighbors citrus tree
Nasturtium (bottom) growing near our neighbor’s citrus tree

Nasturtium is an annual flower (which is actually my favorite flower) that boosts pollination and is a ground cover—providing water-retaining benefits to the soil.

The flowers are edible and are a favorite of hummingbirds while deterring a wide variety of pests. For example, nasturtium acts as a “trap” crop, attracting aphids away from plants such as lemon trees.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
  • Benefits: Deters pests (especially aphids), and attracts beneficial insects
  • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
  • Niche: Ground cover or vine layer
  • Other Companions: It’s a great companion for many vegetables, especially cucumbers and radishes.

15. Sweet Potatoes

sweet potato plant with tubers exposed

Sweet potatoes are enough vining ground cover that grows quickly, retaining soil moisture and suppressing weeds. Additionally, sweet potatoes have few pests, which reduces the risk of pest issues for your lemon trees.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
  • Benefits: Retains soil moisture, suppresses weeds
  • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
  • Niche: Groundcover layer
  • Other Companions: Works well with other warm-season vegetables like peppers and okra.
an organic companion planting guide ebook square

    16. Jasmine

    jasmine plant with flowers

    Jasmine is a shrub or vining plant (depending on the variety) that produces flowers with a strong fragrance that masks the scent of your lemon tree, keeping pests away. Additionally, jasmine’s vibrant flowers attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds, which are beneficial for pollination.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6-9
    • Benefits: Masks scent to deter pests, attracts pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds
    • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
    • Niche: Shrub/vine layer
    • Other Companions: Pairs well with roses, honeysuckle, and other fragrant plants.

    17. Alliums (Garlic, Chives, & Onions)

    garlic plants
    Garlic plants

    Alliums are a family of plants that have powerful scents and pest-deterrent properties. Because of this, they make great companions for many plants, including lemon trees. Garlic, chives, and onions are also said to enhance the flavor and health of the plants growing around them.

    For example, planting chives near apple trees helps prevent apple scab disease.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-9 for garlic, 4-8 for chives, and 5-7 for onions
    • Benefits: Repel pests, potential to improve fruit flavor
    • Sunlight: Full sun
    • Niche: Herb layer
    • Other Companions: Alliums are also beneficial for roses, carrots, beetroot, and tomatoes.

    18. Marigold

    our wooden raised bed with strawberry and companion plants
    Marigolds (the orange flower), yarrow, chamomile, and other flowering companions growing next to one of our lemon trees

    Marigold has been used in gardens all over the world for centuries. These flowers can significantly contribute to the health of your lemon trees due to their ability to repel pests (especially nematodes) while attracting beneficial insects.

    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.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-11
    • Benefits: Deters nematodes and other pests, attracts beneficial insects such as ladybugs
    • Sunlight: Full sun
    • Niche: Herb layer
    • Other Companions: Great companion for tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplants, and roses.

    19. Dill & Fennel

    dill flowers
    Dill flowers

    Dill and fennel are members of the carrot family and are known for attracting beneficial insects. Their umbrella-shaped flower clusters are highly appealing for both pollinators and beneficial insects, which help maintain a healthy balance of wildlife around your lemon tree.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9 for dill, 5-9 for fennel
    • Benefits: Attracts beneficial insects and pollinators
    • Sunlight: Full sun
    • Niche: Herb layer
    • Other Companions: Both dill and fennel work well with cucumbers, lettuce, and corn but avoid planting them with carrots and tomatoes.

    20. Mint

    a large mint plant in a garden

    One of the benefits (and sometimes a con) of having mint in your garden is that it’s a vigorous grower. This plant is a great ground cover that retains soil moisture and deters pests like ants and rodents, which are known to cause damage to the bark and roots of lemon trees.

    However, it’s also important to contain mint to prevent it from taking over. Because of this, I recommend growing mint in a container or pot near your lemon tree.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-11
    • Benefits: Retains soil moisture, deters pests
    • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
    • Niche: Ground cover layer
    • Other Companions: Pairs great with cabbage, tomatoes, and peas.

    21. Herbs (Basil, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley, Cilantro)

    Oregano
    Oregano

    Along with their culinary uses, many common herbs provide many benefits for lemon trees. For example, basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, and cilantro are known for their aromatic foliage that deters many pests such as flies, mosquitos, and asparagus beetles (parsley).

    Their flowers also attract pollinators as well as beneficial insects like beneficial wasps (which prey on many pests).

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: Most are zones 4-9
    • Benefits: Pest deterrent, attracts beneficial insects
    • Sunlight: Full sun
    • Niche: Herb layer
    • Other Companions: These herbs also benefit many vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

    22. Yarrow

    our yarrow growing in a pot next to our fruit trees
    Our yarrow growing in a pot next to our lemon tree

    Yarrow is a flowering perennial that’s super popular in the permaculture garden. Its deep roots help break up compacted soil, which improves your lemon tree’s health. The plant’s tiny flowers also attract beneficial insects, enhancing biodiversity (and therefore stability) in the garden.

    “Yarrow attracts butterflies, bees and other insects, making it a nice addition to a pollinator garden.”

    Edna Rey-Vizgirdas, Forest Botanist, Boise National Forest
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-9
    • Benefits: Attracts beneficial insects; improves soil structure
    • Sunlight: Full sun
    • Niche: Herb layer
    • Other Companions: Works well with many plants, especially tomatoes and corn.

    23. Borage

    Borage

    Borage is a fantastic herb known for its beautiful blue flowers and robust growth. It’s particularly known for attracting pollinators and beneficial insects, like bees and hoverflies, to the garden which can increase the pollination rates of your lemon trees. Plus, borage is known to repel some harmful pests like tomato hornworms.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-11
    • Benefits: Attracts pollinators and beneficial insects, repels pests
    • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
    • Niche: Herb layer
    • Other Companions: Works well with most vegetables and fruits, particularly tomatoes and strawberries.

    24. Catnip

    catnip

    Catnip is not just loved by cats! This hardy herb has a strong aroma that repels pests including aphids, flea beetles, and squash bugs. Its flowers can also attract bees and other pollinators, making it a beneficial plant to keep around your lemon tree. However, keep an eye on catnip as it can become invasive in your garden.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-9
    • Benefits: Deters pests (such as aphids, flea beetles, and squash bugs), attracts pollinators (like bees)
    • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
    • Niche: Herb layer
    • Other Companions: Works well with many vegetables and other herbs, but keep it away from peppers.

    25. Petunias

    petunias in the garden

    Petunias are annual flowers that attract pollinators like bees and butterflies to your garden, which can boost the productivity of your lemon tree. Petunias also emit a mild fragrance that can deter certain pests.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
    • Benefits: Attracts beneficial insects and pollinators (such as bees and butterflies)
    • Sunlight: Full sun
    • Niche: Herb layer
    • Other Companions: Works well with a variety of vegetables and flowering plants.

    26. Rue

    rue in the garden

    Rue has a strong, bitter smell and is a powerful deterrent for many pests, including Japanese beetles, aphids, and slugs. This plant’s small, yellow flowers also attract beneficial insects to your garden, making it a worthwhile companion for your lemon tree.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-10
    • Benefits: Deters pests (such as Japanese beetles, aphids, and slugs), attracts beneficial insects
    • Sunlight: Full sun
    • Niche: Herb layer
    • Other Companions: Works well with roses and raspberries, but avoid planting it near basil.

    27. Calendula

    Calendula

    Calendula, also known as pot marigold, has vibrant flowers that draw in pollinators like bees and butterflies. Uniquely, the roots of this plant are excellent at trapping harmful nematodes, protecting the roots of your lemon tree from these soil-dwelling pests.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-11
    • Benefits: Attracts pollinators, enhances soil health
    • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
    • Niche: Herb layer
    • Other Companions: Pair with many vegetables and flowers, including tomatoes and peppers.

    28. Tarragon

    tarragon

    Tarragon is a perennial herb known for its strong aroma, which effectively repels pests, including aphids. Since lemon trees commonly get aphids, tarragon makes a great companion plant. Plus, it’s a great herb to use in your kitchen!

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9
    • Benefits: Repels pests (like aphids)
    • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
    • Niche: Herb layer
    • Other Companions: Complements a variety of vegetables, fruits, and herbs.

    29. Sweet Alyssum

    sweet alyssum flowers blooming

    Sweet Alyssum is a petite flowering plant known for attracting beneficial insects, including those that prey on common pests. For example, its honey-like fragrance draws in hoverflies, whose larvae are known to consume aphids.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9
    • Benefits: Attracts beneficial insects (like hoverflies)
    • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
    • Niche: Groundcover
    • Other Companions: Pairs well with various vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

    30. Lemongrass

    lemongrass growing in the garden

    Lemongrass is a tall perennial grass that is known for its potent lemon-like scent, which is highly effective in repelling mosquitoes and other pesky insects. Its tall growth can also provide some dappled shade for the understorey, creating a more favorable environment for your lemon tree.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-10
    • Benefits: Repels pests like mosquitoes, provides dappled shade
    • Sunlight: Full sun
    • Niche: Tall herb layer
    • Other Companions: Works well with many herbs and veggies, such as basil, tomatoes, and peppers.

    Final Thoughts

    our lemon tree in our backyard
    Our taller lemon tree

    The above list contains the top 30 companion plants that I’ve found for lemon trees. For our two lemon trees, we have many companions including:

    • Lupine
    • Acacia
    • Sweet Pea
    • Jasmine
    • Avocado
    • Other Citrus Trees
    • Birds of Paradise
    • Banana Plants
    • Rosemary, Lavender, and Purple Sage
    • And more

    However, if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have planted banana plants. They don’t do well in dry climates and require a lot of water. If I had a banana circle and a greywater system so I didn’t have to water them, then it’d be a different story.

    Remember to check your climate for which plants grow best, along with which niches are missing in your garden. For example, if your lemon trees and other plants are getting burned from the hot sun, consider planting overstory plants such as acacia to the west of the lemon tree and using ground covers such as nasturtium.

    Feel free to mix and match companions and remember to have fun!

    To learn more about lemon trees (including how to prune them), check out this cool video by the Weedy Garden.

    Sources

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