I’m doing a permaculture design plan for a client and included mulberry trees in it. I wanted to see which other plants worked with mulberry trees, so I did some more research. Here’s what I found.
The best companion plants for mulberry trees are comfrey, nasturtium, alliums, and other fruit trees. Ideally, keep companion plants within 50 feet of your mulberry to maximize the benefits, such as increased pollination. Avoid planting black walnuts near mulberries as they produce juglone and prevent growth.
While these are a few of the companions for mulberries, what are some others, and is there anything we should know before planting them? Let’s take a closer look.
Companion Planting Pro Tips (Before You Start)
Companion planting is selecting specific plants to place together for benefits such as increasing pollination or controlling 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 how to get the most from companion planting:
- Find your USDA hardiness zone
- Select plants that do well in your zone
- Choose the plants that fit each niche or layer in the graphic above (canopy, understory, herb layer, etc.)
- Plant support species first to establish a microclimate and build the soil. For example, before planting fruit trees, grow nitrogen-fixing trees, shrubs, and flowers. Plant one nitrogen fixer for each productive plant (such as fruit trees or berry bushes).
Now, let’s take a look at the best companion plants, their benefits, and other tips to place them in your garden.
1. Other Fruit Trees
Other fruit trees assist mulberries by attracting more pollinators, shading the soil, holding groundwater, breaking up compact soil, and providing mulch (from their branches and leaves). Mulberries also like growing in the partial shade of taller fruit trees.
As a result, these two are one of the best companion plant pairings out there.
In exchange, mulberries are often used as a sacrifice plant for more desirable fruit trees. Usually, this means birds are more attracted to mulberry fruits and will leave apples, cherries, and more alone.
Wildflowers are another companion for fruit trees and mulberries (more on wildflowers later).
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 a weed, likely because it grows quickly and horizontally along the ground. However, this is what makes nasturtium such an ideal ground cover (helping mulberry trees by reducing evaporation, regulating soil temperature, and preventing soil erosion).
Another reason why it’s great as a mulberry companion plant is because it attracts pollinators and its edible flowers have nectar that’s sweeter than most others. This is a result of the flower’s nectar being made from highly concentrated sucrose instead of glucose or fructose.
As a result, nasturtium is a highly desirable plant for pollinators.
Fun fact: nasturtium’s 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).
In this way, you can think of nasturtium as another “trap” or “sacrifice” plant. It’s also pretty durable when it comes to pests, so you shouldn’t have to worry about nasturtium becoming damaged.
However, if your nasturtium starts to get overrun with pests, plant dill, calendula, and cosmos nearby to help deter them. 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.
Plant nasturtiums with mulberry trees (and other fruiting plants), legumes, tomatoes, asparagus, and brassicas.
Of course, nasturtium has many other companion plants.
Avoid planting nasturtiums with squash and other vining plants since they can easily get tangled and compete. However, nasturtium’s shallow roots also mean that it’s not difficult to remove if you decide to part ways with it.
So, if you’d like a ground cover that attracts many pollinators (especially hummingbirds), plant nasturtium!
Strawberries provide mulberries with benefits such as increased pollination from their flowers, along with providing a perennial ground cover. As a result, more of the mulberry’s flowers can be successfully fertilized and the plant’s soil has greatly reduced evaporation from the living ground cover.
Also, consider planting strawberry plants with borage.
For example, a recent study showed that borage interplanted with strawberries saw an increase in strawberry production, with 35% more fruits and 32% more yield by weight (source).
Other companions for strawberry plants include asparagus, sage, and thyme. Avoid planting strawberries with mint, cabbage, and melons.
4. Allium Family
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.
These plants’ scents are so effective that some deterrents are even made from garlic (source).
For pests, plant garlic, chives, and onions near your mulberry trees 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 interplanting chives near apple trees to help 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 all do well in both full and partial sun and have shallow roots that typically don’t exceed 12-18″—making them a good companion to have alongside mulberry plants.
Alliums have many companion plants, but avoid planting them with legumes and different types of alliums.
For more pest-repelling companion plants, visit my other post: 7 Companion Plants That Repel Pests
Marigolds are a well-known companion plant (especially for potatoes) as they help manage the soil-borne populations of nematodes. This is also true for mulberries.
These nematodes often afflict home gardens and have no available chemical pesticide. Luckily, marigolds, are natural repellents against 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 also attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, which all benefit mulberries.
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.
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.
This biomass can then be chopped and dropped and applied as mulch for other plants. This reduces evaporation, regulates soil temperature, prevents erosion, and adds nutrients to the soil.
Comfrey also promotes more nutrients in the soil, as its roots bring valuable nutrients closer to the top of the soil, ready for other plants to use.
Ideally, grow comfrey in USDA hardiness zones 3-9. However, it will grow pretty much anywhere. It also prefers a soil pH of 6.0-7.0, which is a great overlap with mulberry trees (suggested pH of 5.5 to 6.5, source)
For best results, plant comfrey near mulberry trees, as well as vegetables like asparagus. Although, comfrey grows well with just about every 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, if you need more pollination, mulch, or nutrients in your garden, grow comfrey!
Yarrow is a temperate flowering perennial, so it grows in similar climates to mulberries. This plant grows up to three feet tall, has plenty of home remedies, attracts pollinators, and repels pests.
Many gardeners who grow yarrow say that this plant is relatively easy to grow and is generally carefree. While yarrow flowers can grow in partial shade, they can get a bit twiggy. For best results, grow them in full sun and well-draining soil.
Interplant yarrow with mulberry trees, and other prairie plants such as butterfly milkweed, purple coneflower, and native grasses.
Thyme is native to Eurasia, with a history dating back to 2750 BC—noting that thyme can be dried and mixed with pears, figs, and water for a topical medical paste (source). It’s also a great drought-tolerant plant.
Like just about all of the flowers on this list, thyme’s flowers and scent are incredibly useful at attracting pollinators, specifically honey bees. You can expect thyme to flower from May to September.
Similar to nasturtium, thyme is resistant to and repels pests such as cabbage worms, weevils, and cabbage loopers (source). It’s also said that thyme also reduces aphid populations by attracting ladybugs (a predator of aphids).
Of course, thyme has a lot of other uses. For example, at our home, we often use thyme in our bone broths and roasts. We’ve come to really appreciate thyme’s strong floral scent and taste.
Thyme is best planted with strawberries, brassicas, rosemary, and lavender. Avoid planting thyme near basil.
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 mulberry trees. Ideally, this is around 25 feet or closer, but no more than 50 feet away as it maximizes the chances pollinators will visit both the wildflowers as well as your mulberry tree’s flowers.
And even self-pollinating fruit trees benefit from cross-pollination (including mulberries)
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
These varieties of wildflowers are especially appealing to pollinators and provide a good mix of nectar and pollen they can use as sugar and protein.
Wildflowers also attract beneficial insect predators such as birds, ladybugs, and beneficial wasps, which naturally keep pest populations down.
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!
To see more companion flowers, check out my other post: The Top 10 Companion Flowers for Gardens, Vegetables, & More.
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, dandelion roots are great promoting nutrients 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 mulberry trees.
As a bonus, dandelions also have edible leaves and flowers and are commonly made into many homemade products!
What To Avoid Planting With Mulberry Trees
Avoid planting black walnuts near mulberry trees as they produce a chemical called juglone. Juglone is a growth inhibitor for other plants, allowing walnuts to compete for more space. However, there are neutral plants you can plant in-between your walnut and mulberry trees, such as stone fruits.
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Couch to Homestead, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Local Cooperative Extension Services: While we do our best with these articles, sometimes knowledge from a local expert is needed! The USDA partnered with Universities to create these free agriculture extension services. See your local services.
- 7 Easy Steps to Grow Fruit Trees (Free Guide): Need more fruit tree help from the ground up? See our free guide to make growing fruit trees a breeze.
- Ask the Free Community: Join The Couch to Homestead Community and connect with other members discussing gardening, homesteading, and permaculture.
- 30-Day Permaculture Food Forest Course: Learn how to turn your backyard into a thriving food forest in just 30 days with our online course.