I’ve been doing research on tropical companion plants recently and one that keeps popping up is pineapple. Pineapple plants are a bit tricky to grow, so using companion plants to provide benefits such as amending soil goes a long way. Here are the best companions for pineapple that I’ve found.
The best companion plants for pineapple are fruit trees, sweet potatoes, and nitrogen fixers such as cover crops, pigeon pea, and vetch. Garlic, ginger, and turmeric also help repel many pineapple pests. Pineapple grows best as an understory and benefits from the protection of other plants’ canopies.
So, while these plants are companions for pineapple, what exactly are their benefits, and what are some other companions? Let’s take a closer look.
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
- Cover the Soil
- Reduce Evaporation
- Provide a Living Trellis
- Maximize Space
- Produce More Food
For more about the benefits of companion planting, check out my other post: The Top 10 Benefits of Companion Planting.
Companion Benefits of Pineapple
As an understory, pineapple plants help cover the soil to retain moisture, regulate soil temperate, and prevent erosion. They’re also a spiky barrier—used as natural fencing against animals such as raccoons, possums, and other potential pests.
Another benefit of pineapple plants is that they promote biodiversity. Their leaves capture water and provide a habitat for beneficial life such as frogs, lizards, and other insect predators. This is a great way to naturally reduce and manage pest populations.
Keep in mind that pineapples don’t require pollination to fruit, so they don’t directly benefit from other flowering plants. Fruiting without the need for pollination is called parthenocarpy.
Common commercial varieties of pineapples are “self-incompatible,” meaning that the plants’ pollen cannot fertilize members of the same variety. So unless different varieties are grown next to one another and flower simultaneously, the plant will produce a seedless fruit that develops without fertilization.Livescience.com
Now, let’s take a look at the 10 best companion plants you can grow with pineapple.
1. Fruit Trees
Fruit trees assist pineapple plants by shading the soil, holding groundwater, breaking up compact soil, and providing mulch (from their branches and leaves). In hot climates, pineapple grows great in the partial shade of fruit trees.
Pineapples also provide a habitat for beneficial predators, reducing common fruit tree pests.
While any fruit tree will benefit from pineapple, pineapple grows best in USDA zones 11-12 (source), so you’ll likely find that tropical fruit trees are a better companion than temperate fruit trees. Since pineapple takes 2-3 years to fruit, it’s not possible to be grown as an annual.
Here are some of the best tropical fruit trees to grow with pineapple:
- Citrus Trees
- Avocado Trees
- Paw Paw
Other companions for fruit trees and pineapple include ginger, turmeric, alliums, and cover crops.
Check out how Jim Kovaleski grows pineapple plants under his avocado trees!
2. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are one of the best ground covers out there, providing pineapples with amazing benefits such as increasing water retention, regulating soil temperature, and preventing soil erosion. They grow incredibly fast and provide nutrient-dense and high-calorie tubers—making them a great survival food.
This ground cover is a perennial, but you can grow them as an annual in colder climates. Additionally, 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 stem or 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.
Keep in mind sweet potatoes can compete with other vining plants or ground covers like nasturtium, kiwi, and jasmine if they’re both near each other and grown in the same niche. For this reason, consider growing sweet potatoes as a ground cover and other vines on a vertical trellis.
When planting, make sure your pineapple plants are taller than the sweet potatoes as the pineapples can become suffocated.
3. Cover Crops
Many legumes such as clover, peas, and runner beans (along with some grasses) are also called cover crops as they are great pioneer plants for depleted soils.
Cover crops 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.
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 per acre.Source
These cover crops fix nitrogen in the soil by promoting beneficial bacteria which take nitrogen from the air and store it in the soil as nitrates for other plants to use (source). Since pineapples are a fairly sensitive plant, it tends to grow much better if the soil is already healthy and established.
As many cover crops produce a lot of biomass, they can also be used to mulch pineapple plants for even more nitrogen and other nutrients (as well as reducing evaporation).
With cover crops such as clover, you can even grow them in-between your fruit trees and pineapples and run livestock through the alleys. Your livestock gets free food, many pests are deterred, and your pineapples get an amazing fertilizer in the form of manure.
Vetch is an interesting legume as it’s also a ground cover. Like cover crops, vetch is incredibly easy to grow and highly beneficial at fixing soil nitrogen, which provides high-quality soil for pineapples.
Both pineapple and vetch thrive 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 tropical fruit trees in vetch, check out this video by the Weedy Gardener.
5. Pigeon Pea
Another leguminous plant, pigeon pea is an amazing choice for a pineapple companion plant as it’s a perennial shrub native to north-eastern Africa or India. This tropical, protein-rich plant can reach between 3 to 12 feet tall (source). And as a legume, it’s amazing at fixing nitrogen in the soil.
Because pigeon peas are a midstory plant, they’re ideal for shading the soil around pineapples—regulating soil and root temperature. Ideally, plant the pigeon peas on the west side of pineapple plants to shade their soil from the hot, afternoon sun.
As with most tropical plants, aim to prune pigeon peas back during the fall and winter, when the ground cover and understory plants like pineapples can use more sunlight. Pigeon pea cuttings are also highly nutritious for other plants and make a great mulch.
Another tropical leguminous plant you can use for similar benefits is the ice cream bean tree.
Like most, if not all, of these companions, bananas are also from the tropics. Banana plants provide pineapple plants 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 pineapple plants. Pineapple plants are similar to bananas in that they also die after fruiting.
Pro-tip: it’s a common practice to have banana pups growing at different stages to quickly replace the main banana plant after harvesting.
Simply chop and drop the main banana plant when it’s done fruiting and place it as a mulch at the base of your pineapple plants. Keep the mulch at least 3 inches away from the plant’s stem as it can introduce mold.
Remember to avoid pruning canopies during tropical springs and summers when understory plants need the most protection from the heat.
7. Palm Trees
Like bananas, palm trees are a good overstory plant for pineapple.
Generally, it’s best to keep palm trees on the west side of your pineapple plants 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 from reaching your other plants.
Palm tree fronds also make a fantastic mulch for pineapple plants 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. Again, just make sure they don’t crowd out and block too much sun from your pineapple plants.
Keep in mind that palm tree roots are relatively shallow (as palm trees are a grass and not a tree), so plant accordingly!
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 pineapple plants 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.
When it comes to 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 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 pineapple plants.
Alliums have many companion plants, but avoid planting them with legumes and different alliums.
For more pest-repelling companion plants, visit my other post: 7 Companion Plants That Repel Pests
9. Ginger and Turmeric
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 for pineapples and other plants.
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. For best results, plant these ginger and turmeric just outside of your pineapple patches.
Other companion plants for ginger and turmeric are pigeon pea, kiwi, and bananas.
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 pineapple plants 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 jasmine, grapes, cucumbers, and squash.
What Not to Plant with Pineapple
While pineapple can be a difficult plant to grow, it doesn’t compete with many plants. However, walnut and eucalyptus trees are known to be allelopathic or release chemical inhibitors into the soil—preventing other plants from growing. For this reason, keep pineapple plants away from these trees.
You can also use other plants as a neutral barrier in-between plants that are foes.
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. Check out this list to see your local services.
- Permaculture Consultation: Need help with a bigger project? Send us a message.
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