My parents have a raspberry plant in their backyard and they were wondering which companion plants would be good for it. So, to help them out, I did some research. Here’s what I found.
The best companion plants for raspberries are cover crops, turnips, comfrey, and alliums such as garlic, onions, and chives. Avoid planting raspberries with other berry bushes like blackberries and currants, as well as nightshade plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers.
So, while raspberry plants do well with the above companion plants, what are some other companions, and what benefits do they provide raspberries? Let’s take a closer look.
How to Start Companion Planting
Companion planting is selecting specific plants to place together to achieve 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 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
Here’s how to get the most from companion planting:
- Find your USDA hardiness zone
- Find plants that do well in your zone
- Select the plants that fit each niche or layer in the graphic above (canopy, understory, herb layer, etc.)
Now, let’s take a look at the best companion plants, their benefits, and other tips to place them in your garden.
1. Alliums (Garlic, Onions, Chives)
Garlic, chives, and onions 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.
It’s believed that sulfur from these plants helps prevent some plant diseases to some extent. For example, a common companion plant pairing is interplanting chives near apple 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 raspberry plants 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) raspberry bushes.
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 raspberry bush 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.
2. Cover Crops
Many legumes (along with some grasses such as annual ryegrass) are also called cover crops as they are great pioneer plants for depleted soils.
Legumes are part of the pea family and typically include:
- Other beans
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
Cover crops fix nitrogen in the soil by promoting beneficial bacteria which take nitrogen from the air and store it into the soil as nitrates for other plants to use (source).
Like comfrey, you can mulch cover crops for even more nitrogen and other nutrients (as well as reducing evaporation), and many cover crops provide a good source of biomass and food.
With cover crops such as clover, you can even grow them in-between the raspberry plants and run livestock through the alleys. Your livestock gets free food, and your raspberry plants get an amazing fertilizer in the form of manure.
Turnips are root vegetables part of the brassica family, and like raspberry plants, they prefer growing in temperate climates (between 40ºF to 75ºF, source). Also similar to raspberry plants, turnips prefer rich, loose soil.
When fertilizing, avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen as it will promote more leaf growth over vegetable and fruit growth.
Turnips also naturally repel pests such as aphids, making them a useful companion plant for raspberry bushes.
For best results, plant turnips in late summer to avoid many of the common spring pests. Try not to transplant them as they do better when grown directly in the garden.
Overall, interplant turnips with raspberries, brassicas, legumes, alliums, and squash. Avoid planting turnips with other root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, beets, and parsnips as they’ll compete.
Tansy is a perennial flowering herb that’s native to Europe and parts of Asia. This temperate plant grows in slightly acidic soils ranging from 4.8 to 7.5. Since raspberry plants prefer a soil pH of 5.6 to 6.2, they make good companions in acidic soil.
Like most flowering plants, tansies are great at attracting pollinators, which increases the fruit yield of raspberry plants’ as well as minimizes fruit drop.
Along with raspberry plants, interplant tansy with legumes, brassicas, cucumbers, squash, corn, and roses.
When planting, be aware that tansy can become invasive, so consider growing it in pots to discourage it from rapidly spreading in the garden.
Like tansy, yarrow is another temperate flowering perennial, so it grows in similar climates as raspberry plants. This plant grows up to three feet tall, has plenty of home remedies, and attracts pollinators.
Many gardeners who grow yarrow say that it’s a relatively easy plant to grow and generally care-free. 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 raspberry plants, and other prairie plants such as butterfly milkweed, purple coneflower, and native grasses.
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 fruiting plants like raspberries, 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.
Chamomile is a great companion plant for raspberry plants 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 raspberry plants. For best results, plant on the east side of the raspberry plants 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. You can also make chamomile tea with its flowers, but the more common variety to use for this is Matricaria chamomilla.
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 raspberry plants. Ideally, this is no more than 50 feet away as it maximizes the chances pollinators will visit both the wildflowers as well as your raspberry plant’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!
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).
To see more companion flowers, check out my other post: The Top 10 Companion Flowers for Gardens, Vegetables, & More.
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, 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 raspberry (and other fruiting plants), 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.
What Not To Plant With Raspberry Plants
Avoid planting the following plants near raspberries:
- Nightshade (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers)
- Currants (gooseberries)
Generally, nightshade plants introduce diseases to raspberries, such as blight and verticillium wilt, while similar berry bushes like blackberries and currants compete and share some diseases.
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.