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Flowers & Herbs,  Getting Started,  Pests & Disease,  Pollinators & Wildlife

Companion Planting 101 (w/ Garden Companion Planting Chart)

Last Updated on August 18, 2023

Companion planting is a funny thing. Some gardeners swear by it, while others say it is nothing but a bunch of baloney. And then trying to remember what planting combinations are suggested, or which are frowned upon? Talk about confusing! So, let’s explore the world of companion planting. This article will discuss the general concept, how important (or not) companion planting really is, tips to get started, and some of the real benefits of companion planting – such as attracting pollinators. I’ll also share our handy companion planting chart as an easy reference guide at the end.

What is Companion Planting?

In the most general terms, companion planting is the idea that some plants thoroughly enjoy growing near one another. Meanwhile, others would prefer not to. Thankfully, as you’ll see in the companion planting chart at the end of this article, there are far more plants that get along than those that don’t. The University of Massachusetts Center for Agriculture further explains: 

“Companion planting is growing two (or more) crops near each other with the theory that they help each other in nutrient uptake, improved pest management and reduced pesticide use, enhanced pollination and higher vegetable yields.” 

Beneficial Companions

A recommended companion planting combination usually provides some sort of benefit to one (or both) of the plants, or brings an added perk to your garden in general. I call these “good friends” in our companion planting chart. Some may have a profound relationship, relying on each others natural plant hormones to promote growth or protection. Other relationships may be as simple as one providing shade for the other.

Take the classic Native American “Three Sisters” companion planting combination of corn, squash and beans for example. It is perfect for maximizing yield in compact spaces. The corn grows tall and thin, leaving open space for sprawling squash plants below. They shade the soil and help it retain moisture. Pole beans add nitrogen to the soil (which feeds both the squash and corn) and can utilize the corn as a support trellis to climb.

A birds eye view image of a portion of a raised garden bed that contains two squash plants, one of them has 4 or 5 medium to large green squash growing. There is calendula, marigold, and basil planted immediately around the squash plants vicinity.
A beneficial mixture of squash, calendula, marigolds, and basil.

Incompatible Plants

On the other hand, some plants are often recommended to not plant directly next to certain others – their known or suspected “foes” as I call them in our companion planting chart. Those combinations may cause each other issues, such as stunted growth.

A common no-no combination in the companion planting world is growing peas in close proximity to onions or garlic. Why? Well, there honestly isn’t much scientific evidence to support it, even though you’ll see this suggestion time and time again. A few theories are because garlic and onions are “heavy feeders” while peas are not. This makes their fertilizing needs incompatible. Peas also add nitrogen to the soil, while onions and garlic don’t like too much. Another idea is that the pea’s sensitive shallow root system may be disrupted by the growth or harvest of onions and garlic nearby. 

Raised garden beds are set against the side of a blue green house. The back of the garden bed contains a trellis that stands about six feet tall. It has various pole beans climbing up the trellis, mostly filling out the structure with green foliage. There are swiss chard plants growing in front of the beans amongst a sea of calendula and borage plants. The sun is setting in the distance.
In this space, I wanted to grow pepper plants in front of the climbing pole beans… but then remembered that peppers and beans are supposedly incompatible. So we put the peppers elsewhere and planted swiss chard at the base of the beans instead. They did fabulously together!

How Important or Scientific is Companion Planting?

Just like the pea and onion example above, much of companion planting “proof” is mostly based on theory or anecdotal evidence. This is especially true when it comes to the supposed incompatible plants. I’ve tried to research scholarly articles that back companion planting with science, and let’s just say they’re lacking. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all bunk though! Experimentation and personal observation is how all scientific theories get started, after all. If many gardeners have seen the results of companion planting in their own garden, I say it is worth considering. 

My thoughts and experience: 

Companion planting must have some truth behind it, or it wouldn’t be such a popular subject in the gardening world. However, I pay most attention to the beneficial planting combinations (described more below). Those make clear sense to me! When possible, I try to avoid the frowned-upon combinations too – but with less scrutiny.

I like to think of the “no-no” planting combos like neighbors. We don’t adore all of them, right? We all have different needs, lifestyles, and tolerance for nuisance. But will I up and die if I have to live in close proximity to someone I don’t particularly care for? No, probably not. I will chug along and live my life, perhaps just a little less happily…

For instance, we have inter-planted beans with peppers in the past, as well as garlic near peas – both supposed incompatible foes. They still grew, though I do admit they seemed less healthy and vigorous than usual. Perhaps it was just an off year? Or maybe it was the nuisance neighbor.

In all, I try to set my plants up to live their best life, with as few hindrances as possible. My suggestion is to make a modest effort to follow the “rules” of companion planting. Yet if limited space or other circumstances leads you to break the rules – don’t stress about it too much!

A close up image of basil planted in a raised garden bed. Growing around the green basil there are marigolds growing with many orange yellow flowers, eggplant, as well as tomatoes in the background. Planting marigolds next to tomatoes is recommended in the companion planting chart.
Basil and French marigolds planted amongst the tomatoes and eggplant.


Companion Plants Attract Pollinators & Beneficial Insects

Pairing fruit or vegetable plants with flowers like calendula or borage is the perfect way to attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies to your garden. Some vegetables like tomatoes, green beans, peppers, and peas are considered self-fertile. That means they do not require the action of a pollinator to develop fruit. In contrast, many other crops like squash, cucumber, melons, okra, and many berries and fruit trees rely on pollinators to produce.

Fruit or no fruit, I always encourage planting for pollinators! They need all the help they can get. Check out our list of Top 7 Easy Annual Companion Flowers to grow from seed. In that article, I dive deeper into the unique benefits and uses of each flower. Or see our overall favorite Top 23 Plants for Pollinators for more ideas. 

Bees and butterflies aren’t the only good guys we want to encourage in our gardens though. Companion planting with herbs like basil, fennel, cilantro, sage and dill will create habitat, food, or otherwise attract other small beneficial insects like lacewings, parasitic wasps, hover flies, predatory mites, or ladybugs. Those guys all play an important role in natural pest control.

An image taken at dusk, there are tall pillowy golden zinnia flowers in the foreground, they lead to a sea of marigolds, borage, onions, squash peppers calendula as well as lavender, salvia, yarrow, and agave. Some are planted in garden beds that are somewhat visible, while others were planted directly in the ground in specific pollinator "islands". In the furthest back sits a house that is blue green in color, a California pepper tree sits to the left and the tip portion of the roof still has a small amount of sun on it before its descent.
Plenty of flowers for our pollinator friends. Yes, there are some veggies and herbs in there too – somewhere!

Companion Planting for Pest Control

Predatory insects

Companion planting can help reduce pest issues in a number of ways. As we already explored, some companion plants attract beneficial insects – and some of those are predatory in nature! Our little ladybug and lacewing buddies ferociously feed on aphids, mealybugs, and other soft-bodied pest insects. Parasitic wasps help keep pest caterpillar populations down by laying their eggs and larvae on them. Spiders and praying mantis also feed on pest insects, though they don’t discriminate against the beneficial ones either.

Trap Crops

Other companion plants DO attract pest insects – but distract the pests away from your fruit and vegetables plants instead! These are referred to as “trap crops”, or sacrificial crops. Nasturtium is a prime example of a trap crop. Nasturtium attracts both aphids and cabbage worms, while the nearby plants are often spared. When trap crop plants become heavily infested they should be removed from the garden. Nasturtiums also provide pollen and nectar, making them a favorite for bees and hummingbirds. 

A hand is holding ten cabbage worms that were plucked from a nearby nasturtium plant that is in the immediate background. Nasturtiums can be found in the companion planting chart as well.
Check out all these cabbage worms I plucked off the potted nasturtium! The collard greens and bok choy in the bed next to it? Unscathed. (If you’re struggling with cabbage worms, check out this article with 8 organic ways to stop them)
A sea of green with purple, pink, yellow, and orange flowers.  There are yarrow plants, calendula, nasturtium, marigolds, and sunflowers planted around a nearby artichoke plant.
Artichokes are prone to aphid infestations, so we planted nasturtium around them to draw them in instead.

Pest Deterrents

A third way that companion plants deter pests is through their unique biology. Some plants have characteristics or substances that are either undesirable or detrimental to select garden pests.

For example, hot pepper plants contain a substance within their root system that is effective at warding off and preventing root rot diseases, such as Fusarium rot. This helps keep root rot away from other companions in the same planting bed. Additionally, basil and other other fragrant herbs like dill, chives, and cilantro help to repel aphids. The sharp smell of marigold flowers also reportedly keeps pest insects away.

A somewhat crowded raised garden bed. Swiss chard is growing amongst tall onions which have been planted around the outside of the chard plants. There is nasturtium growing in the same bed in the background while other vegetables such tatsoi and mustard greens are growing in the immediate foreground.
A little crowded, but still a good example! Our swiss chard always get a ton of aphids. To the point I almost gave up growing them! But then I tried planting onions (known to repel aphids) between and around the swiss chard. Guess what? No aphids.

A note about marigolds and root-knot nematodes

French marigolds are possibly one of the most famous companion plants. That is because the roots of French marigolds contain a natural nematocide that kills root-knot nematodes. Root-knot nematodes are a microscopic and harmful nematode that feed on root systems, reducing plant health and yields.

This makes marigolds an excellent companion to plant with tomatoes, squash, melon, and other crops frequently affected by root-knot nematodes. Furthermore, this particular companion planting benefit IS scientifically backed! Yet it is often misunderstood by the well-intended gardener. See, planting one little marigold plant next to a tomato may not be all that effective…

In order to reap the benefits of French marigold companion planting, the marigold root system must be left in place. This means cutting the marigold plant out at the soil line (no-till style) rather than pulling it out at the end of the season. Even better results are achieved if many marigold plants are grown prior to planting the veggie crop in the same location. Root knot nematodes aside, marigolds are attractive to beneficial insects and bring a beautiful pop of color to the garden!

A raised garden bed set against the side of a house. There is a trellis that is set on the backside of the garden bed that contains tomatoes with ripening fruit that is dark brown red to ruby red in color. The frontside of the beds contains numerous basil plants and marigolds that have been amongst the tomatoes. The sun is almost setting in the background which creates a bright glow. There are two chickens picking around in the grass outside of the garden bed area. Basil, marigolds, and tomatoes are considered friends in the companion planting chart.
A quintessential companion planting combination of tomatoes, French marigolds, and basil. Basil keeps aphids away, gains some shade from the tomatoes (to prevent sunburn) and supposedly make the tomatoes taste better! The marigolds help attract and kill root knot nematodes away from the the tomatoes, while also deterring other small pest insects like whitefly.

Companion Planting for General Garden Health

Variety is the spice of life! Beyond the benefits of companion planting we’ve already discussed, variety is generally desirable in a garden. Each unique plant can fill a niche and add value. Some are edible. Others attract or deter insects. Many are medicinal (probably more than you realize)! Cover crops like fava beans are edible too, but also naturally enrich soil with their ability to fix nitrogen in their roots. Not to mention, many companion plants are absolutely beautiful!

Companion planting is a form of polyculture, or planting several types of crops together in a small space. Polyculture and companion planting help increase the biodiversity in your garden – an esteemed achievement in organic gardening. When you compare a thriving biodiverse garden (a mini-ecosystem) to traditional agriculture, the small diverse garden is less likely to be overrun with disease or pests. It reduces the need for pesticides or other chemical products. Diverse gardens also have more robust immune systems to handle environmental stress such as drought, heat, or cold snaps.

A large squash plant is the center of the image. It is planted in a raised garden bed with four other beds in the immediate vicinity. There is calendula, basil, peppers, marigolds, flowering onions, collard greens, beans and zinnia growing throughout the area. There are large salvia and passionfruit vines growing beyond the garden beds and previously mentioned plants.

Tips to Get Started with Companion Planting

  • Some of the best and easiest companion plants to grow amongst your vegetables are flowers and herbs. Calendula, nasturtiums, basil, cilantro, oregano, parsley, thyme, and rosemary all have no known “foes” – so feel free to tuck them in where ever you can! Calendula is my all-time favorite companion plant, flower, and medicinal herb, so you’ll find it in almost every one of our garden beds. Learn more about how to grow, harvest, and use calendula here.

  • When you are planting many things in one space, do remember to practice good plant spacing – companions included. I know… this is easier said than done! I need to try to heed my own advice. Because over-crowding plants can thwart the benefits you’re trying to gain with companion planting in the first place! Crowded plants compete for nutrients, water, sunlight and air flow. They’re more prone to disease like mildew and blight. Pests and disease also more easily pass between them. The good new is: most companion flowers and herbs take kindly to pruning, so feel free to cut them back as needed to give your veggies the space they need.

  • Make a plan. Rather than heading outside with a bunch of seedlings and stuffing them in a bed willy-nilly, sketch out a plot plan of where you want to plant them first. That way, you can reference your companion planting chart as you go. You’ll be less likely to run out of room and – Oops! have to plant two foes next to each other. Of course, it doesn’t need to be set in stone, but making a plan definitely helps me stay more organized.

A garden plot plan that has been been completed. There are six garden beds that have been drawn on and colored with colored pencils. Each bed has multiple letters scattered throughout each one, spaced according to plan. Below the area that contains the drawings, there are 26 lines, each one starting with a letter of the alphabet, from A to Z. Most letters have a particular plant written into the blank line, this plot plant has pole beans for A, Onions for O, and Zinnias for Z to only name a few. Use the plot plan in conjunction with the companion planting guide to effectively plant your garden.
This is the planting plan I drew up for our summer 2019 front yard garden space. The plot plan template is part of the free Homestead and Chill Garden Planning Toolkit – described more below!

Companion Planting Chart

And now… what you likely came here for! Please enjoy this companion planting chart that I put together, just for you. I gleaned and complied information from dozens of different gardening books and online resources to create one comprehensive guide.

Truth be told, I actually made this as part of the 20-page Homestead and Chill subscriber Garden Planning Toolkit! In addition to the companion planting chart, the toolkit includes a garden journal, plot plan template, planting calendars, and more. The planting calendars show when to start seed indoors, transplant outdoors, or sow seeds directly outside – for every USDA hardiness zone 2 through 12! Enter your email below if you’d like to receive a copy.

Alright, back the chart. I realize the font is small. Sorry! It was tough fitting everyone on one page. If it is too difficult to view here on the blog, simply click download below for a printable PDF version. We keep a copy of the companion planting chart on the fridge, along with our zone planting calendar.

A companion planting chart that lists many types of vegetables in one column, their beneficial companion plants in another, as well as their suspect "foes" in the final column.

And that is the low-down on companion planting.

Have you experimented with companion planting yet? What are your thoughts? Do you think it works, or is the jury still out? As far as I am concerned, there is no harm in trying. Plus, the more flowers and herbs, the better! Please feel free to ask questions, leave feedback, or share this article. Happy (companion) planting!

Other organic gardening articles you may enjoy:

DeannaCat signature, keep on growing


  • Krista Pederson

    Hi! Is it possible to get a download of your entire garden plan, tomatoes included? It’s cut off on the blog.

    • DeannaCat

      Hi Krista, Yes just above the chart itself (at the end of the article) there a link that says download, where you can download a PDF version. Thanks for tuning in!

  • Samantha

    Hello! On the companion planting chart “Garlic, Onions, Chives, & Leeks” has Sage in both the good and bad category. Is there some nuance there or is it only supposed to be in one column? Thanks!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Samantha, Oops, thanks for letting us know. That was a mistake on our part, sage deserves to be in the foe section for garlic, onions and leeks, not the friend section. Thanks again for catching that for us!

  • Dan

    Hey DeannaCat & Aaron! I just received two boysenberry plants and live in Zone 10A. I plan on planting them with a vertical trellis. I’d like to plant string beans next to them. My question is, what groundcover-ish companion plants would you recommend? The area (12″ wide x 6′ long) gets full sun, adjacent to a window and is south-facing. Thanks again for your work.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Dan, I think you are on the right track with various beans or legumes and we would likely plant various nasturtiums and or marigolds as well. We usually always find a reason to add more flowers to growing spaces. Good luck on your new berry hedge as we hope to do something similar in the next year or so, have fun growing!

  • Mike Coloma

    Good morning folks.
    Please, I don’t mean to be noesy, but what climate zone are you folks in?
    We’re in the hottest part of 9 here in Kern county. Heat just murders our garden. Thinking about putting up some sort of light netting for shade for next year. We are also in a high drought area as well.
    Any suggestions folks??
    Thank you for your time and patience.
    M. Coloma

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Mike, we are in zone 9 on the Central Coast and we don’t get quite the same heat as you all in the valley. My parents live up in Northern California and they have been using shade cloth during the summer with some pretty good results. Well mulched garden beds will also help retain moisture, water in the very early morning or late evening for less evaporation, leaving more water for your plants. Hope that helps and good luck!

    • Desy

      I enjoyed reading your article and very nice pictures too, thank you! I have a small garden and I try my best to use the companion companion planting chart. Marigold is a treasure for me, not just visually but for the benefits it provides to the plants. When planning for the garden, I also write down/make a sketch where everything will go but end up forgetting about it. So I take pictures of the garden so I know how my set up will be like for the next year.

      • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

        Hi Desy, good idea on taking pictures of your garden to remember what was planted where. Try Tangerine Gem marigolds at some point, they are a beautiful mound of petite flowers that smell delicious!

  • Monica

    Just thought I’d let you know, your article was very helpful. Looking forward to checking out the downloads!
    Might be using some of your info for a research paper on the importance of companion planting in a veggie garden for plant biology!

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