What is Herb Companion Planting?
Just like most plants, some herbs grow well together while some should never be placed close to each other. With a little knowledge of herb companion planting, you can plan your herb garden (or group of herb containers) with the aim of maximizing your harvest while minimizing the maintenance required.
For example, if an herb repels a certain bug, by placing compatible herbs nearby they will also be protected from that bug. Not only will the herbs be healthier and therefore more plentiful, but you will also have less need for pesticides.
Some things to keep in mind for successful herb companion planting:
- Place plants together that have the same soil, water and sun needs (unless they’re in separate containers).
- Some plants repel certain pests and ward off diseases, some plants attract “good” insects and pollinators and some plants fend off undesirable wildlife.
- Certain plants pull nutrients out of the soil, thus starving others close by.
- Tall plants can provide shade for shorter plants that don’t like so much sun.
- It’s best not to put plants together that are susceptible to the same diseases.
So, for example, herbs that like plenty of water such as chervil, coriander (cilantro), chives and mint will not do well with herbs that like a well-drained soil such as oregano, sage, rosemary and thyme. A way to get around this, of course, is to plant them in separate containers so you can cater to their individual needs.
This Farm Homestead chart is a good reference guide.
First decide where and how you will grow your herbs.
If growing them outdoors, choose a sunny spot in your garden, or you can grow them in pots clustered together in a group and move them around as the weather dictates.
Alternatively, you can grow your herbs indoors. They will need to be placed near a sunny window or, for a fun and easy way to grow herbs, why not buy an indoor garden kit.
Some kits come with grow lights attached or you can buy a separate grow light to give the herbs the full spectrum light they need.
With that in mind, use the information below to choose which will be the best herbs to plant together for your taste and culinary needs and based on each individual herb’s requirements.
Basil needs lots of light so if growing indoors it will do best on a south-facing windowsill. This plant needs damp soil that is well-drained. However, if the soil is allowed to get wet, it can quickly succumb to fungal diseases.
The strong aroma of basil repels aphids, whiteflies, tomato horn worms and mosquitoes. Herbs that can benefit from being nearby are oregano, parsley, and thyme. Also, if you let basil flower, it will attract pollinators to your garden.
Mint is one of the easiest herbs to grow – so much so that it’s advisable to plant it in a pot of its own, otherwise it will take over and be difficult to stop spreading. Mint likes semi-shade and cool conditions, but it will do well with more sunlight if watered frequently. Water only when the top of the soil is dry.
The scent of mint repels aphids, cabbage moths and mosquitoes. It can be a good companion to cilantro.
Rosemary is a woody-stemmed herb and one of the most aromatic herbs in the garden. It’s a hardy plant which grows in almost any condition, but it does best in a sunny location. If you’re in an area susceptible to frost in winter, plant the rosemary in a pot so it can be taken indoors on frosty nights. It won’t survive well in temperatures below 30F. Water only when the top of the soil feels dry. Do not let the soil get soggy.
The strong aroma from rosemary repels mosquitoes and insects harmful to vegetable plants such as bean beetle, cabbage fly, cabbage moth and carrot fly. Rosemary grows well with sage and thyme
This herb likes full sun in the summer and cooler winters with lots of light. Its watering needs are similar to rosemary, so water only when the top of the soil feels dry. Don’t let it get too wet.
Sage repels mosquitoes and insects harmful to vegetable plants such as bean beetle, cabbage fly, cabbage moth and carrot fly. Herbs that grow well with sage are rosemary and thyme.
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Another easy-to-grow herb, chives are a member of the onion family. They like full sun but will also tolerate cooler conditions. They like a moist, well-drained soil.
Chives are known to repel aphids, beetles, cabbage worms, Japanese beetles and slugs. Chives can be grown with parsley.
Oregano will thrive in full sun or part shade and is easy to grow. It likes good drainage, so the soil should never be soggy.
Oregano flourishes when planted with other herbs that enjoy the same conditions. It likes being near basil as the basil repels harmful insects, and it grows well with thyme and sage.
Parsley likes full or partial sun and a moist soil with good drainage. Make sure to water more frequently when in its full sun. This is one of the easiest of herbs to grow and it flourishes beside most plants.
Parsley repels asparagus beetles. It makes an excellent companion to chives. cilantro (coriander) and basil.
Coriander does best in a humid climate with lots of light. However, it doesn’t do well when exposed to too much direct sunlight. It likes a well-drained soil with a thorough watering when the top of the soil is dry.
Coriander repels aphids and spider mites and attracts beneficial insects. It does well near dill and parsley.
Although we use garlic as an herb or spice, it’s botanically classified as a vegetable. Garlic is easy to grow given the right conditions. It grows best in well-drained soil and requires full sun to produce the biggest bulbs.
Garlic is a natural pest and fungal repellent. It repels ants, aphids, Japanese beetles and even rabbits and deer! It’s a great companion to basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, savory, dill and thyme. Also chamomile which enhances the flavor of the garlic.
A hardy plant, thyme likes sunny conditions in the summer and cooler temperatures in winter. It likes well drained soil and only needs watering when the top of the soil is dry. The soil should never get waterlogged.
Thyme will keep a variety of bugs away: whiteflies, cabbage worms, corn earworms, tomato hornworms and flea beetles. It also attracts beneficial insects to the garden. It is a good companion to oregano, sage and rosemary.
Use this herb companion planting guide to plan the grouping of your herbs according to their growing needs and pest control abilities. You will be rewarded with less maintenance, fewer problems and a healthy, abundant harvest. If an herb doesn’t like growing with other herbs, don’t throw it aside completely. Simply plant it away from them and everyone will be happy!