What to Plant Together in Permaculture

One principle of permaculture is to integrate several species to develop naturally occurring relationships in nature. corn is a common food crop that can be planted close to beans, peas, cucumbers, squash, soybeans and pumpkins, for instance, in the three-sisters method.

Three sisters combination- Image credit

Corn requires high nitrogen in the soil so it thrives best next to nitrogen-fixing crops. Ideally, corn goes well with squash and beans.

Consider companion plants that deter pests. Beans and potatoes, carrots and onions, broccoli and marigolds, cucumber and radishes and potatoes and marigolds should be planted together to offer pest protection.

Also, some plants contribute to the flavor of their companions. Garlic improves the flavor of beetroot, and nasturtiums and do the same for radishes. On the other hand, some plant combinations do not go well together. Apricots and tomatoes, beans and onions, potatoes and tomatoes, and carrots and should not be planted together. 

The following table shows the best companion plants for permaculture and those to avoid for common food crops:

PlantGood CompanionsBenefitsKeep away from
AsparagusParsley, tomato, basilPot marigold is a beetle deterrent. 
ApplesChives, Wallflowers, Garlic, Onions, Foxgloves, HorsetailGrass, potatoes
ApricotsBasil, southernwood, tansyTomatoes, sage
BeansBeet, carrot, celery, cucumber, corn, eggplant, pea, strawberry, radish, potatoes, cabbage, chard, marigolds, summer savoryPotatoes and marigolds repel Mexican bean beetles. Catnip is repellant to flea beetles. Summer savory deters bean beetles, and improves growth and flavor. Onion, garlic, fennel, gladiolus, shallot, leeks
BasilTomatoes, sweet peppers, asparagus, apricotsBasil repels mosquitoes and enhances the growth of most crops in your garden.Rue 
BeetsBush beans, onion, lettuce, cabbage, kohlrabiGarlic improves growth and flavor.Mustards, pole beans, charlock
BorageFruit trees, strawberry, squash, tomatoesBorage repels tomato worms. Also improves growth and flavor.
BroccoliBuckwheat, beets, dill, chamomile, marigolds, thyme, wormwood, sage, rosemary, onions, mints, and nasturtiums.Marigolds repel cabbage moths. Nasturtiums repel aphids. Strawberries.
Brussel sproutsDwarf beans, celery,  beetroot, onions, cucumber, oregano, sage, marigold, rhubarb, nasturtiumStrawberries
Cabbage familyBeans, beetroot, mint, onions, celery, oregano, hyssop, rosemary, dill, thyme, southernwood, sage, nasturtiums, tansy, coriander, wormwoodCelery repels cabbage worms. Strawberry, tomato, mustard, garlic, rue
CalendulaChard, radish, thyme, tomatoes, parsley, carrotsDill 
CarrotsBean, onions, lettuce, radish, pepper, tomato, sage, chives, wormwoodOnion and wormwood repel carrot flies.Dill
CeleryBeans, tomato, leek, cauliflower, cabbage, chives, garlic, nasturtiumsChives and garlic are aphid deterrents. Nasturtium deters bugs and aphids
CornBean, cucumber, potato, pea, parsley, squash, pumpkin, melon, marigolds, sunflower, soybeansSoybeans deter chinch bugs. 
CucumbersCabbage, corn, radishes, sunflower, marigold, tansy, oregano, nasturtiumsRadishes are deterrent to cucumber beetles. Tansy deters ants, beetles and flying insects. Marigold deters beetles. Nasturtiums deter aphids and beetles and improve growth and flavor. Sage 
EggplantPeppers, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, marigoldMarigold deters nematodes.
GarlicRoses, tomatoes, fruit trees, lettuceGarlic deters aphids from lettuce and other pests from cabbage. Beans, peas, legumes, potatoes
LettuceBeet, carrot, onion, radish, strawberry, marigoldsChives and garlic are deterrents to aphids.Parsley, celery
OnionCarrot, beet, chard, lettuce, strawberry, pepper, tomatoPigweed raises nutrients from the soil and nourishes onions. Summer savory improves growth and flavor. Sow thistle improves growth and health. Peas, beans
ParsleyTomatoes, Asparagus, chives, roses, cornPotatoes
MelonsPumpkin, radish, squash, cornMarigold deters beetles. Nasturtiums deter bugs and beetles. Oregano offers pest protection. 
Peas Carrot, bean, radish, corn, cucumber, turnipChives deter aphids. Mint improves growth and flavor.Onions, garlic, shallots, gladioli
ParsnipsPeas, potatoes, radish, garlic, beansCarrots, caraway, celery
PotatoesCabbage, sweetcorn, peas, beans, nasturtiums, foxgloves, eggplant, horse radish, marigoldsHorseradish provides protection. Marigold deters beetles.Apples, cherries, raspberries, tomatoes, sunflower, rosemary
SquashPumpkin, melon, corn, clover, nasturtiumNasturtium deters beetles and squash bugs. Marigold deters beetles. Borage deters worms and improves growth. Oregano provides protection from pests.
TomatoesAsparagus, basil, mustard, carrots, cabbage, rosemary, onions, sage, gooseberries, stinging nettlesBasil improves the flavor of tomatoes and repels flies and mosquitoes. Borage deters tomato worm and improves growth.Marigold deters nematodes. Kohlrabi stunts tomato growth. Walnuts.  Potatoes and tomatoes are affected by the same blight.Fennel.Dill retards growth.
StrawberriesBorage, spinach, lettuce, sage, pyrethrum, thyme, onionThyme deters worms. Borage enhances resistance to insects and diseaseCabbage, Brussel sprouts, tomatoes, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower
TurnipsChicory, carrot, nasturtiums, spinach, chives, beans, peasPotatoes, tomatoes
RadishesBean, cucumber, carrot, pea, melon, lettuceNasturtiums improve growth and flavor.Hyssop


Factors to consider when companion planting

When companion planting, you have to ensure that the crops are beneficial to each other. Companion planting can be affected by climatic conditions, planting ratios, method of planting and spacing.

Use space efficiently

Space your plants well to ensure they do not compete for growing space which might hamper their productivity. Tall plants that provide shade should not be planted close to low-growing plants that require sunlight. Spacing ensures that the plants do not compete for limited nutrients and also receive adequate sunlight. 

Nutrient sharing and provision

Choose the best combination of plants that do not compete for similar nutrients. For example, you can plant chamomile with basil, cabbage, wheat and onions, since they require different nutrients to thrive. 

Physical protection and support

Combine plants that protect their companions by deterring pests. They could also provide support for upward growth, e.g planting corn to support bean vines.

Weed and disease control

Certain plants deter the growth of weeds and the spread of diseases. It is best to select a companion plant that suppresses weed growth, while not being invasive. 

Impact on the soil

Some plants are beneficial to soil quality by fixing atmospheric nitrogen or harboring microorganisms that help to break down nutrients. Further, companion planting helps to keep the soil firm and prevent erosion. They can also act as groundcover, preventing loss of moisture from the soil. 

Speed of growth

Your companion plants should not compete for growing space. If they grow faster than your preferred crop, they can deprive them of essential nutrients. Ensure your companion plants grow at a similar rate to your crops. 

Aromatic effects

It is good to use companion plants that improve the flavor of your crops. 

What is companion planting?

Companion planting is a gardening method in permaculture that utilizes the symbiotic properties of nature. You rely on cooperation and relationships between plants for optimum health and viability. 

Plants require good companions in order to flourish. Companion plants help foster each other’s growth, attract insects and pollinators, deter pests and increase yields. Certain plants support each other in the growth process while others do not get along. They will compete for resources, nutrients and space.

Companion planting can be beneficial in terms of improving soil fertility and plant health. Large plants provide shade for smaller plants, e.g. corn protecting lettuce from the sun. Tall plants offer natural support to low-growing plants, such as sunflowers supporting cucumbers. Additionally, some plants attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. Companion planting also helps in deterring pests.

The Three Sisters is a popular companion planting method, which combines beans, corn and squash. Corn provides support for bean tendrils, squash covers the ground to conserve moisture and its leaves discourage weeds. 


Companion planting is a good way to improve the diversity of your food garden. Look to plant crops that benefit each other in terms of nutrients, growth support and improvement of soil quality. The table above shows the best companion plants for common crops and those that should not be planted together. Employ the best pair that fits your planting needs and is suitable for your climatic zone. Companion planting requires a lot of experimentation to find what works best and which plants complement each other best.