Basil is a herb with a plethora of health benefits. It adds the timeless Italian charm to any dish and elevates its taste. Basil not only has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties but also contains antioxidants and is a natural adaptogen.
The best part of it all is that basil also is relatively simple to grow and is tasty while being nutritionally enriching. However, a common question that arises while planting basil is that if other plants can be grown with it.
Unlike its other counterparts, basil does not prefer the company of most other herbs. In this case, it becomes essential to understand what pairs well together to ensure optimal growth. Here is a directory of 7 basil companion plants that will flourish in your garden alongside this aromatic herb.
Why Plant Basil with Companions?
The general benefits of doing companion planting or ‘intercropping’ include the effective utilization of space and significant improvements in harvest quality. Let us look at a few specific advantages of planting basil with other crops.
Repel Insect Pests
Some plants secrete natural toxins or scents that repel detrimental pests that can damage the crop. In such a scenario, especially for pests that cannot be killed by pesticides and insecticides, companion planting becomes essential.
Attract Beneficial Insects
Growing basil companion plants like marigolds lures pollinators into the garden. Bees, butterflies, and birds are lured by the smell of nectar and the visually stunning flowers on display. This enhances the chances of pollination and a bounty harvest.
Improve Soil Nutrients
When crops grow, they take up valuable nutrients from the soil. This leaves the gardener with the daunting task of having to renew the soil’s nutrients at the end of the season. However, there are many companion plants like legumes and beans that add nutrients like nitrogen back into the soil This helps keep other plants healthy and well-fed.
Provide Ground Cover
Most plants that are spread on a low level across the ground, such as oregano, act as a layering above the soil, protecting smaller crops from direct exposure to sunlight. This helps in lowering the temperature by a notch for plants that do not require direct, bright sunlight.
Provide Necessary Shade
Plants that grow tall and leafy like zucchini and asparagus can provide welcome shade for sun-sensitive plants beneath them. Excessive amounts of sunlight can damage a plant and cause it to wither. In extreme cases, loss of the chlorophyll pigment has also been observed.
Serve As Markers
When gardeners grow slow-growing plants, they intersperse fast-growing plants alongside it and plant them as companion crops. This is done so to demarcate where the slow-growing plants will be.
7 Basil Companion Plants
In this section, we shall discuss the various plants that can be grown with basil to reap the aforementioned benefits.
1. Basil Companion Plants: Tomatoes
Basil repels thrips, whiteflies, mosquitoes, and the Tomato Hornworm. Tomato crops are generally plagued by these gregarious pests and insects. The aroma of the fragrant basil herb keeps the insects at bay, enhancing the yield of the tomatoes.
Like tomatoes, basil herbs require at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily for optimal growth. Also, plant the crops in well-drained soil. Basil does not need excessive watering. Thus, basil should be planted in pots that allow for good drainage. To avoid instances of inefficiently quicker flowering to occur (which also leads to a bitter taste in your harvested basil), pluck the center shoot away on the 6 week mark.
There isn’t enough research done to prove that basil has any significant impact on the flavor of the tomatoes. However, most gardeners plant basil alongside tomatoes because they believe it increases the sweetness of ripe tomatoes.
2. Basil Companion Plants: Asparagus
Asparagus is a perennial crop that thrives well in sunny conditions. It can take 2-3 years to reach a full yield. Once planted, an asparagus patch can continue to produce for decades to come. The ideal asparagus companion plants are ones that offer benefits of nutrient distribution, steering diseases and pests away, and also nurturing and providing for beneficial bacteria and insects.
The companionship between basil and asparagus brings ladybugs to the garden. Ladybugs can help weed out the notorious cabbage aphids, and thus planting basil with asparagus is a win-win situation. Keep in mind, basil is also known to shoo away the asparagus beetle, which is another pest that damages the shoots of newly sprouted asparagus plants.
3. Basil Companion Plants: Chilies
Some chilies can produce ripe fruit in 60 days from sowing, while others take as long as 120 days. Varieties such as Habaneros take 100 or more days from planting to reach maturity.
Chilies are plants that grow nicely with a lot of plants. It’s claimed that growing basil next to peppers boosts their flavor. It also helps to repel some common garden pests, such as aphids, spider mites, thrips, mosquitoes, and flies.
Basil is doubly effective for chilies, for both repelling garden pests and providing dense ground cover. Remember, peppers prefer humidity, and basil works to trap heat and moisture.
4. Basil Companion Plants: Bell Peppers
Bell peppers prefer ample sunlight, just like basil. Moreover, dry conditions will lead to bitter-tasting peppers, but overwatering can suffocate the roots. Bell peppers will also wither instantly if the calcium in the soil is depleted.
Thus, with both basil and bell peppers, you have to monitor your watering carefully, keeping it as balanced as possible. While not a necessity, staking your bell peppers can help keep them off the ground and away from pests. This can also help reduce sunscald, which can occur if the pepper is exposed to direct sunlight for too long under high temperatures.
Bell pepper leaves usually provide somewhat of a canopy for the basil thereby also protecting it from harsh weather conditions. If you live somewhere where enough sunlight is not available, a great tip is to use black plastic mulch. Black plastic mulch can help absorb the sun and keep your ground soil warm.
5. Basil Companion Plants: Potatoes
Not only do basil and potatoes taste good together but they also grow well together. However, one very important thing is to choose the correct fertilizer for the plants. Potatoes need to be fed with a fertilizer that have a higher percentage of potassium and phosphorus, as compared to that of nitrogen.
Potatoes itself boast a large amount of potassium, which is why they need more of it to flourish to their full potential. The phosphorus content enables the plant to give out a harvest of a greater number of potatoes. In contrast to this, basil needs a more nitrogen-based fertilizer.
Potatoes are a sunlight and water-loving crop. But specific plants (that don’t need much sunlight) will delay the success of the potato crop if planted as companions. Basil, however, complements the growth of the potato crop. Not only will this companion herb aid in a healthy and bountiful potato crop, but it will also add visual appeal and a savory herb option to your garden.
6. Basil Companion Plants: Rosemary
Gardeners grow both basil and rosemary plants individually for their fragrant leaves. Under the ideal conditions, the two can flower together and this has several benefits. The proximity makes it easy to harvest leaves regularly from both plant species.
Basil excels in well-drained soil that has an equivalent constitution of various required nutrients, along with ample moisture. Rosemary also excels in well-drained soil but thrives when much more effective drainage is provided for flushing purposes, along with lesser moisture content. Comparatively, rosemary can do with less moisture than basil. Rosemary with its woody scent is exactly what keeps mosquitoes as well as cabbage moths and carrot flies away.
Pruning the plants of flowers regularly ensures that the plant will produce leaves rather than flowers. Ensure to chop off any visible flower growth on your basil plants. This is mainly executed because the flowering plants give out leaves that are flavor-deprived as compared to non-flowering varieties.
7. Basil Companion Plants: Marigold
Marigolds have traditionally been used as border plants by gardeners. They are usually planted by the side of segregated flower beds and diverse vegetable gardens. Fragrant varieties of marigold will repel beet leafhoppers, branched beetle species like the Mexican bean beetle, and other insects such as nematodes too. Whereas, pot marigold deters beetle species like the asparagus beetle and worms like the tomato worm. The Mexican variety of marigold is believed to repel rabbits, but there is no clinical evidence of this.
Marigolds and basil thus are a natural insect-repelling pair, so plant them nearby one another to double up on a potent aromatic shield. Plant basil first, and then dig a hole for a marigold plant. Allow 18 to 24 inches between the marigold and the basil plant, which is close enough for the marigold to benefit the basil. However, it still allows plenty of space for the basil to grow.
Marigold seeds can also be planted around and in between basil plants, as their germination speed is quite fast. Remember to thin the marigolds when they approach a height of 2 to 3 inches. This proves to be effective in combating overcrowding. There should be ample space between the marigold flowers and the basil crops. Be careful not to overwater marigolds as they are susceptible to rot in soggy soil.
Basil Companion Plants: Other Plants to Consider
A few other plants that can reap several benefits when planted with basil are:
- BorageBorage, a flowering herb with blue star-shaped blossoms, is a big favorite of pollinators in general. Not only is the plant aesthetically stunning, but also helps in repelling gregarious pests like Tomato Hornworms.
- Root Vegetables: The leafy green tops of root vegetables are particularly vulnerable to soil boring pests. This is why root vegetables like carrots, beets, radishes, and parsnips can all reap benefits from the pest-deterring fragrance of a basil plant in the surrounding vicinity.
- Chamomile, Oregano, and Chives: Basil can be planted next to some flowering herbs, like chamomile, chives, and oregano.
Basil Companion Plants: Plants To Avoid
It is of extreme importance to know which plants not to grow with basil, as this can potentially harm the yield and growth of your basil crop.
Cucumbers are comprised mainly of water, and as such tend to take on the flavor of what is grown near it. Aromatic herbs, like basil, can affect the taste of your cucumber so it is best to keep these two plants separate.
Fennel is a crop that goes best alone. It tends to significantly inhibit the growth of most other plants. Although it is relatively easy to grow, it is not generally not planted for this reason.
While basil doesn’t necessarily need a companion to grow, we utterly recommend you plant it alongside one. This can improve your harvest exponentially. You can also deter pests and other insects that tend to damage the yield of the basil crop.