Welcome to the league of basil companion plants! They come in various species, but they are united with one mission - to accompany your lone sweet herb as it grows in your garden. You may lose count of the specific benefits this fragrant plant will receive, but they’re all about maintaining a healthy agroecosystem and soil sustainability. If you plan to incorporate some plants in your basil garden, discover their secret wonders in this article!
Why Is Basil a Great Companion Plant?
If there's a plant yearning for a partner, its first choice would be basil. One benefit of this garden marriage is that it makes an invisible barrier that keeps bugs away. Not only does this herb make use of every square inch of your garden, but it also helps improve the soil’s physical and chemical texture.
Benefits of Companion Plants for Basil
If you're yet to be persuaded by the thought of basil companion planting, these surprising benefits help change your mind:
What Grows Well with Basil
While some of the following companion plants for basil have yet to be validated by science, most are commonly used by many experienced gardeners. That includes various food and ornamental plants.
What grows well with basil? This question shouldn’t be asked with vegetables as they can happily grow with the kitchen herb maestro.
Vying for a good spot next to your basil, here comes the broccoli, along with all its family members: cauliflower, kale, and cabbage. Cole crops secrete glucosinolates with insecticidal properties. When mixed with basil’s scent, they become more unpleasant to bugs.
USDA Zones: 2-11
Benefits: Aside from the olfactory nightmare it brings to cabbage worms, Broccoli attracts other insects that can parasite these caterpillars. Basil also acts as a trap crop for snails and slugs that don’t feed on broccoli.
Companion planting basil is incomplete without tomatoes. If it has something to be boastful about, it has been proven by many studies about its subtle defiance against pests when planted with basil. Along with its sisters, sweet peppers and eggplant, tomato plants can guard themselves against most bugs.
USDA Zones: 5-8
Benefits: Thrips, tomato hornworms, and armyworms would not dare to encroach on your pest-proof mix of plants. Plus, the joy of harvesting your own food is priceless - you only need mozzarella to make a refreshing Caprese salad after a tiresome afternoon tending your garden!
Lettuce is a short-season crop that goes along with the presence of basil. Due to their limited canopy root spread, sunlight competition is unlikely to occur. Other leafy vegetables like spinach and chard are also friends–but with mutual benefits–helping hand in hand (or leaf by leaf) prevent weed growth and protect the soil.
USDA Zones: 2a-11b
Benefits: As every inch of the soil is covered by natural biomass (the leaves), weeds won’t easily germinate due to the absence of light. If it rains, water splashes that can transmit diseases and erode soil will also be prevented.
If you ask what to plant with basil in a container, you might consider flowering plants as well!
Marigold is a living treasure chest in your garden! It can help beautify your garden and maintain a healthy soil. Its flowers may seem so delicate, fragrant, charming, and harmless, but deep within the roots, it's a nematode assassin, safeguarding other nearby plants from becoming root victims of these microscopic worm-like creatures.
USDA Zones: 2-11
Benefits: Marigold’s alluring flowers aren’t just to catch our attention but also to magnet pollinators and parasitic wasps, transforming your garden into a biodiverse insectary that can auto-suppress bugs without pesticides.
Borage, also a candidate basil companion plant, is the gardener's favorite. Crowned with cerulean star-like flowers, this low-lying annual herb can help attract friendly insects like butterflies, bees, and insect predators. Sow the seeds along the borders for maximum benefits.
USDA Zones: 3-10
Benefits: These plants are relatively easy to grow. Simply sow them, and they need less attention. Also, they are reportedly a flavor enhancer to basil. So, if you are a fearless culinary adventurer, give them a go!
A close cousin of chrysanthemum, Chamomile is also considered a garden guardian - it has pest-thwarting capabilities. When paired with basil, it won’t compete with the nutrients and sunlight but rather strengthen the botanical fortress against pests!
USDA Zones: 3-9
Benefits: Dried or fresh flowers can be used for making teas! Also, if you opt not to pick the flowers yet, there is another benefit that can be taken advantage of–beneficial insects love to hover around its white-petalled blooms!
Companion plant basil may also include some unusual backyard partners, such as the following:
Lemongrass is a tropical grass herb known for its strong citrusy flavor and aroma that concentrates below its club-like base. It is a medically important plant and a core element in Southeast Asian gastronomy, such as Hainanese Chicken rice.
USDA Zones: 9-10
Benefits: In a study led by Indian scientists, lemongrass and basil intercropping helps improve the chemical profile of essential oils (citral I and citral II) of both plants, giving them a more citrus-like scent.
If you are still unsure what to plant with basil, starting with maize or sweet corn variety is the way to go! This popular crop is enjoyed around the world for its sweet taste and crisp texture. In temperate regions with pronounced winter seasons, its cropping time is usually in summer.
USDA Zones: 2-11
Benefits: During the initial phase of plant growth or the seedling stage, basil can grow without affecting the growth of maize stalks. According to studies, it can also quantitatively and qualitatively improve the essential oil levels of sweet basil.
Purslane is a creeping succulent plant often considered a weed but is also cultivated and consumed as a leafy green vegetable, like salads in Mediterranean cuisines. Others use it in soups, stews, and as a cooked vegetable, noted for its slightly tangy or lemony flavor.
USDA Zones: 5-10
Benefits: Purslane is a drought and saline-tolerant plant, making it a perfect choice in sandy soils. Also, its mat-like habit helps maintain the soil's moisture ensuring that its partner, basil, stays fresh and healthy throughout the growing season! As it grows, it can also deposit organic materials - a natural composting ingredient.
Best Companion Plants by Basil Types
There is not really an established rule regarding the specific compatible varieties. However, some of the most common sweet shrubs that many experienced growers practice include the following:
Also known as "horapa" in Thai, this southeast asian originating basil is scientifically known as Ocimum basilicum var. thyrsiflora. It is famous for its bold, licorice-like flavor with hints of anise and cloves. It also has darker green and purple stems than sweet basil, which are staple in Thai, Vietnamese, and other Southeast Asian cuisines. If you plant to propagate and grow this type, consider the following:
- Sweet pepper
As the name implies, there is a touch of sanctity to the holy basil. They are planted along Hindu temples and are used in ceremonies and religious rituals. Basil lovers describe this as having a strong, spicy, and slight kick of minty flavor. If you’re planning a companion plant for basil of this type, the following might interest you:
If there is a mother of all basil, perhaps this sweet and minty type would claim the spot. It is known for its broad, glossy, and generally bright green leaves with mild, sweet flavor with peppery and slightly spicy notes. Basically, most plants are compatible, but some deserve a special mention:
Also known as dark opal basil, purple basil is a cultivar of sweet basil but features striking purple-hued to burgundy-toned leaves. While purple basil shares a similar flavor profile with sweet basil, it may have a slightly stronger or spicier taste. They are highly compatible with the following plants:
- Chili pepper
Bad Companion Plants for Basil
There isn't any existing garden rule that prohibits the following plants from planting with basil, but they have some infamy that you may consider them out of your list:
This refreshing summer plant is not necessarily among bad companion plants for basil. However, it can compete with the basil’s growth due to its dense vine structure and root spread. Also, planting them together may increase the risk of spreading the diseases, such as downy mildew that affects both plants.
While it's inaccurate to generalize herbs as incompatible with basil, some plants, such as rue or sage, have demonstrated a negative interaction with basil, releasing plant chemicals that suppress growth. Others also note that it can alter the flavor of your basil – a fact that has indeed been backed by science. But regardless of the aromatic profile shift, this is less likely perceptible to human olfactory senses.
There isn't enough supporting evidence that fennel is inherently bad for basil, but according to some growers, its allelopathic activity can be competitive with the basil’s growth and may actively suppress its height increment.
What to Plant with Basil to Keep Bugs Away?
One of the wonders of basil companion plants is that they can help shoo the bugs out of your garden. Some of these are based on anecdotal evidence from gardening circles but will surely leave no disadvantage if tried!
Like many aromatic plants, this carrot-related herb emits potent volatile compounds that act as a natural defense mechanism. Basil is already armed with insect-deterrent properties.
Chives also join the clan of insect-tear gassing plants. It contains allicin, a sulfur-derivative compound believed to be responsible for their aphid- and mite-repellent effects when planted with basil.
Like chives, onions are members of the allium family and secrete organosulfur compounds called allicin, which accounts for their pest-thwarting activity. Moreover, the additional scent released by onions can make it challenging for pests to locate and target specific plants, such as basil.
Cilantro contains essential oils with strong aromatic compounds, including linalool and cineole, which are believed to be unappealing or even irritating to certain insects like aphids.
Dill is a favorite salad herb because of its distinctive aroma, which also has monoterpenes. This compound is an insect-repelling gassy chemical that is toxic or irritating to insects, deterring them from feeding on or laying eggs on plants.
Can Basil Be Overcrowded?
Basils can definitely grow in tight spaces. However, its development, including the height and leaf number, will be slightly inferior compared to plants with adequate space due to competition.
Can We Plant Multiple Basil Plants Together?
Yes, you can absolutely plant multiple basil plants together. In fact, planting basil in groups or clusters is a common practice and can offer several benefits, such as easy harvesting, a higher visual appeal, and more efficient companion planting.
How Close Together Can We Plant Basil?
The planting distance highly varies depending on some factors. However, as a general rule, leave a gap of about 12-18 inches (30-45 cm) between plants, with rows spaced 18-24 inches (45 -60 cm) apart.
Can We Plant Basil Near Mint?
Yes, planting basil near mint is generally considered a compatible combination. Belonging to the same family, they harmoniously coexist in gardens and can complement each other in terms of growth habits and culinary use.
Should We Plant Basil with Tomatoes?
Yes, planting basil with tomatoes is a popular and beneficial horticultural practice. It helps reduce disease and pest incidence, such as armyworms, thrips, and hornworms. In terms of practicality, it optimizes land use in tight gardens.