Basil is a delicious herb and one of the easiest to grow. Sprinkle a few seeds in the garden and enjoy homemade pesto, flavorful soups, pasta, focaccia, and more all summer, and even throughout the year (pesto freezes wonderfully!). Sprinkle those seeds in the right places, and you’ll also enjoy benefits from and to basil in the garden. The following lists contain the best companion plants for basil and plants that should not be grown nearby so that you can make the most of your basil.
What is companion planting?
Planting several types of plants together in close proximity can result in some pretty handy benefits, like fewer pests or better growth. Doing so intentionally is called companion planting. Learn more about this practice and which plants grow best together in our Companion Planting Guide.
Best Companion Plants for Basil
Being such an aromatic herb, basil deters many pests, making it a great companion for a lot of plants in the vegetable garden. Plus, it also repels mosquitos, which keeps you, the gardener, happier as well. Here are some of the plants that most benefit from growing near basil.
With its strong aroma, basil repels some pests and confuses others by masking the scent of target crops like beets.
Borage works well alongside basil to repel tomato pests. As an added bonus, it also might improve both the growth and flavor of basil. Here’s how to grow borage.
Basil helps deter insect pests that feed on cabbage, broccoli, and other brassicas. Because it grows quickly, basil can also be used as a groundcover while the slower brassicas continue growing.
Growing basil with carrots may help reduce damage to the greens done by insect pests like flies.
Chamomile is one of the few companion plants that actually benefit basil, rather than the other way around. It is said to increase the concentration of essential oils in basil and other herbs.
Chives may also increase essential oils in basil, making it more effective as a pest deterrent in the garden and more flavorful in the kitchen.
Marigolds and basil make a super companion pair in the vegetable garden, as both repel many pests, and marigolds have the added benefit of attracting beneficial insects.
Like chamomile and chives, oregano may improve the flavor and pest-deterring quality of basil. It also pairs well with basil in cooking.
Nightshades like peppers benefit from pest-repelling basil. Additionally, basil helps increase humidity, which pepper plants love, and shade the fruits from sunscald.
Basil helps deter pests from the leafy tops of radishes and provides cooling shade to this spring vegetable, possibly extending the growing season a bit.
Tomatoes and basil are a winning combination in both the garden and the kitchen. Basil repels the dreaded tomato hornworm and whiteflies, increases tomato yields, and, some gardeners claim, improves tomato flavor.
The strong scent of basil helps repel pests that might otherwise munch on turnip greens.
Worst Companion Plants for Basil
With the exception of the few listed above, basil doesn’t typically get along well with other herbs; it tends to prefer the company of vegetables. Here are some plants that should definitely not be planted next to basil.
Being mostly water, cucumbers tend to take on the flavor of anything grown nearby, especially pungent herbs like basil. To avoid weird, basil-flavored cucumbers, keep the two plants separate. Some gardeners claim that basil also reduces the yield of cucumber vines.
Fennel does not grow well with most garden plants, and basil is no exception. Although it does attract beneficial insects, it can stunt or even kill basil and other plants grown too close to it.
Basil and rosemary may not be mortal enemies, but they have very different growing requirements. While rosemary prefers dry soil with excellent drainage, basil needs significantly more water.
Never plant basil and rue together, as rue will inhibit the growth of basil, leaving you with too many pests and not enough pesto!
Sage is one of the many herbs that don’t get along well with basil. Like rosemary, sage prefers dry, sandy soil, while basil likes soil that is full of moisture and nutrients.
Basil is such a wonderful herb to have around and so easy to grow, you almost have to have this plant in your garden. Plant it with some of the many companion plants it thrives alongside (avoiding the few it doesn’t like), and your garden will see fewer pests, while you’ll be in pesto heaven. Mmm, I can almost smell it!
Serena Manickam is a freelance editor and writer and sustainable market gardener in rural Virginia. She holds a BA in environmental science and runs Fairydiddle Farm, a small market garden in which she grows no-spray produce and herbs to sell at a local farmer’s market.