Broccoli just might be one of my favorite vegetables. But it spends a long time in the garden before its tightly budded heads are ready to harvest, giving pests plenty of time to interfere. Cabbage worms and other hungry bugs have done some significant damage to my broccoli patch! Thankfully, growing companion plants for broccoli can help deter these obnoxious pests and otherwise improve the growth of broccoli.
In fact, companion plants offer a multitude of benefits to each other in the garden. In addition to repelling pests, they can suppress weeds, maximize the use of space, and attract beneficial insects, to name a few.
Best Companion Plants for Broccoli
While broccoli pulls a lot of calcium from the soil as it grows, beets require very little calcium, which means they won’t compete for the same important nutrient. Just make sure to plant broccoli and beets about 15 to 20 inches apart to allow sufficient growing space and prevent crowding.
With its broad leaves, broccoli casts significant shade, cooling the soil and any nearby plants. Celery is one crop that appreciates cooler temperatures and may benefit from growing in the shade of broccoli. Some gardeners claim that broccoli grown near celery has better flavor too. As always, make sure to allow enough room between plants.
Chamomile is also said to improve the flavor of broccoli as well as increase its growth rate. Its bright, dainty flowers also attract beneficial insects and bring some cheerful color to the vegetable garden.
Herbs with strong scents, like dill, help repel insect pests like cabbage moths. And when allowed to flower, these herbs can also attract beneficial insects. In addition to its pest-controlling qualities, dill encourages healthy growth in broccoli and other brassicas.
Lettuce occupies different vertical space in the garden from broccoli, being a leafy, low-growing plant. This means that it can act as a living mulch under the taller broccoli plants, retaining soil moisture and suppressing weeds. In turn, the broad broccoli leaves shelter the lettuce from the hot sun.
Another excellent groundcover and a light feeder, nasturtiums have a sprawling habit and will vine around taller plants like broccoli to smother weeds and improve soil moisture retention. Nasturtiums also repel many insect pests, and those they don’t deter may be more inclined to eat and lay their eggs on the nasturtium than the broccoli. Plus, the vibrant flowers add bright color to the garden.
Although both are heavy feeders, broccoli and potatoes have different nutritional needs, with broccoli favoring calcium and nitrogen and potatoes preferring magnesium and phosphate. Plant seed potatoes in their soil mounds, then tuck broccoli seedlings in the gaps between potatoes.
Radishes famously take up little space in the vegetable garden and mature very quickly, allowing resourceful gardeners to tuck them into any available space. Sow a row of radish seeds alongside broccoli seedlings and harvest a peppery crop while waiting for the broccoli to mature. The tall broccoli foliage will provide cooling shade for the radishes, while the radishes crowd out weeds.
The strong aroma of rosemary deters devastating pests like cabbage moths and cabbage loopers when grown near broccoli. But because it is a perennial and can grow fairly large, you may want to plant rosemary in pots and place them near the broccoli in your vegetable garden. Alternatively, you can plant broccoli in the herb garden or even snip a few rosemary sprigs to place around your broccoli plants.
Shallots and other members of the allium family make great broccoli companion plants. With their pungent odor, alliums deter many pests. Plus, some gardeners claim that broccoli grown with shallots or onions has an even better flavor.
Spinach bolts quickly when hot weather arrives, but growing it in the shade of a taller leafy plant, like broccoli, can help extend the growing season for spinach. In return, spinach, like lettuce, covers the soil with its dense rosette of leaves, conserving moisture and preventing weed growth.
Worst Companion Plants for Broccoli
Broccoli has many friends in the garden, but a few plants should be kept at a distance.
It is usually wise to avoid planting crops from the same family together because they attract the same pests and diseases. So to prevent the spread of pests and diseases, keep broccoli separate from cabbage and other members of the brassica family, and avoid planting broccoli where brassicas grew the year before.
Corn is a heavy feeder, which means it will compete with broccoli for essential nutrients like nitrogen. To keep both hungry plants happy, grow them in different areas of the garden and pair them instead with light feeders.
Another greedy plant, strawberries also tend to suck all the nutrients out of the soil, leaving little for other hungry crops like broccoli and thus stunting their growth. Plus, strawberries are perennials and may disrupt crop rotations in the vegetable garden by remaining in the same space every year. Plant them in a perennial plot along with their own companion plants to avoid problems.
Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and other members of the Solanaceae family consume lots of calcium, an essential nutrient for healthy broccoli growth. To prevent calcium deficiency in both crops, plant broccoli and nightshades well apart.
When you know the difference between broccoli friends and competitors, you can confidently pair the right plants with broccoli for the healthiest, tastiest crop.
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.