Eggplant stars in a wide range of international dishes, from eggplant parmesan to moussaka, and it can even be grilled for a fun addition to a summer cookout. Although technically a short-lived perennial, eggplants are almost always grown as an annual. The beautiful purple fruits can be a bit tricky to grow in the vegetable garden, but intercropping with a few plant friends will help you produce healthy eggplants. Choose from some of the best companion plants for eggplant and keep at a distance those that might impede growth instead.
Best Companion Plants for Eggplant
The best eggplant companion plants will help deter pests, improve growth, and attract beneficial insects that help with pollination and pest control. Aromatic herbs and nitrogen-fixing legumes are often good bets for companion planting, but it’s important to know which plants get along best with each other. Here are some excellent options for herbs, flowers, and vegetables to grow alongside eggplants in the vegetable garden.
Eggplants appreciate the nitrogen-fixing properties of legumes, including bush beans, pole beans, and peas. Plus, beans repel the Colorado potato beetle, which sometimes feeds on eggplants, since they are a cousin of potatoes. Keep in mind that eggplants require plenty of sun, so make sure to plant them on the north side of any trellised beans or peas to avoid giving them too much shade.
A lovely flowering herb, borage does double duty as a companion plant. First, its beautiful, star-shaped, blue flowers attract pollinators, which are essential to the fruiting of eggplants. Second, borage deters tomato hornworms and other pests that might damage eggplants and other nightshades.
Here’s how to grow borage.
If you struggle with flea beetles on your eggplants, plant catnip nearby to help deter the tiny pests. But because it is a perennial, you may want to grow catnip in a movable container or along the border of the garden, where it can overwinter without getting accidentally cleaned out in fall or tilled under in spring. Note that if you struggle with cats using the garden as a litterbox, this may not be the best plant to grow!
My vegetable garden never feels complete until I get the bright, cheery marigolds planted (here’s how to grow marigolds). These ruffled, aromatic flowers attract parasitic wasps, ladybugs, pollinators, and other beneficial insects while simultaneously repelling many pests. They also keep root-knot nematodes away from eggplants and other vegetables, especially when tilled into the soil.
Another popular flower for the vegetable garden, nasturtiums are edible, beautiful, and excellent companion plants. Vining nasturtiums act as a living mulch, reducing evaporation and erosion and suppressing weeds. The flowers attract beneficial insects, and nasturtiums also deter many annoying insect pests.
Here’s a guide to growing nasturtiums.
Oregano is a wonderfully versatile culinary herb. In the garden, this aromatic perennial deters aphids, cabbage moths, spider mites, and other pests. The tiny flowers also attract beneficials, like ladybugs and bees. As with catnip, you may want to plant oregano in a container that can be placed near your eggplants, or include it in a border around the garden.
Spinach offers great ground cover around taller plants like eggplants. This leafy, low-growing vegetable suppresses weeds and reduces moisture evaporation. In return, eggplants shade spinach, which prefers cooler temps, from the hot sun. This arrangement can help lengthen the growing season for spinach.
Learn more about growing eggplants.
Worst Companion Plants for Eggplant
Some plants just don’t get along together. They might shade each other out, suppress each other’s growth, compete for nutrients or space, or share pests and diseases. Here are three plants to avoid growing near eggplants.
Because it grows so tall and close together, corn will provide too much shade for sun-loving eggplants. Plus, both corn and eggplants are heavy feeders, which means they will compete for nutrients and thus stunt each other’s growth.
Fennel ends up on the list of “worst companion plants” for most plants, unfortunately. This is because it releases allelopathic compounds into the soil, inhibiting the growth of or even killing any plants growing too close, including eggplants. For this reason, fennel should be grown in its own separate space where it can grow happily without damaging other plants in the garden.
Geraniums are plagued by some of the same diseases as eggplants. If these two plants are grown too close together, they may spread diseases to each other. Thankfully, geraniums and eggplants are rarely grown in the same vicinity anyway, more commonly belonging to flower beds and vegetable gardens, respectively.
With the right companions by their sides, the eggplants in your garden can produce buckets full of lovely purple, egg-shaped fruits. Ready for some ratatouille? Try this Indian ratatouille: YUM!
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.