Peppers are packed with vitamins, antioxidants, flavor, and depending on the variety, heat. But they can be difficult to grow in the vegetable garden. One excellent way to help pepper plants along is to grow companion plants alongside them. Some will provide benefits to the peppers, while others will receive benefits from the peppers.
Not all plants grow well together, though, so it is important to learn which are the best companion plants for peppers and which might actually cause harm – or be harmed – instead.
What is companion planting?
Companion planting involves interplanting different plants, including herbs, vegetables, flowers, and fruits, based on their compatibility and the benefits they offer each other.
Although vegetable gardens tend to feature neat rows of individual crops, from a natural perspective, companion planting makes a lot of sense. Plants share nutrients with each other and provide weed suppression, shade, and vertical support, among other benefits. Of course, plants often compete for resources, but they also have adapted to cohabitate, both in the wild and in the vegetable garden.
Why try companion planting?
Interplanting different types of plants provides a variety of benefits. Companion planting can result in enhanced growth, increased production, fewer pests, more pollinators, improved flavor, and less plant disease.
It also allows more plants to be grown in less space, and the patchwork of flowers and herbs among vegetable plants beautifies the previously utilitarian vegetable garden. With the many benefits companion planting offers, it would be easier to list the reasons not to try this garden method, for they are far fewer.
Best Companion Plants for Peppers
Numerous plants get along well well peppers in the garden, so to simplify things, this list contains only some of the best companion plants for peppers, which are still quite a few plants!
Aside from being a beautiful, hardy herb, alyssum attracts predatory wasps, minute pirate bugs, ladybugs, and lacewings, all of which feed on aphids and other pests that might damage pepper plants.
Basil can improve the quality, flavor, and production of peppers. Additionally, its strong aroma also helps deter thrips, aphids, spider mites, flies, mosquitos, and other pests.
Check out these tips on growing basil.
Low-growing root crops like beets can fill in empty space around pepper plants without crowding them. Their foliage shades the soil, reducing weeds and improving moisture retention. In turn, the beets benefit from the cooling shade of the taller pepper plants.
Growing carrots around peppers maximizes the use of space in the garden, squeezing in another crop where otherwise would be empty soil. The foliage also acts as a living mulch, protecting the soil around the peppers.
The strong fragrance of chives deters aphids and certain types of flies, and they can reduce the chances of downy mildew and gray mold. Some gardeners also claim that chives improve the yield and flavor of vegetables grown nearby.
Dill repels some insect pests, like aphids, while also attracting beneficial insects with its large, flat flower clusters. It may also improve the flavor of peppers and other vegetables. Learn more about growing dill.
7. French marigold
Marigolds are the ultimate companion plant. These bright, classic vegetable garden flowers repel nematodes, aphids, and many other common vegetable pests while also stimulating plant growth. I love having them around for the cheerful beauty they add, too.
Garlic repels aphids and Japanese beetles and has antifungal and antiseptic properties. It also has a small footprint, meaning you can get plenty of garlic as well as peppers out of the same space.
Lettuce and other low-growing leafy greens benefit from the cool shade cast by pepper plants and help crowd out weeds in return.
Onions deter pests like aphids and take up very little space, especially green onions. Plus, onions and peppers are often cooked together, such as for fajitas.
The flowers of parsley attract predatory wasps, and the low-growing foliage acts as a ground cover to reduce weeds and improve water retention. In return, parsley appreciates the shade from the pepper plants.
In addition to adding bright color to the garden, petunias attract beneficial insects and deter pests like aphids, leafhoppers, tomato hornworms, and asparagus beetles. This makes them a great companion to peppers as well as other vegetables.
Landscaping with petunias is easy and so rewarding! Their colors and abundant blooms make it a favorite!
A quick-growing root vegetable, radishes allow you to maximize space by harvesting a crop before the peppers even ripen. Radishes appreciate cooler temperatures, such as in the shade of pepper plants, and also reduce weeds with their broad foliage.
Herbs like rosemary grow well alongside peppers and act as a living mulch. Look for creeping rosemary, which will grow more horizontally than vertically, and keep in mind that rosemary is winter hardy in USDA zones 8-11, so you may want to grow peppers in the herb garden rather than the other way around.
Did you know that rosemary flowers are edible too? Here’s how to use rosemary flowers.
Short, leafy greens like spinach shade out weeds without competing with the pepper plants. Plus, growing them in the shade of the taller plants helps extend the growing season of these cool-loving vegetables.
Yarrow is easy to grow and attracts ladybugs and other beneficial insects, which in turn eat aphids and pollinate crops like peppers.
Worst Companion Plants for Peppers
While many plants grow well alongside peppers, a few do not. When planting your garden, make sure to locate the following plants in a separate bed from peppers.
Although most people don’t have an apricot tree growing in their vegetable garden, if you do have one (or more) on your property, avoid planting peppers nearby. The two share a common fungal disease, and you don’t want to risk it spreading from the peppers to the tree.
Cabbage, broccoli, kale, and other members of the brassica family are heavy feeders and can leech all the nutrients from the soil that peppers need. Plus, they prefer a neutral soil pH, while peppers like more acidic conditions.
Fennel actually may not be a good companion for most vegetable plants. It can inhibit the growth of nearby plants and attracts both beneficial and pest insects. Given this, you may want to grow fennel in its own bed to encourage beneficial insects and act as a trap crop for pests.
While many gardeners have successfully grown tomatoes and peppers together, these vegetables both belong to the nightshade family and thus share many pests and diseases. To avoid the spread of pests and diseases from one crop to another, plant different types of nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant) separately. At the very least, never follow a nightshade with another nightshade in your crop rotations.
With so many plants that grow well alongside them, and so few that don’t, peppers are a great vegetable to start with as you begin your companion planting journey. Happy growing!
With so many plants that grow well alongside them, and so few that don’t, peppers are a great vegetable to start with as you begin your companion planting journey. Consider bush beans, lima beans, brussels sprouts, pole beans, bell peppers, hot peppers, green beans, the onion family, the cabbage family, and other good companion plants. When you plant well, you will see higher yields from your garden plants. This is a great way to make the most of your garden space and produce better food crops.
Are your garden beds ready for some French marigolds? Maybe you want to spice up your pepper patch? There are so many excellent companion plants you can use once you know how to pair them up properly. Do some research into the vegetable crops that do well in your area and which make great companion plants to have in close proximity. This will help you plan out ideal companions in advance and plot your garden spaces efficiently. When you use good companions, your plants will be stronger and healthier, even if you’re working in a small space.
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.