By Sarah Giles
Need to know the best companion plants for peppers? We're here to help. After all, there's nothing more infuriating than going through the process of raising young veg plants and getting them out into the ground or the greenhouse, only to find that before you've had a chance to harvest a crop from them, they've been struck down by pests or disease.
It's particularly annoying in the case of sweet peppers, because growing them yourself is quite a long-winded process: you'll have sown the seeds indoors in late winter, kept them at a constant temperature, then hardened them off gradually before planting them into the greenhouse or a hot, sunny spot outside. If, after all that, you never get to taste a home-grown pepper, you'd be forgiven for wondering why you bothered!
But although there are plenty of pests and diseases just waiting to thwart you, we'll let you into a secret: you can protect your pepper plants by practicing a simple gardening technique known as companion planting. And that first bite of a sweet, juicy, super-fresh homegrown pepper will certainly reassure you that it was worth doing.
Why should you use companion plants for peppers?
To give your peppers the best possible chance of staying free from attacks by disease and pests, there are certain other plants you can put in the soil or in separate pots alongside. Some of these companion plants work by repelling pests, or by diverting them towards themselves and away from your precious crop. Others simply help to give you the best possible harvest by drawing in more pollinators to the vicinity, so that your pepper flowers turn into masses of fruit.
This isn't a new idea – companion plants have been used in this way by some gardeners for years. Although formerly seen by many as mere hearsay, modern research now shows that companion planting really can work.
What is new, though, is recognition of the importance of creating polycultures rather than monocultures. It might sound technical but it simply means forgetting the traditional idea of planting fruit and veg crops in long straight rows, with one crop per row. Instead, mixing up fruit, veg, flowers and herbs in your raised garden bed ideas not only means more pollinators, but also less depletion of nutrients in the soil, and less likelihood of diseases building up in it and transferred from one year's crop to the next.
So, if you're new to growing peppers, mix things up a little and try growing some of these companion plants among them.
Best herb companion plants for peppers
Herbs are among the easiest plants to grow, as demonstrated in our simple guide on how to create a herb garden. And, they make some of the best companion plants. Here are our favorites to plant among peppers.
Parsley is a versatile herb that's delicious in all kinds of dishes. But it's worth sacrificing a few of the aromatic plants by allowing them to flower near your peppers. They'll draw in predatory wasps and hoverflies, which in return will control aphid infestations.
Who doesn't love a handful of basil in a tomato sauce, or on a pizza ready to be cooked in one of the best pizza ovens? Plant the aromatic herb at the base of pepper plants in your greenhouse and it will help to keep thrips (also known as thunder flies) at bay, as well as mosquitoes and aphids.
It's said to improve the flavor of the peppers too, plus, the two crops like the same growing conditions (heat and moisture).
Rosemary is a classic Mediterranean herb and is another good pick for companion plants for peppers. Grow it beneath your plants to attract beneficial insects to ward off the pesky ones.
It also makes a good groundcover, minimizing bare soil. This helps to reduce evaporation rates once you've watered your crops. You can find tips on how to grow rosemary in our dedicated guide.
'What grows together goes together' is a well-known phrase amongst chefs and planting oregano alongside your peppers is a case in point. Not only will it help to boost your crop (and apparently, its flavor), but it also tastes delicious in many pepper recipes. Try scattering the leaves over the veggies before roasting with salt and pepper and a good glug of olive oil.
Another Mediterraean herb, marjoram is slightly sweeter than oregano. And, similarly to oregano, it's said to improve the taste of your peppers. Plus, it will attract beneficial insects.
Best flower companion plants for peppers
By growing flowers amongst your peppers, you'll not only reap the benefits they bring as companion plants, but your veg patch will also look beautiful too. Try these for the best results:
These brightly-colored blooms are one of the best companion plants for tomatoes as well as for peppers. They're also super easy to grow.
Allow them to grow near your pepper plants and they'll work as a trap – luring aphids away from your veggie harvest. They will also attract beneficial insects, which will prey on the pests.
A cottage-garden favorite, petunias can help ward off asparagus beetles, leafhoppers and tomato worms, all of which can attack pepper plants as well as their more common hosts. Our guide on how to grow petunias has all the tips you need to get started.
3. French marigolds
French marigolds have a distinctive smell which helps to keep aphids and whitefly at bay, especially in a greenhouse. What's more, their cheerful color will jolly up any of your kitchen garden ideas.
Our guide on how to grow marigolds will help you get started.
Best vegetable companion plants for peppers
As the RHS explains, 'To "intercrop", you sow and harvest a quick crop between a widely spaced, slow-growing crop.' This is a great way to maximize the space on your veg patch or allotment, especially if you're on the lookout for small garden ideas.
These all work well as intercropping companion plants for peppers:
Growing radishes in between pepper plants will reward you with quick 'catch crops' that will keep weeds down and then mature before the pepper foliage starts to shade them out. And, they're delicious in summer salads, offering a crunchy, peppery kick.
For the same reasons, you can also plant carrots or salad leaves in the same way.
Onions, and other members of the allium family, all seem to do especially well when planted alongside peppers. They don't take up much space, and their strong smell repels aphids (and, if you're wondering, comes in handy if you're wondering how to get rid of squirrels, too).
Our guide on how to grow onions will take you through the steps.
In small greenhouses, learning how to grow cucumbers alongside your peppers is definitely worthwhile. They can be planted between your pepper plants and trained upwards – an ideal companion to make the most of the available growing space.
Outdoors, peas can do the same job as cucumbers do in a greenhouse – be trained upwards to maximize the growing space. Plus, as with other legumes, they'll help to fix nitrogen in the soil which is beneficial for the pepper plants.
For this reason, they make one of the best companion plants for strawberries, too.
Allow squash plants to scramble around the base of pepper plants – their large leaves will help to suppress weeds and retain moisture in the soil. Plus, they're simple to grow.
Our guide on how to grow butternut squash has all the tips you need.
6. Sweet corn
Corn on the cob is a delicious treat, especially when grilled on one of the best BBQs. And, if you grow it as companion planting for peppers, it will act as a windbreak and trap the sun, helping the peppers ripen more quickly.
Take a look at our guide on how to grow sweet corn for your own.
What not to plant with peppers
While there are plenty of good companion plants for peppers, they also have a few sworn enemies…
- Avoid planting peppers, which belong to the nightshade family, with members of the brassica family, especially broccoli. The two negatively impact each other's growth.
- Fennel is always best grown on its own, and should be kept well away from peppers in particular as neither plant will thrive if they're planted together.
- Never plant peppers near an apricot tree or bush as fungal disease of peppers can easily spread between the two.
- Recently learned how to grow runner beans? It's often said that beans and peppers should never be planted in the same bed. But, the jury is out on that one – there seems to be no scientific evidence for this, and some people even report that they get better results when they put them together!
Sarah is a freelance journalist and is lucky to be able to write about her two main passions: gardening and food. Ten years ago she moved from a house with a tiny town garden to a much bigger space in the country and since then she's slowly been putting into practice all the garden design ideas she's been mulling over for years. Trouble is, as soon as she's got the garden looking how she thinks she wants it, she decides to start on a new project so it's a constant 'work in progress'. She took on an allotment last year too, and is really loving growing all her own fruit and veg then bringing it home to try out in new recipes for her food and gardening blog, A Cook's Plot.
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