Broccoli is spectacular, isn’t it? This tasty veggie is as versatile as it is delicious, and is as gorgeous in stir-fries and soups as it is raw, dipped into your favorite dip. If you’re a fan of this beauty, you’re probably growing it at home. There are many great broccoli companion plants that can help your crop thrive.
Whether you want to repel pests, alter the sweetness of your broccoli, or hope to liven up the soil, there are plants that you can put alongside your beautiful brassicas to help them grow better than ever.
Let’s jump right in.
Before We Get Started
In other articles, we’ve talked about how a lack of calcium can cause blossom-end rot in fruiting plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, etc. Well, broccoli is notorious for gobbling up copious amounts of calcium from the soil around it. If it doesn’t get enough calcium, the leaves will curl at the end and continue to necrotize towards the stalk.
Test your soil before planting and amend with calcium as needed. If you think your broccoli still needs a calcium boost, tuck a calcium chloride tablet into the soil near the stalk once a week.
Additionally, try to avoid planting anything nearby that also needs a lot of calcium. After all, you don’t want your crops competing for nutrients.
Remember that brassicas such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc. prefer cooler weather. As a result, you’ll have better luck (and healthier plants) if you cultivate these in spring or autumn.
If you live in a hotter climate, however, or if you simply get hot, sunny summers, be sure to offer them shade at midday. Intersperse at least a few of these broccoli companion plants and you’ll have to deal with fewer pests, and get healthier, happier vegetables at harvest time.
Broccoli Companion Plants
When it comes to companion planting, remember to plant a few different types of friends. There are those that beckon beneficial pollinators, those that repel or trap unwanted pests, and those who benefit the main crop through nutrient deposits. Let’s dive into some of the best vegetable, herb, and flower neighbors to choose from, shall we?
Lettuce is a glorious vegetable to cultivate and is lovely in salads and sandwiches alike. The problem is that it bolts in hot weather (which is when most of us like it the best). As such, consider planting your lettuce close to your broccoli.
The large broccoli leaves will shade out baby lettuces, preventing them from bolting.
This follows the same rule as the lettuce above. Spinach bolts even more easily than lettuce does, so plant it within 6-9 inches of your broccoli plants.
3. Swiss Chard
Chard can help to offer your broccoli shade on sunny days and is also a great mulch plant. Its large lower leaves help to provide ground cover, thus reducing water loss.
Do you know how celery has a subtly sweet flavor? Well, if you plant it alongside your broccoli, it’ll help to sweeten that vegetable as well. Furthermore, not only will it help to remove excess bitterness from the brassica, its tall stalks can help provide shade on hot, sunny days.
Just make sure to observe light fall in your garden so you know where to plant it for optimal shadiness.
Unlike other root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, beets aren’t calcium hogs. They break up dense soil to increase aeration and water movement, and won’t compete with your broccoli for space either.
These behave much like the beets mentioned above.
If you live in a very hot climate, consider planting cucumbers on a trellis nearby to help provide shade. Cukes don’t rate highly on the list of broccoli companion plants because they’re such heavy feeders.
In fact, if you don’t nourish the soil well, they can seriously compete with the brassicas for nutrients.
That said, since broccoli can bolt in hot weather with too much sun, cucumbers (or melons) grown vertically or overhead really can offer vital shade. The key here is to grow the cukes in containers, or along the periphery, in well-fed soil.
This includes any plant in the onion (Allium) family, including shallots and scallions. They won’t compete with broccoli for nutrients, and they’ll fend off unwanted insect pests.
Most insects find the allicin, quercetin, and kaempferol they contain to be quite revolting. As a result, using alliums as border plants around your other vegetable beds can keep your tasty veg safe from little munching mouths.
Spuds are the only members of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family that can be planted alongside broccoli. This is because fruiting nightshades such as peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants compete for nutrients that broccoli requires.
In contrast, potato tubers help to break up the soil and increase nutrient flow. This helps broccoli roots spread out and soak up more tasty vitamins and minerals.
This is technically a vegetable, though it’s often prepared like a fruit. Either way, it’s an ideal plant to grow near your broccoli, but not right alongside it.
Rhubarb is an ideal trap crop for cabbage whiteflies (Aleyrodes brassier), which can decimate brassica crops. Grow it about 18 inches away from your broccoli so it doesn’t compete for nitrogen.
Furthermore, grow it near any other brassica beds you may have, as it’ll also protect your kale, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, rapini, etc.
Dill is one of the best broccoli companion plants because it pulls triple duty. Not only does it improve broccoli’s flavor, it also stimulates growth. Finally, if you let your dill flower, it’ll attract braconid wasps, hoverflies, and ladybugs. These all prey on species such as aphids, worms, and caterpillars that would otherwise destroy your food crops.
Basil helps to deter unwanted pests such as cabbage worms and white butterflies. If it’s allowed to flower, it also attracts honeybees, wasps, and butterflies.
Now, I’m a bit torn on mint plants here. On one hand, they’re immensely beneficial for repelling white flies, white butterflies, aphids, and flea beetles. On the other hand, once you’ve planted mint it’s almost impossible to get rid of it.
If you’d like to plant mint as one of your broccoli companion plants, consider sinking pots of it into the soil nearby. Otherwise, you’ll have a mint garden in just a few years.
The cabbage loopers and cabbage moths that love Brassicaceae family members absolutely despise rosemary. Use it as a perimeter fence around your broccoli, or intersperse it among your plants to guard them.
Note that rosemary is only perennial if you’re in USDA Hardiness Zones 7 and up. Otherwise, treat it as an annual. If you want to keep it permanently, you’ll have to pot it up and take it indoors before frosts hit.
Much like other alliums, chives will help to repel unwanted insects while attracting beneficial ones. You can also snip off chive leaves and flowers as needed to add to the broccoli dishes you like to prepare.
The thymol in this herb is an excellent repellent for several unwanted insect species that would otherwise chew your broccoli to bits. Additionally, its flowers will attract and feed many bee and wasp species.
This friendly little flowering herb improves broccoli’s flavor while repelling unwanted insects. Since it’s a creeping groundcover, it’ll also help to retain moisture in the soil.
Not only are these great broccoli companion plants because they draw beneficial pollinators, but they also look gorgeous in the garden. Bright orange nasturtiums naturally compliment deep green broccoli. As an added bonus, you can even eat the two together.
Try making raw broccoli salad or slaw and toss in a bunch of nasturtium petals and leaves. They’ll add stunning color as well as spicy flavors to the dish.
Much like nasturtiums, calendula flowers are beneficial neighbors to pretty much any plant. They improve flavor, fend off aphids, and attract good pollinators. And hey, you can’t go wrong with having a few extra medicinal plants in the garden!
These lovely plants have pretty blue flowers that look stunning in amongst your brassicas. Additionally, their scent and flavor repel cabbage hornworms while attracting bees and butterflies.
Cosmos can prevent some pests and they attract pollinators, so they make an excellent companion plant for not only broccoli but many other species, as well.