There is one thing that many ignores when planting basil in the same pot with other herbs: the fact that some herbs might be harmful to your basil. Indeed, each herb, basil included, has ideal companions as well as plants that should be totally avoided. Knowing them will save you time, money, and avoid frustration.
Hence, you might be wondering, what are the best and the worst plants that basil can grow within a container? A complete list of the best and worst basil companions is reported below. This list is affected by, water and soil requirements as well as the size and speed of growth of the plants and their roots:
|Best basil companions||Worst basil companions|
|More for outside garden, but worth a mention: eggplants, beans, asparagus, cabbage, beets, peppers, potatoes|
If you do not choose ahead which herbs to place in the same container of your basil, chances are that one of your plants is going to suffer and die. This is because not all plants have the same requirements in terms of water and light.
Moreover, some plants might have invasive roots that will leave your basil without nutrients. Others might grow too tall, leaving the basil in constant shade. Finally, others might require a different amount of water leaving your basil over or underwatered.
Some particular companions might also enhance each other (protecting for pests, providing shade when required, etc..). These are rarer companions, but definitely worth to know them if you want to leverage their abilities and grow massive and (some says) tastier basil.
As more experienced gardeners also know, here, for more details, the benefits of a tomato plant with basil are even more critical when placed both outsides. Indeed, basil also repels a particular type of worm (hornworms) that is lethal to tomato and a large number of other typical outdoors threat (mosquitoes, spider mites, aphids).
Why Chamomile? Chamomile is claimed to increase the essential oil concentration in herbs planted nearby. I have to say that I did not find any scientific proof for this. For you to know, this also applies to any other herb planted with chamomile.
Chamomile: what you need to know? As discussed in this study, chamomile is an annual herb with two main varieties, German and Roman. If you can, go for Roman chamomile. As discussed here, this variety requires way less care and maintenance than the Roman counterpart. After a year, your chamomile will die off independently of how well you treat it. It is just its nature. This is the same for basil behaves in the same way. On the other hand, Roman chamomile is perennial. It requires more fertile soil, but it will last multiple seasons, so no hassle for you in repotting.
How to start with chamomile? If you want to add chamomile to your basil pot, use an already grown herb. This will save you time and also make the whole process smoother. You can find chamomile often in parks or even some shops.
Want to know the best part?
There is a good chance that you can also grow chamomile from tea bags! Indeed, chamomile tea powder contains also dried flowers. Hence, it is not uncommon that some of the tiny chamomile seeds might end up in the tea bag mix, ready to sprout, as shown in the video below.n
How to grow chamomile? Chamomile does not require fertilized soil like basil. Your standard potting soil is more than enough (as often contained fertilizer that lasts for around half a year, as discussed in this article). Water it to make the soil moist and let it dry before next watering (exactly like basil). This also avoids overwatering.
Why tomato? The tomato plant is highly recommended to grow with basil. Not only it requires the same amount of light and water of tomato, but basil smell is proven to repel pests that regularly feast on tomato plants. Moreover, you should not forget that tomato and basil are both staples of Italian cuisine, and they go well together in a large variety of recipes. The most famous one is, without doubt, the bruschetta (here from Jamies Oliver).
Tomato: what you need to know? As you might already know, when you buy a tomato at the supermarket, there are countless varieties. However, can you afford to grow a 2-foot plant in your living room? If the answer is not, then aim for a small variety as Pixie, Tiny Tim that grows up to an apartment affordable 15inches (around 30-40cm). Here you can check their price on Amazon. This grows up to here for the smallest tomato varieties.
How to start with tomato? As strange it might sound to you, growing tomato indoor is totally possible and not that hard. Indeed, just like another plant, it just needs the right conditions in terms of light, water, soil, and nutrients that can also be provided indoor.
In the most common case, you will start from seeds. Place them in separate small pots (even egg containers) and water them daily until they sprout. Do not place in the same basil container straight away as seeds are way more thirsty than a grown basil plant.
Once the seedlings are sprouting, you can then place them in the same basil plant container.
Although it is totally possible to grow tomatoes from the supermarket fresh tomatoes as many claims, do you know what?
These are unpractical for indoor gardening. Indeed, such plants are designed to grow outside and get several feet high, a space that you might not have indoor. Hence, aim for seeds of more tidy and small varieties. Think about the dwarf varieties like the Tiny Tim, here on Amazon.
How to grow tomatoes? The same watering of basil once transplanted in the same pot after seedling. They need plenty of light (some suggest even 12 hours a day). So you might need a grow light, especially if your summer/springs are not very long. Finally, during the growing, it is not uncommon for the plant to bend due to its own weight. Hence, it might need your assistance (with wooden support plus some elastic band) to grow upside.
Before you go, you know that many claim that tomatoes taste better when grown with basil. Is this a myth or true?
Around the web, you can read about the ability of basil to make your tomato taste better (like SFGATE, and a few forum). However, science tells a different story. This study, from the Kwantlen Polytechnic University, demonstrated, with multi-year experiments, that the presence of basil in the same pot of tomato did improve the yield (by reducing the number of pests attack). However, no change in taste was noticed.
Double-blind taste tests over three years showed no consistent preference for tomatoes grown with companions (including basil) over those grown in monocultureSource
Do You Want Another Mith: Basil increase Tomato Yield
Some sustain that basil can improve the yield of the companion plants (especially for tomato) that grow with. However, if this is your main reason for having companion plants, I would not spend time in such a technique.
Indeed, a few studies investigated the topic (for outdoor) like this one, where many other species were involved. This makes it really hard to pinpoint the effect of one single herb. Another study showed that basil alone did not increase the yield of the tomato plant. A similar conclusion was also found in this study: way lesser pests but tomato yield and quality (excluding the positive effects of the pest reduction) were unaffected.
A definitely good reading is the post written by a colleague, here.
Why oregano? Oregano is widely recognized among gardeners as an excellent companion to a vast number of herbs and plants, basil included. Indeed, they are known for their capability to repel pests and (crucial for outdoor gardeners) attract beneficial insects.
Oregano, what you need to know? Oregano is a perennial herb (it will last several years if taken care of) with round and green leaves. It is a staple in Italian cuisine and with many claimed health benefits.
How to start with oregano? One of my favorite (and easiest) way to start oregano is to recover store oregano plants. Indeed, in the UK and in the USA, it is not uncommon to find in the vegetable shelves of shops some potted herbs such as basil, coriander, and oregano. These are usually sold in 3” pots (as this one from Walmart).
Do you know what? You can save such herbs (rather than throwing them away after use) for an illimited harvest. As detailed in this guide, you can recover supermarket herbs that you can then clone through propagation by cutting.
For propagation by cutting, you just have to place the stem (cut above the node) of your herb in water and leaving it for a few weeks. Once the roots are developed, it can be placed into the soil (more in this propagation guide). Finally, if you really want to experience the whole life cycle (check this article for the chive ones) of your herbs, although it will take way more time, you can always start from seeds.
How to grow oregano? The good news is that oregano is one of those beginner herbs as quite forgiving for under/overwatering and temporary lack of sun. Just water it as you would water basil leaving the soil to almost dry between one watering and another. Used tip #8 in this 21 tips guide to understanding whether the level of moist is adequate.
Why marjoram? Marjoram is very similar to oregano. It is a great companion with most plants and herbs that are placed in the same pot. It is excellent due to its ability to attract useful insects that generally feed on pests such as aphids (a real problem for basil).
Marjoram, what you need to know? This is a perennial herb very similar in aspect and flavor to oregano. Marjoram can generally be found in stores as a potted plant or dry in little glass jars (most common the latter). Marjoram, like oregano, can be used in numerous dishes from meatloaf to chicken with cheese, as listed by the BBC. This is among the herbs I am growing home for such a reason.
How to start with marjoram? Whenever possible, always start from an already potted herb. Like many culinary herbs that can be part of your dishes, it can be easily found in the supermarket shelves like this one in Walmart. What you need to do to make such potted herb thrive is to transplant to a large container with adequate potting soil. Here a detailed transplant guide.
How to grow marjoram? Marjoram is a very resistant herb that can be maintained without much effort due to its forgiveness. It is one of those ideal beginner herbs. It can grow easily with the basil water requirements as well as with way less. In terms of light, the typical 6 to 8 hours you need to provide to your basil are, in general, more than enough to let the marjoram thrive.
Why Borage? Borage is known to extract the essential minerals from the soil and bring them closer to the surface where basil roots can absorb them. Borage is also well-know among gardeners for other important benefits that, however, are more relevant for outdoor applications like repelling earthworms and attract pollinators.
Borage, what you need to know? Borage is an edible herb that is also one of the most attractive for its purple flowers. After a year, it will die off (it is an annual) after reaching around 20 inches (50cm). However, chances are that its seeds drop on the pot, starting the cycle again without your intervention (if not for removing the old dry mother herb). Borage makes a great addition in an indoor herb garden when you want to add a bit of color without renouncing to the benefits of growing something that you can actually eat. However, similar benefits can help in a planter.
How to start with borage? It is often recommended to start borage from seeds as they grow relatively fast compared to other herbs. A few gardeners confirmed that can be grown from cuttings (if you could find some in the wild, after checking for the absence of any pest, feel free to pick a branch).
How to grow borage? Remember that borage might not be the best for indoor gardening as it can get quite high (40 cm). Hence, if you want to go for it, but prune it often. The best pruning point is just above the node (a point where you have another branch going out). As a basil companion, it has the same watering requirements.
Basil is an excellent herb that, thanks to the smell it produces, repel a few categories of insects (including mosquitoes) that typically feast on other vegetables and plants such as:
As discussed in this study, the basil’s oil was found to keep away houseflies, blue bottle flies, and mosquitoes.
Pepper (banana or hot varieties) are suggested by many expert gardeners as shown in many forums (here and here). Pepper, contrary to common belief, can be easily grown in pots, although way more common to have them outside.
Similar principles apply to all the other vegetables, although for those, I do suggest to avoid pots. Nothing prevents you from growing them in such a way, but it will be a bit more challenging than the one discussed above (either for space required, watering, etc…).
Companion planting is a great idea as you can allow multiple plants to benefit from each other. However, there are some herbs that should never be paired with basil.
The following are plants you should not plant in the same pot of your basil:
- Mint: this is an invasive herb. This means that its roots will develop fast and wide, overtaking the majority of nutrients in a container. Have a look at its massive roots. Do you know what will happen? All the other herbs planted in the same pot will remain without nutrients, and their growth is severely stunted.
This is a quite well-known problem among gardeners, even for outdoor applications.
- Rosemary, Thyme, and Sage: these herbs require way less water than basil. Hence, what is normal water for rosemary it is a severe underwatering for basil;
- Rue: this herb is noticed to inhibit the growth of basil through the production of particular chemicals through its roots.
Do You Want Massive Basil Indoor?
Many might tell you, just give the “right” amount of water and the “right” amount of light, and your basil will thrive.
Easy? No! Way too often I did not find a clear indication on how to maximize my basil harvest reading around
Hence, here you can find my 21 practical actions. Ready for massive pesto supply at home?
Do basil and chives grow well together? Although it is not among the best basil companion, chives have similar water requirements and growth rate, so they will not interfere heavily with each other. To note than one herb is perennial (chive) while the other is annual.
How many herbs can a pot contain? As a rule of thumb, many gardeners convey to a minimum distance of 8 inches (20cm) between herbs planted in the same pot
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