Sweet banana peppers like Pageant need friends to help them reach their full 8-inch length and bright red ripe color!

Peppers, particularly the hotter types, are a great friend to many other plants in the garden. Their spicy scent can deter many pests, protecting other vegetable crops. But which neighbors can help the peppers grow — particularly the sweet bells, bananas, and cherries, whose fragrance may lack the oomph of their super-spicy cousins? Meet the best friends of the third most popular vegetable crop in American home gardens!

 

Vegetable Friends

A member of the Hibiscus family, okra is actually quite attractive. And someone you know will love the fruit!

A member of the Hibiscus family, okra is actually quite attractive. And someone you know will love the fruit!

Okra

Aphids can be a problem for peppers, and okra simply has no truck with these critters. This is also a tough plant, standing up to strong winds better than peppers do, so it can serve as a guard.

The Onion Family

Onions, leeks, garlic, scallions, and chives are all good buddies to your peppers.

Hungarian Stuffing Blend offers sweet mini bells that dangle from container plants like Christmas tree ornaments!

Bulbing onions keep slugs, cabbageworms, and aphids at bay. Garlic deters some types of beetles as well. Chives are said to improve the flavor of peppers while also repelling aphids. Leek is good at repelling carrot flies, which you will want if you are also growing Pepper’s friend the . . .

Carrot

Peppers like humid growing conditions, and the bushy aboveground growth of the carrot offers this, while also choking out weeds.

The Lettuce Family

Looseleaf lettuces like Vulcan (which will be deep red at maturity) cover ground, raise humidity, and taste delicious!

Peppers love all the lettuces, which love them back by providing humidity, suppressing weeds, and even, in the case of Swiss Chard and other tall varieties, offering a bit of wind protection. Looseleaf and headed lettuces, spinach, chard . . . they love the rich soil around your peppers, and you can rotate quick-maturing varieties in and out as your peppers grow.

Herb Friends

Basil

If you only have room for one herb companion for your peppers, let it be basil. This strongly-scented herb repels aphids, thrips, and spider mites very effectively, and many people say it improves the flavor of the peppers, too. There is a rainbow of basil varieties to choose from, but we suggest lemon and other citrus scents and flavors for added pest repellence.

Zaatar isn't really a marjoram, but its blend of oregano, thyme, and marjoram aromas does a nice job of repelling pests!

Zaatar isn’t really a marjoram, but its blend of oregano, thyme, and marjoram aromas does a nice job of repelling pests!

Marjoram

Running a close second to basil in the competition for best friend, marjoram is also said to improve the flavor of peppers while repelling a host of would-be pests.

Parsley

You are going to want a lot of parsley in the veggie patch, and not just for peppers. Get a ProEasy packet (1,000 seeds!) and you're all fixed up for the season.

You are going to want a lot of parsley in the veggie patch, and not just for peppers. Get a ProEasy packet (1,000 seeds!) and you’re all fixed up for the season.

This herb helps destroy pests by attracting the beneficial wasps and other “good guys” that gobble them up. Let the parsley flower for most effective protection.

Flower Friends

Geranium

Time to move those Pelargoniums off the porch steps and into the veggie patch! Geraniums are a trap crop for Japanese beetles: the pests are temporarily paralyzed after eating geranium leaves, giving you (or the beneficial insects in your garden) the chance to swoop in and finish them off. These geraniums won’t be the prettiest in your garden, but your pepper crop may be better for their sacrifice!

Can you believe these blooms are all one variety of Marigold? Fireball changes colors as it matures!

Marigold

Nematodes are soil-borne pests that ravage pepper and tomato roots. Plant marigolds liberally around your peppers. They also do a good job keeping beetles and aphids away.

Petunia

Another ornamental grown mostly in containers these days, petunia is a powerful repellent in the vegetable garden! Tomato worms, aphids, and leafhoppers all dislike its presence, making it a friend to all peppers.

Nasturtium

The beloved Jewel of Africa, friend to so many vegetables, is a brilliant and carefree garden presence.

The beloved Jewel of Africa, friend to so many vegetables, is a brilliant and carefree garden presence.

Every pepper patch should have a stand of nasturtiums. This lovely flowering plant, with edible blooms that make wonderful garnishes for salads, repels squash bugs, whiteflies, and aphids, among others. It’s easy and quick to grow, looks great, and covers ground nicely without choking out neighboring plants. A good natural mulch!

New Day Orange offers big, beautiful blooms that bring in beneficial insects to devour the pepper pests!

Gazania New Day Orange offers big, beautiful blooms that bring in beneficial insects to devour the pepper pests!

Gazania

All of the Aster family flowers (think any bloom that has a daisy shape, from sunflowers to zinnias to cosmos) attract beneficial insects into the garden, but we especially like gazania with peppers. This flowering annual is very drought tolerant and its lush foliage hugs the ground.


Now, you may have noticed the absence of a traditional friend to pepper, the tomato, as well as a few other crops some folks recommend as pepper companions. Next time we’ll talk about why we think they should be grown separately, and we will identify a few plants that are definitely enemies, or at best frenemies, to your peppers!

About Sappho Charney

Sappho Charney is a garden writer living in Lubbock, Texas.

2 Comments

  • What you said about basil, that it improves the flavour of peppers, I’ve heard the same stuff about basil and tomatoes. I’ve tried it numerous times, but my peppers and tomatoes have the same natural taste. It is some kind of a legend I guess. Nevertheless, basil really helps to repel pests on peppers and tomatoes. 🙂 It is one of the best companions together with onions.

    Gardeners Fulham

    • Sappho Charney says:

      I heartily agree! I find it very difficult to detect any change in flavor from neighboring herbs, but I have heard it so often from other gardeners that I think perhaps they have more discerning palates . . . or, as you say, it’s a pleasing legend! At some point, fragrance and flavor tend to merge.

      Glad you’ve been successful at repelling pests with basil and onions among the peppers and tomatoes. There is no doubt in my mind that herbs are terrific natural pest repellents. Happy gardening!

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