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Companion Plants

We don’t usually think of plants as forming friendships but scientists tell us that they do, indeed. These friendships aren’t like those we humans make. Rather, the plants share mutually beneficial traits.

Scientists call these relationships symbiotic. We landscape professionals call them companion plants. The companion plant phenomenon isn’t a recent discovery. Native Americans here in the northeast realized that planting certain plants together resulted in greater yield from all of them. They planted beans, corn and squash together and called it them Three Sisters.

The three sisters supported each other in several ways. Corn needs a lot of nutrients from the soil and beans enrich the soil with nitrogen. Beans grow on vines and corn provides the support for these vines while the squash, which lays on the ground, suppresses weeds between rows.

There are many flower combinations that can be planted together for various reasons. Research shows there’s a chemical interaction between some. Others may keep weeds down or protect against insect attacks. Edibles, including onions and garlic, planted among your flowers can help control insects. (We don’t have a photo of onions and garlic growing in a flower garden but the photo with this post shows tomatoes.) Still other companion plants help fertilize soil and protect each other from rain, snow and sun.

Some plants actually repel companionship. Black walnut trees, for example, have a substance, called juglone, that’s toxic to many other plants. This gives the trees a clear area around theirroot zones to assure that they’ll have enough nutrients and uninhibited space for themselves.

If you’ve ever tried to grow grass under willow trees, you know that the trees protect their space by growing such a thick canopy that grass can’t get enough light.

When selecting companion plants, first determine what you expect from the relationship. Then research the plants that meet the criteria you’ve established. If you don’t want to do all the research, turn the task over to our designers and horticulturists who are very familiar with the companion plants to select to meet all objectives. Our installation crews can take care of the planting for you, as well.

One comment on “Companion Plants

  1. Okay . . . duh. Actually, I write about the herbicidal habits of black walnut, eucalypti, cypress, and pine sometimes. I grew up with it, so saw it in action, but it is fascinating to those who didn’t. People also find the violence of plants to be interesting because they do not see it in such slow motion.

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