Companion Planting

Companion planting exploits a natural relationship between plants which have an affinity for each other. ‘Companion’ plants have a beneficial effect on certain other plants. When grown in close proximity to them they will help these plants to grow, flower and fruit more successfully. The reverse of this relationship also applies, and some plants will not flourish when grown next to a species which is unsympathetic. Use the companion planting technique when planting up pots on your balcony and patio. Grouping plants both indoors and out can also create marvellous decorative effects. An exotic collection of humid-loving plants can breathe new life into a home.

Indoors, plants generally grow best when grouped together. Always choose plants which require similar cultural conditions and which grow at approximately the same rate. Grouping plants in this way not only contrasts their shapes and colours, but also makes them easier to care for. Plants which like quite a humid atmosphere grow exceptionally well in companion groups. Individual plants give off moisture from their leaves and, when grouped together, all the plants help to create a humid microcliraate. Another consideration is shade; taller plants can shield low-growing species accustomed to the filtered light of a forest floor.Companion Planting

Companion planting outdoors

Many herbs, including Basil, Lavender, Mint, Sage and Thyme, are valuable companion plants as they help control diseases and pests which normally attack a wide variety of vegetables and flowering plants. Garlic is especially beneficial to the health of roses. Rose bushes grown near Garlic will be stronger in growth and will flower profusely, producing very strongly scented blossoms. Garlic also helps prevent black spot, as will other members of the onion family, such as Chives, Egyptian Onion and varieties of Ornamental Allium. Conversely, all members of this family inhibit the growth of Garden Peas, and should not be grown near them.

Temperature groups

Plants for warm rooms

  • Rubber Plant, Ficus elastica
  • Dragon Tree, Dracaena Limo
  • Propeller Plant, Crassula Malta
  • Jade Plant, Crassu argentea
  • Mother-in-Law’s-Tongue, Sansevieria trifasciata
  • Jelly Bean Plant, Sedum pachyphvIlum
  • Century Plant, Agave americana
  • Partridge-Breasted Aloe, Abie tariegata
  • Prickly Pear, Opuntia species
  • Crown Cactus, Rehutia species
  • Ball Cactus, Notocacms species
  • Coryphantha. Coryphantha crecta Mammalaria, MammiHand species

Plants for cooler places

Parsley is another useful companion plant for both Roses and Tomatoes. This plant not only deters aphid attacks, but it will help fight soil-borne pests when planted in the same container.

To get a bumper crop of strawberries, plant a tub with Borage, and place it close to your Strawberry tub. Borage also attracts bees, which help pollination. Garden Lettuces should not be placed near either Strawberries or Tomatoes as they will inhibit their growth.

Flowering companions

A pot of Marigolds, will not only provide a cheerful splash of colour on your balcony or patio, but will also prove sympathetic to both Roses and Tomatoes.

Nasturtiums secrete a pungent substance which deters attacks from aphids and white fly and this substance may be taken up by plants growing in the same container, and in turn make them resistant to these pests.

Avoid planting Lily-of-the-Vallev near any of the Narcissus hybrids as neither will grow well.

Indoor plants for low humidity

Many plants adapt well to being grown in dry, centrally heated rooms with low levels of humidity, and these can be grouped accordingly as companion plants. Most varieties of desert cacti thrive in these conditions for most of the year, although some may need to be kept slightly cooler during winter. Small varieties of cacti look and grow best when grouped in one container. Choose a container with drainage holes or cover the base with at least 5cm (2in) of crushed charcoal to keep the compost sweet. Use a specialist cactus compost and fill in the spaces between the plants with washed pea gravel. When selecting flowering cacti, choose varieties which flower at different times of the year. Low-growing succulents also look good planted in this way.

Other plants which require low humidity include Bead Plant, Desert Privet, Dragon Tree, Mother-in-Law’sTongue and Swedish Ivy. Stand the pots together on individual drip-trays, grouping them according to size, shape and colour to make the most of their individual qualities.

Moderate and high humidity

Position plants which need medium and high levels of humidity together, creating a beneficial microclimate around them. Stand individual pots in a tray of gravel which is kept constantly moist, or plunge pots into a large container of damp peat. Plants which need moderate levels of humidity include palms, Begonias, ferns and bromeliads. Humidity lovers like African Violet grow well with Amethyst Flower, Cape Primrose and Creeping Fig. Keep a close check on groups of plants, removing any plant which looks faded or unhealthy as soon as possible. Mist spray frequently, with the exception of plants with hairy leaves, for example, African Violet.

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