Nothing beats a homegrown tomato, bursting with sweet, juicy flavors that help accentuate the beautiful summer! However, troublesome pests and bugs on your tomato plants can be a menace, ruining your efforts and reducing your crop to almost nothing. This dilemma leads us to question what to plant with tomatoes to keep bugs away naturally.
Well – our team of worldwide gardeners has many decades of tomato-growing experience between us. And we’re about to share some of our favorite decoy plants that can be grown near tomatoes to keep the bugs away.
(We’ll also share several plants that complement tomato gardens in ways you might not expect.)
Then let’s continue!
- What to Plant With Tomatoes to Keep Bugs Away
- 1. French Marigolds (Tagetes patula)
- 2. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
- 3. Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus)
- 4. Borage (Borago officinalis)
- 5. Garlic (Allium sativum)
- 6. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- 7. Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
- 8. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
- 9. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
- 10. Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
- 11. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
- 12. Mint (Mentha)
- 13. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
- 14. Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- 15. Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
- 16. Radishes (Raphanus sativus)
- 17. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
- 18. Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
- 19. Zinnia Flowers (Zinnia violacea)
What to Plant With Tomatoes to Keep Bugs Away
French marigolds, basil, and mint are three favorite tomato companions for healthy gardens. Either can help repel nasty garden pests – and they grow beautifully alongside tomatoes.
But remember – we’re not only trying to keep bugs away from our tomato plants.
We also want to create helpful decoy plants to keep bugs away from other garden gems – like our native shrubs, fruit crops, and vegetable garden. (And our tomato plants!)
And these aren’t the only tomato companion crops we can think of – there are many more worthwhile tomato companions.
Let’s discuss some of our favorites.
In more detail!
1. French Marigolds (Tagetes patula)
There are many old wives’ tales regarding companion planting. You’ll often hear gardeners say they’ve been planting things a certain way for years, with no scientific basis for doing so! However, in recent years the scientific community has started to investigate these claims further, hoping to reduce farmers’ dependency on toxic pesticides.
Enter French Marigolds. Homesteaders have been planting French Marigolds with tomatoes for many years, and it has recently come to light that this strategy truly does work.
The vibrant, yellow, and orange flowers of French Marigold flowers release a strong scent called limonene that is scientifically proven to repel whiteflies, helping to reduce infestations on your tomato plants.
Your marigolds must establish before the whiteflies arrive for them to be effective. Our local market sells marigold plug plants alongside tomato plants, so it’s easy to remember to pop them in the ground simultaneously!
French Marigolds grow up to 1-3 feet tall and thrive in full sun. Marigolds are annual plants and are not frost tolerant. So you will need to plant new ones every year. Starting Marigolds from seed can be tricky, but small plug plants are usually widely available at a very reasonable price.
2. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Basil leaves produce a highly aromatic oil that supposedly repels common tomato pests such as hornworms and aphids. Basil flowers also attract multifarious beneficial biological control insects such as lady beetles, butterflies, hoverflies, and lacewings.
Basil is an annual herb that grows to around 2 feet tall under the right conditions. Research has shown that intercropping rows of tomatoes with basil can boost tomato plant growth and increase the overall yields of both plants.
Some gardeners anecdotally report that intercropping with basil will improve the flavor of tomatoes. It is one of the best companion plants for tomatoes as it thrives in the same growing conditions as tomatoes and also tastes great as part of a tomato salad!
Mmmmm, homegrown tomato and basil on a slice of freshly-baked ciabatta – heavenly! (Tasty treats such as this make gardening worth the effort.)
3. Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus)
While our first two plants help to deter pests, nasturtiums work oppositely – they attract aphids and squash bugs! These little pests prefer munching on nasturtiums and will leave your tomatoes alone if they grow nearby. In the gardening world, this is known as a sacrificial trap crop and can be a great way to ensure you harvest a pest-free crop of tomatoes. (We also call them decoy crops.)
The cheerful, bright colors of nasturtium flowers look great in the vegetable garden. And they are also edible! Nasturtium flowers have a great peppery flavor that tastes yummy in homemade salads.
In zones 9-11, nasturtiums can be grown as a perennial, but for other zones, they are easy to start from seed every year. They prefer full sun to partial shade and can grow up to 1-2 feet tall.
4. Borage (Borago officinalis)
Borage is one of those underrated plants that should be part of any healthy garden ecosystem! It can repel different creatures that attack tomatoes, particularly hornworms. Borage also attracts various beneficial bees, wasps, and hoverflies.
This annual plant self-seeds easily around the veggie patch, and the edible flowers taste great as a colorful garnish on a salad. My favorite way to enjoy borage flowers is in a tall glass of gin and tonic, where they turn from blue to pink!
Here's an excellent resource for companion planting. Plant Partners by Jessica Walliser explores the scientific reasoning for many plant partnerships that work wonders in your home veggie garden. The book details helpful plant combinations to manage weeds, improve soil health, stifle garden pests, and enhance biodiversity. It's an excellent read if you want a solid understanding of how and why plant companionship works - and which plants function well together.
5. Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic doesn’t just keep vampires away – its pungent scent can also repel aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. Studies have also shown that growing garlic can benefit soil health, potentially boosting tomato harvests.
While many gardeners grow garlic through the winter months, spring-sown varieties can start in the vegetable garden around a month before your tomato transplants are ready to be planted. Like all onion family members, garlic likes to grow in full sun with plenty of water.
6. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender repels harmful insects like whiteflies and attracts natural predators such as bees and hoverflies – a win-win situation! However, it is vital to remember that lavender is a woody Mediterranean herb and will grow best in drier conditions than tomatoes. Growing lavender in pots that can thrive near your tomatoes during summer is an excellent solution.
7. Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Catnip is another dual-purpose herb, attracting beneficial insects and repelling troublesome bugs. It repels aphids, flea beetles, and squash bugs. And attracts beneficial insects such as certain bee species and butterflies.
As catnip is a member of the mint family, it can be invasive and may take over your veg patch. Many gardeners prefer to grow catnip in pots to keep it under control.
(As an aside, I secretly wish our catnip got even half a chance to become invasive, but the cats have other ideas! They seriously love this plant. And spend so much time sleeping on it that it is a sad, bedraggled little specimen!)
8. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Growing a few clumps of chives in your vegetable plot can help keep your tomatoes safe from garden pests, including aphids, nematodes, and mites, all of which dislike the onion-like smell of this plant. For a super-charged effect, try garlic chives (Allium tuberosum).
Chives can be grown as a perennial and survive the winter in zones 3-9. They dislike the full sun. So are best grown in the shade of other plants or near a fence. The beautiful flowers provide a vibrant splash of purple color in your summer garden, and the leaves make a delicious addition to salads and sandwiches.
9. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
The delicate white oregano blooms attract ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps. All of which will happily munch on pests that eat your tomatoes. Luckily, mature plants will flower throughout the summer, so keeping a patch of this perennial edible herb on the edge of your tomato plot is a great companion planting technique. Oregano and tomato are also great partners in culinary terms, and the two together are the basis for any good homemade pasta sauce!
10. Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
Tansy is a perennial herb that has button-like yellow flowers. The scent of tansy plants will repel cucumber beetles and squash bugs, making it a great companion plant for tomatoes.
Tansy prefers full sun to partial shade and can grow up to 2-3 feet tall. This plant can be invasive, so keep it in a pot or planter. The scent of tansy is released when the plant gets brushed, so it is a good idea to place it near a walkway.
11. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow is a perennial herb with feathery leaves. It produces clusters of small yellow-white flower heads that attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings. Yarrow can also distract troublesome pests such as aphids and beetles.
This pretty plant grows up to 2-3 feet tall and likes full sun and hot, dry conditions. In damp conditions, it can develop fungal diseases such as mildew, which may be detrimental to your tomato crop.
12. Mint (Mentha)
Yet another herby companion for tomatoes, mint will repel spider mites and aphids thanks to its strong odor. Due to its vigorous growth habit, I would advise growing it in pots – this is a great choice to plant with container-grown tomatoes. When used this way, potted mint in the garden can also suppress weeds and help retain soil moisture.
13. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
This woody perennial herb is famous for scaring off various garden pests. We believe they can help increase tomato yields and protect plants from damage. Thyme also forms a low-growing mat of garden ground cover for tomato plants. This low-growing mat helps to suppress weeds and keep the soil moist. It is a perennial herb that thrives in hot, dry conditions, preferably in full sun.
14. Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Sage is a culinary herb with a strong scent that can repel many pests, such as cabbage moths and carrot flies. It will also attract predatory insects such as parasitic wasps and hoverflies.
This woody perennial herb prefers full sun and can grow up to 2-3 feet tall. Sage is tremendously easy to grow from cuttings – I have clumps of sage dotted all around my vegetable plot, which all came from just one cutting gifted by a friend!
15. Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
It is easy to confuse calendula and marigolds, as many people use the same name for both! Luckily the yellow annual calendula flowers – also known as pot marigolds – are highly effective at repelling aphids, whiteflies, and thrips, so it doesn’t matter which one you go for around your tomato plot.
Calendula is a good choice for planting under your tomato plants, where it will also attract ladybugs and lacewings. It thrives in full sun and will grow up to 2 feet tall.
16. Radishes (Raphanus sativus)
Radishes could be the answer if flea beetles are a problem in your tomato plot. They work as a sacrificial plant crop, with the radish leaves luring these problematic bugs away from your tomato seedlings. Radishes grow tremendously quickly, and for best results, a sacrificial crop for flea beetles should get sown immediately adjacent to your tomato plants.
- Aphids On Tomato Plants – Complete Guide to Natural Aphid Prevention and Control
- How Much Sunlight Do Tomatoes Need to Ripen? No Splitting or Sunscald!
- 9 Best Tomato Plants for Hanging Baskets – Super Prolific Varieties!
- 13 Tastiest and Best Tomatoes for Containers and Pots!
17. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
Chamomile is a lovely aromatic herb with small, daisy-like flowers that can be harvested and used to make tea. The flower heads attract hoverflies and parasitic wasps, which will help to reduce the population of aphids and other bugs on your tomato plants. Chamomile is an annual plant that self-seeds easily, perfect for wildflower zones in your garden beds.
18. Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
A couple of years ago, I discovered the joys of sweet Alyssum. And I’m now delighted to see this useful little plant self-seeded in various nooks and crannies around my vegetable plot! Sweet Alyssum produces tiny white flowers that are a food source for parasitic wasps and syrphid flies, both harvest aphids to feed their young.
19. Zinnia Flowers (Zinnia violacea)
Your vegetable gardens need lots of bees. That’s why we always start our veggie garden beds with an extra helping of colorful flowers of various shapes and sizes. We want to invite as many bees as possible. And zinnias are one of their favorites.
Thanks for reading our guide about what to plant with tomatoes to keep bugs away.
We know the challenges of growing tomatoes – and the tomato worms and Japanese beetles can make it even more trying!
Let us know which tomato companion you like most. Or maybe you have luck growing a little-known crop alongside tomatoes to help manage and deter destructive garden bugs?
We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks again for reading.
And have a great day!