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What to Plant With Tomatoes to Keep Bugs Away – 19 Fabulous Tomato Companion Plants!

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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.)

Sound good?

Then let’s continue!

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)

companion planting with tomato plants and colorful marigold flowers
Let’s start our list of what to plant with tomatoes to keep bugs away with our favorite decoy crop. French Marigolds! French Marigolds have beautiful orange and red flowers that emit a lovely fragrance. They attract many beneficial insects – such as pollinators, lacewings, and ladybugs. They can also help occupy annoying bugs such as snails, spider mites, and aphids – hopefully acting as a decoy and helping pull attention away from your veggie garden. (Want healthy roots? Then plant marigolds! Because marigolds also deter root nematodes – which feed on and damage plant roots.)

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)

sungold tomatoes and basil companion planting in the garden
Basil is another excellent tomato companion crop. It attracts plenty of bees which will invariably benefit your veggie gardens. Basil is also a delicious homemade herb to add to homemade tomato sauce. And it helps repel many insect pests – including potato bugs, flies, and mosquitoes.

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)

radiant yellow orange nasturtium flowers with lush green leaves growing in the garden
Here’s another breathtaking orange flower and an effective decoy crop for aphids. We’re talking about nasturtium! Nasturtium flowers benefit your veggie garden by attracting native bees. They are also famously resilient to cabbage worms. And cabbage loopers! They’re an excellent overall crop for mixed veggie gardens.

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)

beautiful pale blue borage flowers growing naturally in a lush green meadow
You can’t overlook borage when searching for what to plant with tomatoes to keep bugs away. Borage is an excellent flower garden crop that’s super easy to grow. And it feeds your native bees. Borage is also famous for repelling one of your tomato plant’s worst enemies – tomato hornworms (tomato worms). Grow it alongside your tomato varieties – and lessen your need for volatile chemicals and garden pesticides.

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!

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5. Garlic (Allium sativum)

planting several garlic cloves directly in the fertile garden soil
Garlic is another favorite tomato companion plant in our garden. We know that garlic is famous as an insect repellent. While we can’t prove that insect pests dislike garlic, garlic has an undeniable reputation for keeping aphids at bay. (We love any plant that can help combat garden pests without using pesticides and toxic chemicals that can negatively impact healthy tomato plants.)

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)

breathtaking lavender plants and sunflowers growing in a cottage garden walkway
Lavender is a perennial evergreen and a lovely aromatic tomato companion crop. Like basil, lavender summons plenty of beneficial pollinators to your garden. Lavender doesn’t work as a pest decoy in your tomato garden. However, it emits a powerful fragrance that can help repel various outdoor pests – including moths and mosquitoes.

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)

tabby white cat guarding over their blooming catnip garden
Catnip is a thick and fluffy herbaceous perennial mint family member. It’s famous for attracting various barnyard cats who gain a euphoric feeling from the fragrant herb. But there are other reasons to cultivate catnip in your tomato garden besides pleasing your homestead kitties! First, beneficial pollinators love the violet-to-purple catnip flowers. Catnip spray can also repel flea beetles, a famous pest for baby tomato plants. (Catnip usually blossoms way before your tomato plants will. So, you’ll have plenty of time to harvest, dry, and create a catnip spray.)

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)

vibrant chive plant flowers in full bloom
There are a few compelling reasons to grow chives with tomatoes. First, they have a reputation for repelling Japanese beetles. Japanese beetles are always an unrelenting garden pest and attack everything from herb plants to apple trees, blackberry bushes, and tomato plants! Various bees also love chive plants for their abundant nectar and pollen.

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)

purple and violet oregano plant with lovely flowers growing in a field
Oregano is a thick, aromatic perennial herb perfect for tomato gardens. It’s also one of our favorite tomato companions for a pizza garden! (Also include peppers, tomato, onions, and garlic.) And oregano is a favorite of many native and honey bees – making it an ideal companion for any herb or veggie garden.

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)

beautiful tansy plant flower in bloom soaking in the summer sunshine
Tansy is an underrated plant to grow with tomatoes to help keep bugs away. Tall tomato plants can easily attract tons of aphids. Luckily, Tansy is famous for attracting ladybugs and lacewings – both wreak havoc upon aphid populations by eating them by the dozen. Tansy can also help attract parasitic wasps and tachinid flies – both devour a litany of garden nuisance bugs. Tachinid flies particularly devastate many garden pests – including the infamous potato beetle.

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)

beautiful pink yellow and white blooming yarrow flowers growing in a field
We’ve been analyzing what to plant with tomatoes to keep bugs away all week. One plant that gets frequently overlooked – is yarrow. Yarrow is an excellent companion for tomato health for a few reasons. First, like many beneficial tomato companions on our list, yarrow helps repel pest insects – and summons beneficial predators. Yarrow also attracts troves of pollinators – which tomato plants need. Yarrow also prefers full sun, just like tomatoes. (But be careful where you plant yarrow – it’s somewhat weedy.)

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)

lush mint plant growing in small basket on natural wooden picnic table
Mint is arguably the best plant to grow alongside your tomatoes – as long as you contain them in pots. Mint repels various garden pests, including moths and aphids. It also attracts all the helpful bugs you want, like butterflies, hoverflies, and native bees.

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)

lovely lush green thyme plant growing in the garden
Thyme is a lovely woody perennial herb that enhances tomato flavor in sauces, soups, and sandwiches. Thyme also attracts friendly pollinators and parasitic wasps that help manage tomato fruitworm and other undesirable garden pests.

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)

lovely sage plant growing in a small rockery herb garden
Our herb and veggie gardens never have enough sage. Sage loves growing alongside your tomato garden in full sunlight. Sage is surprisingly easy to grow and attracts many butterflies and bees – making it the perfect companion for tomatoes, cabbage, strawberries, and other pollinator-dependent crops.

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)

beautiful calendula flowers growing in the garden with tomato plants
Do you have nasty slugs crawling all over your tomato plants? Then consider growing calendula. Calendula makes an excellent trap crop for slugs – and can help detract them long enough for your tomatoes to flourish. We’ve also read that calendula can potentially repel nematodes and tomato worms, making them an excellent tomato garden companion.

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)

small but healthy potted radish plants growing in backyard garden
Radishes are a cool-weather crop that packs a ton of surprising benefits. Radishes are famous for repelling cucumber beetles, which attack tomato plants. We also read that radishes can draw spider mites away from tomato plants. (Even if there’s a tiny chance, it’s worth a shot.)

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.

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17. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)

red ripe tomatoes and lovely white chamomile flowers from the garden
Want beautiful blooms alongside your garden tomatoes? Consider growing chamomile. Chamomile is a lovely flowering herb that makes an excellent and tasty herbal tea. Chamomile has a pleasant fragrance that is also attractive to hoverflies, ladybugs, and other beneficial insects you want around your tomato garden.

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)

citrus swallowtail butterfly visiting sweet alyssum flowers in backyard garden
Sweet Alyssum is another show-stopping tomato companion famous for attracting desirable garden bugs like hoverflies and ladybugs. Plant some alongside your tomatoes, herb garden, corn crop, and other summer plants, and watch your garden’s aphid population plummet. Sweet Alyssum is easy to germinate from seed – or you can find some at your local garden centers without fuss.

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)

purple lilac zinnia flower growing with sungold cherry tomato plants
We’re finishing our list of what to plant with tomatoes to keep bugs away with one of our summertime favorites. Zinnia flowers! Zinnia flowers are an easy way to dramatically increase the biodiversity of your garden early in the spring. They will allure boatloads of friendly pollinators to your yard before your vegetable garden kicks off – and help start the party. Zinnia also attracts plenty of predatory garden insects, which your young tomato plants will thank you for as they mature into tall, healthy, and robust crops. (We also read that zinnias may outright deter tomato hornworms, so they get tremendous bonus points.)

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.

Conclusion

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!

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2 Comments

  1. Wonderful info which I look forward to implementing. Any thoughts on how to organize a tomato garden that uses many of these ideas? Not sure how to manage the proportion of tomato plants to companion plants. My garden plot is approx 16’ x 14’ if I plant half or 16’ x 28’ if I plant the full garden. Would I be looking to plant a row of whatever flower or herb between a row of tomatos and alternate rows throughout the garden for however many tomato plants I am growing? Thank you!

    1. Hey Sharon!

      Thank you so much for your response and writing to us. We love hearing from fellow gardeners!

      Organizing your tomato garden with companion plants is a delightful endeavor with endless possibilities! The good news is that you have massive flexibility, depending on what you want to plant. Consider some of our favorites.

      Here are some tips regarding our favorite tomato companions.

      • Basil: A classic tomato companion, basil repels pests and enhances tomato flavor. Try planting basil within a few feet of your tomato rows.
      • Garlic: Garlic deters pests and can grow wonderfully as a barrier around your tomatoes.
      • Marigolds: These vibrant flowers serve as ornamental pest controllers. Plant them throughout your garden.
      • Chives: Chives repel aphids and add a tasty touch to your culinary adventures. Plant them in between rows or anywhere nearby.
      • Oregano, Mint, and Thyme: These aromatic herbs can grow interspersed between tomato rows.

      Your Spacing And Layout Options

      • 16′ x 14′ Plot: If you choose the smaller plot, consider planting tomatoes in rows with companion plants in between. In other words, alternate tomato rows with basil, garlic, and marigolds.
      • 16′ x 28′ Plot: With the larger space, you have more flexibility. I would plant a checkerboard pattern! Consider planting in a pattern like tomato-basil-tomato-garlic-tomato-marigold, and so on.

      Tomato Companion Plant Density

      • Aim for a balanced mix. Consider planting a few basil, garlic, and marigold companions for every tomato plant.
      • Adjust based on your preferences. If you love basil, plant more of it!

      Height Variation

      • Arrange taller companions (like basil or marigolds) behind tomato plants to provide shade and support.
      • Low-growing herbs (such as chives, oregano, and thyme) can serve as living mulch around tomato bases.

      Experiment and Observe

      • Growing tomatoes is an art! Try different layouts and observe how your plants interact.
      • Remember, companion planting isn’t rigid. Feel free to adapt based on your garden’s unique conditions.

      In this verdant symphony, may your tomatoes flourish and your companions thrive!

      And thanks again for writing to us!!!

      Cordially,

      Mike D

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