Sunflowers are a wonderful addition to any garden.
Not only do they bring some wonderful color to your garden, but they also add some extra depth and shape to your flower beds due to their amazing height.
Sunflowers are fairly easy to grow in almost any garden on their own.
However, it is rare to only have a single type of plant in your garden.
Whenever you plant any flower in your garden, it is important to think about the other types of plants that are going to be accompanying it in your flower beds.
There are always going to be some plants that work much better alongside sunflowers than others.
In this article, we are going to look at some of the best sunflower companion plants and tips for making the most of these beautiful, happy plants.
What Is Companion Planting?
Companion planting has been happening in agriculture for thousands of years.
Beyond that, it has been happening in the wild for as long as there have been plants, long before humans began cultivating the land.
Companion plants are often found in extreme climates such as deserts. It is common to see different species of plants growing together as they are mutually beneficial.
The shade of one plant may be ideal for another, for example.
Plants may huddle together in colder climates to protect each other from harsh winds and weather conditions. Nature works together to find ways to survive.
This is something that can be emulated in our gardens at home too.
The companion plants used in domestic gardening should be chosen carefully to ensure that they are suitable for your existing plants.
Growing different vegetables, flowers, and plants in the same area of your garden can be beneficial for so many reasons.
However, it is possible to plant the wrong kinds of plants together which can potentially have unwanted effects.
Best Sunflower Companion Plants
As with anything in the garden, there are certain plants that work best as companion plants for sunflowers.
There might be some plants that you want to plant in your garden that don’t work very well with sunflowers.
When you are planning your garden, it is important to research the plants that you are putting together.
It can take years and years of trial and error to get the right combination of plants for your garden, especially if you are starting from scratch.
However, we have gathered all the information we have learned about sunflower companion plants to make the process easier for you.
Below are some of the best companion plants to place with your sunflowers to fill in gaps and help both plants to thrive in your garden. We have divided them into groups to make it easier to plan your own garden.
Best Companion Vegetables And Salads
Lettuces are a great option for a sunflower companion plant. These small plants thrive in the shade of sunflowers.
The large flowerheads of the sunflowers help to protect the lettuce leaves from being scorched by the sun. planting lettuce between sunflowers allows them to either grow with floppy, spread-out leaves or with compact, light, and crispy leaves.
If there is more space between your lettuce plants, you can fill in the gaps with some little radish plants to really make the most of your space.
2. Squashes And Zucchinis
Other vegetables that thrive in the adequate shade created by sunflowers are squashes and zucchinis. These fast-growing plants are perfect for supplying you with plenty of crops throughout the growing season.
The main difficulty that these vegetables have when growing alone is that their small flowers are often hidden by the large leaves. This makes it difficult for pollinators to locate them.
Thankfully, sunflowers attract plenty of pollinators to the area which are more likely to travel down to the delicate squash flowers.
This will help the plants to thrive and produce even more crops throughout the season.
Onions are a great vegetable to grow in your garden whether or not you intend to eat them. They are really useful for keeping certain pests away from your flower beds and other plants.
The aroma of the onions can also help to keep larger pests such as rabbits and squirrels away from your garden. This can help to avoid crops and flowers being lost to unwanted visitors.
Onions are the perfect companion plant that helps to protect the sunflowers from unwanted pests. They are also really easy to grow and useful for most recipes.
4. Spring Onions
Similar to onions, spring onions are the perfect way to keep out unwanted pests and creatures.
They also have a strong odor that deters bugs and insects that want to feast on your sunflowers and other plants.
Because spring onions mature relatively quickly, it is possible to stagger the planting of different spring onion seeds to ensure that you have a constant supply of these pest deterrents and a great garnish for salads and stir-fries all season long.
Another vegetable that loves growing in cooler areas is kale. If you are going to plant kale in your garden, it is important to make sure that it has plenty of shade to protect it from harsh sunlight.
A canopy of sunflowers is the perfect way to do this while giving yourself more freedom in terms of the location of your kale.
Kale is a vegetable that grows very fast, you can grow it directly from seed that is planted straight into the ground.
Because it grows so fast and needs shade, it is best to establish your sunflowers first to ensure that there is adequate shade.
Another vegetable that is a great companion plant for sunflowers is cucumbers.
Cucumbers are vine plants and often need help to lift their crops off the ground. You can support the plants using bamboo canes, however, there is a more natural way.
The stems of sunflowers are great for supporting the cucumber plant.
However, if your plant produces particularly large cucumbers or a significant number of cucumbers, you may need to reinforce the sunflower stem to avoid causing damage to them.
Another vine plant that can benefit from the support of a sturdy sunflower stem is the tomato.
Thankfully, tomato plants aren’t likely to get too heavy for an established sunflower stem to hold.
You can grow different varieties of tomatoes for each sunflower you have to give yourself a selection of fruits to choose from.
As the fruits ripen, the contrast of the bright reds and oranges with the green of the sunflower stem creates a beautiful sight.
Sticking with the theme of upright plants, peppers also make wonderful companion plants with sunflowers.
Peppers need plenty of sunlight, however, they are susceptible to being scorched if the sun is too intense. Sunflowers provide the perfect amount of shade to protect them.
The strong stems of the sunflowers can also provide an adequate amount of support for the pepper plant if necessary.
Peas are a wonderful vegetable to grow in your garden. However, they do require a little bit of help when it comes to reaching for the sky with their tendrils.
Because these plants need plenty of encouragement, planting them next to some gorgeous sunflowers can be the perfect way to guide them.
The delicate tendrils can easily be encouraged to twist and wind around the stems of the sunflowers.
Once they have established a hold on the stem, you won’t necessarily need to check them every day to ensure they are still growing upward.
If you want a companion plant that offers maximum results from little effort, beans are the perfect option.
Not only do the beans benefit from the support that is offered by the sunflower stems, but they also provide benefits for the sunflowers too.
Beans are perfect for attracting bugs that are helpful for pollination and keeping unwanted pests at bay.
This is a mutually beneficial partnership that is perfect for keeping your garden in the best condition with the least amount of intervention.
Best Companion Herbs
For an aromatic addition to your garden, lavender is a great choice. Not only does the stunning purple color complement the yellow of the sunflowers, but it also has some practical benefits as well.
Lavender is well known for its ability to attract insects such as butterflies and bees.
Because of this, it is great at helping to ensure your sunflowers are properly pollinated. This can help to ensure that your sunflowers keep reseeding season after season.
We have already mentioned that onions are a great companion plant for sunflowers.
Chives are part of the onion family which means that they are also helpful as a companion plant. Chives are brilliant at deterring pests from surrounding plants.
Chives are also really useful for adding to meals as a garnish and it is great to know exactly where the ingredients in your food have come from.
The long, thin, grass-like leaves also feature pom-pom-shaped purple flowers. These flowers are loved by butterflies which can help to pollinate the sunflowers.
Another member of the onion family is garlic. This is a super fragrant plant to have in your garden and is convenient if you use garlic a lot in your cooking.
As with the other members of the onion family, garlic is great for deterring pests from your sunflowers.
The shade cast by the sunflowers also helps to protect the garlic leaves from becoming scorched.
Another excellent companion plant for sunflowers is basil. This plant thrives well under the shade of the sunflowers.
It is also a great companion plant to use with other smaller plants to enhance their flavor.
Growing basil, tomatoes, and peppers around your sunflowers are a great way to have all the ingredients for a delicious sauce or soup that has taken on each other’s aromas slightly.
Another strong herb that thrives alongside sunflowers is rosemary. The beautiful thing about using rosemary as a companion plant is that as it matures, it becomes more bush-like.
As long as you make sure that you prune it annually and leave it in the place where you want your sunflowers to grow, it can be incredibly useful.
With the rosemary bush maturing and becoming stronger, it is possible for other companion plants and sunflowers themselves to use the rosemary bush for support as they grow.
Having rosemary in your garden is also incredibly useful when it comes to adding flavor to your cooking.
Best Companion Flowers
French Marigolds are an incredibly popular companion plant for sunflowers. They are very easy to grow and can easily fit in spaces between vegetables and sunflowers.
These stunning flowers attract ladybugs which help to deal with any annoying aphids and black flies. They are also great self-seeders which saves a lot of work.
For a much more subtle companion flower, Natsurgens is a perfect choice. This is a fast-growing, creeping, flat-leafed plant.
It will naturally weave its way between other companion plants to find its space. The ends of the plant will gently curl around the sunflower stems to bring everything together visually.
The orange and yellow flowers are perfect for attracting butterflies and bugs that will help the companion plants.
3. Perennial Lobelia
Another great option for a companion plant that will perfectly fill in gaps between your sunflowers is perennial Lobelia. This plant spreads and fills borders.
The flowers help to add color to your garden in a subtle way. The main benefit of this companion plant is that it keeps the ground moist. Sunflowers enjoy this and thrive in moist soil.
There are three main benefits to having Geraniums in your garden as a companion plant for your sunflowers.
First of all, geraniums come in a plethora of colors and can really brighten up your flower beds.
Secondly, these vibrant flowers are great at attracting butterflies and bees to help pollinate the sunflowers.
Finally, geraniums naturally repel Japanese beetles and earwigs that can destroy surrounding plants.
5. Stocks And Delphiniums
If you don’t want a plant that is going to stay too close to the ground, Stocks and Delphiniums are great choices of companions.
These are tall, elegant flowers that have an incredibly sweet scent. They come in amazingly vibrant colors including electric blue. This can create a fun and interesting contrast with the yellow of the sunflowers.
If you want to keep the flowers in your garden close, you can’t get much closer than daisies. Sunflowers are actually part of the daisy family.
There are so many different varieties of daisies that you can use as companion plants for your sunflowers.
The taller varieties of daisies are perfect for adding extra movement as they sway in the breeze.
Impatiens flowers make the perfect companion plant for sunflowers if you are looking for a smaller flower that can thrive in the shade.
Not only do these beautiful, interesting flowers love residing in the shade created by the sunflowers, but they also help the sunflowers to thrive.
These flowers are great at keeping the ground moist for the sunflowers.
For a super simple companion flower to accompany your sunflowers, snapdragons are a perfect choice.
These beautiful and interactive flowers are available in a wide variety of colors which can brighten up any flower bed. Best of all, these are self-seeding flowers that provide great ground cover.
Another colorful addition to your flower beds could be some beautiful cornflowers. These flowers have a pom pom shape when they are in full bloom.
The most amazing thing about these flowers is the vast spectrum of colors that they come in.
The colors of these flowers are perfect for attracting bees to your garden to help boost the pollination of your sunflowers.
10. Sweet Peas
To add some color to your flower beds around the base of the sunflowers, you need a plant that is able to thrive without direct sunlight.
Sweet peas are the perfect flower to shine in the shade of the sunflowers.
These beautiful flowers love being cool and bloom perfectly in dappled sunlight. They can also use the sunflower’s stem for support to help them climb.
11. Busy Lizzies
Another brilliant companion plant for sunflowers is busy Lizzies. These amazing little flowers are able to cover ground incredibly quickly.
This makes them brilliant for helping the soil to retain all the moisture it needs for your sunflowers to thrive. Busy Lizzies also dislike direct sunlight which makes them mutually beneficial companion plants.
Bad Sunflower Companion Plants
Now that you know what plants work really well as companion plants for your sunflowers, it is important to look at certain plants that make bad companion plants for sunflowers.
There is going to be a large range of plants between the good and the bad companion plants, however, plants that are neither good nor bad are not as important to learn.
Below are some plants that you should avoid planting near your sunflowers.
If you have ever grown potatoes before, you will know just how quickly they grow. They also have tubular roots that are willing to disrupt everything around them to get the space they need.
Because of this, the roots can quickly disturb the plants and flowers that they are growing near.
This disruption leads to a loosening of the plant and its roots. This can cause the plant’s roots to work less effectively which can affect the growth of the plant.
With tall plants such as sunflowers, even if the roots can still get enough nutrients for the plant, the base can be unstable which can cause the plant to fall over.
Another reason that potatoes aren’t great companion plants for sunflowers is their health. Potatoes need very specific conditions to thrive.
Because of this, they are prone to potato blight. When blight occurs, the stems can become decayed. This can then spread to the leaves and ultimately the potatoes themselves.
It can be difficult to stop the rotting process that occurs with blight. Because of this, the disease is highly likely to spread to other plants nearby, such as sunflowers.
It is best to keep potatoes in a separate area with companion plants that you aren’t concerned about potentially developing blight.
Bee And Pollinator Deterrents
Sunflowers themselves are great at attracting bees and other pollinators.
There are plenty of companion plants that we looked at above that also help to bring pollinators and friendly bugs to your garden.
However, it is important to steer clear of the plants that are likely to deter these wonderful creatures from entering your garden.
There are some plants that you should avoid using as companion plants for sunflowers. The plants won’t cause direct damage to the sunflowers, but they can have an indirect effect on them.
There are certain plants that bees and pollinators do not like. If you have these plants as companions for sunflowers, they are less likely to be pollinated properly.
Some of these plants include
- Carnivorous plants
- Evergreen shrubs
The main reasons why these particular plants are going to deter bees and pollinators from frequenting your garden are that they have unattractive aromas, or they don’t produce any flowers.
The carnivorous plants may also consume some pollinators which will also contribute to decreased numbers in your garden.
For a garden to thrive, plants need to be pollinated properly. While it is possible to hand pollinate some plants, you don’t want to have to do this for the majority of your garden.
Avoiding using these plants as companions for your sunflowers can help to ensure your flowers will remain healthy throughout the season.
Why Do You Need Companion Plants For Sunflowers?
There are many reasons why you might need companion plants for your sunflowers, and there are many plants that might benefit from having sunflowers as companion plants too.
We have briefly touched on some of the benefits of sunflower companion planting throughout the article, but here are some reasons in more detail.
Firstly, sunflowers are exceptionally tall plants with large flowerheads. Because of this, they create a significant amount of shade, shelter, and dappled sunlight.
This can be the perfect, natural way to protect more delicate or sensitive plants from the elements and from harsh sunlight.
Companion planting can also be a great way to make the most of the space in your garden. Choosing plants that grow really well together allows you to plant them closer together and use every inch of your flower beds.
Sunflowers are hardy plants, however, they do have their preferences. Using ground-covering companion plants can be mutually beneficial.
The ground covering plants not only lock in moisture in the soil that helps the sunflowers to grow properly, but they also act like mulch to prevent the growth of weeds.
Many of these plants enjoy shade or dappled sunshine which the sunflowers can provide.
The more diverse your flower beds are, the more diverse your garden fauna will become.
Planting different types of plants close together will encourage a more diverse array of bugs and insects.
This can bring a plethora of benefits to your entire garden, far beyond just the sunflowers.
On the subject of keeping your flower beds as diverse as possible, companion planting can be a lifesaver for bees, bugs, butterflies, and other important pollinators.
We all know the importance of saving the bees, having a diverse range of plants in a small area can help that cause.
Having a variety of flowers and plants in your garden can provide these important creatures with places to shelter, live, breed, and feed.
Finally, the more companion plants you have, and the more thought out they are, the less likely you are to need to use chemical pesticides or disease treatments.
Having the right plants in your garden can help to naturally and organically manage the natural ecosystem that develops.
This will lead to healthier plants and soil in general and can help your garden to produce larger, healthier crops year after year.
There are many reasons why you should consider companion planting with your sunflowers. Above are some of the best (and worst) companion plants for gardens with sunflowers.
The more you plan and think about what you are going to plant alongside your sunflowers, the healthier and happier your garden and its important visitors will be.
Frequently Asked Questions
When you are looking into the types of plants that you can use as companion plants, you might find yourself wondering whether it is a good idea to mix annuals and perennials.
For clarity, annuals are plants that complete their life cycle in one growing season. They will need replanting each year. Perennials are plants that continue to live year after year.
Having a garden full of established perennials makes for an incredibly easy garden to look after. However, perennials will often have seasons that aren’t as fruitful as others.
When these lulls occur, it can be nice to have some annual plants to inject a splash of color and fresh life into the garden. Annuals also allow you the freedom to change up aspects of your garden year after year.
Planting annuals and perennials together is absolutely fine and can result in a really pleasing aesthetic to enjoy throughout the summer.
You should still make sure that the plants you are choosing are going to thrive in each other’s company and be competing too much for adequate sunlight and nutrients.