Last Updated on March 7, 2023
If you’re planning to grow rhubarb in your garden, consider adding some of these rhubarb companion plants to get more out of your growing space. Companion plants for rhubarb can help deter pests and improve yields. Here’s what to know about companion planting with rhubarb.
WHY GROW RHUBARB COMPANION PLANTS?
Companion plants for rhubarb can benefit your garden in several ways, by
- Encouraging beneficial insects and repelling pests
- Discouraging disease
- Saving space in the garden
- Promoting pollination
- Boosting yields
- Suppressing weeds
- Diversifying garden crops
WHAT IS COMPANION PLANTING?
Like elderberry companion plants and strawberry companion plants, rhubarb benefits from growing alongside plants that can help protect them from disease, repel destructive pests, and increase yields.
Interplanting mutually beneficial crops with your rhubarb can help ward off insects and diseases. By protecting the health of your plants, growing companion plants with rhubarb can boost yields of both your rhubarb and the companion plants you grow with them. Who doesn’t want more delicious homegrown produce?
Companion planting also works well with annual crops. There are loads of zucchini companion plants and spinach companion plants to explore as well.
PERENNIAL OR ANNUAL COMPANION PLANTS WITH RHUBARB?
Since you’ve chosen rhubarb, one of many fantastic perennial vegetables, you may want to plant other perennials along with it for an easy, low-maintenance edible landscape. If that’s the case, consider some of the perennial herbs listed below as top choices for pest repellence and ground cover. Here are some top ground cover herbs to explore if you’re curious.
There are lots of annual plants to consider as companion plants for rhubarb as well. Since rhubarb is often planted in the vegetable garden, it’s easy to rotate in some of your favorite annual crops as well. Do what works for your situation.
WHERE TO BUY RHUBARB COMPANION PLANTS
You can find these rhubarb companion plants at most garden centers as well as online from your favorite seed companies, including Botanical Interests, High Mowing Seeds, Seeds Now, True Leaf Market, and Eden Brothers. Many small growers on Etsy carry them as well.
CHOOSING COMPANION PLANTS FOR RHUBARB
When selecting your rhubarb companion plants, you have several things to consider:
- Will rhubarb and its companion compete for nutrients? For example, heavy feeders like corn and cucumber might steal away too many nutrients from your rhubarb plants.
- Will the rhubarb companion plants shade the rhubarb too much? Large plants like pumpkins or tall plants like a row of pole beans will keep sun from reaching your rhubarb.
- Will the companion plants help repel problem pests from your rhubarb or vice versa?
BEST RHUBARB COMPANION PLANTS
Catnip is a commonly-recommended companion plant for all sorts of crops because its smell is notoriously repellent to many types of insect. In fact, catnip is one of the most useful essential oils for keeping away mosquitoes, so keep it in mind if you’re making a homemade bug repellent.
Planting catnip with rhubarb can help repel aphids, flea beetles, weevils, and many other pests. Plus catnip is one of many useful herbs to plant in a medicinal herb garden. Catnip is among the more valuable herbs for sleep to try in your evening tea blend to encourage sounder sleep.
Note that catnip self-seeds pretty readily, so harvest flowers before they go to seed if you don’t want them popping up all over the garden.
A lot of people confuse the herb catnip with the popular landscape plant catmint. Here’s what to know about distinguishing catnip vs catmint.
A member of the allium family with garlic and onions, chives’ strong smell helps deter pests. A perennial herb, chives don’t need replanting each year as many rhubarb companion plants do.
Chives are vigorous self seeders, so be sure to cut down chive flowers before they plant chives all over your yard. They’re among the many edible flowers you can add to your plate, adding a lovely chive flavor to salads and other dishes. Find chives seeds here or get a division from a friend.
BEANS & PEAS
Beans and peas are often recommended as companion plants because they add nitrogen to the soil, benefitting your rhubarb if they’re planted near one another. Rhubarb in turn helps repel black fly aphids that might otherwise attack your bean plants.
Choose bush beans to grow as a rhubarb companion plant, or plant rhubarb in front of your pole beans or climbing peas so they don’t block the sun your rhubarb needs.
Garlic’s powerful smell helps deter pests like aphids, slugs, and beetles. It may also help with destructive Japanese beetles, if they’re a problem in your garden.
Garlic is typically grown as an annual, but you can grow it as a perennial to avoid disturbing the soil near your rhubarb. When grown as a perennial, garlic’s green tops are typically harvested, leaving the bulbs in place. Alternatively, you can plant annual garlic far enough away from your rhubarb that you won’t disturb the roots when you dig up the bulbs.
If you haven’t planted garlic before, here’s everything you need to know about how to grow garlic.
Marigolds are beautiful edible flowers that would be worth growing even if they weren’t terrific companion plants for rhubarb. Marigolds’ pretty blooms add cheery color to the garden and attract beneficial insects, while their scent repels pests.
Clover makes an excellent companion plant for rhubarb and many other garden crops. Clover fixes nitrogen, encourages microbial activity, and as a living mulch helps to conserve moisture. A tough perennial, clover will spread and makes an excellent drought-tolerant ground cover.
Plus both the leaves and flowers of clover are edible and medicinal, if you want to add to the options for herbs growing in your garden.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a perennial herb with loads of tiny flowers that attract pollinators. Yarrow has a long taproot that can improve soil structure and help pull nutrients up from deep in the soil.
Best of all, yarrow is very easy to grow and needs little water or other care. Yarrow can handle full sun to partial shade.
Yarrow is also an extremely useful medicinal herb, often turned to for wound healing, fevers, and much more. Here’s more about yarrow benefits and uses.
Besides tasting great together in strawberry rhubarb sauce, strawberries and rhubarb work well as companion plants because strawberry plants provide a living mulch for your rhubarb plants, helping to conserve soil moisture, hinder weed growth, and prevent erosion. Because their root depths are so different, they don’t compete for nutrients.
You’ll need to plant strawberries sufficiently far away from the leaves of the rhubarb plant that they don’t shade your strawberries, which need plenty of sun to produce high yields of strawberries.
Thyme is a gorgeous, fragrant herb that works well as a rhubarb companion plant. Thyme has both culinary and medicinal uses. Tasty in soups and cooked dishes, thyme is also a potent anti-microbial. It’s also one of the best herbs for coughs.
Thyme’s strong scent will help ward off pests, while it covers the soil and helps to conserve moisture. Choose creeping varieties to cover more soil. Once established, you can divide your thyme and use it as a companion plant or ground cover all over the garden.
Love cole crops? Plants in the brassica family like broccoli and kale make excellent rhubarb companion plants. Rhubarb may help deter whiteflies that want to prey on your favorite cruciferous plants, including kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and collards.
ADDITIONAL RHUBARB COMPANION PLANTS TO CONSIDER
If you’re looking for additional options for rhubarb companion plants, here are a few others to consider:
WHAT NOT TO PLANT WITH RHUBARB
While there are lots of mutually beneficial rhubarb companion plants, you’re best off avoiding certain plants that may have a detrimental impact on your rhubarb harvest.
Sunflowers: Sunflowers may attract curculios, one of the few pests that troubles rhubarb. You may see a bit of clear jelly-like substance on the stalks if curculios are attacking your rhubarb.
Dock: A common weed you may find in the garden, dock also attracts curculios.
Melons and squash: The large leaves of these vining plants can block the light your rhubarb needs to thrive
LEARN MORE ABOUT COMPANION PLANTING
If you’d like to learn more about companion planting with rhubarb and loads more garden crops, check out the books below. Find other recommendations for the best gardening books to keep on hand.
Now that you have a bumper crop of rhubarb, try some of these delicious uses for rhubarb! Don’t forget, rhubarb’s leaves are poisonous, so we don’t eat them. Here are some other ways to use rhubarb leaves worth checking out.
Rhubarb recipes to try:
Did your plants produce more rhubarb than you can use right away? Here’s what to know about freezing rhubarb.
Have you tried companion planting with rhubarb? What do you like to grow alongside your rhubarb plants?
Save this info on rhubarb companion plants for later!
Additional rhubarb companion plants photo credits: Photo of rhubarb growing in garden in cover and pin by Susannah Shmurak
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.
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