Sunflowers: great plant companions

Sunflowers

Sunny side up!“.

Nothing says summer like troops of vibrant and beautiful sunflowers.

These bright and cheerful beauties hold their heads high and proud, bearing enormous flower heads that imitate the sun and gracefully follow it throughout the day.

In all their bright yellow splendour, sunflowers are a cheery addition to any garden. But sunflowers can do more than just add aesthetic appeal.

In fact, they can be great companion plants in your veggie garden. 

Sunflowers really shine on their own, but they are even better when combined with other garden companions.

Why is companion planting a good idea?

Certain plant combinations rely on each other for nutrients, structural integrity, and protection to survive.

They help provide shelter and food for wildlife, as well as attract pollinators and beneficial insects to keep harmful pests at bay.

For centuries, gardeners and farmers tried to increase crop efficiency by imitating these symbiotic relationships among plants.

They combined plants that are mutually beneficial as companions to maintain a natural balance in their garden and achieve high crop yields.

This ancient gardening practice is known as companion planting, and you can also apply this technique to your home garden! Of the companion plants you can choose for your garden, sunflowers are among the “brightest” candidates (literally and figuratively).

Growing sunflowers in between rows of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers can benefit the growth of all plants in the garden.

And here’s why!

sunflower

Bees naturally benefit from the pollen and sweet nectar produced by large sunflower heads.

The friendly neighbour of your veggie garden 

Sunflowers can be very shady

Sunflowers are fantastic for crops that prefer shade since they have tall, thick, and elongated stalks that can cast a lot of shade on other plants. Also, their massive flower heads act as mini umbrellas that provide just enough shade to protect crops from the harsh afternoon or protection from heavy rainfalls.

For this reason, they pair well with shade-loving edibles like squash, onions, kale, basil, and even the dainty daisy blooms.

fresh vegetables

There is no more true pairing than sunflowers and tomato plants.

Bring in the good bugs

Many species are especially drawn to sunflowers by their colourful outer petals and sweet nectar, including some of nature’s most essential pollinators like honeybees and bumblebees.

More pollinators also mean more harvest for the following season.

Having sunflowers in the garden also attracts natural predators, such as birds and beneficial insects, to keep off unwanted pests without using harmful chemicals on your crops.

Because of this, sunflowers are often suggested as companion plants for crops like crimson clover, pumpkin, zucchini, melons, tomatoes, and cucumbers that rely on pollination.

Soil detox

To a large extent, sunflowers’ sturdy root system and expansive tap roots are mainly accountable for their beneficial effects on soil conservation.

Because of how their roots are structured, sunflowers easily penetrate through soil layers and help to stabilize the soil and reduce compaction.

Another great thing about sunflowers is that they can remove heavy metals from contaminated soil in a fully natural and harmless way.

Choose your troops of sunflowers

Though sunflowers are one of the easiest and brightest plants you can add to your garden, not all varieties can be the right match for your plant combinations.

Planting sunflowers of the wrong variety in your garden may do more harm than good, so be careful which ones you choose.

The first piece of advice is to steer clear of pollen-less sunflowers if you want to increase the number of pollinators and beneficial insects that visit your garden.

Next, you’ll want to consider the range of colour and size selections. Sunflowers are not only multicoloured and multiheaded but also occur in a wide range of sizes.

That being the case, there are tons of suitable sunflower species to choose from for your crop combinations.

Russian Mammoth sunflowers, for instance, have magnificent, enormous traditional yellow sunflower heads that would look amazing with tomato trellis. The bold and vigorous colour of the Autumn Beauty variety is also a perfect match to grow along with a summer melon patch.

sunflowers and tomatoes

It’s not always a good idea to pair sunflowers with other plants.

Also, there’s a dark side to sunflowers.

Sunflowers have a grudge against some well-known plants, including pole beans and potatoes.

They usually fight for the same soil nutrients. So, to compete for nutrients, sunflowers may produce toxins that can inhibit growth or even destroy these veggies.

Crop rotation is an ideal option for these plants, rather than planting them close to one another.

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