Rhubarb can grow well on its own without the need for specific rhubarb companion plants. However, in some cases, you may want to add a few plants around the base of your rhubarb to deter pests or enhance the beauty of your garden without causing any harm to the plants. Whether you have a specific reason or just want to optimize your rhubarb’s growth, taste, and appearance, we have got you covered.
Companion planting with rhubarb should always include three main considerations:
- How tall they grow or shade blocks sunlight from reaching other plants.
- Whether certain plant varieties might crowd each other out. Taller growing companions need to stay away from shorter ones as opposed to near them,
- What benefits does that particular crop provide by being planted nearby?
And to make things easier, we’ve compiled the list for you, complete with the benefits for each plant to make your garden planning that much easier, and harvesting rhubarb much more successful!
Companion Plants for Rhubarb – A comprehensive list!
These planting additions all make great companions for rhubarb. They’re also easy enough to grow and provide benefits such as pest control, soil fertility improvement, nitrogen fixation (and the list goes on!)
You should be able to find a companion for your rhubarb from this list. We’ve also included a write-up about each companion detailing their role and relationship companion planting with rhubarb below. Grow rhubarb with these flowers and vegetables for increased yields and lower pest pressure:
Beets are a great companion plant that helps reduce pests and bloat in the soil. Plant beets and rhubarb together to keep rhubarb from going too woody or having its flavor diminish prematurely.
Beets can benefit from the shade they receive from the tall stalks of rhubarb later in the hotter summer months.
Visually, the beat greens look lovely planted around the taller, leafier rhubarb.
Catnip – Another plant that’s great for resisting insects and repelling mice and other rodents from getting into your crops while attracting pollinators like butterflies!
The smelly catnip will create an aromatic barrier around its surroundings, ensuring any bugs stay out. Companion planting catnip with rhubarb takes care of aphids, beetles, cabbage worms, mosquitoes, and many others!
You may have to deter the local outdoor cats – they all love catnip!
Dill is another companion plant that can help reduce pests and bloat in the soil. It deters aphids and attracts pollinators (especially bees).
In addition, dill has deep taproots to break up heavy soils that can lead to weeds. Loosening the soil also helps the rhubarb roots spread, which in turn helps the plant grow thicker.
With its high sulfur content and natural pest-repellent abilities, garlic is a great companion for rhubarb. Plant garlic companion plants in the neighboring bed or near rhubarb plants for maximum benefits.
You can also harvest cloves from your garlic throughout the summer and into early fall. Garlic planted with rhubarb will also keep ants away, which can be a problem for rhubarb.
Specifically, garlic protects against aphids, whiteflies, and other pests, with its strong scent can also deter rabbits.
Companion gardening with marigolds near your rhubarb plants can help them grow better and make the leaves less susceptible to diseases and pests. Marigolds also attract predatory insects, which will go after other bugs attacking nearby plants while not harming any marigolds.
We love picking and planting flowers for the vegetable garden. It makes the vegetable garden dazzle while helping to protect our harvests.
Sage will attract predatory insects that prey on nearby bugs while not harming the sage or your rhubarb; it also breaks up tough soil clumps and aerates deeper layers of earth where most rhubarb roots live.
With its bright purple flowers, sage also attracts pollinating insects into the garden.
In addition to being an excellent insect repellant, it also does wonders breaking up tough topsoil clumps and aerating the deeper layers of earth where most rhubarb roots live. Onions have some natural fungicidal properties.
Onion family members like garlic, onions, and chives make great companion plants for nearby rhubarb because they love the same soil conditions as rhubarb! They also thrive with their shallow roots in the rhubarb’s light shade.
Strawberries make an excellent companion plant for rhubarb on the perimeter of your patch. They are low-growing and do not get in the way of rhubarb; they have deep taproots to break up the soil and help suppress weeds.
Strawberries also benefit from the shade cast by rhubarb provided during hot summer days.
If you are looking for an attractive planting, you cannot go wrong with strawberry companion plants. Their blooms look lovely against the dark green leaves and red stalks of the rhubarb plant.
Asparagus is amazing for breaking up compacted soils like heavy clay or soggy earth that can lead to root rot in plants; it also absorbs excess water from its roots, thus reducing some of the stress on nearby rhubarb plants.
You can plant chamomile in a ring around the base of plants to deter slugs; chamomile is also an all-around fantastic herb used medicinally and culinarily.
Mint companion plants can also go a long way in creating pest suppression around nearby plants and would work great with your other companion planting ideas.
Peppermint specifically deters aphids and attracts pollinators. There are many different types of mint, but peppermint seems to be the best variety for pest repellant.
Peppermint can be invasive, so grow mint in a pot to control it and prevent it from taking over your whole garden.
Companion gardening with thyme plants near your rhubarb can help keep many insects away from them and other nearby plants, too!
Planting thyme next to rhubarb will also help prevent root rot in wet soil.
Rhubarb is a great pollinator food source, and thyme will attract them to the area!
It’s always important to keep other flowering plants nearby when you have rhubarb because they’ll provide an attractive nectar-producing plant and be another natural pest repellent for bad bugs.
Growing chives can be just what your garden needs if it has poor soils or too much shade from taller plants nearby. In addition, chives will deter insects and add some chlorophyll (and flavor) to rhubarb, making them more nutritious than ever!
What Not To Plant Next To Rhubarb
When planning your garden layout, it’s important to know which plants should not be planted near rhubarb to avoid competition, disease, or pest issues. Here are some plants to avoid planting near rhubarb:
- Brassicas (Cabbage family): Plants such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale can compete with rhubarb for soil nutrients and space. The brassica family also has different pest and disease preferences, which could inadvertently affect the health of rhubarb.
- Nightshades (Solanaceae family): This includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Nightshades are prone to blight and other diseases that could spread to rhubarb. They also have extensive root systems that can compete with rhubarb for nutrients and water.
- Legumes (Bean family): While some legumes like beans and peas can be beneficial for fixing nitrogen in the soil, they can also compete with rhubarb for space and resources if planted too closely. It’s best to keep a reasonable distance to ensure both plants have enough room to thrive.
- Melons and Cucurbits: Plants like cucumbers, pumpkins, and melons have sprawling vines that can take up a lot of space and overshadow smaller plants. Their vigorous growth can overshadow rhubarb, limiting its sunlight exposure and growth space.
- Strongly Allelopathic Plants: Some plants release chemicals into the soil that can inhibit the growth of surrounding plants, a phenomenon known as allelopathy. While specific examples of such plants affecting rhubarb are not commonly documented, it’s wise to be cautious of planting rhubarb near known allelopathic plants without researching their compatibility. Examples: sunflowers, fennel.
Companion planting with rhubarb can enhance your garden’s overall health and productivity by attracting beneficial insects, deterring pests, and improving soil conditions. Here are our expert tips for using companion plants effectively with rhubarb:
- Choose Complementary Companions: Good companions for rhubarb include garlic and onions, which can deter pests with their strong scents. Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and lettuce can also benefit from the shade provided by rhubarb’s large leaves during hotter parts of the season.
- Enhance Pollination with Flowers: Incorporating flowering plants around rhubarb, such as marigolds, nasturtiums, and chives, can attract pollinators and beneficial insects. These flowers can help improve the pollination of your garden’s plants and deter pests with their scent or taste.
- Soil Improvement and Mulching: Using mulch around the rhubarb and its companions can retain moisture, suppress weeds, and keep the root systems cool.
- Spacing and Layout: Ensure proper spacing between rhubarb and its companions to prevent competition for nutrients, water, and sunlight. Rhubarb has a large root system and needs space to spread. Plant smaller companions in front where they won’t be overshadowed.
- Avoid Competitive or Harmful Companions: Some plants can be detrimental to rhubarb when planted closely. For example, avoid planting rhubarb near potatoes or tomatoes, as these can compete for nutrients and may increase the risk of disease transmission.
Implementing these tips can help create a more productive, healthy, and balanced garden ecosystem, where rhubarb and its companion plants support each other’s growth.
When considering the best companions for rhubarb in your garden, it’s beneficial to include garlic and onions for their pest-deterrent properties, as well as leafy greens like spinach, lettuce, and kale that thrive in the partial shade provided by rhubarb’s large leaves. Strawberries make for a classic culinary and garden pairing with rhubarb, serving as a living mulch to keep the soil moist and cool.
It’s advisable to steer clear of plants that can become competitive or share common pests and diseases. This includes the brassica family (such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower), nightshades (like tomatoes and potatoes), and cucurbits (such as cucumbers and pumpkins). These plants might not only compete for nutrients but also could increase the risk of disease transmission.
For herbs that complement rhubarb in the garden, chives stand out as they can deter pests and possibly improve the growth and flavor of rhubarb. Comfrey is another beneficial herb due to its deep roots that bring up nutrients beneficial to rhubarb, and its leaves can be used as a nutrient-rich mulch. Chamomile is believed to enhance the flavor of nearby plants and attract beneficial insects, making it a good choice for planting near rhubarb.
Flowers also play a significant role in a companion planting strategy with rhubarb. Nasturtiums and marigolds are particularly valuable for their vibrant blooms that not only add aesthetic appeal but also deter pests.
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Companion gardening near your rhubarb plant is an easy process that can help keep the soil in good condition, protect against insects, and even increase the production of both companion crops.
I have always planted strawberries under my rhubarb plants because it always seemed like such a natural pairing. They also seem to ripen around the same time, making harvesting easier. So, I call it my strawberry rhubarb pie patch.
Have you had success with companion planting? Have you tried companion planting, which didn’t quite work for you? Drop a comment below and let us know!
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Author: Laura Kennedy
Writer & Owner of Little Yellow Wheelbarrow
Editors Note: This post was first published on October 31st, 2021, and updated on February 11th, 2024. The post update included a reformat, including the addition of an FAQ, expert tips, and additional sections for what to plant and what not to plant.