The Best Corn Companion Plants – A Gardener’s Guide!
Growing corn is easy, but keeping all the pests, from insects to mammals, away from the corn before harvest can sometimes be quite the challenge. Raccoons, deer, rabbits, corn earworms, aphids, you name it, they all love sweet corn and will try their best to ravage your corn patch before the end of the season. So our trick to help curb all the pests and harvest corn at the end of the year is to plant some companion plants to protect the crop!
What are the best companion plants for corn?
The best companion plants for corn are winter squash, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, pole beans, peas, radishes, dill, mint, basil, thyme, marigolds, nasturtiums, borage, cosmos, and zinnias. These companions all grow well side by side with corn and help with growth, health, and pest control!
The Three Sisters Method of Companion Planting
A classic example of companion plantings is the Three Sisters group—corn, pole beans, and winter squash.
The corn stalks support vining pole beans, while the beans fix nitrogen into the soil for the benefit of the corn. Corn requires a significant amount of nitrogen in the ground to grow strong and tall.
Squash vines grown around the base of the corn stalks help to provide a living mulch blanket to help shade out weeds and keep the soil cool and moist. The squash vines also help keep out critters like raccoons that do not like to walk on the hairy leaves of the squash plants.
The Many Benefits of Companion Planting
Companion planting offers many benefits for the home gardener. Companion planting in your gardens can help with the following:
Attracting beneficial pollinators: Growing flowers around the garden will help encourage pollinators to visit your plants.
Attract beneficial insects: Flowers and herbs will also attract beneficial insects such as wasps, ladybugs, hoverflies, ground beetles, spiders, and lacewings.
Deter Pests: Plants like chives, garlic, and onions will repel common insect pests, such as aphids, beetles, flea beetles, and mites.
Companions can help keep weeds at bay: Densely planting greens like spinach or flowers like nasturtiums can create a living mulch blanket that will help shade out weeds.
Companion planting can help control diseases in your garden: Diseases can be spread quickly through gardens in extensive mass plantings.
- Learn More: Companions for the Veggie patch
The Best Corn Companion Plants
There are so many wonderful companions you can plant with your corn stalks:
Winter Squash, Pumpkins, Cucumbers, and Melons
Pumpkins, cucumbers, and melons can all be used in place of winter squash in the three sisters method.
Squash, pumpkins, cucumber, and melons will all provide corn with an extensive leafy ground cover which will help keep soils moist and cool and help to prevent raccoons from getting to your precious sweet corn.
Cucumbers will mature a bit earlier than your squash, melons, or pumpkins, which could be suitable for your corn crop. However, your corn will continue to grow long after the cucumbers have been harvested, giving your corn more space to grow until harvest
- We have articles dedicated to growing a healthy pumpkin patch and what companions to add to your pumpkin planting. If you want to learn more, check out those posts.
- We also have posts dedicated to growing cucumbers and ensuring you grow suitable companions with your cucumber vines.
Pole Beans, Green Beans & Peas
Pole beans, green beans, and peas are among the best companions to grow with sweet corn because they fix nitrogen into the soil. The nitrogen will feed the corn plants and keep the root growing strong.
The beans and peas can use the corn stalks as a living trellis to climb.
- Learn More: Did you know you can grow beans in containers? Even if you have a small space for cultivating, you can still grow a robust harvest of beans. Check out our guide to growing beans in containers to get started today.
Radishes work as a trap crop for aphids and flea beetles. They will also help break up heavy clay soils.
When allowed to bolt, these root vegetables can help keep corn borers away from your corn.
Plant them alongside your Three Sisters as they help to deter cucumber beetles and squash borers.
Dill is an aromatic herb that attracts beneficial pollinating insects like honey bees and butterflies. Plantings of dill will also help attract beneficial insects like hoverflies and wasps, which will help keep insect pest populations down in your sweet corn patch.
Dill also helps repel aphids, cabbage loopers, and squash bugs, making it a great companion to add to your three sisters’ planting.
Learn More: Growing dill is easy if you have all the correct information for planting, caring, and harvesting. Check out our complete growing dill guide to get started.
Basil plants make great corn companions. The herb will help keep the maize weevil away from your corn crop. The weevil is known to eat your sweet corn both in the garden and in storage.
You can either plant basil around the edge of your corn bed or use chopped-up or ripped basil leaves and scattered them around your corn plants’ base. If you decide to use the basil mulch method, do so often, as the oils in the basil that help repel the weevil will wear down over time.
Learn More About Basil:
- Basil is so much fun to grow because it proliferates quickly! Check out our complete guide on how to grow basil indoors and out.
- We also have a guide on what to do when you have TOO much basil.
- And if you are considering growing basil this year and are unsure what type to grow? We have all the types of basil and their uses to help you decide what to grow this year in your garden.
Nasturtiums can work as a trap crop to keep aphids away from your corn. Plant the nasturtiums around the edge of the bed away from the corn stalks. The aphids should be attracted to the nasturtiums, leaving your corn alone.
Nasturtiums also work well as a ground cover to help shade out weeds and keep the soil moist. Deer and rabbits generally do not like nasturtiums either; the scent is a deterrent.
- Learn More: Learn how to grow nasturtiums in your gardens and check our additional article on the best way to use nasturtiums in your vegetable garden as a companion plant.
Marigolds make wonderful corn companions – the strongly scented flowers of the french marigold deter several pests like aphids.
They also attract predatory insects like hoverflies, ladybugs, and tachinid flies which will help keep down populations of harmful insects in your garden.
If tilled under at the end of the season, marigolds (French marigolds only) will help control and destroy root-knot nematodes that reside in the soil and feed on growing roots.
- Learn More: Marigolds have a list of companion plants that work well. Read our guide before you plan your garden to ensure you’re getting the best out of your marigold plants.
Borage is a flower that attracts beneficial insects and can deter pest worms from your corn.
The borage plants repel tomato hornworms and cabbage worms; borage also attracts beneficial insects such as wasps and bees. It also has the added benefit of looking stunning in the vegetable garden when in bloom.
Cosmos & Zinnias
Annual flowers like cosmos and zinnias are often overlooked in a vegetable garden, but they make great companions. These flowers will attract beneficial insects in droves! Helpful insects like parasitic wasps, tachinid flies, lacewings, and ladybugs, to name a few.
Companion planting cosmos and zinnias into your corn patch will also attract pollinators to your garden, and we all need more!
- Learn More: Cosmos are SUCH pretty flowers, and they grow quickly and easily from seed. Check out the complete guide on growing cosmos in and around your garden.
Mint plants make good corn companion plants. The pungent scent of mint is a deterrent for several pests, including deer and rabbits. Both deer and rabbits love sweet corn, so anything you can do to deter them will help increase your final corn harvest.
Unfortunately, mint is highly invasive, so if you are adding it to your garden bed, add a barrier or plant the whole pot into the bed.
- Learn More: See our guide on the best companion plants for mint.
- Did you know: that there are several different types of mint? Check out our post on growing mint and how to decide on what kind of mint to grow in your gardens.
Plantings of thyme make good corn companion plants in your corn bed due to their ability to repel corn earworms.
Thyme does not require a lot of water, so avoid companion planting too deep into the corn bed. Instead, it’s best to plant thyme around the rim of the bed.
- Learn More: Learn how to grow thyme inside and out with our easy follow guide!
What to Avoid Planting Near Sweet Corn
There are a few companions that will cause issues when planted with your corn:
Members of the Brassica Family
Avoid planting cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, or kale.
Brassicas are a challenge to grow independently and have many pests and diseases to contend with. I find it easier keeping the brassica family together in their little area and away from anything else.
- Learn More: Many other plants make better companions for members of the cabbage family. We have an entire article about companion plants for turnips and a post on the best companion plants for cauliflower!
Tomatoes make poor corn companion plants due to common pests.
Tomato hornworms love both tomatoes and corn, so planting tomatoes and corn together is just asking for trouble.
Corn earworm will attack tomatoes and corn and can decimate the leaves of both plants and fruit reasonably quickly.
Plant corn as far from tomatoes as possible to prevent large infestations of the corn earworm and tomato hornworms.
Other plants make far better companions.
A Quick Growing Guide for Corn Plants
Start with fresh corn seeds every year for the best results.
It is best to direct sow your corn seeds. Corn transplants generally do not do as well as seeds directly sowed.
Do not sow outdoors until the ground temperature is at least 70F. Planting sweet corn seeds in cold soil will stall germination.
Plant sweet corn seeds approximately 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart.
Cover the bases with soil and water well.
Corn plants are heavy feeders, so be sure to fertilize every two weeks during the growing season.
Corn cannot compete with weeds, so ensure you keep your patch weeded or plant companion plants like pumpkins, squash, or melons around the edge of the beds to keep the ground shaded.
LOOKING FOR MORE RESOURCE INFORMATION?
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We have several companion planting articles on our site. You can access the entire companion category and see what we offer. We have guides on companion planting for:
- The Best Watermelon Companion Plants For Your Patch
- Strawberry Companion Plants – The Best and The Ones you Want to Avoid
- A Guide to the Best Companion Plants for Celery
- The Best Sweet Potato Companion Plants
- Companion Planting Peppers In The Garden For Better Harvests
- Companion Plants For Potatoes – Plant This Not That!
We also have several companion planting books that we recommend having on hand as a companion planting resource: