As I’ve gained more experience growing vegetables in my backyard garden, I’ve learned the importance of companion planting. Certain plants simply thrive better next to specific neighbors. Brussels sprouts are no exception, benefiting greatly from being planted alongside compatible companions.
Through research and trial-and-error, I’ve discovered which companions improve my brussels sprout’s growth, flavor and pest-resistance. In this article, I will share my favorite companion plants for brussels sprouts with you, along with tips so you can use these combinations in your own garden.
“The Three Sisters” – Corn, Beans and Squash
The Native American companion planting tradition of growing corn, beans and squash together is perhaps the most well known. I’ve found this classic combination also complements brussels sprouts beautifully. As the corn grows tall, it provides a trellis for the bean’s vines to climb. These two plants help feed the heavy-feeding squash as well, while also creating a microclimate that benefits the lower-growing brussels sprouts.
The shade from the tall corn reduces moisture loss in the soil, keeping my sprouts consistently watered. As a bonus, the beans fix nitrogen into the soil and the prickly squash leaves deter pests from reaching my sprouts. Interplanting sprout starts with corn, bean and squash seeds has become a spring ritual for me. Not only is this combination mutually beneficial, but being able to harvest ingredients for succotash, chili and stir-fry all from my own backyard makes the additional planning worthwhile!
While less conventional than the Three Sisters, radishes make fantastic companions for brussels sprouts. As quick-growing cool weather crops, both thrive in similar conditions. I make successional sowings of radishes throughout early spring, letting them grow rapidly in the time it takes for my sprout transplants to establish. Having these spicy and delicious radishes on hand for salads and stir fries makes the wait for the autumn sprout harvest more bearable!
Radishes also serve an important below-ground job, helping to break up and aerate the soil with their spreading roots. Their fast growth allows them to be harvested by midsummer, leaving prime real estate open beneath the maturing sprout plants. Once the radishes have been cleared, the brussels sprouts stretch their roots fully into the newly opened space.
Like most brassicas, brussels sprouts are heavy feeders that deplete soil nutrients. Growing nitrogen-fixing legumes as companion plants is an organic way to enrich the soil and feed your sprouts without needing to add fertilizers. As a bonus, many legumes feature edible parts that expand seasonal variety from your garden plot. Some of my favorite leguminous companions include bunching green beans, edamame soybeans, peas and fava beans.
While bean and pea crops prefer cooler weather like brussels sprouts, fava beans thrive in summer’s heat. Succession planting these legumes prior to transplanting sprout seedlings infuses essential nitrogen into the soil, fueling vigorous sprout growth for months to come. As an added perk, the vining growth of bean and pea plants can serve as a living trellis for brussels sprouts. Allowing my sprout’s lower leaves to intermingle with bean vines or pea tendrils shields the sprouting heads from excessive sunlight while deterring cabbage worms and other pests.
Though less conventional, German chamomile makes for a lovely and unexpected brussels sprouts companion. This hardy annual flower thrives in the partial shade cast by maturing sprouts, yet finishes growing before the lowest sprout leaves begin to yellow. While the dainty chamomile flowers lend charm and visual interest to your veggie plot, they also subtly enhance flavors through proximity.
Studies show vegetation perfumed by chamomile’s chrysanthemum-family scent have reduced bitterness and increased antioxidant content. Though more research is needed, I’ve noticed improved sweetness and bigger yields from my brussels sprouts after interplanting with chamomile. Beds edged with the tiny daisy-like blooms also attract beneficial pollinators and predators like hoverflies that keep pests in check. Drying chamomile flowers to blend into relaxing herbal teas makes for a soothing autumn activity while waiting for your brussels sprouts to mature as well.
Soothing, Pest-Deterring Herbs
Beyond chamomile, incorporating various culinary herbs among your brussels sprouts provides multiple benefits. Since many common herbs feature strong scents, they naturally repel troublesome cabbage pests in the garden. Interplanting sprouts with chives, thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, basil, parsley, garlic and onions discourages attacks from the diamondback moth, cabbage looper and imported cabbage worm caterpillars.
Plus, having these fresh herbs within arm’s reach come harvest season allows you to season your sprouts deliciously right away. Herbs thrive in the same moderately fertile soil as brussels sprouts, though some do prefer slightly different moisture levels. This is easily amended by plant location and mulching priorities. One tip – avoid planting mint as a sprout companion, as this aggressive spreader will quickly dominate garden space.
Best Flowers for Beauty and Biodiversity
While herbs and vegetables make excellent brussels sprouts companions, don’t overlook flowers! Blooming plants interspersed with edibles provide biodiversity that fosters beneficial predators to keep pests in check. They also lend beauty and midseason color to balance the mostly green leaves of a veggie plot. Some of my favorite blossoming sprout companions include these hardy annuals and perennials:
- Marigolds – Cheerful edging plants that deter nematodes
- Nasturtiums – Trailing vines with edible leaves and flowers
- Calendula – Bold orange blooms that draw in pollinators
- Cosmos – Tall flowers that provide dainty color amidst sprouts
- Zinnias – Prolific blooms that attract ladybugs
- Sunflowers – Towering stems that provide trellising
I border all my brussels sprouts beds with marigolds, let nasturtiums meander through the plants and scatter calendula and cosmos seeds in bare spots and newly cleared radish patches. The long-lasting flowers beautify my garden from midsummer through first frost. As much as I value the color and whimsy these blossoms provide, I appreciate their practical benefits even more. The composite flowers boost populations of hoverflies, ladybugs, lacewings and other beneficials that feed on cabbage worms, aphids and mites. With these pretty protectors watching over my sprouts, I hardly notice the insect pests that typically plague crucifers. Interplanting with flowers makes for a gorgeous and ecologically vibrant garden!
Getting Creative with Companion Planting
Once you understand the basic benefits different companion plants offer, don’t be afraid to get creative with pairings! Use your imagination along with observations of interactions between species that thrive in your specific environment and soil conditions. Monitor factors like shade durations throughout the day, moisture variability by bed location and which insects frequent certain areas of your garden over the seasons. Keep records from year to year on which companion combinations thrive and which you may wish to amend.
There are still many pairings I’d like to try to determine ideal brussels sprouts companions. A few I have planned for my garden this coming year include lettuces, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, beets and turnips. I hope your experiments with companion planting brussels sprouts brings you as much joy and bounty as mine have for me. Wishing you a season full of sustainability, beauty and community right in your own backyard!
Some top companion plant options for brussels sprouts include corn, beans, squash, radishes, legumes, chamomile, herbs like chives and parsley and flowers like marigolds and nasturtiums.
Many companion plants provide benefits like pest deterrence, soil nutrient replenishment, shade for moisture retention, support trellising and attraction of pollinators. These perks can increase brussels sprout’s growth rate, yield and flavor.
It’s best to give brussels sprouts adequate spacing even when interplanting. Overcrowding can cause poor air circulation and higher competition for sunlight and nutrients. Space transplants properly and sow smaller companion plants carefully.
Some of the easiest companion plants to grow alongside brussels sprouts are quick-growing radishes, trailing nasturtiums and marigolds planted on garden bed borders. These require little maintenance.
The best times are early spring for cool-weather companions like radishes and late spring/early summer for heat-loving companions like beans, squash and some herbs. Stagger planting times appropriately.
From the well-established Three Sisters to flowers and herbs, brussels sprouts can be paired successfully with many companion plants. Efforts taken to interplant sprouts with beneficial neighbors are rewarded by increased yields as well as ecological harmony in your garden. Through compatible cultivation choices, companion gardening allows plant’s natural tendencies to either inhibit or assist one another. Saving time and resources on maintenance once sprouts are established leaves more opportunity to engage with your plot’s biodiversity and find imaginative solutions using nature’s wisdom. I hope this article has inspired you with companion planting ideas to try around your brussels sprouts. Let me know what creative combinations you come up with this season! I’m always seeking novel ways to maximize flavor and production in my backyard garden.