By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer
“Daffodils that come before the swallow dares and take the winds of March with beauty. Violets dim, but sweeter than the kids of Juno’s eye.” Shakespeare described a natural pair of spring woodland companion plants in A Winter’s Tale. He goes on to mention primrose, oxlips and lilies, plants which grow naturally as daffodil companion plants. Natural groups of flowers that bloom in succession or a complimentary way have inspired artists and poets for centuries. Companion planting allows even a small flower patch to be inspiring.
Companion Planting with Daffodils
Companion planting is planting different plants near each other to enhance each other’s beauty, growth, and flavor or to protect each other from pests. Companion planting is also used to maximize space in the garden.
Daffodils make great companion plants because they provide warm, sunny color in the spring, are easy to tuck in amongst already established plants, and deter pests. Daffodils bloom when many flowering shrubs and perennials are just waking from their winter dormancy. Their bulbs also contain a toxin that only a few insects can eat and deters deer, rabbits and other rodents. Squirrels may dig them up, but they don’t eat them.
Daffodils bloom in early spring for about six weeks, then their flowers die back, leaving green grassy foliage that the bulb drains energy from to prepare it for a long dormancy and next year’s new growth. Daffodil foliage should only be cut back once it turns yellow and withers. Yellowing patches of daffodil foliage can look bad, so good companion plants for daffodils will fill in at this time, covering the unsightly mess.
Because of their early spring color and pest deterrence, use daffodils as companion plants for flowers that bloom later or are garden pest’s favorite.
What to Plant with Daffodils
When companion planting with daffodils, you’ll want to include other spring-flowering plants that complement the yellow hues in daffodils. As Shakespeare mentioned, the dark green foliage and small but deep purple blooms of violets set against the grassy green foliage and bright yellow flowers of daffodils add an eye-catching contrast to an early spring landscape.
Other bulbs that bloom beautifully next to daffodils include:
- Virginia bluebells
The following also make excellent spring blooming daffodil companion plants:
- Pasque flower
For continuous yellow color patches in the garden use:
- Black eyed susan
Other later season blooming companion plants for daffodils include:
- Blue-eyed grass
- Goat’s beard
- Coral bells
When companion planting with daffodils for season long color, plant daffodils about 3-6 inches from later blooming plants. The daffodils will provide early spring color, while later blooming plants are just leafing and budding, then the later blooming plant will cover up and deter from the die back of the daffodils in late spring.
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Read more about Daffodils
Companion Plants for Daffodils' Fading Foliage
Daffodils (Narcissus spp.) grow best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8 and are a favorite harbinger of spring. But, as the weeks pass, the cheerful flowers are replaced by ugly, browning foliage. This is unattractive but necessary, because as the foliage dies, it returns nutrients to the bulb so that it can bloom again the following spring. Many home gardeners choose companion plants for their daffodils specifically to hide the fading foliage.
9 Companion Plants for Corn
These nine plants are not only perfect companions for corn, but some of them are also tasty!
I grow basil in my garden every year, and then I bring at least one plant inside to keep in my warm house during the long Alaska winter. As an annual, basil thrives in Zones 2-10.
It is hard to find fresh basil (Ocimum basilicum) in the winter up here. But it’s worth growing both indoors and out – including out in the garden next to your corn.
Here’s why: one of corn’s chief pests is the maize weevil (Sitophilus zeamais), which can eat your sweet kernels in the garden and in storage.
That’s where the basil comes in. Researchers at the Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya found in a 2013 study that crushed, dried basil leaves scattered around corn deter the maize weevil from infesting the kernels.
By planting pungent basil on the perimeter of your corn patch, it’ll keep maize weevils away with its smell.
For extra protection, harvest one or two leaves from each plant, rip them up to release the essential oils, and scatter them at the base of each cornstalk.
This isn’t a tried-and-true method, but it’s one I’ll be implementing in my garden this year.
Find sweet basil seeds in a variety of packet sizes available at Eden Brothers.
Dill, Anethum graveolens, doesn’t just make pickles taste good.
It can also help to repel some of the worst Z. mays pests because, as with other Umbellifers, its flowers attract parasitic wasps and other beneficial insects.
These small wasps that are harmless to humans parasitize and kill many garden pests, including several that plague corn: aphids, corn ear worms, and cutworms.
Dill grows well in the spring, summer, and fall in Zones 2-9. Wait to plant your dill until the corn is about four inches tall, so it doesn’t block sunlight.
Dill is usually best planted in the early spring, as it will bolt in warm weather, but in this case you want it to flower.
Feel free to harvest some dill for delicious recipes, like this grilled salmon with dill sauce from our sister site, Foodal. Or this easy recipe for homemade lacto-fermented garlic dill pickles, also from Foodal.
Remember to let plenty of the dill flower, too, because that’s what will attract those beneficial parasitic wasps.
Find seeds for lovely yellow-flowered dill at Burpee, or plant this dwarf fernleaf variety from True Leaf Market – which only grows up to 18 inches tall.
With bright, cheerful blooms, Tropaeolum majus is the perfect trap crop to keep aphids away from your Z. mays.
Tastier to aphids than corn, they’ll swarm the nasturtiums and (hopefully) leave your stalks, silks, and kernels alone. Be sure to plant your sacrificial crop several feet away from your corn.
Even better, if you plant nasturtiums, maize, and dill all together, the nasturtiums will attract aphids, while the dill will attract parasitic wasps. The wasps will eat the aphids, providing extra protection and keeping them from ever reaching your stalks and ears.
Companion planting is pretty genius, don’t you think?
And whatever nasturtiums don’t get eaten by aphids can be eaten by you. Toss the blooms and leaves in your favorite salad for a zesty kick.
Find ‘Alaska Mix’ nasturtium seeds in a variety of packet sizes available at Eden Brothers.
4. Pole Beans
Squash, corn, and pole beans make up the Three Sisters planting trio implemented for thousands of years by Native American peoples.
Here’s what pole beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), specifically, can do for maize.
Actually, the relationship is mutually beneficial: pole beans climb the stalks, using them like a trellis, while also helping to stabilize the maize and keep it from falling over when the ears mature – an issue known as “stalk lodging.”
Pole beans grow well in Zones 3-10, and you can plant them a couple inches from your maize once the shoots reach a height of six inches. As the beans grow, train the shoots to wind around the stalks.
Find ‘Rattlesnake’ pole bean seeds in a variety of packet sizes available at Eden Brothers.
Check out our guide to learn more about growing pole beans in your backyard (coming soon!).
So often, it seems we can’t plant things near potatoes (Solanum tuberosum).
Squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, turnips, sunflowers, and raspberries are among the plants you shouldn’t plant near these annuals, which are hardy to Zones 3-10 and thrive in cooler climates.
The relationship here is most beneficial to potatoes. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Potato Research found that using corn as green manure for potato crops reduced the risk of verticillium wilt, caused by the fungi Verticillium dahliae and V. albo-atrum, by 60-70%.
Verticillium wilt causes potatoes to die before they reach maturity, so this is a significant mode of protection. The study also found that using corn as green manure can help to increase potato yields.
Here’s how to grow maize to act as a green manure for potatoes: plant it in alternate rows, spaced about six inches apart from the tubers.
Once young ears develop on the maize, sacrifice about half the plants by cutting them into small pieces and working those pieces – ears, leaves, stalks, and all – into the soil around the potatoes.
Alternatively, at the end of the growing season, after harvesting your corn, cut the stems and leaves into small pieces and work it into the ground.
Your potatoes will get a huge advantage in both increased yield and lessened susceptibility to one of the worst potato diseases around.
And even if you don’t want to sacrifice any of your corn as green manure, you can maximize your garden space by growing potatoes among the shallow-rooted stalks.
Find ‘Princess Laratte’ potato seedling tubers available at Burpee.
6. Pumpkins (and Other Cucurbits)
Squash and other types of cucurbits are another component of the historic Three Sisters, along with corn and beans.
The vining cucurbits act as a living mulch for the corn and beans, keeping weeds at bay and locking moisture into the soil.
Plant your favorite cucurbit next to your corn and let the vines spread. Your maize will thank you (and so will those pole beans).
When allowed to bolt, these root vegetables can help keep corn borers away from your crop.
Plant them alongside your Three Sisters as they help to deter cucumber beetles and squash borers from making a meal of your pumpkins.
Check out our full radish growing guide to learn how to sow and grow, getting those radishes to work!
Remember that radishes are a very quick crop to grow, often maturing in under 30 days, so use succession planting methods to keep a steady companion crop going for your corn.
Find seeds for ‘Crimson Giant’ available at Eden Brothers.
This beautiful, bountiful flower (Helianthus annuus) is the perfect Fourth Sister to grow with corn, beans, and pumpkins.
In a 2012 study published in the Journal of the Kentucky Academy of Science, researchers found that planting dwarf sunflowers near sweet corn attracted a plethora of beneficial, pest-killing ladybugs.
Other types of sunflowers – most of which are suited to growing in Zones 2-11 – will also attract these lovely beetles.
So plant sunflowers near your corn and enjoy the presence of beneficial predators, the beauty of the big happy blooms, and the tasty seeds you’ll get at harvest time.
9. White Clover
This sweet-smelling legume (Trifolium repens) acts as the perfect living mulch, or cover crop, for corn, according to researchers at the American Society of Agronomy.
The thick spread of clover suppresses harmful weeds, requiring less weeding work from you. Yet it only grows to about four to six inches tall, so it won’t outgrow your corn stalks.
Plus, like other legumes, clover is able to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil. Since corn takes a lot of nitrogen from the soil, this is a perfect crop to sow alongside it.
Even better, the researchers found that if the corn acts as a shade for the clover, clover leaves will fall off, drop to the soil, and decompose, adding nutrients even while the corn is still growing.
White clover’s usefulness doesn’t stop there. The flowers attract bees to your garden, and the flowers and leaves alike can even make a tasty addition to a summer salad.
This weed-turned-wonder thrives in Zones 3-10, and you can find ‘White Dutch’ seeds available at True Leaf Market.
I know, daffodils are not herbs. But, they were an exciting part of our garden this year and they have a little story too.
We were wandering around in our local Big Lots several months ago and they had the early spring gardening stuff marked down. Among the crocus and yellow daffodil bulbs, I found a lone box of what seemed like the prettiest flowers that I had seen in a long time. Being on the clearance pile, they were cheap. I don’t remember exactly what we paid but they were cheap enough for us to buy them with the hopes that they’ll bloom next year.
Well, somebody goofed. These weren’t early spring flowers at all. They actually bloom at the end of June. They are quite similar to several varieties of spider lilies and ours performed quite like several gardeners reported in Texas. While not a spider lily our bulbs grew and bloomed almost identically to what they were reporting.
What are they? Peruvian daffodils. They look like someone combined a beautiful white spider lily with white daffodils. The scent is heavenly. Each stalk had three huge flowers. Sadly, each of the two plants bloomed only for about four days. But, they were absolutely glorious. Once the flowers did their thing, the bulbs sent out a number of leaves that look like pretty much any other lily plant.
Even though their display is short, we are keeping our fingers crossed that our bulbs survive being virtually forced to bloom with so little growing time. We didn’t fertilize, so hopefully, they won’t be too stressed by our experiment.
I couldn’t find anyone on Amazon selling Peruvian daffodils other than a beautiful Peruvian Dancer daguerreotype , which the seller is limiting the edition to 500 pieces but this beauty will set you back a Benjamin.
And, many of the flower bulbs that come up in their search tool are actually sold on other sites. Meaning you are not actually doing business with Amazon at all. I did find a few sellers of what look like quite pretty similar white flowers but you will have to be quick to get them as they don’t seem to have many in stock.
This item only had one customer review but it is sold by Marde Ross & Company, a Certified California Nursery. These bulbs are scheduled for fall delivery. Their spring foliage dies back and the plant should not be watered during the summer. (Yeah, sounds weird but Marde Ross mentions it twice.) The flowers bloom in August to early September. Unfortunately, it sounds like they might not bloom the first year.
These are being sold by a new Amazon vendor. They are offering what look like absolutely gorgeous flowers from Thailand. There are no reviews on this item, anything else they sell or the vendor themselves. You would be a bit of a guinea pig here but you might get some really pretty flowers that no one else in your neighborhood is bound to have.