The Best Apple Tree Companion Plants

Companion planting is a time-tested practice in the garden that involves placing certain plants near each other to benefit both plants. Gardeners have known for years that there are subtle symbiotic relationships between plants and by carefully planning where to plant certain plants, you can take advantage of these relationships. We’ve been experimenting with companion planting for well over a decade and have seen some clear benefits. In this article we’ll share what we’ve learned about the best apple tree companion plants.

In most cases, apple tree companion plants are designed to improve the health of the tree and/or pollination. While the tree itself can offer some benefits to the plants, most people are looking to get more apples. Many of the best companion plants described below are also good for other fruit trees including pear, peach, cherry and more

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The Best Apple Tree Companion Plants


Top Apple Tree Companion Plants


Planting daffodils around apple trees can deter pests like aphids, as the toxins in daffodils repel them. When we first planted our apple trees, we left the imediate 1-2 foot radius around the tree bare and around this planted a ring of daffodils. In addition (and more important than detering aphids) the bulbs also help deter rodents, especially during the winter months.


Nasturtiums are known to repel aphids, beetles, and caterpillars, which can protect apple trees from pests. Nasturtium are one of the best companion plants and their vining nature also offers shade and helps suppress weeds. Nasturtium also have edible flowers making it an interesting choice as an apple tree companion plant.


We have chives planted under all of our fruit trees. They have been known to prevent apple scab and their oder supposedly acts as a deterant for deer and rabbits. We’ve definintely found that deer prefer not to eat our chives, but I am also not convinced that a few chive plants would keep deer away from the delicious apples on a tree.


Another companion planting powerhouse! Marigolds are some of the best plants to include all around your property as the can attract pollinators and other beneficials as well as ladybugs. In addition, marigolds make a good apple tree companion plant by helping to deter nematodes.


Comfrey has deep roots (specifically a long tap root) that bring up nutrients from the soil, making them available to apple trees. It also serves as a mulch and can help retain soil moisture. Comfry has been planted alongside fruit trees for many years and is one of the best plants to help with your overall health of the tree. One warning about comfrey is that it can be hard to get rid of so make sure you plant it where you are ok with it staying for a while.


Yarrow attracts beneficial insects like ladybugs and hoverflies, which prey on aphids and other pests. As a flowering perennial, I find yarrow an attractive plant to add under my apple trees. This is a great plant if you want to build a beneficial but attractive garden around and under your apple tree.


Clover is a nitrogen-fixing plant, which means it helps replenish nitrogen levels in the soil, benefiting the apple trees. We like to use clover as a replacement for grass and it can often help to reduce grass pressure. We find clover as one of the apple tree companion plants especially beneficial in the early stages of growth when the tree can’t tap into as many nutrients.


Borage attracts pollinators like bees and helps improve soil health with its deep taproot. Also known as Starflower, is an annual herb/flower that sometimes self seed. Borage accumulates and adds trace minerals to the soil and garden and is an important ingredient in a complete compost heap. One of the benefits of borage below apple trees in when the leaves drop in place and add these trace nutrients to the soil.

Other plants to grow with apple trees

In addition to the plants listed above – there are a few other plants we tend to use including Lavendar and Thyme.

The Best Apple Tree Companion Plants

Bad Plants for Apple Trees

There are several plants that shouldn’t be planted to close to apple trees.


The first is grass! we try to maintain a 1-2 foot radius around the base of the tree. This can be hard, especially in the first few years when the tree isn’t providing weed blocking shade. We’ve also used wood chips around the tree base with some success. Grass competes with young trees for water and nutrients and can limit the speed of growth and health of the tree.

One of the biggest benefits we’ve found by incorporating companion plants into the area under and apple tree is that these plants help reduce the amount of grass.

Other Trees

Apple trees need ample light to thrive. This means that you should avoid planting them too close to other trees that can block the sun and shade the apple tree. If you do need to plant your apple tree near another tree, try to put it on the south side where it will get the most sun.

Black Walnut Trees

While trees can cause shade, the Black Walnut Tree in particular should not be planted near apple trees. Black walnut trees release a chemical called juglone, which can inhibit the growth of many plants, including apple trees. We actually have an apple tree planted near but not adjacent to a Black Walnut Tree and even this proximity has caused the apple tree to experience slow growth.

Invasive Plants

Invasive plants can spread rapidly and outcompete apple trees for resources. Invasive plants are generally a problem for most gardens, but under a fruit tree they can cause all types of problems. Avoid planting invasive species near apple trees, as they can become difficult to control and may pose a threat to the health of the orchard ecosystem.

How to Use Companion Planting with an Apple Tree

Now that you know what are the best apple tree companion plants, it’s time to determine how to use companion planting with fruit trees. You will often see this referred to as a tree guild. This is a permaculture technique that uses a natural assortment of plants that help to support the growth of the tree. Tree guilds are often used as the foundation for a food forest.

When I set out to add companion plants to apple trees, I generally keep the 1-2 foot radius around the tree free of grass. Around this I plant a circle of daffodils. In the next area around the tree I add some supporting species like borrage, nasturtium, comfry and yarrow. Intermized with this I add some ground cover species like clover and additionally add some chives. This mixture of apple tree companion plants forms a nice balance that helps control weeds, fix nitrogen, attract pollinators and promote the overall health of the apple tree.

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