The Best Companion Plants to Grow with Pumpkins

Pumpkins are such friendly looking gourds, aren’t they? It’s hard not to smile when you see them adorning peoples’ porches in the fall.

But what’s even better is watching them grow into big, orange beauties in your garden.

A vertical picture of a large orange pumpkin growing in the garden, with plants in the background, pictured in bright sunshine. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white text.

There’s something even better than that, though: watching the pumpkins grow alongside their best companions, each plant providing a benefit to the others.

I bet you want to know which companion plants I’m talking about, yeah?

Okay. Let’s get started on making your garden into a joyful gathering of pumpkins and their dear friends.

Why Pumpkins Need Companions

They’re big, they’re beautiful, and like people, pumpkins benefit from having companions nearby. Sometimes, placing friendly plants close together simply helps you save space in the garden.

I, for instance, have just two deep raised beds to work with. If I didn’t use companion planting, I wouldn’t be able to grow such a wide array of vegetables, fruits, and herbs.

A close up of two small wooden raised garden beds with a variety of immature plants, pictured in the afternoon sunshine, with a metal fence in soft focus in the background.
Photo by Laura Melchor.

In addition, monocropping or filling an area with groups of the same vegetable serves as an open invitation to that plant’s most common pests to come hither and feast.

A cucumber beetle, for example, will spot a row of pumpkins and think it’s his luckiest day ever.

A close up of a spotted cucumber beetle on an orange squash fruit, pictured in bright light.

Since gourds are susceptible to attack from many pests – aphids, squash bugs, squash vine borers, and cucumber beetles, for example – it’s important to think about how to combat infestations.

Planting an array of pest-repelling flowers among your pumpkins can help to keep those bugs away. Plus, gardening legend has it that all the different colors – a sea of lavender, marigold, and nasturtium, for example – can serve to confuse potential pests.

Some companion plants will also act as trap crops, attracting the pests that might otherwise target your gourds. Some trap crop plants may even kill the pests they attract.

A raised garden bed in Alaska, showing a variety of plants growing together for mutual benefit, pictured in bright sunshine.
Photo by Laura Melchor.

But companion planting doesn’t just save space and help protect your crop against pests.

Trailing pumpkin vines, with their large leaves, can act as a living mulch for crops with an upright growth habit, and help to keep their roots cool, and the soil moist.

Pumpkins are heavy feeders, and legumes such as beans and peas “fix” nitrogen, or add more of this essential plant nutrient to the soil.

Best of all, in my opinion: some companion plants, like lavender and sunflowers, also attract bees, which are important pollinators.

Ready to reap all these benefits for your gourds? Let’s go!

Pumpkin Companion Plants

These tasty summer annuals require companions who favor similar growing conditions.

Squash thrives in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-10 as long as you keep plants warm in cold weather, and provide some protection from excessive heat.

Choose the companion plants that best suit your environment, and you’ll be good to grow.

Let’s check out some of the best companions for your gourds:

1. Corn

Along with beans and squash, corn makes up the trio of perfect companion plants known as “The Three Sisters.”

A vegetable garden with corn intercropped with other plants for mutual benefit.

Early Native American peoples – including the Muscogee (Creek), Maya, and Haudenosaunee – planted these crops together to take advantage of their mutual benefits.

The vines will act as a groundcover and help to suppress weeds in the area around your corn. They will also help keep the moisture in the soil and prevent the roots from overheating.

The corn, in turn, provides a trellis for your pole beans, which will also fix nitrogen in the soil.

To plant the Three Sisters, sow corn first in mounds, often called hills, about three feet apart and the size of a small baseball pitcher’s mound.

Create two rows of hills, leaving two to four feet of space in between to plant your pumpkins. Space the corn seeds about four to five inches apart.

When the corn seedlings are six inches tall, you can plant pole beans around the corn. At the same time, sow your squash in the middle, in between the mounds.

A close up of freshly harvested corn ears, with the husks pulled back. The variety if 'Stowell's Evergreen,' set on a hessian surface.

‘Stowell’s Evergreen’ Sweet Corn

The best varieties of corn to plant in the Three Sisters method are large and sturdy – try the heirloom cultivar ‘Stowell’s Evergreen,’ a sweet corn that produces eight-inch ears.

Seeds are available from Eden Brothers.

You can read more about how to grow sweet corn in your garden here.

2. Korean Licorice Mint

Korean licorice mint, Agastache rugosa, attracts several types of beneficial hoverflies.

The hoverflies will lay their eggs on the leaves, and the larvae that hatch out love to feed on aphids, mealybugs, mites, and other pumpkin pests.

A close up of bees feeding from tall, upright purple flowers of Korean mint, with green foliage in soft focus in the background.

With vibrant blue-purple flowers, A. rugosa makes a decorative addition when planted around the outside of your vegetable garden.

This member of the mint family is also deer-resistant and heat tolerant, for those of you in warmer climes.

A close up of the light purple flowers of Agastache rugosa 'Little Adder' growing in the garden with foliage in soft focus in the background.

A. rugosa ‘Little Adder’

You can find A. rugosa ‘Little Adder’ plants available at Nature Hills Nursery.

Read more about growing anise hyssop and other types of Agastache here.

3. Lavender

This is my personal favorite companion plant for my pumpkins. And it’s one of my favorite herbs, hands down.

A close up of a bee feeding from lavender flowers in the summer garden, pictured on a soft focus background.

I use dried lavender seeds to fill my sleeping mask so that I can drift away to the sweet scent of lavender every night.

I plant it in my flowerbeds every year and try to keep it alive over the frigid Alaskan winter (one plant of three survived this last winter – a step up for me!).

And this winter, I’m going to grow it indoors from cuttings to enjoy those deep purple blooms and their divine scent all winter long.

A close up of a raised garden bed showing gourds growing among marigolds and lavender for mutual benefit.
Photo by Laura Melchor.

This year, I also planted English lavender smack-dab in the middle of my pumpkin patch.

I’ve already seen bees bumbling around the lavender, which means they are also bumbling around my squashes. Perfection!

That’s the benefit lavender provides for pumpkins: it helps attract bees, which are an important pollinator for these plants.

A close up of a lavender plant growing in a small wicker container, pictured on a soft focus background.

‘Hidcote Promise Compact’ Lavender

Find your own ‘Hidcote Promise Compact’ lavender seeds to plant with your gourds at Eden Brothers.

Learn more about how to grow lavender in the garden with this guide.

4. Marigolds

Often touted as a deterrent for a multitude of pests, the humble marigold isn’t quite as powerful as some might say.

But there is some truth to this popular piece of garden folklore.

A close up of marigolds planted amongst pumpkin vines in a raised bed garden in Alaska.
Photo by Laura Melchor.

But it does trap and stop or even kill the root-knot nematode, a harmful pest that can plague your pumpkin crops.

Marigold roots secrete bioactive chemicals that suppress the root-knot nematode.

Planting just about any variety of marigold next to your pumpkin plants will help keep the root-knot nematodes away. Plant them among the vines, as close as you like.

A close up of the small yellow flowers of the 'Nema Gone' marigold variety, surrounded by foliage.

‘Nema-Gone’ Marigolds

You can plant them as a cover crop, and till them into your garden at the end of the season to help improve the soil and keep it nematode-free.

You can find seeds for a specific variety called ‘Nema-Gone’ available at Burpee.

Check out our marigold growing guide here.

5. Marjoram

Not to be confused with its close cousin, oregano, marjoram tastes sweeter, with a lightly spicy, floral scent.

Growing this in your garden means you can enjoy a bevy of tasty dishes, like this fresh tomato, egg, and goat-cheese tart from our sister site, Foodal.

A close up of a freshly baked tomato and goat cheese tart in a white ceramic dish, set on a blue fabric.
Photo by Meghan Yager.

But it also can mean tastier pumpkin flesh. Garden legend has it that marjoram can improve the flavor of many veggies, pumpkins included, if the sweet herb is planted among the vines.

A close up of sweet marjoram growing in the garden, with small, light green leaves.

Sweet Marjoram

So not only will you enjoy fresh herbs for your cooking, but you may have more flavorful gourds as a result.

Find three marjoram plants or a packet of 2,000 seeds today at Burpee.

Learn how to plant and grow marjoram in this guide.

6. Nasturtiums

According to Louise Riotte, author of “Carrots Love Tomatoes,” available on Amazon, colorful nasturtiums help keep squash bug infestations down.

A close up of nasturtiums with bright orange flowers, trailing over a wooden fence, pictured in bright sunshine.

Considering that squash bugs may feed heavily on pumpkin vines and leaves, this is a definite plus.

Besides, you can toss peppery nasturtium flowers and leaves in a salad or simply enjoy the feast of color in your garden.

The plant also attracts the beneficial insects – such as ladybugs – that feed on common cucurbit pests, like cucumber beetles, aphids, and whiteflies.

In addition, they can act as a trap crop, attracting the aforementioned pests away from your pumpkins!

A close up of an orange nasturtium flower, of the 'Apricot' variety, growing in the garden with foliage in soft focus in the background.

‘Dwarf Apricot’

Plant compact nasturtiums in the middle of your patch, like the ‘Dwarf Apricot,’ available from Eden Brothers.

Read more about some of our favorite varieties of nasturtiums here.

7. Pole Beans

Along with corn and pumpkins, as mentioned above, pole beans are the third sister in the “Three Sisters” companion planting method.

A close up vertical picture of a pole bean climbing up the stem of a corn plant, pictured in light sunshine on a soft focus background.

They benefit from the living mulch provided by squash vines and the trellis of a cornstalk, but they also add nitrogen to the soil.

Since pumpkins need nitrogen and Sister Corn absolutely guzzles it out of the soil, growing beans is helpful for next year’s crop.

A close up, top down picture of a bowl of 'Blue Lake' pole beans in a ceramic bowl, set on a wooden surface.

‘Blue Lake’ Pole Beans

Any legume can perform this beneficial task, but pole beans are ideal for the Three Sisters grouping because they climb up corn stalks, and save space in the garden.

You can find ‘Blue Lake’ pole bean seeds available at Eden Brothers.

8. Sunflowers

Often referred to as the Fourth Sister, sunflowers can attract pollinators to the pumpkin patch and help distract birds away from juicy corn kernels in a companion plant grouping.

A close up of two corn cobs, sunflowers, and a pumpkin in the background set on a concrete surface.

Next year, I’m going to try my hand at growing a Four Sisters garden with pole beans, corn, pumpkins, and sunflowers.

The pole beans can climb up the stems of the corn or the sunflowers.

A close up of a wild sunflower, with bright yellow petals and foliage in soft focus in the background.

Wild Sunflower Seeds

The squash vines will provide a ground cover… It will be just gorgeous, don’t you think?

Find seeds for wild sunflowers available at Eden Brothers.

Check out our guide to growing sunflowers.

What Not to Plant with Pumpkins

Now that you know what you can plant alongside your gourds, let’s take a quick look at what not to sow near them.

A garden scene of pumpkins growing among companion plants, pictured in light filtered sunshine.

First, you’ll want to avoid large root crops like potatoes, beets, and onions.

This is because the roots can disturb the shallow squash roots come harvest time, and compete for nutrients in the soil during the growing season.

If you must plant them in the same garden, make sure there’s plenty of space between plants, and consider selecting cultivars that are smaller at maturity.

Also, try not to crowd a bunch of vining plants together. It can get extra-tangly and confusing in your patch really quickly if you’re not careful.

They may also cross-pollinate with other cucurbits, which can be an issue if you’re trying to save seeds from your gourds to replant specific cultivars next season.

A Friend for Every Gourd

There’s such a lovely selection of plants you can grow alongside your gourds, don’t you think? If you need a refresher, check out our pumpkin growing guide.

A garden scene with a pumpkin growing among a selection of other vegetables and plants.

I’d love to know: which companion plant is your favorite when you’re growing gourds?

If you haven’t tried planting these beneficial friends alongside your pumpkins, which one would you like to try the most? Let me know in the comments below!

And in the meantime, for more information on growing pumpkins, check out these guides next:

Photos by Laura Melchor © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Burpee, Eden Brothers, and Nature Hills Nursery. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Laura Melchor

Laura Melchor grew up helping her mom in the garden in Montana, and as an adult she’s brought her cold-weather gardening skills with her to her home in Alaska. She’s especially proud of the flowerbeds she and her three-year-old son built with rocks dug up from their little Alaska homestead. As a freelance writer, she contributes to several websites and blogs across the web. Laura also writes novels and holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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