Blueberries are delicious and relatively easy to grow with the right soil conditions. However, they don’t add much aesthetic value to the garden on their own. And if your goal is to harvest as much edible produce as possible, you probably don’t want to dedicate an entire bed just to a few blueberry bushes.
The tricky part about growing blueberries alongside other plants is the former’s need for very acidic soil. Blueberries require a soil pH below 5.5 (per Michigan State University), which is far more acidic than most plants can handle.
In this article, you’ll learn all about my favorite acid-loving companion plants for blueberries and the best ways to incorporate them into an existing garden.
What Is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is a traditional practice of combining multiple crops in the same garden. A very famous example of this practice is the Three Sisters method, which was developed as a way to grow corn, beans, and squash all in a single space.
What Are the Benefits?
The main goal of companion planting is to produce some sort of natural benefit. In the Three Sisters method, the benefits include: Structural support for the beans to climb (provided by the corn); Nitrogen fixation from the air back into the soil for plant roots to utilize (provided by the beans) and; Weed suppression and moisture retention in the soil (provided by the squash)
Here are some of the most common benefits of companion planting you can enjoy in your own garden:
Save Space: Clever plant combinations — e.g., pairing low-growing plants with those that grow straight up — will allow you to fit much more into your allotted garden space. This technique is especially effective between larger specimens that can’t be planted close together.
Attract Beneficial Insects: Growing a variety of flowering plants will draw in pollinators and other welcome insects from far and wide. Certain flowering species specifically attract wasps, ladybugs, whiteflies, and other predatory insects that feed on harmful pests like caterpillars and insects.
Deter Pests: Some plants reportedly repel insects through the use of strong chemical compounds. Growing such plants near edible crops may reduce pest activity.
Companion plants can also protect your fruit and vegetables by actually attracting pests. These plants act as sacrificial ‘trap crops’ by being more appealing to pests than their neighbors.
Protective Groundcover: Groundcover plants spread along the soil instead of growing upward. These plants prevent weed growth, erosion, and moisture loss by insulating the soil like a living layer of mulch.
Best Companion Plants to Grow with Blueberries
Plants must be able to survive in acidic soil to grow next to blueberries. But this is not the only qualification to consider.
The plants I’ve recommended below make good companions because they’re unlikely to compete with your blueberry bush for resources like water, sunlight, or nutrition. Many I’ve also selected because they provide ornamental interest during parts of the year when blueberries have little to offer.
Vegetables and Fruit
Strawberries: Many gardeners — myself included — consider strawberries to be one of the absolute best companions for blueberry bushes. Both plants require the same growing conditions yet won’t compete with each other for resources like sunlight.
Many strawberry varieties produce fast-spreading runners. Over time, the strawberries may also double as a cover crop that insulates the soil and suppresses weed growth around your blueberries.
Elderberries: Growing as very large shrubs, elderberries enjoy the same acidic, moist soil conditions as blueberries. They can also tolerate partial shade, so won’t be bothered if your blueberry bushes are on the tall side.
Note that raw elderberries are potentially toxic to humans and some animals. Be sure to educate yourself on the proper way to prepare elderberries before growing the fruit yourself. I don’t recommend planting this shrub if your property is regularly visited by young children or pets.
Cranberries: There are a surprising number of people who think cranberries can only be grown in bogs. While the bog technique makes harvesting large-scale cranberry crops much easier, the fruit can technically be grown in any highly acidic, moist soil.
All cranberries make good blueberry bush neighbors but keep in mind that there are many different types. If your goal is to harvest edible berries, choose a variety marketed for culinary use.
Radish: It might take some experimentation to successfully grow radishes in the same soil conditions as your blueberries. This is because radishes typically prefer a soil pH of at least 6.0. However, I’ve found some research suggesting that these root vegetables can thrive in more acidic environments as long as the soil is rich and the rest of their needs are met.
Thyme: This culinary herb is extremely adaptable to a range of pH levels, making it a great bed-mate for acid-lovers like blueberries. Just be sure to provide plenty of direct sunlight to maintain thriving plants, so avoid planting it ‘behind’ your blueberry bush. It should receive as much sun as possible.
The one other issue you might encounter is thyme’s preference for relatively dry soil. You can counter this potential problem by planting the thyme in a slight mound to encourage faster drainage.
Basil: Basil is even more tolerant of both acidic and alkaline soil. If I’m being honest, it’s probably the best companion herb for blueberries if your soil pH is naturally quite low.
Like thyme, this plant needs ample sunlight. However, it will also benefit from some afternoon shade and that’s something your blueberry bush may be able to provide.
Dill: Dill prefers a slightly acidic soil pH of 6.5 but also grows well outside of this range. This is an excellent edible filler crop if you want something fast-growing and low-maintenance.
If you don’t want the dill to spread, it’s important to harvest the herb before its flowers fade in late summer. On the other hand, its self-seeding nature could be a benefit if you want to completely fill in the space around your blueberries.
Parsley: Mildly acidic soil is recommended when growing parsley but I know this herb can handle pH levels as low as 5.0. Parsley loves the moist, rich soil blueberries prefer and is generally tolerant of partial shade later in the day.
Parsley is easily crowded out by more vigorous plants. This shouldn’t be a problem when pairing it with blueberries alone but may cause issues if you grow other herbs or perennials nearby.
Grape Hyacinth: Though not related to true hyacinths (this flowering bulb is actually a member of the asparagus family), grape hyacinths play a similar role in the spring garden.
Grape hyacinth grows only a few inches tall and produces dark bluish-purple flowers on central stalks. I like to plant the small bulbs in low-pH beds for a pop of color while my larger shrubs are just beginning to leaf out.
Borage: This annual can be classified as a flower or a herb, depending on how you plan to use it. Either way, borage is commonly grown in vegetable and fruit patches to draw in additional pollinators.
Borage is incredibly tolerant of different climates, soil types, and light conditions. It tends to bloom best with ample sun, however, so take this into account when selecting a planting location.
Columbine: A popular choice for woodland- and cottage-style gardens, columbine is a herbaceous perennial with unique, drooping flowers. Some varieties are commonly known as honeysuckle.
Columbine usually blooms for about a month in the spring or summer and can survive being cut to the ground once the flowers fade. I think it’s a great option for filling in space earlier in the season before blueberries and other perennials have hit their stride.
Petunias: Petunias are extremely popular bedding plants grown as annuals in most climates. The trumpet-shaped flowers come in all different colors and patterns and are frequently visited by pollinators.
They have a trailing growth habit that remains low to the ground. Petunias are a great option if you want to create a seasonal ‘mat’ over the soil to block out weeds.
Gladiolus: Also known as a sword lily, this summer bulb is a surprisingly well-suited companion for blueberry bushes. The bulbs take up minimal space and enjoy a variety of soil conditions.
Gladiolus flowers are predominantly used in cut arrangements. If you’re unsure what to do with the space around your blueberries, I highly recommend planting some gladiolus bulbs around the perimeter in the spring for homegrown bouquets.
Bleeding Heart: It’s very common for a garden bed to have a patch of shade immediately next to an area of full sun — my own garden is a perfect example of this thanks to a few large trees. If you’re hunting for a shade-tolerant plant to grow alongside sun-soaked blueberries, a bleeding heart is a top choice.
Again, this herbaceous perennial requires partial or full shade to thrive. When those needs are met, however, it will happily grow in the same general environment as a blueberry bush.
Ornamental Shrubs and Trees
Ferns: Ferns are another excellent blueberry companion for areas with extra shade. I prefer to use native species when available but also recommend ornamental varieties like the Japanese-painted fern.
Ferns provide an interesting contrast to blueberries and other shrubbery. They flourish in moist, acidic soil and (obviously) aren’t bothered by larger plants shading them out.
Rhododendron (Azalea): These flowering shrubs are natural candidates because of their love of acidic soil. I personally like to grow evergreen varieties for all-season interests.
Rhododendrons and azaleas are very closely related but the former tends to be much larger. However, both types are capable of shading out a blueberry bush, so I recommend using them as a backdrop.
Hydrangea: Hydrangeas are famous for their ability to change color based on the pH level of the soil. While only some varieties actually perform this ‘magic trick’, nearly all hydrangeas enjoy acidic soil.
The main benefit of pairing hydrangeas as a companion plant for blueberries is ornamental interest. Your hydrangeas will likely bloom just after the blueberry flowers fade, distracting from the scraggly stems left behind.
Lilac: Lilacs, on the other hand, typically bloom at the same time or just before most blueberry bushes.
These shrubs are remarkably fragrant and will very likely attract more pollinators to the garden. Ideally, those pollinators will then pay your blueberry bush a visit before carrying on their way.
Gardenia: There’s very little overlap between blueberries and gardenias in terms of climate. But if you live in one or two hardiness zones capable of supporting both plants, I highly suggest giving this pairing a try.
Gardenia shrubs need soil that is moist, well-draining, and quite acidic. According to North Carolina State University, it’s best to plant gardenias in a sheltered location, such as behind a patch of blueberry bushes.
Dogwood: Ornamental dogwood shrubs and trees make good blueberry companions largely because they flower at about the same time. Planting a dogwood close to your blueberry patch could increase pollinator activity during those crucial weeks leading to a bigger harvest.
Holly: Many evergreens do well alongside blueberry plants but Holly is one of my favorites. The distinctive foliage offers visual interest throughout the entire year and, of course, the two plants share nearly identical environmental needs. Just be sure neither shrub shades the other out.
Plants to Avoid Growing with Blueberries
Raspberries: Though blueberries and raspberries seem like natural companions, growing the two together is more trouble than it’s worth. Raspberry canes are lanky and thorny and may get tangled up in nearby blueberry plants. Raspberries also prefer a slightly higher soil pH.
Brassica Family: Popular examples of brassicas include cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. These vegetables can tolerate acidic soil but prefer a range slightly above that required by blueberries. It’s also very hard to meet the nutritional and watering needs of both a brassica and blueberry crop growing in the same garden.
Nightshade Family: This plant family includes many garden vegetables, including tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, and peppers. Nightshades prefer neutral or slightly alkaline soil and don’t make good bedfellows for blueberries.
- Michigan State University Blueberry Soil requirements
- BBC Good Food Preparing Elderberries
- North Carolina State University Gardenia care requirements
Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.