Plant Guilds to Help Your Garden Grow

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated January 20, 2022
The Three Sisters guild is made of corn, squash and beans.
Photo: Frank Espich


  • Plant guilds benefit the whole grouping of plants through symbiotic relationships.

  • Anticipate reduced watering, better soil, more pollinators, and optimized space.

  • Location, climate, and soil determine which plants you can pair together in your guild.

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Imagine walking out to your garden to find it bursting with color and bees and butterflies flitting from plant to plant. It sounds like a lot of back-breaking work to achieve such an idyllic garden, but truthfully, a vibrant garden is less work than you’d think. You can craft a garden that requires little maintenance to thrive by implementing plant guilds. Grab your garden gloves and shovel, and let’s dig into the benefits of plant guilds.

What Are Plant Guilds?

Plant guilds are groupings of plants that benefit one another. It’s basically a strategic pattern that puts plants with symbiotic relationships close together in the garden, so the plants can help support one another with minimal intervention from you. That means you can spend more time admiring your garden and less time digging up weeds or setting out pest repellents. The plants will naturally work together to suppress weeds, deter harmful animals and insects, and offer other impressive benefits.

Benefits of Companion Planting

If you plant a flower next to a competing plant, you’ll notice these living beings fighting for water, soil nutrients, and light. On the other hand, plant guilds involve putting companion plants near one another. They naturally balance the soil nutrients for one another, attract pollinators, share water, and provide more benefits to help each other grow.

Reduce Watering

When you design plant guilds, you’ll want to take water needs into account. You may put plants with low water requirements near plants with high water requirements. The plants can take the amount of water they need, sharing the amount and ultimately conserving more water than if you planted all your plants with high water needs together.

Boost Soil

Different plants may need different soil nutrients, and some plants even bring more nutrients to the soil. For example, clover can absorb nitrogen in the air and bring it to the soil. Then, plants like rhubarb or kale require higher amounts of nitrogen, so this plant-pairing could be beneficial.

There are also plants known to be accumulators, and these plants can draw nutrients up from deep within the soil to benefit other plants. Chives, garlic, and strawberries are all examples of accumulators.

Protect Against Pests

Rather than spraying pesticides all over your prized vegetables, guild planting can naturally protect your plants from pests. You could plant rosemary near your carrots to repel carrot flies, a pest known to attack carrots. Rosemary deters carrot flies. Marigolds bring visual interest to a garden, but they can also deter bean beetles.

Attract Pollinators

Pollinators are essential for a healthy garden. These creatures, which may include bees, butterflies, bats, and birds, transfer pollen from plant to plant, aiding in plant reproduction. Pollinators are responsible for helping about 80% of plants globally to reproduce, so you want to invite them into your garden.

As it turns out, the fragrant herbs surrounding your fruit and veggie plants often repel pests but attract pollinators. Dill and oregano are great examples of plants that attract pollinators and repel harmful insects. Pollinators also love flowering plants like marigolds, yarrow, and lavender.

Maximize Space

Another component to plant guilds is considering spatial relationships. So when you plant a fruit tree, instead of leaving the area around the base of the tree bare, you could add in beneficial plants for more visual impact and improve yield for the tree and the base plants.

With plant guilds, you can start with an anchor plant—like a fruit tree or other focal point—then plan to surround it with beneficial plant species based on water, soil, and light needs. This strategy makes the most of your garden space, so you can grow as many plants in an area as possible without having them competing for nutrients or water.

Common Pairings for Plant Guilds

The pairings you choose will depend on your location, local climate, and soil type, but some of the following combinations are popular with gardeners.

The Three Sisters

Native Americans have for centuries used what’s become one of the most common examples of guild planting. This grouping includes corn, beans, and squash. Squash grows around the corn stalks and helps suppress weeds. Beans give the soil a nitrogen boost. All three plants benefit from less water needs and improved soil health in a small amount of space.

A Marinara Plant Guild

This is no official title, but sometimes, companion planting is all about experimentation and creativity. Have fun with it! Perhaps you want to start making your own marinara for pasta and pizza. You could use tomatoes as your anchor crop. Good companion plants for tomatoes include onions, basil, oregano, and parsley, all of which would conveniently make for some excellent marinara, too.

Planting for Potatoes

Potatoes are another common crop for home gardens. To help your potatoes thrive, you could plant beans, corn, cabbages, or marigolds close by. When you’re considering what plants go well together, you should also note what plants won’t work near each other. For example, planting tomatoes near potatoes won’t work, as these two nightshades need the same soil nutrients.

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