11 Companion Plants to Grow with Radicchio
Radicchio is a cool-season crop that adds a crunch to any dish. This leafy green can be paired with several different vegetables in your garden this season. In this article, gardening expert Kaleigh Brillon goes over all the plants you can grow with radicchio in the garden.
The chicory plant family is full of crispy greens that add a delicious bite to hot and cold dishes. Radicchio is a cabbage-like plant with gorgeous reddish-purple and white coloring that will stand out on your plate. Many companion plants can grow with radicchio if you want to add this to your garden.
This cool-season crop will get along with many other plants that need similar conditions. If given perfect conditions, it can grow to be quite large, and properly spacing it with other plants can seem like a chore.
I’ll show you which plants work well with radicchio and help you figure out how to space them in your garden.
About Companion Planting
Companion planting is essentially making plants work for you to make your life easier—if you want to look at it that way! You can pair certain plants together to help reduce pest populations, attract pollinators, and provide shade.
With careful planning, you can choose companions that benefit each other nutrient-wise. Pairing nitrogen-hungry plants with others that don’t need as much nitrogen will help you balance out how much fertilizer you need. Plants with shallow roots grow well with deep-rooted plants because they absorb water and nutrients at different levels without competing.
Anyone can benefit from companion planting, but those with limited space will find the most use for it. You can turn your tomato planter into a planter for tomatoes, herbs, and flowers, tripling your plant quantities while receiving better harvests.
Radicchio may seem like a tough plant to turn into a companion since it can grow large in the right conditions. Before you can pick its neighbors, you need to understand how it behaves in the garden.
Since radicchio can grow up to 12 inches tall and wide, it makes a good ground cover for other plants. It can suppress weeds and protect roots, which will help your other plants thrive. This chicory performs best in cool seasons with plenty of moisture.
Radicchio has a shallow root system, so most of the real estate it takes up is above ground, meaning that you can plant deep-rooted plants like carrots and beets nearby and not have to worry about taproots becoming misshapen.
Radicchio can attract several pests that will attack its neighbors, including aphids, flea beetles, thrips, and cabbage loopers. You may also see ants around, but they won’t eat your radicchio; they’re just farming aphids for their honeydew, which means you’ll have a bigger aphid problem than before.
Another problem you may have is keeping thirsty radicchio happy. They like a lot of water, usually 1-2 inches per week, and possibly more if you grow it in hotter conditions than it prefers to grow in, like at the start of summer. If you pair it with other thirsty plants, you’ll need to water your garden more often than usual.
Let’s consider some companions that grow well next to this unique chicory!
Beets have a lot to offer to their neighbors. For starters, their thick roots will help loosen the soil to help radicchio grow better. Their roots soak up nutrients at different levels and won’t hinder each other’s growth.
If you don’t want to eat beet greens, cut them and return them to the soil. They’re full of magnesium, which helps plants grow larger. Plants that don’t receive enough magnesium can become stunted, so feel free to leave those leaves behind.
Carrots are great at loosening the soil, especially if you grow large varieties that reach deep in the soil. If you’re growing radicchio in a garden bed with less-than-ideal soil, companion planting carrots will help make it easier for the roots to grow and can even help draw nutrients into the upper layers of the soil.
Since the roots grow at different depths, they don’t compete for nutrients. Carrots have a deep taproot with feeders that creep underneath the level of the shallow radicchio roots. This is great if you have to squeeze these plants into a small space.
Cauliflower doesn’t necessarily benefit radicchio, but it’s a good companion because it has similar growing requirements and won’t harm the plant. They’re both cool-season crops that need plenty of water and sunshine. You’ll likely need to increase how much water you give them since they’re both thirsty plants.
Both plants are susceptible to cabbage loopers, flea beetles, aphids, and thrips, so you’ll need to watch for these pests. Consider growing sage or another herb that helps to deter these pests nearby.
Cucumbers can help you make your spring chicory crop last longer or help the seedlings you plant in late summer stay cool. Trellis the cucumbers so they don’t suffocate the radicchio but provide plenty of shade to protect it from extreme temperatures.
Mature radicchio plants can help protect cucumber roots and act as a living cover crop to retain moisture in the soil, which is good since they both like a lot of water. The similar watering needs for both plants also make them great neighbors.
If aphids are a problem, plant some dill. Ladybugs and lacewings love dill and will flock to it, and they’ll stick around your garden for an aphid buffet. Dill will also attract many pollinators and other beneficial insects that will benefit your garden.
Dill will work best as a container plant near your crop since it likes drier conditions. You can also plant it on the edge of the bed, where the soil will drain quickly.
Lettuce is another plant that doesn’t benefit or harm chicories—it simply exists nearby. They both like ample water and plenty of springtime sunlight but will start to bolt when the temperatures get too hot.
They do share pest problems, though, like aphids and thrips. Keep neem oil on hand to battle them, or wash the aphids off with water.
Mustard greens are a great radicchio companion because they like moist conditions. They typically only grow a few inches tall and wide, making it easy to squeeze them into open spaces between the heads.
Mustard is in the Brassica family and has many of the same pests I mentioned with cauliflower, like cabbage loopers and thrips, which can also go after your chicory crop.
Radishes and chicories make a great combination on the dinner plate, but they also go well together in the soil. They have similar water and sunlight needs, and both need to be grown in cool weather, so you won’t need to sweat over their individual care.
You can use radishes as a trap crop for aphids. Plant radishes nearby (but not right next to your radicchio – just within a few feet) and allow the aphids to feed on the radishes.
When they get too haggard-looking, remove the radishes from your garden to get the aphids out of there and reduce the population.
This drought-tolerant herb can be difficult to keep happy in the same bed as a chicory crop because chicories need so much water, and sage likes it drier. However, it’s a good companion because of all the pests it deters. Flea beetles, cabbage worms, cabbage moths, and cabbage loopers like to attack radicchio but will keep their distance if you have sage around.
Keep sage in a container near your radicchio so you can control how much water it receives. It must only be watered when the top few inches of soil are dry, while radicchio needs consistently-moist soil.
Tatsoi is an Asian brassica that can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Though it attracts slugs, cabbage worms, and flea beetles like other brassicas do, they don’t go after this plant as much as they do the others. These pests also like radicchio, but the pest pressures shouldn’t be as bad as other radicchio and brassica combinations.
Tatsoi is another thirsty vegetable that will benefit from sharing a space with your radicchio. Provide both plants with plenty of water and nitrogen to keep everyone happy.
Some gardeners will say that tomatoes and other nightshade plants are a bad choice with radicchio. Those people have a point, but if you’re careful about spacing, you can use tomato plants to prolong your spring chicory harvest.
Tomatoes are typically frowned upon as a chicory companion plant because of their tendency to spread verticillium wilt. Radicchio is also susceptible to this disease, so if one plant gets it, you risk infecting both crops. However, choosing verticillium wilt-resistant tomatoes like the Camelia F1, Sun Gold F1, and Early Cherry will help reduce the disease, as will pruning the bottom branches of the tomato plants so they don’t touch the radicchio.
The benefit that comes from these companions is the shade tomatoes provide radicchio as spring heats up into summer. This chicory only likes full sun in the springtime and will bolt if it gets too hot. But when large tomato plants shade it, it will stay cool in moist soil and will last much longer than if it wasn’t protected.