Learn Why Sunflowers and Tomatoes Make Great Companion Plants

Plant sunflowers to attract more pollinators like birds and bees to your garden for the best tomato crop ever.

Garden-a2-MyYard

I love the bright and cheery look of sunflowers. I love the taste of a homegrown tomato. I am so happy that they go together so very well in a garden.

I grow the common sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.). My plants grow quite tall, some up to 12 foot or more. Of course, I have to put stakes in to support them as they get very top heavy with their large flower heads (up to 10 inches across), especially when the sunflower seeds weigh the heads down.  You can see the poles I have stuck in the ground to provide support for these tall sunflower plants.

Garden-a1-MyYardRoland Jordahl

Attracting Pollinators

The sunflower heads attract bees when they are producing flowers and that is great. Bees have had some major declines both in the United States and other countries. That is scary because bees–both the non-native honeybee that was imported to North America and native bees–pollinate a lot of our food crops as well as many other plants. After the seeds are on the plants members of the finch family come to eat them. You should definitely grow sunflowers for bird seed.

Garden-a4-MyYard

I love to grow tomatoes in my garden not just because they are so delicious to eat but I like the smell of the tomato plants which is especially strong when I pinch the suckers off. Can you guess how many plants I have grown this year? The photo above seems to show a bunch of plants but I only planted 2 plants–yes, all that growth above is from two plants. But don’t think that means I will get lots of green and no tomatoes–these two plants have already produced about 2 dozen tomatoes in my garden in Colorado and have at least five dozen green tomatoes on them waiting to ripen.

Garden-a3-MyYardRamona Doebler

The main reason I get a lot of tomatoes from my plants is because the bees that come to drink the nectar from the sunflower plant flowers also pollinate my tomato blossoms. As can be seen in the photos I plant my tomatoes right next to the sunflower patch–that allows the bees to pollinate the tomato blossoms without having far to fly from the nectar bearing flowers on the sunflower plants to the flowers are my tomato plants. And they pollinate most of the tomato blossoms so I get fruit from almost each of them.

Indeed, tomato plants and sunflowers are great companion plants.

SeEtta Moss
SeEtta Moss is an avid birder, bird photographer and conservationist in Colorado.