Plant studies that have investigated the fitness consequences of growing with siblings have found conflicting evidence that can support different theoretical frameworks. Depending on whether siblings or strangers have higher fitness in competition, kin selection, niche partitioning and competitive ability have been invoked. Here, we bring together these processes in a conceptual synthesis and argue that they can be co-occurring. We propose that these processes can be reconciled and argue for a trait-based approach of measuring natural selection instead of the fitness-based approach to the study of sibling competition. This review will improve the understanding of how plants interact socially under competitive situations, and provide a framework for future studies.