The sweet potato plant is known for its high yield, entertaining value, and easy growth. Did you know that there are many plants that go well with sweet potatoes? If you want your spring garden to be a success, or if you’re already growing sweet potatoes, having good companion plants will help a lot.
Some companions help sweet potatoes grow by feeding them nutrients, while others help them resist insect pests. Great companion plants can help you understand what sweet potatoes need to grow. Companion plants seem to have surprising benefits, don’t they?
What Is Companion Planting?
When it comes to companion planting, the first thing that comes to mind is Three Sisters. This is a regenerative agriculture practice that has been used by Native Americans for centuries. Different types of plants are grown together in a way that they can help each other grow. Corn provides a pole for beans to climb. Beans help improve the quality of the soil by adding nitrogen, which in turn helps squash and corn grow healthy roots. Squash can help to prevent weeds from growing, and also make crops more resistant to pests. They all cooperate to make each one taste better.
This is a simplified view of a more complex process. If you want a good harvest from your vegetable garden, you should try companion planting. Some plants attract pests which then feed on them instead of other plants. Some types of plants can help control insect pest populations by attracting beneficial insects. Some plants help improve the flavor of nearby vegetables by providing them with essential nutrients. Covering the ground with plants helps to prevent weeds from growing and provides a regular supply of nutrients to other plants. Tall plants can provide shade to those who prefer part sun, and fast-growing plants can mark and border areas to tell gardeners where to plant.
Many gardeners plant certain plants with others for various reasons. This results in higher yields, as well as plants that support the growth of other plants. Companions can be a great addition to your sweet potato garden!
Sweet Potato Companion Plant Choices for Pest Control
There are many insects that love sweet potatoes just as much as people do.
The pests that cause the most damage are aphids, armyworms, cutworms, flea beetles, nematodes, sweet potato weevils, thrips, and whiteflies. Norfolk Island pine, taro, okra, and sweet potato plants are some good companion plants to keep pests away from your sweet potato plants.
The Allium plant family, including chives, garlic, and onions, are some of the most pest-resistant plants, making them ideal companions for other plants.
The plants give off a strong smell that scares away aphids, armyworms, borers, caterpillars, slugs, spider mites, and whiteflies. They also help to keep deer and rodents from eating your vegetables.
You should not plant Alliums near legumes such as beans and peas. Plants in these groups reportedly stunt each other’s growth when they are grown close together.
To control common fungal diseases like early and late blight, leaf spots, and powdery mildew, treat sweet potato plants with a homemade garlic spray.
This homemade spray also works as a contact insecticide. It is important to be careful when using this product as it not only kills garden pests, but also helpful insects such as ladybugs and pollinators.
DIY Insecticidal/Fungicidal Garlic Spray
- 2 or 3 raw garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon dish soap
- 1 quart of tap water
Blend the garlic in a food processor or blender until it turns into a watery paste. Add the water and liquefy. After you have strained the garlic out of the mixture, pour it into a clean spray bottle.
To make a foaming hand soap, add a half-teaspoon of dishwashing liquid to the bottle and shake it vigorously to blend the ingredients.
Spray the plant until all parts are wet, making sure to get both sides of the leaves. Fungal spores typically appear on the undersides of plants’ leaves. Insects often hide in this area.
This product can also be used as a natural pest repellent. It’s mild enough that it doesn’t burn plants’ leaves. Spray garlic around your garden every few days to prevent fungal disease and pest activity.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Basil is a great herb for keeping pests away from your garden. The strong smell of this plant helps to keep away armyworms, asparagus beetles, flies, mosquitoes, thrips, tomato hornworms, and whiteflies. Its delicate purple and white flowers also attract pollinators.
It’s easy to plant basil. To grow basil from cuttings, simply follow the same steps as you would if you were growing them from seeds.
Cilantro/Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
This herb goes by different names depending on where you are. In North America, the leaves of the coriander plant are called cilantro, and the seeds are called coriander. Coriander refers to the seeds and leaves of the plant in most other countries.
There are many benefits to growing cilantro alongside sweet potatoes. The strong scent of this plant repels garden pests, including aphids, potato beetles, slugs, and spider mites.
The leaves on this plant aren’t dense, so it won’t shade other plants that need full sun to grow. To take advantage of cilantro’s benefits, plan where to plant it.
Coriander not only provides a tasty addition to many dishes, but also serves as a host plant for beneficial predatory insects like lacewings, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps to lay their eggs. By planting coriander in your garden, you can help ensure that these beneficial insects will be around to help keep harmful pests in check. The white flowers also attract pollinators to the garden.
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
Horseradish makes a superb companion plant for sweet potatoes. Horseradish plants are grown for their spicy edible roots and can effectively repel pests like aphids, caterpillars, potato beetles and whiteflies.
Some growers suggest using horseradish leaves as mulch to enhance the pest-repellent effects around sweet potato plants.
When horseradish is grown nearby, it also improves disease resistance in sweet potato plants. However, it’s best not to plant rutabaga with other plants from the Brassica family, including bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, and turnips.
Pests and diseases affect these plants in a similar way and spread quickly to other vulnerable plants of the same type.
Marigolds (Tagetes patula)
Marigolds are a popular type of flower to plant alongside other plants. This natural defense mechanism keeps unwanted predators away from the plant. Marigolds help bring pollinators and beneficial predatory insects to the garden.
In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, the roots of French marigolds also produce a natural chemical that kills harmful root-knot nematodes when ingested. This means that by planting marigolds, you can reduce the amount of nematodes in the soil over time.
Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus)
Nasturtiums can attract aphids, so sometimes people use them as a “trap crop.” This means that the aphids will go to the nasturtiums instead of other plants. Plant nasturtiums a few feet away from your sweet potatoes.
When the plant is full of insects, remove the whole plant and put it in a plastic bag. Throw away the bag in an outdoor garbage can with a lid, or leave it in the sun for a few days to kill the bugs, then compost the plant material.
Nasturtiums are not only pretty to look at, but they also serve as host plants for numerous types of butterflies as well as predatory insects like hoverflies to lay their eggs. Make sure to give nasturtium plants plenty of room to grow since they have a tendency to sprawl.
Both nasturtium flowers and leaves are safe to eat and taste good. Radishes have a bright, peppery flavor and are excellent in fresh summer salads.
Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis)
This herb is effective in repelling the sweet potato weevil, which is the most destructive pest to this vegetable.
They are found in moderate climates in the southeastern US from Louisiana and Texas up to North Carolina. The adults only eat the leaves of the plants, but the larvae tunnel into the tubers and cause damage to the crop. This increases the risk of root rot.
The delicate white or pink flowers of savory repel bean beetles and cabbage moths while attracting pollinators.
Companion Planting Sweet Potatoes to Attract Beneficial Insects
Pollinators are necessary for the successful growth of most types of veggies. Predatory insects help to control populations of garden pests by eating them. This is done without the use of harmful insecticides.
Borage is a great addition to any vegetable garden. The flowers and young leaves of the plant are edible and have a mildly sweet taste similar to cucumbers.
The star-shaped flowers are a favorite among pollinators and they bloom pink before fading to light blue within a few hours.
Borage leaves provide a habitat for many different kinds of predatory insects to lay their eggs, such as lacewings and parasitic wasps. In addition, borage deters cabbage worms and tomato hornworms.
Borage is a plant that gathers minerals and nutrients from the soil and stores them in its leaves and roots.
In other words, large borage leaves can be helpful when you are trying to mulch your garden. Borage leaves help improve the quality of soil by adding nitrogen and other nutrients when they decompose. The roots also release calcium and potassium.
The borage plant is a large annual plant that quickly grows to be one to three feet tall and up to 18 inches wide.
Keep the mature size of the plant in mind when choosing a location to plant it, and make sure there is plenty of space. This plant reproduces by self-seeding, so it’s best to remove spent flowers if you don’t want volunteer seedlings next season.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Oregano is an excellent plant to attract beneficial predatory insects like lacewings, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps. These insects help to control pests in the garden by laying their eggs in or near areas where pests are present.
As soon as the larvae hatch, they start to eat garden pests like aphids, cutworms, and thrips. Bees and butterflies are attracted to the flowers.
Although oregano can spread quickly, it can be difficult to grow with other crops. Some gardeners prefer using it as a border plant.
Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
Some sweet-smelling flowers not only look beautiful in the garden, but also serve a purpose. They also attract animals that help with pollination, like hoverflies, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps.
Sweet alyssum is an effective ground cover because it helps keep the soil moist, reduces weed growth, and protects against extreme temperatures.
What to Plant with Sweet Potatoes to Enhance Growth
The growth habit of each plant is an important consideration when companion planting sweet potatoes. The sweet potato vine has a growth habit that is characterized by sprawling and vines. The plant can either grow close to the ground or be trained to grow on a frame.
Here are a few plants that grow well with sweet potatoes.
Beans and peas are good companion plants for sweet potatoes because they help improve the nitrogen in the soil.
Soil bacteria absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere and release it in a form that plants can use.
You can improve your yields by planting bush beans among your sweet potato vines, or by trellising your peas or pole beans and sweet potatoes together.
Planting summer savory nearby helps to deter bean beetles. Do not plant legumes next to onions, as they will supposedly inhibit each other’s growth.
Most other root vegetables grow well with sweet potatoes. Other vegetables that can be planted near sweet potatoes include beets, carrots, parsnips, and turnips. Planting radishes is also a great idea.
When you are planting carrot seeds, it is important to know that they only use the top layers of soil. This is important to know because sweet potato tubers grow deeper down and you don’t want them to compete for water and nutrients or overcrowd one another.
What Not To Plant With Sweet Potatoes
Although sweet potatoes are pretty easy to grow with other plants, there are a few plants to exclude from your sweet potato garden. Sometimes this interference is due to the structure of the roots, where one root may get in the way of another. Other times it has to do with biochemical interactions.
Any type of squash is not a good companion plant to grow with sweet potatoes. Summer and winter squash, as well as sweet potato vines, are all very abundant and take up a lot of space. Even if you have one plant that is trellised and one plant that is trailing on the ground, they will still compete with each other for nutrients. Sweet potatoes grow best when they have a lot of space, and it’s best to not plant them near other vines.
Sunflowers do not improve the growth of sweet potatoes, and may even harm them by encouraging potato blight. Sweet potatoes require a lot of room to grow, which means there is less space for other plants. Plant something other than sunflowers.
Tomatoes and sweet potatoes share similar diseases, like potato blight. These two vegetables have a bit of a toxic relationship. They encourage each other’s diseases, suppressing growth and proliferation. If you want to grow tomatoes and sweet potatoes at the same time, grow them on opposite sides of the garden or in different containers.
You shouldn’t plant sweet potatoes near other plants that like the same kind of environment. Pole beans work well with sweet potatoes, but bush beans do not. Bush beans grow in a similar way to sweet potatoes. Bush beans and sweet potatoes will compete for space and nutrients, resulting in low yields for both. Pole beans that grow up instead of out are better companion plants for sweet potatoes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can you plant anything with sweet potatoes?
A: Not necessarily. Have a lot of space for sweet potatoes? Other vining plants might not be the best friend for them. Look at the lists above to see which ones are the best and which ones to avoid.
Q: Can you plant tomatoes with sweet potatoes?
A: You can, but you probably don’t want to. Tomatoes can easily spread disease to your sweet potato vine. Grow tomatoes in a different part of your garden, or in a container, rather than near sweet potatoes.