Sweet potatoes are vining plants that produce deliciously tasty tubers. They’re easy and fun to grow, especially when planted with beneficial companion plants. In this article, discover numerous sweet potato companion plant ideas and learn why they help your sweet potatoes grow better.
Although they’re perennials in tropical climates, most gardeners grow sweet potatoes as annuals because of their warm temperature needs. They have a long growing season, requiring between 100 and 150 days of warm weather above 65℉. It’s essential to choose companion plants with similar growing requirements.
Companion planting is a helpful garden design strategy that growers have been using for many generations to utilize the positive interactions between certain compatible plants. By doing so, you’ll foster a healthy, sustainable garden environment.
- Companion Planting for Sweet Potatoes
- Sweet Potato Companion Plant Choices for Pest Control
- Companion Planting Sweet Potatoes to Attract Beneficial Insects
- What to Plant with Sweet Potatoes to Enhance Growth
- What Not to Plant with Sweet Potatoes
Companion Planting for Sweet Potatoes
While numerous plants attract pollinators and various predatory insects, others repel different types of garden pests.
Certain plant pairings reportedly enhance one another’s growth and flavor when grown together. Use this companion planting chart to produce the best possible crop of sweet potatoes.
Sweet potato vine, or Ipomoea batatas by its botanical name, is native to Central and South America and has been a vegetable garden staple in warm climates for centuries. Contrary to common belief, sweet potatoes are not in the same plant family as regular potatoes.
Although the two species are distantly related, sweet potatoes are members of the morning glory family. They are closely related to cypress vine, moonflowers, and water spinach.
Another common misconception is that sweet potatoes and yams are the same thing. Although the orange- or red-skinned tubers are frequently called yams in the United States, the two plants are not related.
Yams are part of the Dioscorea plant family, related to grasses and lilies. Sweet potatoes grow best in full sun, where they receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
These tubers thrive in rich, warm soil with consistent moisture levels. If they grow in heavy clay or sandy soil, the crop may turn out stunted or woody.
Since they require warm weather and have such a long growing season, it’s common to start growing sweet potatoes indoors in early spring and starting sweet potato slips in soil.
These are the plant clones that form on sprouting sweet potato tubers. Otherwise, purchase nursery-grown seedlings from your local garden center. Look for reliable heirloom varieties like Beauregard, Centennial, or Heart of Gold.
Read on to find out what to plant with sweet potatoes to repel pests, attract beneficial insects, and promote strong, healthy growth.
Companion planting sweet potatoes with various other aromatic herbs, flowers, and veggies ultimately reduces the workload for the gardener by mimicking Mother Nature’s way.
Sweet Potato Companion Plant Choices for Pest Control
After you determine when to plant sweet potatoes, include some of these plants to benefit your tubers. Several insect pests find sweet potatoes just as delicious as we do.
The most frequent culprits include aphids, armyworms, cutworms, flea beetles, nematodes, sweet potato weevils, thrips, and whiteflies. Here are a few good companion plants for keeping these pests away from your sweet potato plants.
Members of the Allium plant family, including chives, garlic, and onions, are some of the most favorable companion plants for pest control.
Their strong scent repels aphids, armyworms, borers, caterpillars, slugs, spider mites, and whiteflies. They’re also efficient at deterring deer and rodents from munching your veggies.
Keep your Alliums away from legumes like beans and peas. These plant groups reportedly stunt one another’s growth when grown in close proximity.
To control common fungal diseases like early and late blight, leaf spot, and powdery mildew, treat sweet potato plants’ leaves with a homemade garlic spray.
This homemade spray also works as a contact insecticide. Keep in mind that it kills garden pests as well as beneficial insects like ladybugs and pollinators, so be careful when applying it.
Purée the garlic in a food processor or blender until it forms a watery paste. Add the water and liquefy. Strain out any leftover garlic pieces and pour the mixture into a clean spray bottle.
Add one half-teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and shake the bottle vigorously to blend the ingredients.
Thoroughly spray all parts of the plant, taking care to cover both sides of the leaves. Fungal spores typically emerge on the undersides of plants’ leaves, and it’s a favorite hiding place for insects, as well.
This spray also works well as a natural pest repellent. It’s mild enough that it doesn’t burn plants’ leaves. Apply the garlic spray every few days wherever you notice signs of fungal disease or pest activity around your garden.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Basil is an incredibly beneficial herb for deterring pests in the garden. Its potently aromatic scent repels 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. The way to grow basil from cuttings is just as simple as starting them from seeds.
Cilantro/Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
This versatile aromatic herb goes by different names depending on where in the world you are. In Canada and the US, the leaves are cilantro, and the seeds are coriander. In most other countries, both the seeds and leaves are known as coriander.
Cilantro is a good companion when growing sweet potatoes for numerous reasons. Its strong scent repels garden pests including aphids, potato beetles, slugs, and spider mites.
The feathery leaves also don’t block much light, so the plant won’t be in the way of veggies that grow in full sun. Plan where to plant cilantro to take advantage of its benefits.
Coriander also serves as a host plant for beneficial predatory insects like lacewings, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps to lay their eggs. The dainty white flowers also draw pollinators to the garden.
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
Horseradish makes a superb companion plant for sweet potatoes. Grown for their spicy edible roots, horseradish plants effectively repel pests like aphids, caterpillars, potato beetles, and whiteflies.
Some growers suggest using horseradish leaves as mulch around sweet potato plants to enhance the pest repellent effects.
Horseradish also improves disease resistance in sweet potato plants when grown nearby. However, it’s best to keep it separate from other Brassica family members, including bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale kohlrabi, radishes, and turnips.
These plants tend to suffer from the same pest and disease problems, which spread faster among similarly vulnerable cultivars.
Marigolds (Tagetes patula)
Marigolds are one of the most prominent ornamental flowers for companion planting. They repel pests like aphids, flea beetles, cabbage worms, hornworms, thrips, and whiteflies. Marigolds also attract pollinators and beneficial predatory insects to the garden.
In addition, the roots of French marigolds also produce a natural chemical that kills harmful root-knot nematodes when ingested. As a result, marigolds serve as a trap crop to reduce the overall population of nematodes present in the soil over time.
Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus)
Nasturtiums are very attractive to aphids and are sometimes used as a trap crop to keep these pests off other plants. Plant nasturtiums a short distance away from your sweet potatoes.
When it’s full of insects, remove the entire plant and seal it in a plastic bag. Immediately dispose of the bag in an outdoor garbage container with a lid or leave the bag in the hot sun for several days to kill all insects and then compost the plant material.
Nasturtiums also serve as host plants for numerous types of butterflies as well as predatory insects like hoverflies to lay their eggs. Remember to give nasturtium plants plenty of space for their sprawling growth habit.
Both the nasturtium flowers and the leaves are edible and delicious. They have a bright, peppery flavor and make an excellent addition to fresh summer salads.
Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis)
Summer savory is a sweet and spicy herb that makes an excellent companion for sweet potatoes because it repels the sweet potato weevil, which is the most serious sweet potato pest.
They occur in temperate areas of the southeastern United States from Louisiana and Texas as far north as North Carolina. While the adults only do minimal damage to the plants’ foliage, the larvae tunnel into the tubers, damaging the crop and increasing the risk of root rot.
Savory also effectively repels bean beetles and cabbage moths, and its delicate white or pink flowers attract pollinators.
Companion Planting Sweet Potatoes to Attract Beneficial Insects
In addition to repelling unwanted insects that cause damage to our beloved flowers and veggies, it’s also essential to attract beneficial insects to the vegetable garden.
Pollinators like bees and butterflies play a crucial role in successfully growing most types of veggies. Predatory insects help to control populations of garden pests without the use of harmful insecticides.
Borage is one of the very best companion plants for your vegetable garden. Its flowers and tender young leaves are edible and have a mildly sweet, cucumber-like flavor.
The star-shaped flowers are a pollinator favorite and bloom pink before fading to light blue within several hours.
Borage leaves also provide a habitat for predatory insects like lacewings and parasitic wasps to lay their eggs. In addition, borage deters cabbage worms and tomato hornworms.
Borage is a dynamic accumulator, meaning it gathers minerals and nutrients from the soil and stores them in its leaves and roots.
As such, large borage leaves are an excellent addition to your mulch blend around the garden. As they decompose, borage leaves add valuable nitrogen and other nutrients back to the soil. The roots also release calcium and potassium.
Borage is a large, fast-growing annual plant that reaches between one and three feet tall and up to 18 inches wide when mature.
Make sure to keep its mature size in mind when companion planting and allow plenty of space. It freely self-seeds, so it’s best to remove spent flowers if you don’t want to see volunteer seedlings next season.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Oregano is excellent for attracting predatory insects like lacewings, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps by providing a habitat for them to lay their eggs.
When the larvae hatch, they avidly prey on garden pests like aphids, cutworms, and thrips. The flowers are also a favorite of pollinators like bees and butterflies.
However, oregano is sometimes challenging to interplant with other crops due to its spreading nature. Some gardeners prefer using it as a border plant.
Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
These sweet-smelling flowers don’t just look beautiful in the garden. They also attract pollinators and predatory insects like hoverflies, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps.
In addition, sweet alyssum is a low-growing ground cover that acts as a living mulch to retain moisture, minimize weeds, and insulate the soil.
What to Plant with Sweet Potatoes to Enhance Growth
Another vital consideration for companion planting sweet potatoes is the growth habit of each plant. As indicated by the name, sweet potato vine has a sprawling, vining growth habit. They can either spread out as ground cover or be trained to grow on a trellis.
Keep the space requirements of each plant in mind, both above and below the soil surface. Some growers report that certain plants improve the health and flavor of sweet potatoes when grown in the same area.
Here are a few plants that have compatible growth habits to sweet potatoes.
Legumes like beans and peas are outstanding companion plants for sweet potatoes because they fix nitrogen in the nearby soil.
These amazing plants have a symbiotic relationship with certain types of soil bacteria that absorb atmospheric nitrogen, which cannot be consumed by most plants, and release it into the soil in the form of nitrates that other plants can utilize.
Interplant bush beans among your sweet potato vines, or trellis your peas or pole beans and sweet potatoes together.
Planting summer savory nearby helps to deter bean beetles. Keep legumes apart from members of the onion family, as they reportedly stunt one another’s growth.
In general, sweet potatoes grow well with most other root vegetables. Beets, carrots, parsnips, and turnips all make suitable companion plants for sweet potatoes. Planting radishes is also a great idea.
When planting carrot seeds and these other root crops, know that they use the top layers of soil, while the sweet potato tubers grow deeper down, so they aren’t competing for water and nutrients or overcrowding one another.
What Not to Plant with Sweet Potatoes
Certain plants are incompatible for a variety of reasons. They may not have similar needs regarding light, nutrients, or water, or they end up competing for space above or below the soil level.
Another reason to keep particular plants separated is if they have similar pest and disease problems. These issues tend to spread much faster when equally susceptible plants are growing in the same area.
Although the scientific research behind companion planting is still relatively limited, experienced gardeners report that specific plant pairings result in stunted growth or altered fruit flavor. Here are a few plants to keep away from your sweet potatoes.
Melons and Squash
Melons and squash plants, including pumpkins and zucchini, are heavy feeders just like sweet potatoes. In addition, they have similarly sprawling growth habits.
These plants would challenge each other for nutrients and growing space, and both suffer. Crop rotation, or planting in different areas every few years, is critical for ensuring that your garden soil isn’t depleted of nutrients.
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)
While sunflowers are a great companion plant for some crops, they may increase the risk of your sweet potatoes contracting potato blight.
This fungal disease is sometimes fatal to the harvest, and the spores may persist in the soil for up to three or four years. Practice regular crop rotation, and use sunflowers as a border plant.
Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)
Tomatoes are another heavy-feeding crop that competes for nutrients and water with sweet potato plants. Additionally, they’re susceptible to many of the same pest and disease problems as the sweet potato vine.
Whether you’re growing them in a traditional garden plot, raised bed, or containers, companion planting sweet potatoes with flowers, herbs, and other veggies creates less labor for the gardener by working in harmony with Mother Nature.
Utilizing the mutually beneficial interactions between certain plants makes it possible to deter common garden pests and attract beneficial insects that assist with pollination and pest control.
Sweet potatoes grow well alongside other warm weather crops that don’t directly compete for growing space and nutrients.
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