Are you considering sweet potatoes this cropping season? Have you heard about sweet potato companion plants? Do you want to gain a better harvest? If all of these are yeses, you are on the right track! These low-profile horticultural maestros help your plant grow in various ways – thwart creeping pests, invite natural garden defenders and pollinators, and improve the soil status. Stay reading as we unveil the secrets of these sweet potato complementary plants!
Benefits of Companion Planting with Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potato vine companion plants offer a myriad of benefits, not only bringing forth chunky tubers but also the following:
- Beautifies the space
- Nurse delicate plants from extreme conditions
- Invites pollinators, parasitic wasps, and predatory insects
- Protects the soil from erosion and helps conserve water
- Increases organic matter, nutrient content, and other soil properties
- Discourages potential pests from attacking your garden
- Improves quality and quantity of yield
What Grows Well with Sweet Potatoes
Companion plants for sweet potatoes include a dazzling array of short-season and perennial crops. However, the most beneficial ones would be leafy greens like spinach and lettuce because of their fast-maturing characteristics, and beans, for they can share their surplus nitrogen with their root bacteria friends.
Best Sweet Potato Companion Plants
The companion plants for sweet potatoes are highly varied in terms of growth habits and innate plant characteristics, including the following list.
Vegetables? Groundbreaking! They may not be new in the matchmaking arena, but they will surely not break your heart with the goodies they bring to your sweet potatoes.
Packed with minerals like iron, spinach is a leafy vegetable that serves as a living ground carpet, protecting your garden soil from erosion and nutrient loss in steep and rain-soaked areas. Its short cropping cycle makes for a rushed farming adventure!
Benefits: Easy to grow, diversifies your garden
How to plant: Sow in spring or summer to a fertile, well-draining soil. Cover with a thin sheet of dirt and keep the ground damp.
Complement your sweet potato vines by growing antioxidant-packed beets! They are nutritious root crops with low-calorie content and will be a helping hand in keeping the soil nice and moist. But, observe proper spacing to capitalize their mutualistic interaction!
Benefits: Adapts to cooler climates, keeps potato bugs, helps conserve the soil
How to plant: For spring planting, pre-germinate the seeds indoors or sow them directly into an organic-rich soil, observing a plant spacing of 3-4 inches (7-10 cm).
Like beets, parsnips are also a gardener's choice for companion planting sweet potatoes. They are cool-season crops that can be planted in early spring or in the fall, offering the same soil-conserving and bug-shooing advantages.
Benefits: Temperature-versatile plant, helps prevent soil erosion, mitigates pest attack
How to plant: Sow the seeds directly into the prepared soil. Space the seeds 2 in (5 cm) apart in rows with 12-18 in (30-46) distance.
Joining the clan of underground-fruiting companion crops is horseradish. It sends its taproot directly into the ground, without invading your sweet potatoes'. The leaves also have glucosinolates which have pest deterrent attributes.
Benefits: Cool-season crop; prevents weed emergence and pest infestations
How to plant: Initially, root cuttings or crowns are buried 2 inches (5 cm) below a slightly acidic soil.
Many have asked, can you plant potatoes and sweet potatoes together? The answer is yes! As they are completely unrelated plants, they won't compete with nutrients. It is important to note that they may have varying requirements for their innate crop cycle.
Benefits: Neutral companion, drives away pests, protects soil degradation
How to plant: Growing potatoes starts with choosing healthy seed potatoes–small tubers with little sprouts. These are then buried in earthen-up soil with adequate organic material.
Lettuce is a worthwhile vegetable to be planted next to your potato. When grown in spring, you will have enough time to plant a second or even a third batch because of its month-long maturity. Just ensure that they are planted on fertile soil infused with compost or other organic matter.
Benefits: Fast cropping cycle, low-maintenance, prevents weed growth and soil erosion
How to plant: Seeds can be scattered directly into the soil or sow them on a seedbox indoors in spring. Because they're pretty sensitive to frost, you want to plant them after the last frost date.
While perennial fruit crops and sweet potatoes are an uncommon pair, several studies prove they can help the star of the garden thrive in some ways!
Talking about fruits, what grows well with sweet potatoes? You might not think it at first, but yes, bananas have positive impacts on this honey tuber! Chinese microbiologists found that bananas and sweet potato tandem were teeming with beneficial soil microbes that can improve plant health.
Benefits: Resistance to root disease, water conservation, promotes sharing of nutrients.
How to plant: Plant them at the borders or the yard's backdrop to maximize space and for aesthetic purposes.
Agronomists and many gardeners have long known maize and sweet potatoes to be compatible. Despite their tall stature, sweet potatoes remain unaffected by the cast shadow as long as they're planted at the right distance and proper spacing is observed.
Benefits: High harvest, better soil usage, helps prevent nutrient and water loss
How to plant: Planting distance is important; it should be planted at least 3,2 ft (1 m) apart to ensure that both crops will not encroach on each other's underground and aerial plants.
If you already have a walnut in your garden, consider growing sweet potatoes! This planting scheme, despite the plant's canopy size, can still actually work, according to a Chinese-based field study. Sweet potatoes can still photosynthesize well with proper spacing.
Benefits: Helps prevent water loss, increases soil organic matter content
How to plant: Plant your sweet potatoes about a meter away from the tree's trunk. Depending on the tree's age, you can grow as much as 12 plants per square meter.
It is a well-established fact that common beans can help grow regardless of which will be its partner! They are linked to a nitrogen-fixing bacteria symbiosis that happens under their root swellings. As a result, they get free fertilizers, including their proximate crop.
Benefits: Easy to grow, can thrive in relatively poor soil, helps conserve the soil structure
How to plant: Sow the seeds directly, about 2 inches (5 cm) deep, spaced 1 foot (30 cm) in each row, which should be spaced 2-3 feet from the adjacent sweet potato rows.
If you're in a tropical climate, companion planting sweet potatoes comprises growing with tall palm plants such as coconut. This might sound uncommon, but it has been a regular and profitable planting system in the tropics where the sweet potatoes spread over the bare soil, protecting the coconut pedestal from soil-degrading factors.
Benefits: Better soil preservation, improved soil organic matter content
How to plant: To maximize yield and optimize land use, sweet potatoes must be planted at least 1-2 ft (30-60 cm) away from the coconut's trunk.
It might take a long time before you can reap your first harvest, but you can put a tropical twist to your garden by planting mangoes! It is also a good idea to take advantage of the free backyard space if you already have an existing garden by planting sweet potato vines.
Benefits: prevents weed growth, helps protect the soil
How to plant: It is best to plant it at the edge of the backyard to maximize the space. Plant sweet potatoes in the vicinity or where the soil is exposed.
Although some vines can be quite aggressive, depending on how you manage them, some can actually interact with your sweet potato without any yield compromises.
Dotted with yellow-orange flowers, vines of nasturtium are an enchanting background when planted next to your sweet potato grove. To prevent vine crisscrossing, nasturtiums are best planted near the fences.
Benefits: Attracts pollinators, helps drive away damaging pests, prevents weed growth
How to plant: They are pretty adaptable and can be grown directly into moderately rich soil, bathed with sunlight and with plant supports.
Looking for a protein-rich plant? Then pole beans are definitely a candidate to match with your sweet potato! They can vary from bushy type to the climbing one, but it's always best to keep the canopy as seamless as possible.
Benefits: Improves nitrogen content of the soil, promotes soil microorganism diversity
How to plant: As the vines can grow entangled, it is a good idea to install poles during the vegetative phase to reduce competition.
Bedazzled with pink, white, red, and yellow flowers, yarrow boasts not only its beauty but also its functionality, converting your garden into a sanctuary of bees, wasps, butterflies, and insect predators.
Benefits: Prevents pest infestations, protects the soil.
How to plant: They can be directly sown into a well-draining ground, with gentle foot pressure to anchor them so as not to be blown by wind or rain splashes.
Totally unrelated to rose, this succulent creeping plant displays a carpet of cushion-shaped flowers that will always be in bloom throughout the growing season. They're great for covering hilly mounds, preventing it from eroding.
Benefits: Attracts pollinators and predatory wasps, maintains a damp and organic-rich soil
How to plant: Pre-grown plantlets or seeds can be used for growing. Select a sandy-loam, sun-drenched site or a spot without overlapping sweet potato vines.
Sweet peas are always at peace with your sweet potato as they don't provoke any significant damage. In fact, as it pertains to the legume family, it can put nutrients in the soil by teaming up with soil microbes.
Benefits: Supplements the soil with extra nitrogen, helps reduce soil moisture loss
How to plant: Pea's vines proliferate heavily after planting, so training them in pyramidal stakes can help their vines keep nice and tucked.
Another variety of beans is the string beans, named for their strikingly elongated pods. They are a great source of amino acids. In Asian countries, they are blanched or cooked as stir-fries.
Benefits: Makes the soil extra fertile with added nitrates
How to plant: Insert 1-2 seeds every 2-4-inch-spaced-rows (5-10 cm), maintaining at least 3-4 ft (90-120 cm) distance from the adjacent sweet potato row.
The following list includes tropical plants, less known for their climatic limitation, but might help decide what to plant with sweet potatoes if you live in a warm climate!
Marigold is a friend of everyone, including your sweet potatoes. Above ground, it beautifully displays its golden flowers to magnet beneficial insects, and at the same time, emit bad odors to keep away bugs.
Benefits: Suppresses weeds and soil pathogens
How to plant: They are best planted along the borders or along the sweet potato rows for maximum security against pests.
Belonging to the ranunculus family, trollius is a golden flower-bearing plant that pops out in spring. Their commanding presence enlivens your bare garden space and creates a nurturing atmosphere for good insects.
Benefits: Attract beneficial insects, protects the soil
How to plant: Select a sunny site with well-draining soil and plant Trollius plantlets into the ground during spring or fall.
Oreganos are Mediterranean native herbs that thrive well in the sweet potato's presence. They're a perfect alternative to pesticides as they can naturally shield your garden against stubborn creatures.
Benefits: Perfumes the air, low maintenance
How to plant: Plant in sandy or loamy soil. You may add cracked egg shells to increase calcium content and drainage properties.
A close relative of sweet corn, sorghum might be an unfamiliar plant to many, but it has been widely used as an agronomic companion for sweet potatoes in African rural farms.
Benefits: Helps conserve water, mitigates superficial runoff
How to plant: Sorghum seeds can be planted directly into the ground like corn.
If you are thinking what to plant after sweet potatoes, you might consider cowpeas as well. Agronomic experiments revealed that sweat potatoes intercropped with cowpeas and marigolds produced plumpier tubers!
Benefits: Increases yield, reduced fertilizer use
How to plant: Sow the seeds intermittently along the rows of sweet potato vines at a distance of 1 ft (30 cm).
Cassava is a tropical root crop that is planted with sweet potatoes in many Asian and African countries. Not only did it increase their profit, but it also helped maintain the sustainable land use in the area.
Benefits: Increase land use efficiency, limits soil erosion
How to plant: Space the rows about 2-3 ft (60-80cm) to give way for the sweet potato hills in between.
Another non-famous yet soil-enriching companion is peanuts. They have a low foliage spread, which reduces the light blockage to the main crop.
Benefits: Reduce nitrogen application, increases yield
How to plant: Sow peanuts along your sweet potato rows with a 3-feet distance (90 cm) between furrows and 0,7 ft (20 cm) in between the seeds.
A close sister to alocasia and elephant ear, taro is a tropical root crop simultaneously planted with sweet potatoes in many Asian and Pacific regions.
Benefits: Optimizes yield, conserves water.
How to plant: Slips, or young "tubers," are planted along the furrows of sweet potatoes. For best yield, they may do well in damp clay soils.
Bad Companion Plants for Sweet Potato
If you are wondering what are the bad companion plants for sweet potatoes and why they considered as such, here’s a useful list:
- Tomatoes – have excessive plant food appetite like phosphorus, competing with your main crop.
- Sunflower – can steal nutrients and can drench growth-suppressing allelochemicals into the soil.
- Squash – possesses large leaves which are relatively dominant and more aggressive than the sweet potatoes’.
What to Plant with Sweet Potatoes to Keep Bugs Away
One of the leading benefits of diversifying your garden is that it keeps the bugs away. If you want to make the most of this advantage, the following plants are on their posts!
- Alliums – Chives, garlic, and onions bomb your garden with a disagreeable odor to major sweet potato weevils.
- Dill – their scented and attractive flowers lure parasitic wasps and simultaneously pump the air with a strong aroma that will make the bugs turn away.
- Pepper - while they may be considered a nutrient-stealing plant, some studies suggest otherwise, demonstrating its pest-deterrent properties.
Rules of Companion Planting for Sweet Potatoes
Can you grow potatoes and sweet potatoes together? Well, you can! If you are concerned with mismatches, here are the most important rules to prevent doing so:
- Plants of the same family attract the same pests, so it's best to avoid planting in the morning glory vines (related to sweet potatoes).
- Supplement your plants with a proper nutrient ratio for proper growth.
- Control plant canopy by trimming some vines or leaves.
- Keep the water dry to prevent fungal disease transmission.
- Adding compost or earthworm castings will always fatten the soil with nutrients, perfect for double cropping.
Mistakes to Avoid in Your Companion Planting Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes companion plants will only work if given the right care and adequate maintenance. Here are some of the practices that should be avoided:
- Planting too close. Companion plants work efficiently when planted at the right distance.
- Not preparing the soil well. Unless you are considering legumes, the soil must be fertile enough to supplement the multi-cropping system.
- Using pesticides. This must only be applied when the infestation is severe.
- Orienting the rows from east to west. It may cast shadows on the nearby plants than in a north-south direction.
Can you grow potatoes and sweet potatoes together?
Yes, they can be good plant partners. Planting them at the right distance and putting stakes to let the sweet potato grow upwards will reduce sun, space, and nutrient competition.
Can you plant sweet potatoes next to peppers?
Yes, peppers as a companion plant for sweet potato is compatible! In field trials conducted by intercropping the two crops, it was found that the tubers were less affected by sweet potato weevils, a discovery of their pest-deterrent property.