Sweet potato plants are tropical climbers, most popularly grown for their edible tubers. These herbaceous trailing vines grow best in warm conditions and can grow up to 10 feet long, with a plentiful harvest in early fall.
The best part about sweet potato plants is what they produce. Sweet potatoes are a starchy tuber known for their sweet taste and soft texture.
They can be cooked in a myriad of ways, including sweet potato fries, baked sweet potato, sweet potato casserole, mashed sweet potato, and more.
With such a variety of ways to cook sweet potato, it makes sense why this is such a popular starchy vegetable amongst gardeners.
Not only this, but sweet potato plants are known to attract pollinators, bringing a multitude of wildlife to a backyard.
If you wish to grow sweet potatoes, it helps to grow other species near the plant to promote healthy growth.
Here is our guide to the best sweet potato companion plants, including why companion planting is so beneficial for sweet potatoes.
What Is The Meaning Of Companion Plants?
Companion planting is when you deliberately plant two or more species of plants within a small space to help them benefit from each other.
This is suitable for plants that are compatible for companion growth, meaning that they will benefit from what the other plants will offer.
For example, companion planting is good for protecting certain plants from pests, or to improve the overall quality of the soil.
Benefits Of Companion Planting
Companion planting comes with an array of benefits. If you grow one plant species that is prone to pests near a plant species that is known to combat pests, the second plant will help to prevent pests in the first plant.
This is usually achieved by growing plants that will attract pollinators and insects that will eat the pests.
The same can also be said for plant species that will provide ground cover or shade, which is beneficial for other plant species that prefer to grow in these conditions.
Not only this, but growing compatible plants near each other can improve the nitrogen cycling and fixation levels in the soil, resulting in healthier and fertile soil.
Best Sweet Potato Companion Plants
Sweet potatoes are a great species to grow with companion plants. While sweet potatoes can attract pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, they are also prone to attracting pests.
So, you need one or more companion plants that naturally combat pests to prevent the destructive pests from damaging your sweet potato plant.
Here are the best sweet potato companion plants!
It’s not a garden without herbs. Herbs are fantastic companion plants for sweet potatoes, because their size and density helps to camouflage sweet potato plants from nasty foragers or pests.
Herbs such as basil, dill, and thyme are great for attracting beneficial insects that are known to eat pests like aphids, which subsequently repels spider mites, hornworms, thrips, and flies.
This is because of the herb’s confusing scent, which works as a physical and aromatic camouflage for the sweet potato plant.
Plus, herbs make your garden or greenhouse smell absolutely delicious!
Alliums work in the same way as herbs when it comes to repelling pests from sweet potato plants.
Chives, onions, and garlic are the most popular alliums, but any allium species is a good companion plant thanks to their distracting scent. This scent helps to repel pests like sweet potato flea beetles and bean weevils.
Not only this, but alliums repel root-knot nematodes, which are parasites that live in the soil.
Alliums help to improve the quality of soil, and therefore work to kill potential root-knot nematodes from damaging the sweet potato plant’s root.
Marigolds are excellent visual distractors for pests that would otherwise attack a sweet potato plant.
Their bright yellow and orange flowers are unappealing to pests, making this a great companion species for sweet potatoes. Like alliums, marigolds also repel nematodes, aphids, and whiteflies thanks to their improvement of the soil.
Plus, marigolds make for a stunning burst of color in a garden, which is always a bonus.
Radishes are useful companion plants for sweet potatoes, because they generally are harvested early in the season to provide more vine growth for the sweet potato plants.
Their fast maturity is why radishes are often interplanted with sweet potatoes.
Not only this, but radishes attract aphids, which in turn attracts useful insects that prey on aphids. In short, radishes work like a honey pot for pests.
Alyssum is a popular companion plant for many plant species, including sweet potatoes. This companion plant has a sweet aroma that attracts beneficial insects that prey on pests.
This is why this species is commonly grown in fruit tree guilds and food forests.
Beans are the best legume to plant alongside sweet potato plants, because they are nitrogen-fixing plants.
Plants like sweet potatoes require a nitrogen-rich soil, so they benefit from growing near the nitrogen-rich nodules on the roots of bean plants.
Legumes also protect sweet potatoes from too much sunlight exposure, and can attract pests away from a sweet potato.
Nasturtium flowers are great camouflage for sweet potatoes. The brightly-colored flowers with the unique aroma helps to confuse pests that would otherwise attack a sweet potato plant.
Instead, pests (such as aphids) will munch on the edible nasturtium flowers, which are undeniably tastier than sweet potato vines.
Yarrow is another great companion plant that is grown in food forests and fruit guilds. This companion plant attracts beneficial insects, such as predatory wasps, lacewings, spiders, and ladybugs, that will prey on pests.
Lastly, the growth habit of spinach makes this a great companion for sweet potatoes.
Spinach grows as an edible growth cover, which not only keeps the soil from drying out in dry seasons, but also suppresses the growth of weeds.
Don’t worry about spinach stunting the growth of sweet potatoes – spinach is a short-season crop that is harvested before sweet potatoes are harvested, allowing them more time and room to grow.
Bad Companion Plants For Sweet Potato
While there are lots of great companion plants for sweet potatoes, here are the ones to avoid:
These plants are known to increase the chance of blight and other common diseases, and will often stunt the growth of sweet potatoes due to their similar growing habits.
So, there you have it! Sweet potatoes might be simple to grow, but they grow far better when planted alongside companion plants.
As long as the companion plant helps to prevent pests and promote the growth of the sweet potatoes, they make for a beneficial addition to a garden.