Best and Worst Companion Plants for Sweet Potatoes
Increase Crop Yields, Improve Soil Health, Use Garden Space Efficiently and Keep Pests at Bay
Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a popular herbaceous perennial vine, grown for its attractive lush foliage (ornamental Sweet potato) or its nutritious, sweet-tasting roots (edible Sweet potato). A beautiful addition to the garden and containers, its edible tubers are ranked as one of the healthiest vegetables because of their high levels of vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, and fiber.
What are Sweet Potatoes?
- Sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family, Convolvulaceae.
- Despite their common name, Sweet potatoes are not even botanically related to regular potatoes, which are stem tubers in the nightshade family.
- Sweet potatoes are native to tropical Central and South America and have been cultivated for at least 5,000 years.
- Today, Sweet potatoes are cultivated in tropical and warm temperate climates worldwide.
- Sweet potatoes are twining perennial climbers, often grown as annuals, with some cultivars valued for their edible and delicious roots.
- Sweet potatoes are slow-growing and require warm temperatures to develop their cylindrical tubers, which are up to 12 inches long (30 cm), and weigh up to about one pound.
- Sweet potato plants come back every year if you live in a warmer growing zone (USDA zones 9 through 11).
- There are hundreds of varieties of Sweet potatoes. Some have white or cream-colored flesh. Others are yellow, red, or purple.
- Popular Sweet potato cultivars include Beauregard, Centennial, Jewel, and Vardaman.
What Is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is an organic method of preventing or protecting plants from pests and diseases, attracting the right types of insects for pollination, enhancing nutrient uptake, and increasing crop production simply by growing specific plants near each other. In essence, companion planting helps bring a balanced ecosystem to your landscape, allowing nature to do its job.
Benefits of Companion Planting
1. Organic Pest control
Some plants can emit scents that either repel insects, attract them, or confuse insects or disease organisms in search of their favorite host plants. They make insects less likely to land on your garden vegetables.
2. Attracts beneficial insects
Some plants help attract beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, bees, and butterflies, that pollinate and help control harmful bugs. Beneficial insects feed on common garden pests, like aphids and caterpillars.
3. Provides necessary shade
Tall sun-loving plants offer shade to smaller shade-loving plants. This results in better products and can also potentially provide pest control. A good example is The Three Sisters Garden. Practiced by Native Americans thousands of years ago, this garden includes corn, beans, and squash. The tall corn provides shade for the lower squash but also stops the squash vine borer beetle.
4. Shelters plants
Some plants can provide windbreaks and prevent soil erosion. Strong winds can damage gardens by removing mulch, topsoil, and eroding beds and hillsides. Rain can also cause severe damage by beating down young seedlings. By carefully selecting the right ground cover, you can help prevent soil erosion.
5. Provides natural supports
Some companion plants can physically support each other, reducing the need for staking. The example of planting corn, beans, and squash together applies here again. Corn provides tall stalks for the beans to climb so that they are not out-competed by sprawling squash vines.
6. Saves space
Interplanting different crops greatly maximizes space and improves productivity in small gardens.
7. Enhances flavors
Some plants can subtly enhance the flavor of other plants. Most herbs have been found to enhance the flavor of fruits and vegetables grown nearby, and Basil grown beside tomatoes is an excellent example. Similarly, chamomile has an aromatic scent that is believed to improve the growth and flavor of cabbages, cucumbers, and onions when grown beside them.
8. Better soil quality and fertility
Some crops help fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and reduce fertilizer needs. Similarly, planting plants with different root structures together can aerate the soil and allow plants to pull nutrients from different parts of the soil.
Not only can companion planting helps your plants to grow better, but it also makes the vegetable garden more attractive thanks to the addition of colorful flowers that help or hinder nearby vegetables. Companion planting combines beauty and purpose to create an enjoyable, healthy environment.
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.