Potatoes. There are a myriad of varieties that are nutritious and easy to grow, so it’s no wonder they’re a popular staple throughout home gardens in the United States. But what can you grow next to your potato crop to ensure you get the best out of each plant?
Read on to learn about the best companion plants for potatoes in your garden.
Best Pest Deterrents
Cilantro is a key ingredient in many dishes that can’t be replaced. It’s always nice to have the herb on hand (unless you’re one of the people for whom cilantro tastes like soap). But cilantro always seems to be one of those ingredients that get overlooked when you’re at the grocery store. You find yourself about to plate a beautiful meal and discover you forgot to grab a bunch from the produce aisle.
One way to solve that problem is to grow your own! And, if you’re planting potatoes, cilantro makes a wonderful companion plant, as it attracts beneficial insects that eat destructive pests.
Catmint combines the lovely characteristics of mint without the less-appealing traits, like its tendency to overgrow everything in its path. It has a strong mint smell that deters aphids and Japanese beetles, among other pests.
Catmint flowers are a pretty blue violet that will look great in your yard. Best yet, it’s an easy-going plant that tolerates everything from partial shade to heat and drought. Buy your own catmint plant and enjoy these benefits!
The tannins and oils in flax deter Colorado potato beetles, a huge problem for potatoes.
Unfamiliar with flax? It has a multitude of industrial uses, but as a home gardener, you can grow it for the seeds, which contain a ton of omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, fiber, thiamine, and phosphorus.
Add dried seeds to smoothies, toss on salads, or add to stir-fry. You can even grind the seeds and use them as an egg substitute in vegan baking.
Marigolds are great companion plants for potatoes as well as for most other plants in your garden. In addition to adding color, marigolds repel myriad pests, including potato beetles. Marigold roots also release compounds into the soil that suppress root knot nematodes.
It turns out that garlic complements potatoes from the nursery to your plate (who doesn’t love a little garlic in your Thanksgiving mashed potatoes?). Garlic’s strong smell deters pests, keeping your potato crop safe. Get some garlic bulbs and reap the rewards!
Nasturtiums attract pests, making them the perfect companion for your potato crop. How does that work, you wonder?
These pretty little edible flowers and their peppery leaves are great friends for potatoes because they attract pests. Plant the nasturtium a little ways away from your potatoes to draw insects away from your crop.
While sage attracts pollinators, like bees, its strong scent keeps pests like flea beetles away from your crops. Once harvested, sage is a wonderful companion plant for potatoes that grace your dinner table.
Best Beneficial Insect Attractors
Petunias not only attract predator insects, but they also add a pop of color to your garden all summer long. Petunias are also known to deter aphids and hornworms. Add some petunias to your landscape!
Some consider tansy a weed, but its bright yellow flowers attract pollinators. At the same time, it deters potato beetles and Japanese beetles, making it a perfect companion plant for potatoes.
Tansy grows well in soil conditions where other plants struggle. Before planting, make sure it isn’t invasive in your region.
Basil plants grow to about the same height as potato plants, so they won’t compete for space or sunlight while busy driving insects away with their spicy scent.
If you let your basil flower (not ideal if you plan to eat it; flowering makes the herb taste bitter), it will attract predatory insects that will protect your potato crop.
Best to Enrich the Soil
Regular alyssum, with its bright white flowers and sweet alyssum, which blooms in purple and white, makes a nice decoration for your yard, but the plant also does great things for the soil and the potatoes you grow in it! Alyssum is a low-growing plant that prevents weeds from growing around your potato crop while retaining moisture in the soil.
This plant’s bright flowers and sweet fragrance attract pollinators and other beneficial insects that keep destructive bugs at bay.
12. Legumes (peas, beans, etc)
Many legumes make some of the best companion plants for potatoes by pulling needed nitrogen from the air into the soil. Potatoes thrive with this nitrogen boost; you might even see larger potatoes in your crop if you’ve planted legumes nearby.
As a bonus, legumes also deter the Mexican bean beetle. Consider adding some peas or beans to your potato crop’s neighborhood!
Yarrow works well as a companion plant to potatoes for several reasons, including the improvements it brings to the soil. Yarrow’s roots grow deep, which helps keep the soil loose for potatoes, producing more uniform spuds. Its taproot also accumulates minerals from way down in those deeper soils, which the plant then releases for the potatoes to use.
Yarrow also blooms in beautiful white flowers, whose oils deter pests.
Parsley is a good ground cover to plant alongside your potatoes. Because it’s a low-growing plant, it helps soil retain moisture and prevents weeds.
Parsley is also a good potato neighbor because it excels at deterring potato beetles.
Best Crop Enhancers
Horseradish is one of the best companion plants for potatoes for several reasons, not least of which is that it enhances their flavor, both when growing and after (many growers add it to potato dishes for an extra kick).
The strong smell and spicy taste of horseradish repels all kinds of destructive insects, such as caterpillars, potato bugs, potato beetles, whiteflies, Colorado beetles, and aphids.
Horseradish roots produce allyl isothiocyanate, which helps loosen the soil and provides antifungal and antibacterial protection for surrounding plants, increasing disease resistance.
Thyme pairs well with potatoes in the garden and the kitchen. Planting the herb near your potato crop enhances the tubers’ flavor.
In addition to smelling and tasting great, thyme is a hardy herb that provides healthy ground cover, retaining moisture in the soil and helping keep soil temperatures stable.
Corn is purported to also enhance the flavor of nearby potato crops. Another reason that corn makes a good companion plant for potatoes is that it grows upward and has relatively shallow roots, maximizing space in your garden. Best yet, there are so many varieties you can experiment with!
This mild, useful herb is one of the best companion plants for potatoes. Aside from its many uses outside the garden, chamomile enhances the vigor of the plants around it, including potatoes.
As an added bonus, chamomile attracts beneficial predatory insects, like wasps and hoverflies.
Best to Maximize Space
19. Cabbage family (broccoli, kohlrabi, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, collard greens)
Plants in the cabbage family make some of the best companion plants for potatoes because of their shallow roots, which prevent them from competing with neighboring potatoes for space or nutrients.
Chives are another good companion for potatoes, given they don’t compete for space. In addition, chives attract beneficial insects.
Leeks and potatoes go together like milk and cookies! These two crops are besties from farm to table. With their shallow roots, leeks don’t compete for space with their potato neighbors, and the two develop in harmony until they’re ready to be reunited in a soup or gratin.
Lettuce is a nice companion for potatoes because, aside from being noncompetitive, it’s fast-growing, so you can grow and harvest an entire lettuce crop before it’s time to start digging out your potatoes.
What not to Grow with Potatoes
These crops do not get along well with potatoes and should be planted at a distance.
- Apple, cherry, or peach trees attract blight that can destroy your potato crop.
- Asparagus, whose root system will choke out any potatoes nearby.
- Cucumbers, also because of their susceptibility to blight.
- Tomatoes, which will compete with potatoes for nutrients.
- Squash, which bulldozes anything in its way.
- Sunflowers can overshade your potato plants.
- Fennel, which will stunt potato growth.
- Eggplant, which competes for nutrients with its potato cousins.
- Pumpkins, due to their affinity to attract blight.
- Other root vegetables (carrots, turnips) will compete with your potatoes for nutrients underground.
The Best Companion Plants for the Best Potatoes
Choosing the right companion plants in your garden can make all the difference, especially when it comes to potatoes. The best companion plants for potatoes attract good insects and deter the bad, share resources, improve the soil, and may even enhance your potatoes’ flavor.
So, before you decide what to plant alongside your potato crop, consider which plants make good neighbors and which should be avoided.
Learn more about the benefits of companion planting on our website!
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- About the Author
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Ronda Lindsay is a writer and editor who loves getting outside in her garden, whether that’s in the temperate climates of the Pacific Northwest or Mid-Atlantic or in the sweltering heat of south-central Texas.
Growing up, she was a regular at pick-your-own farms, where she and her siblings gathered anything that wasn’t already growing in her family’s backyard to eat, freeze, or can. As an adult, Ronda has taken the vast gardening knowledge bestowed upon her by her mother and used it to grow everything from strawberries to jalapeños, arrange beautiful container gardens, and nurse sick plants back to health.
With a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in professional writing, Ronda enjoys using her skills to share information and advice with Minneopa Orchards readers!