12 Companion Plants for Beans (With Pictures)
Beans are an integral part of American cuisine. We eat around seven pounds of beans a year, with approximately 15% of the nation having it for breakfast or dinner every day. Beans are very easy to grow. As long as you plant them in well-drained soil and ensure exposure to the sun, they will flourish even in the most challenging environments. With that said, they can benefit from companion planting.
If you choose the right plants for your beans, you’ll be rewarded with bigger, stronger, and tastier crops. Wait, does that mean you can “marry” these legumes to any plant you want? Not quite! The following list includes the best companion veggies/flowers/herbs to grow next to beans. Take a look!
What Is Companion Planting? The Definition
Some plants can attract beneficial bugs—wasps, ladybugs, and spiders that eat pests—and pollinators. Others serve as a repellent against aphids, beetles, and other pests that will otherwise ravage your crops and leaves in a heartbeat. And then we’ve got plants that grow tall (or have a low-spreading nature) and do a great job of shading the seeds and crops from the sun.
So, when you cultivate plants that help each other prosper instead of fighting for the “pedestal”, that’s called companion planting. To add to that, certain companion plants add nutrients to the soil to help your seeds/crops thrive. Lucky for us, this gardening technique has been around for thousands of years. That means we don’t have to go through any trials and errors—our ancestors have done all the work for us!
The Top 12 Companion Plants for Beans
Let’s start our list of perfect companions for beans with the most beneficial vegetables. The following plants have proven to stimulate growth, provide protection, and even improve the taste of various legume species. For this to work, all you’ll have to do is plant them next to each other. So, which veggies should you pick, exactly? Let’s spill the beans!
The indigenous population of the Americas has been planting beans with squash and corn for ages, calling them the “Three Sisters”. So, why squash, exactly? What’s the big benefit here? When squash grows, its leaves get rather big and cover the slow-growing bean crops, providing shade against the sun. More than that, the leaves keep weeds at bay, allowing beans to “poke through”.
As for bean crops, they are a great source of nitrogen and keep supplying the soil with it as they grow, feeding the squash with the perfect mix of chemical elements. Without proper levels of nitrogen, squash crops tend to wither, while the leaves turn yellow. That makes the squash + beans combo a wonderful example of companion plants complimenting each other!
Don’t have squash seeds around but still want to follow in the footsteps of Native Americans? Then let’s try and grow beans with corn instead. It’s no secret that corn crops take very little time to grow. Give them a couple of months, and they’ll reach 4–6 feet in height. That makes it the perfect natural trellis for beans—a vining species.
And don’t worry: corn won’t steal precious elements, minerals, or water reserves from bean crops. If you water and fertilize the garden frequently, both plants will have more than enough to thrive. That’s because their roots penetrate different layers of the soil (true for both pole and bush beans).
You might think that since both beans and peas are legumes, they will deplete the soil instead of working as companion plants. For the most part, that assumption is correct. However, if you plant the peas 1–2 months earlier, and grow the beans on the opposite side of a lattice, that can work. Beans grow faster and will be able to shade the pea crops which are more vulnerable to scorching sunlight.
We’re talking about pole beans here, of course. If you’re going with bush beans instead, using a trellis won’t be necessary.
It’s a very common practice to plant cucumbers next to beans to stimulate growth. As mentioned, beans are a great source of natural nitrogen and cucumbers need it to flourish. And the cukes will safeguard bean crops from a long list of pests and help them grow faster. Cucumbers and beans have a very strong symbiotic relationship.
5. Eggplants and Radishes
If you already have enough cucumbers in the garden and want to try something new, radishes and eggplants will make great friends with beans. Their benefits are almost identical to those of cucumbers. You won’t have to do any careful planning or create a large gap between these plants, because there won’t be any interference. Instead, the big plants will feed on nitrogen, while the beans will get much-appreciated protection.
This is important: potatoes don’t get along with a wide range of vegetables, fruits, and flowers. But for beans, they are a reliable companion. If you’ve ever had to deal with Mexican bean beetles, you know how hard it can be to keep them away from the crop. Well, potatoes will serve as a repellent against these nasty bugs. The beans, in turn, are a strong deterrent for the Colorado potato beetles.
Also, potato leaves cover the soil, preventing the sun from burning the beans. So, planting these vegetables next to each other will be mutually beneficial and a win-win for you, the gardener.
7. The Brassica Family
Cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, and even turnips belong to the same genus—Brassica. And, every single vegetable from this family is a companion plant for beans. More importantly, while they are, of course, a bit different and have slightly different watering and fertilizing requirements, the benefits are largely the same.
Lettuce and kale grow better when shaded by pole beans. The same is true for spinach. Plus, it provides cover for the bean vines while they’re still in the development stage. And with cauliflower in the same plot, you can expect both plants to grow faster and produce more fruits. The nitrogen produced by beans helps cauliflower plants reach maturity in less than three months.
8. Carrots and Fennels
Most vegetables in the Umbelliferae family grow deep into the soil while bean roots prefer to stick close to the surface. This is true for carrots, fennels, and parsnips, to name a few. With these vegetables/herbs, you can expect a significant increase in yield. On top of that, you’ll be able to use the (probably limited) space in the garden more efficiently. Besides, fennels taste better when planted next to beans and produce more essential oil.
Carrots, in turn, benefit greatly from nitrogen while their leaves provide partial shade and keep the soil cool.
Flowers and Herbs
And now that we’ve made it through the vegetables, it’s time to learn which flowers and herbs go along with beans. In contrast to veggies, you won’t be able to eat any of these plants (your cat might want to feast on catnip, though). But on the bright side, they will be able to beautify the garden and attract the right kinds of bugs.
9. Catnip and Savory
Flea beetles are quite hard to deal with, especially when you don’t want to use any aggressive chemicals against them. The good news is—catnip keeps them away from a wide range of vegetables, including, of course, beans. All you’ll have to do is plant a bunch of these herbs near your bean crops, and they’ll do the rest.
Don’t have any catnip around? Sage and mint will be just as effective. Alternatively, you can use fenugreek or Lady Phacelia. However, their bug-repelling capabilities aren’t as impressive. You might have to combine them or plant an entire garden to be able to protect the beans from flea beetles.
10. Basil and Oregano
As far as the most delicious herbs go, basil is a top-5 pick. Its aromatic fragrance attracts a wide range of insects, both destructive and beneficial. That’s why basil is often used as a trap plant/crop for aphids, spider mites, and other common garden troublemakers. By drawing the pests in, basil makes them an easy target for bees, ladybugs, and other beneficial insects.
Predators and pollinators tend to gravitate towards oregano as well, and it’s almost as effective as basil. Just make sure to plant it at least a couple of feet away from your bean crops. Otherwise, the attracted pests might focus all their attention on the bean leaves instead of the basil/oregano!
11. Rosemary, Savory, and Petunias
Tired of having to deal with swarms of bean beetles? Well, they won’t be a problem anymore if you plant the beans alongside rosemary. This herb is appreciated for its strong performance against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. As it turns out, it can also be used as a bug repellent. So, how close do you plant these flowers?
It’s recommended to have a gap of at least 1–2 feet to avoid shading. Petunias might not be as popular as companion plants, but they’re just as instrumental in scaring Mexican beetles away. Again, keep the right distance between these flowers and the beans, and you’ll get to enjoy steady growth! Better yet, savory can also make the beans taste better, adding an exotic flavor.
12. Nasturtium and Marigold
In many ways, nasturtiums and marigolds are the same as rosemary and savory. And in addition to being bug repellants, they’re incredibly beautiful. So, if you’re looking to make your garden look pretty while keeping the beans safe, these flowers will be a perfect pick. Plus, they are used as living mulch for boosting the soil’s moisture-retaining capacity. Oh, and by the way, nasturtium leaves are edible and taste delicious.
Worst Companion Plants for Beans
Not all flowers and vegetables that grow on planet Earth are beneficial for beans.
If you feel like you’re doing everything right with watering, fertilizing, and shading, yet your beans are still not growing fast enough, do try companion planting. A cucumber or a radish planted next to legumes won’t magically make them two times bigger or more delicious, of course. But companion flowers and veggies can, indeed, make a huge difference and give the beans that much-needed “boost”.
In contrast, planting the wrong types of plants will ruin the bean crops by stealing nutrients and water from the soil. Or, they’ll attract the wrong types of bugs that will make short work of the legumes. So, take a moment to pick the right plants and watch your beans flourish and prosper!
Featured Image Credit: Catherine_P, Shutterstock