Companion planting is the practice of placing different species of plants close together in the garden because they offer certain benefits to one another. For example, one species may deter an insect that feeds on the other species, while that plant may improve the other plant's uptake of soil nutrients. Learn about some of the best species to grow near pole beans and bush beans, as well as what to avoid planting by beans.
Understanding Companion Planting
Companion planting maximizes the efficiency of a garden space, attracts beneficial insects, and diverts insect pests from food crops. Sometimes the companion plant pairings benefit one plant more than another, but there is rarely a downside to following companion plant suggestions. Nature designed some plants to protect and help others. And when you take advantage of these beneficial relationships, you are better able to grow crops organically.
Take the classic Native American "three sisters" planting combination as an example: Plant corn with pole beans, and add squash to the mix. The beans attract beneficial insects that prey on corn pests, such as leaf beetles, fall armyworms, and leafhoppers. In return, the bean vines are supported as they climb up the corn stalks. The squash benefits from the nitrogen fixed in the soil by the bean plant, while the large leaves of the squash block sunlight from nourishing weeds near the corn stalk. All plants win.
What to Plant Around Beans
As many gardeners learn, beans are a recommended companion for several different vegetables and other plants. That's because beans and other legumes boost nitrogen levels in the soil and provide nutrients to surrounding plants. In return, certain plants benefit the growth of beans.
- Catnip: This plant helps to repel flea beetles, a common pest found on many vegetable crops, including beans.
- Corn: Bush beans can tolerate the light shade that is cast by corn plants. And because the roots of the bean plants occupy a different level in the soil than the roots of the corn, the two plants do not compete for water and nutrients. Furthermore, for pole beans, the corn stalks can serve as the "poles" to allow the beans to grow upright. This saves space in the garden, leaving room for the gardener to add additional plants.
- Cucumber, eggplant, and radish: These plants encourage strong bean growth, and the beans boost the nitrogen in the soil that they need to grow.
- Marigold: Marigolds deter Mexican bean beetles and other insect pests from several garden plants, including beans. Plus, African and French marigolds both produce a substance that suppresses nematodes, the microscopic worms that attack the roots of plants. In fact, marigolds are a recommended companion for many different edible plants.
- Nasturtium, summer savory, and rosemary: Nasturtium and rosemary both deter bean beetle pests. In addition, summer savory repels bean beetles and improves the flavor and overall growth of bean plants. Grow it near the base of the plant but not so close that the bean plant shades it.
- Potato: Potato plants help to repel Mexican bean beetles from bean plants. In return, bean plants are able to repel the Colorado potato beetle.
Other plants that are good companions to pole beans and bush beans include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Swiss chard
What to Avoid Planting Around Beans
Certain plants can actually inhibit the growth of beans when they are planted nearby.
- Beets (depends on the bean): Pole beans and bush beans share all of the same companion plant recommendations with the exception of beets. Pole beans do not thrive when beets are planted nearby; the plants stunt each other's growth. But bush beans are not affected by beets.
- Onion family: Avoid planting beans near all members of the allium family: onions, leeks, garlic, and scallions. Members of this family inhibit the growth of bean plants because they exude a substance that kills beneficial bacterial on bean roots and prevent the bean plants from adding nitrogen to the soil.
- Peppers: Experts disagree on whether peppers and beans can coexist. They both can benefit the soil. However, sometimes the bean vines can spread too aggressively among the pepper plants and choke them.
- Sunflowers: Like corn, sunflowers seem like they would be an ideal “pole” for pole beans to climb and grow upright. However, sunflowers give off a chemical compound that inhibits the growth of beans, making them incompatible plants.