I’m growing amaranth in my garden and I was wondering which companion plants would be good to plant near it. So, I did some research to find out more. Here’s what I found.
The best companion plants for amaranth are eggplant, corn, tomatoes, marigolds, and cover crops such as beans and peas. Amaranth is great at providing a living trellis for vining plants and provides partial shade to the garden. It’s also great to use as a mulch when it starts growing too large.
So, to start getting these benefits for your amaranth plants, here are the top 5 companion plants to use alongside amaranth.
How to Start Companion Planting
Companion planting is selecting specific plants to place together to achieve benefits, such as increasing pollination or controlling pests. Sometimes these benefits are one-sided, while others are mutual.
A famous example is The Three Sisters—planting corn, beans, and squash together. The corn provides a trellis for the beans to climb, the squash provides a ground cover, and the beans fix nitrogen in the soil. Plus, all of them provide food!
Here’s a list of the benefits that gardens gain from companion planting:
- Boost Pollination
- Repel Pests
- Prevent Weeds
- Fix Nitrogen
- Amend the Soil
- Cover the Soil
- Reduce Evaporation
- Provide a Living Trellis
- Maximize Space
- Produce More Food
Here’s how to get the most from companion planting:
- Find your USDA hardiness zone
- Find plants that do well in your zone
- Select the plants that fit each niche or layer in the graphic above (canopy, understory, herb layer, etc.)
Now, let’s take a look at the best companion plants, their benefits, and other tips to place them in your garden.
1. Cover Crops
Many legumes (along with some grasses such as annual ryegrass) are also called cover crops as they are fantastic pioneer plants for depleted soils. And since orchards are often correlated with poor soils, cover crops are a vital companion plant.
Some examples of cover crops in the legume family are:
- Other beans
On the other hand, some grassy cover crops include annual ryegrass and cereal grasses.
More specifically, other benefits of cover crops include improving soil health by slowing erosion, retaining water, preventing weeds, and controlling pests and diseases. They’ve even been shown to increase crop yields.
For example, in the drought of 2012, corn and soybean farmers reported a 9.6-11.6% yield increase when they used cover crops, likely due in part to the cover crop’s ability to add 50-150 pounds of nitrogen per acre.Source
Cover crops (especially the legume varieties) fix nitrogen in the soil by promoting beneficial bacteria which take nitrogen from the air and store it in the soil as nitrates for other plants to use (source).
Like comfrey, you can mulch cover crops after growing them for even more nitrogen and other nutrients (as well as reduce evaporation), as many cover crops provide a great source of biomass and food for plants. You can mulch them by mowing or using the chop-and-drop method.
With cover crops such as clover, you can even grow them in-between your amaranth plants and run livestock through the alleys. Your livestock gets free food, and your amaranth plants get an amazing fertilizer in the form of manure.
If you’d like more information about cover crops, check out this resource by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE).
2. Nightshade Plants
Amaranth benefits from plants from the nightshade family. Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers all have something to offer amaranth.
Tomatoes in particular do well when interplanted with amaranth, along with alliums, parsley, marigold, carrot, and nasturtium. Indeterminate cherry tomatoes can also be trained to vine up the amaranth just like beans and peas.
Additionally, planting garlic in between rows of tomato plants repels spider mites. Also, tomatoes planted alongside okra and brinjal were found to significantly lower the number of whiteflies (source). Generally, avoid planting tomatoes with potatoes and fennel.
Potatoes provide a good amount of shade for the soil, but it’s a good, calorie-dense food to grow if you’re planning a victory garden.
When it comes to eggplant (a strong companion for amaranth), choose to interplant it with its own companion plants such as legumes, peppers, tomatoes, and marigolds.
Peppers are a tasty addition to many gardens and their roots release a chemical that helps repel pests and reduce the chances of root rot.
Carrots, alliums, basil, and oregano are other good companions for nightshade plants. However, avoid planting nightshades with legumes, walnut, brassicas, fennel, and dill.
Nightshade plants also sometimes cause trouble for other plants like fruit trees, typically by encouraging pests or diseases. So, make sure they’re compatible before you plant nightshade near them!
The tall stalks of corn can help your amaranth plants by increasing shade and therefore, water retention in the ground. If you’re looking at growing amaranth, but want to save on your water bill, then corn is a great companion plant.
Corn is also useful for breaking into tough soil, especially heavy clay. So, once your corn crop is harvested, the soil is better primed for growing other vegetables such as carrots. Cover crops are also extremely good at restoring soils and fixing nitrogen.
Like potatoes, corn is a calorie-dense crop and is easily storable, making it a staple if you’re more serious about living off your land. You can also combine corn with bean and squash plants for a three sister’s garden and grow loads of high-energy and storable foods.
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Marigolds are also a famous flowering companion plant as they have the natural ability to repel nematodes in the soil.
Nematodes are roundworms that are particularly destructive for potato plants but can harm many others including tomato, pepper, eggplant, okra, cucumber, and squash plants (source). So, plant marigolds around these plants as well as amaranth!
These nematodes often afflict home gardens and have no available chemical pesticide. Luckily, marigolds, are natural repellents against nematodes because they produce a substance called alpha-terthienyl, which is deadly for the nematodes.
For this reason, marigolds have been used as a cover crop in India for many hundreds of years in areas where nematode populations are high.
Naturally, since marigolds are flowering plants, their appearance and nectar are also great at attracting pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Just make sure that you plant a true marigold from the genus Tagetes, not Calendula, which sometimes goes by the same common name. The LSU College of Agriculture recommends the ‘Tangerine’ variety.
So, what exactly are wildflowers?
Wildflowers are defined as any flower that has not been genetically manipulated (source).
- Bee Balm
- Queen Anne’s Lace
- Purple Coneflower
- Meadow Cranesbill
- Black-Eyed Susan
Wildflowers are an amazing addition to your garden, especially if they’re within range of your amaranth plants. Ideally, this is no more than 50 feet away as it maximizes the chances pollinators will visit both the wildflowers as well as your amaranth plant’s flowers.
The wildflower’s variety of colors is visually appealing to pollinators and provides a good mix of nectar and pollen they can use as energy and food.
Not only do wildflowers greatly attract pollinators, but they also attract beneficial insect predators such as birds, ladybugs, and beneficial wasps.
Any of the above wildflowers will work great as a companion plant for just about any fruit, vegetable, or herb plant. However, this isn’t an exhaustive list, so feel free to explore other wildflower varieties!
To see more companion flowers, check out my other post: The Top 10 Companion Flowers for Gardens, Vegetables, & More.
Since amaranth is a summer crop and requires full sun, grow plants with similar needs to it. Plants from the nightshade family, corn, legumes, and marigolds complement amaranth’s climate preference of zone 7 and warmer.
Water retention, extra nitrogen, and pest control are some of the benefits you’ll find by companion planting with amaranth. Keep an eye on your garden, and you’ll have great amaranth harvests within 40 to 50 days.