Companion Planting With Yams – What To Plant Next To Yams

yam companions
yam companions
(Image credit: ErikaMitchell)

You may not know it, but if you've ever had sweet potatoes, you have had yams. Sweet potatoes are called yams in the south and are a cultivated orange variety (for the most part). Yam companion plants must share the same growing conditions as the tuber and have the ability to repel certain pests. When you are starting your tubers is the best time to decide what to plant next to yams. While many herbs are beneficial to yams and can be started from starts or seed later, if you plant them at the same time, their assistance is available early in the yam plant's life to assist in repelling certain damaging pests of seedlings.

What to Plant Next to Yams

Golden yams are native to South America and have been grown as a crop for over 5,000 years. These easy-to-grow tubers prefer USDA zones 9 through 12. Yams may be white, purple, brown, reddish, or the classic, sweet, orange-fleshed variety grown in southern regions of the United States. Plants that grow well with yams might be those that are also in the morning glory family, pest deterrents, or simply those that complement the attractive foliage and starry purple flowers of sweet potatoes. When coming up with a crop planting scheme, don't forget the importance of rotating crops. Many plant pests that are specific to a certain crop will overwinter in the soil and refuse and rise like Lazarus in spring to plague your plants. Rotating helps reduce pest incidences by moving those insects’ favored foods and replacing them with something the pests don't eat. One terrific species of plant that grows well with yams is any of the legumes. These plants actually enhance soil and crop growth because they harness nitrogen, a crucial nutrient for leafy growth and plant health. Pole-type beans or peas are best because they can be trained to rise above the sweet potatoes. Companion planting with yams should also take into consideration the plot size and size of the plants. Yams will sprawl with vine-like growth, so using plants such as squash nearby is not advised.

Common Companion Plants for Yams

Yams are tropical and subtropical species. As such, they need full sun, consistent moisture, and loose, rich soil. Since the edible part of the plant is underground, the yams need protection from larvae and insects that live in the soil.

Plants to put at the edge of a sweet potato bed can also be culinary yam companion plants that share the same growing requirements, such as cilantro and basil. Any crop that can grow vertically is the ideal companion plant for yams. Think tomatoes or peppers.

Rotating Crops with Yam Companion Plants

Potatoes and sweet potatoes can be difficult to harvest in their entirety. Even though crop rotation is essential, a stray potato left behind is likely to result in a volunteer plant. Rotational crops should not compete with your volunteers and should enhance the soil. Legumes are a good choice to juice up the soil again as is alfalfa. Simply planting a cover crop to enrich the soil for the next season is another option. Red clover fixes nitrogen and composts into the soil quickly, loosening the composition. Choose other root crops or broadly rooted plants to rotate into the planting space such as radishes, beets, or corn. These will further loosen soil for an even better future yam crop. Companion planting with yams can enhance soil, provide rotation options, and help prevent many pest species.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.