Beets are a great two-for-one crop. They provide you with sweet and earthy roots as well as nutritious greens that resemble Swiss chard.
Since beets grow better in cool weather, they’re typically planted in the spring and fall. However, it is possible to grow them during the summer in some areas.
If you’re interested in adding beets to your garden, it’s worth taking a minute to explore what crops they grow best with. That’s right, beets get along with some plants more than others.
We’re going to cover some of the best companion plants for beets and list some crops you should avoid planting with beets.
The Benefits of Companion Plants for Beets
Companion plants are plants that provide benefits to other plants. You can refer to our article about companion planting here.
Below, we’ve included some more specific benefits of utilizing companion planting when growing beets.
Keep Pests in Control
Like most vegetables, beets may be attacked by a wide variety of insect pests. Some of these pests feed on the beets’ starchy roots, while others eat the green leaves.
Both types of pests can make plants unsightly, decrease yield, and even destroy entire plants. In short, you don’t want these pests on your plants!
A few different types of caterpillars attack beet leaves. These include webworms, armyworms, and cutworms.
Fortunately, numerous natural predators feed on these caterpillars. These include birds, ground beetles, and various species of parasitic wasps.
Some other common beet green pests include leafhoppers, aphids, and leafminers. Fortunately, these small pests have many natural predators, including ladybugs, minute pirate bugs, assassin bugs, damsel bugs, and green lacewings.
Providing habitat and food for these predators can encourage them to travel to and stay in your garden. Since many of the adult forms of these adults feed on nectar and/or pollen, planting flowering plants with your beets is often a good way to keep these beneficial insects around.
Limit the Spread of Disease
Some common beet diseases are spread between plants when insects feed. That means that controlling these insects can help limit the spread of disease.
Planting flowering companion plants with your beets can help encourage the presence of beneficial insects that feed on these insects.
Let’s look at a few specific examples.
Beet curly top disease is a viral disease that is carried by the beet leafhopper.
A few different species of wasps can parasitize the eggs of this leafhopper. This means that the wasps lay their eggs in the leafhopper eggs, and the wasp larvae then feed on the leafhopper eggs and larvae.
Other beet leafhopper predators include green lacewings, assassin bugs, some spiders, and big-eyed bugs.
One other beet disease that insects spread is the beet western yellows virus. This disease is spread by aphids and causes yellowing of beet leaves.
Some common aphid predators include lady beetles, green lacewings, parasitic wasps, and aphid midges.
Bring Nutrients to the Soil Surface
While beets can develop deep taproots, the majority of their roots exist in the top few inches of soil. That means that beets have a difficult time reaching nutrients that are located below the top six inches of soil.
However, incorporating deep-rooted plants with beets can help bring these deep nutrients closer to the soil surface. This means that beets can then access nutrients that were previously unavailable to them.
Legumes such as peas and beans can also “fix” atmospheric nitrogen and convert it into a plant-available form that beets can take up.
Best Companion Plants for Beets
Need help figuring out what to plant with your beets? Check out these popular beet companion plants.
Since broccoli and beets are both cool-weather crops, they are a natural pairing. However, they work well together for reasons outside of their similar temperature requirements.
Since broccoli plants develop deep root systems, they can reach and bring up nutrients that beets can’t reach. Additionally, broccoli plants require a large amount of calcium to thrive while beets do not.
If you’re planting beets and broccoli together, remember that broccoli plants can get quite big. So plant your beets about 18 inches away from your broccoli plants to ensure they receive enough light.
You can also experiment with planting types of sprouting broccoli, which often take up less space than more traditional heading broccoli.
2. Sweet Alyssum
If you’ve never grown sweet alyssum, sometimes known simply as alyssum, you’re missing out! This plant produces hundreds or thousands of tiny sweet-smelling flowers that attract insects of all types.
While the flowers bring in pollinators like bees and butterflies, they also bring in predatory insects such as green lacewings, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps. The adult forms of these insects feed on nectar and pollen, but the larvae forms feed on common beet pests.
Therefore, planting sweet alyssum can help control beet pests like aphids, armyworms, leafhoppers, and webworms.
While sweet alyssum is an annual plant, it readily self-seeds. That means it may stick around for multiple years even if you only plant it once.
Onions can be a great companion plant if you’re planting beets in the spring. Both of these crops can be planted in the early to mid-spring for an early summer harvest.
And since both plants grow up rather than out, they fit together well. I like to plant a row of beets next to a row of onions.
These crops also both have relatively shallow roots, which means they appreciate soil that is kept rather moist, especially when the plants are young.
Some people also report that onions can help deter beet pests, but there isn’t much research to back this up.
Bulbing onions, spring onions, and green onions can all work well as companion plants for beets.
After you plant your beet seeds, you’ll typically have to wait about two months to harvest. During the first month of growth, the beet plants will remain quite small.
I like to utilize the empty, sunny space present between rows of beets to plant radishes. Since radishes mature in about a month, you can harvest them just before the beets begin to shade them out.
Some small varieties of radishes to try interplanting with beets include round Cherriette-type radishes or elongated French Breakfast types.
If you want to attempt to push the seasons and grow a summer crop of beets, you’ll likely need to protect the beets from harsh afternoon shade. Draping shade cloth over your plants is one option, but tucking the beets beside tall plants is another.
Since corn grows quite tall, it can provide a good bit of shade. Planting a row of beets along the East side of a row of corn can help the beets thrive.
All types of corn can work well as beet companion plants. This includes sweet corn, popcorn, and decorative corn.
Cabbage is another brassica that loves both cool weather and beets. These two crops make great companions in both the spring and the fall.
The cabbage’s deep root systems help bring nutrients closer to the soil surface, making them more accessible to beets. The beets’ upright growth habit also fits in well amongst rows of cabbages.
Since cabbage varieties vary in size quite a bit. Therefore, make sure to look at the details of the variety you’re planting, and allow for adequate spacing between the beets and cabbages.
Calendula is another flowering plant that can help attract predatory insects that feed on beet pests. Green lacewings, parasitic wasps, and tachinid wasps all enjoy feeding on calendula nectar and/or pollen.
Once these adults are in your garden, they may lay eggs near your beet plants. When the eggs hatch, the larvae can feed on pests like aphids, armyworms, and more!
Calendula can tolerate cool weather, which makes them a perfect match for beets. They can even survive a light frost!
Plus, you only have to plant the flowers a few times a year. As long as you deadhead calendula (remove old flowers), the plants will continue to produce blooms for multiple months.
And since calendula plants grow about a foot tall, they can also provide your beet plants with a bit of helpful shade.
Applying fertilizer is one way to add nutrients to your soil. But it’s not the only way!
Certain crops can help capture nitrogen from the air and convert it into a plant-available form. Peas are one of these crops.
Peas roots contain small nodules that provide a home for soil-dwelling bacteria known as rhizobia. The rhizobia convert atmospheric nitrogen (N₂) into plant-available ammonia (NH₃), and the peas provide the bacteria with carbohydrates.
The result is a win-win situation!
While the peas consume some of the nitrogen the bacteria produce, the excess ammonia remains in the soil. Therefore, other plants like beets can absorb this nitrogen.
Since peas are a climbing crop, I recommend using a trellis or other type of structure to support them. This leaves the area near the base of the pea plants available to plant crops such as beets.
Are you looking to add some spice to your garden? Then check out the nasturtium!
This flowering plant produces round leaves and stunning flowers that are known for their peppery flavor. Try adding either of these plant parts to your salads for a little bit of a kick!
Some people say that the nasturtium’s odor helps repel certain pests. While this may or may not be true, the flowers do provide food for predatory insects.
If you grow nasturtiums, you should know that there are both compact bush types and more sprawling vining types. While both types can make good beet companion plants, bush varieties are a better choice.
Remember to remove old nasturtium flowers for a continuous supply of fresh blooms.
While many people fail to mention tomato plants as companion plants for beets, I think these two crops can make a great pairing.
It’s true that tomato plants are hot-weather crops, and beets are cool-weather crops. However, if you start tomatoes in a covered structure like a high tunnel or hoop house, beets are a natural companion plant.
By the time the weather warms up, the tomatoes will be a few feet tall. That means the plants will have enough biomass to provide beets with a welcome dose of shade.
Worst Companion Plants for Beets
While most plants can grow well with beets, you should avoid planting the following crops next to your beets.
1. Mustard Greens
While mustard greens may grow okay with beets, this crop has a reputation for attracting numerous pests. Flea beetles, cabbage worms, and yellow-margined leaf beetles often flock to mustard greens.
When the mustard greens die, the pests will need to move to another food source. And that often means choosing a nearby plant.
If you plant beets next to mustards, you may find that your beets become infested with pests.
2. Swiss Chard
As mentioned above, beet greens taste remarkably similar to chard. And that’s because they’re in the same plant family!
Since these two crops are so closely related, they’re also susceptible to many of the same pests and diseases. Therefore, you should aim to rotate where you plant these crops each year.
While you can plant these two crops together, a disease from your Swiss chard may spread to your beets, or vice versa. Planting these crops in separate areas of your garden will decrease the likelihood that the same disease will wipe out both crops.
There are two main reasons melons and beets don’t get along great.
First, melons love hot temperatures, and beets like cool weather. That means that they’re unlikely to thrive at the same time.
The second reason is that melons have a vining growth habit that can quickly overtake tender beet plants. While you can trellis melon plants, I find it much easier to let them sprawl out in an open area of your garden.