Lettuce is a wonderful companion plant for a whole host of vegetables, fruits, and flowers in your garden. The relationships are usually mutually beneficial, from helping with moisture retention to deterring harmful insect pests away from the lettuce. If you’re planning a salad garden this summer, leaf lettuce and romaine lettuce plants are a must-have, but consider adding a few companion plants to help your lettuce grow.
What plants grow well with lettuce?
The best companions to plant side by side with lettuce are asparagus, tomato, garlic, legumes, carrots, basil, chives, marigolds, nasturtiums, eggplant, beets, and squash. Each companion plant offers different benefits when interplanted with lettuce.
Read on to find out what makes each plant a good companion for lettuce.
What is companion planting?
Companion planting is the practical use of interplanting different types of fruit, vegetables, flowers, and herbs to help each other grow well. Plants that repel pests, help with moisture retention, or even provide shade can be used beneficially in a garden setting.
THE BENEFITS OF COMPANION PLANTING
Companion planting can bring several positive benefits to the homegrown garden. Fruits, flowers, vegetables, and herbs have many beneficial partners that can help improve taste, growth, and yield and help manage pests and diseases. Companion plants can also help:
Attract pollinators: Brightly colored flowers with strong, pungent scents and food sources attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. Pollinators are beneficial for increasing yields – and who doesn’t want a higher-yielding garden?
Attract beneficial insects: Marigolds and nasturtiums, for instance, can help attract helpful bugs like hoverflies, lacewings, and ladybugs.
Deter pests: Marigolds and basil can work very well to deter common pests, such as Japanese beetles, flea beetles, squash bugs, spider mites, and tomato hornworms. Or the plants can be used as a trap crop to lure away harmful pests like leaf miners, fungus gnats, and corn earworms from the primary crop.
Help improve the soil: Marigolds can help destroy root-knot nematodes. Other leafy plants, like basil and lettuce, can provide a ground cover to control moisture evaporation.
Other plants with large taproots, like carrots and beets, can help break up heavy soils.
Help control weeds: Densely planted leafy greens or flowers can prevent weeds and help the soil stay cool and retain moisture during hot growing periods.
Companion planting can help with disease issues: Too much of any one thing isn’t good for your garden. Adding a variety of plants in the garden can help break up groupings and can help slow the spread of diseases such as downy and powdery mildew as well as early and light blight.
Companion planting is a good addition to any organic garden planning.
What are some good companion plants for lettuce plants?
Lettuce has so many wonderful companions to choose from:
Asparagus grows tall and leafy, creating a perfect shady environment for your lettuce plants. The shade will help prevent the lettuce from wilting or bolting too soon.
The lettuce, in turn, creates a living mulch around the asparagus plants, keeping the moisture in the soil from evaporating.
Beans, peas, and legumes are highly compatible with lettuce.
Bush beans, pole beans, and other legumes will add nitrogen to the soil. As a result, the lettuce plants will be well-nourished and grow bushy and leafy.
Tall bean plants can also provide a welcoming shade for the lettuce plants to keep them from wilting and bolting.
When planted densely under the legumes, lettuce will keep the soil cool and moist during hotter days which can help the beans and peas continue to grow through the warmer summer days.
- Learn More: Beans are incredibly easy to grow, and you can even grow them in containers. See our step-by-step guide on growing beans home on your porch or back deck. And once you get your first heavy harvest check out our guide on freezing green beans for the best texture and flavor.
Nasturtiums can help keep hungry caterpillars away from your lettuce plants. Caterpillars, like cabbage loopers, do not like the pungent smell of the nasturtiums and will avoid it if they can.
Nasturtiums are also beneficial because they work as a trap crop to lure away insect pests, like blackflies, from the crops in your garden. But they also attract beneficial insects like parasitic wasps and bees.
- Learn More: Nasturtiums make wonderful companion plants for many plants in a vegetable garden; see our list! Also, this simple guide teaches how to grow nasturtiums from seed to flower.
Onions are also among the lettuce companion plants you should consider growing in your vegetable garden. Alliums like onions can benefit your lettuce and other leafy crops as they can deter and repel insects and pests, including aphids and beetles. The heady pungent scent can deter and confuse insects away from your lettuce crop.
- Learn More: See our full guide on how to grow onions successfully in containers. And our popular pickled red onion recipe.
Beets and lettuce grow together exceptionally well. Deep-growing beets will pull nutrients and moisture deeper from the ground than shallow-rooted lettuce. Since both plants do not compete, they can grow together very well.
Lettuce planted deeply around the beet plants can help with moisture retention and weed impression. Always remember that any open soil is an invitation for weeds in a garden setting.
- Learn More: See our guide for growing healthy, robust beets in containers!
Carrots grow deep, and lettuce grows shallow; Carrots tend to draw nutrients and moisture from the deeper soil levels, so competition for water and nutrients will be insignificant.
Lettuce also grows and matures more quickly than carrots. So you can use the space to plant lettuce and harvest and allow the carrots to continue growing for the rest of the season.
- Learn More: Carrots are fun to grow in the garden, but you can also grow carrots in containers; some say it’s easier. If you’re challenged growing carrots, check out our container carrot guide.
In addition, both carrots and lettuce, when planted together, can help in maximizing the space in your vegetable garden.
Make sure to consider including garlic in your lettuce bed. Garlic is an effective and powerful barrier plant that can help deter aphids.
If aphids are a problem, planting garlic between rows of lettuce creates a barrier that aphids won’t want to cross.
- Learn More: Garlic also grows well in containers and makes a wonderful companion plant in the garden. See our guide on growing garlic in containers and our list of the best places to add garlic to the garden.
Squash and Melons
Squash and melons are slow growing and will sprawl. Lettuce can help fill in empty gardening spots to help prevent weeds and keep moisture from evaporating from the soil. As the squash plants get bigger, it will be time to harvest lettuce.
Radishes make an excellent trap crop for flea beetles. You will want to plant your radishes away from your lettuce plants but close enough to create a barrier around the bed.
Dill tends to be protective as it repels pests that eat or feed on lettuce, like cabbage loopers, spider mites, and cabbage worms. Pests hate the scent, and dill is so pungent that it often confuses the pests away from the primary crop.
- Learn More: Learn how to grow healthy, robust dill plants indoors and outdoors.
Marigolds are also good companions for your lettuce as they tend to be sacrificial in attracting slugs. As a result, slugs will feed on the marigolds instead of your lettuce.
- Learn More: Marigolds make wonderful companion plants in any garden. See our full list of companion plants that benefit from being planted so close to marigolds.
Basil can help repel mosquitos, but the best benefit is that basil, interplanted with lettuce, is said to improve the flavor of the lettuce. Who doesn’t want better-tasting lettuce?
- Related: There are many different types and flavors of basil. See our basil guide to know what to plant in your garden. And if you grow a bumper crop of basil this year, we have lots of fun ideas on what to do with lots of basil.
As summer crops, eggplants thrive during weather conditions and seasons that are not ideal for your lettuce.
Eggplants grow big and bushy, and a few lettuce plants placed behind or under the plants can grow fairly well even in warmer weather, so long as the eggplants provide adequate shade.
- Learn More: Eggplants have many wonderful companion plants; check out our guide before planning your summer garden.
Bad companion plants for lettuce
There are a few plants that are simply bad neighbors for lettuce:
Avoid all members of the cabbage family.
Avoid planting lettuce with any member of the cabbage family.
Brassicas, like cabbage, kale, and broccoli, secrete a substance into the ground that will negatively impact the growth of lettuce plants and can prevent lettuce seeds from germinating.
- Learn More: See our guides on companion plants that work exceptionally well for these cabbage family plants:
- The Best Cauliflower Companion Plants – A Complete Gardener’s Guide
- Turnip Companion Plants – Everything you Need to Know
Fennel generally does not get along with any other plants in the garden and should be planted on its own.
The fennel roots are allopathic. Allopathic plants will inhibit growth and cause bolting or even can kill other plants.
General Planting Best Practices for Growing Lettuce:
Seed Starting: 4-6 weeks before the last frost.
Planting: Plant lettuce seedlings in early spring or direct sow as soon as the ground can be worked.
Sun Requirement: Partial shade is best
Water Requirement: Lettuce crops should be watered twice a week, and crops with no water shortages during the growing season will do exceptionally well.
Fertilizer: 3 weeks after planting with organic alfalfa meal or slow-release fertilizer to provide the required nitrogen for the lettuce to grow leafy and full.
- Learn More: See our articles on how to grow lettuce from seed to harvest and tips for growing lettuce indoors all year round.
Identify and control common insect pests.
Nothing beats fresh lettuce tastes, but it has a downside – garden pests – pests that want to devour your leaves and lettuce plants.
Aphids, caterpillar pests, flea beetles, and crickets will try to eat your plants while you’re not looking. These lettuce bugs don’t care; they will do it while you’re looking. Companion plants like basil and marigolds can work as pest control on your behalf.
To control aphids (one of the most common lettuce pests), spraying them with a strong blast from a hose is usually enough to reduce their populations. Still, if you have a problematic infestation, you can use insecticidal soaps or neem oil. Neem oil is made from neem tree seeds and is an incredibly effective natural insecticide.
You can also hunt your vegetable garden to find a handful of ladybugs and relocate them to your lettuce plants. The ladybugs and their larvae are heavy hitters regarding aphid control.
Be sure to put out yellow sticky traps early in the season to nab early generations before they get out of control.
To manage caterpillars, hand-picking and dropping them into a bucket of soapy water is an excellent organic method of control. Still, you can use insecticides or neem oil if you have a problematic population. BTK works exceptionally well on cabbage loopers.
To manage flea beetles and crickets, spray with insecticidal soaps or neem oil. If the beetle infestation is heavy, I like to place soapy water under the plant and give it a good shake. The shaking helps remove the bulk of the flea beetles off my lettuce plants first before applying any insecticide or natural bug spray above garden pests that remain on the plants.
As a preventative measure, keep your garden space clean by removing all decaying plant material, so insects do not have a place to overwinter or lay eggs.
Be sure to plant companion plants for lettuce all around your lettuce crop to attract beneficial insects and natural predators like wasps and ladybugs, and add other plants that repel pests like garlic, chives, onions, marigolds, and nasturtiums.
Are you looking for more companion planting or gardening tips and inspiration?
When lettuce companion planting in your vegetable garden, you should consider what problems lettuce has had in your vegetable gardens in the past. Was it pest pressure, lack of shade of moisture, or poor soil? All of these issues can be helped by adding helpful companion plants!
We have lots of additional gardening and companion planting for you to read:
- Companion Planting Peppers In The Garden For Better Harvests
- The Best Lavender Companion Plants For Your Garden
- Companion Plants For Potatoes – Plant This Not That!
- The Best Corn Companion Plants – A Gardener’s Guide!
- Strawberry Companion Plants – The Best and The Ones you Want to Avoid
- How To Care For and Fertilize Pepper Plants For Big Harvests
And a few gardening tip posts you may want to read: